Let’s face it—no one likes standing in long security lines at the airport.
Especially not when you have a flight to catch.
Unfortunately, airport security has become so strict, and waiting times so long, that you could potentially miss an important flight unless you show up hours beforehand. With additional TSA security checks now slowing down lines, a growing number of flyers are looking into programs that can help reduce waiting times.
In this regard, flyers can choose between three main programs, run both by the government and by private corporations. These programs—TSA Precheck, Global Entry, and CLEAR—offer incredible time discounts that can get you to the front of the line and on your flight faster.
But which program is right for you? Find out below by joining us as we examine these three popular programs today.
What Should You Know?
Before examining each of these programs in detail, it’s worth mentioning that you’re not limited to selecting only one. That’s because these programs aren’t in competition with each other. For this reason, you’ll notice that you can purchase two of them at a time—either the TSA Precheck and Clear or Global Entry and CLEAR.
Though you likely won’t need both if you don’t travel by air regularly, frequent flyers might find great utility in having both services.
With this in mind, let’s take a closer look at each of these three programs in turn.
What is the TSA Precheck Program?
The TSA Precheck Program is the most basic government-run program that allows for expedited security processing.
By far the most well-known and popular of the three options, the TSA Precheck Program allows flyers to opt out of regular security waiting lines in favor of much-shorter queues. This allows these individuals to go from their ticket to their security check much more quickly than normal.
But while that’s perhaps the most commonly-known benefit of the TSA Precheck Program, other perks do exist.
For example, those who choose to enroll in and are accepted into the TSA Precheck Program gain the following advantages:
- You can keep your laptop in your baggage.
- You can wear your belt.
- You can wear your shoes.
- You can wear light jackets and other outerwear.
- You can keep your liquids in your bag (3-1-1).
Keep in mind that this program proves to be the most popular one for a reason. As of now, the program offers the cheapest rates at just $85 for five years and provides access to over 200 airports in the United States.
This proves rather significant, as it provides flyers with many more opportunities to take advantage of the program.
Additionally, one of the most important benefits to having the TSA Precheck program is that it allows individuals to follow looser regulations in terms of their security screening. Because this program is run by the government, it can provide more flexibility when getting through TSA security.
How to Apply
Those wishing to apply for the TSA Precheck Program must abide by the following three steps:
- Pay the $85 application fee
- Receive appropriate paperwork (including background check)
- Attend a short interview
Many individuals report being nervous before going into their interviews, but don’t let this freak you out. These same individuals often note that the interview is quick and painless, and once approved, you’ll be able to start taking advantage of your new TSA Precheck perks.
What is the Global Entry Program?
If you’re one who will be flying internationally often, you may wish to consider upgrading to the Global Entry Program. In many ways, this program is a more advanced form of the TSA Precheck Program, as you’ll receive faster processing when returning to the US. This will allow you to skip overly-long immigration lines.
Additionally, Global Entry also allows flyers to enjoy their perks at 57 different international airports. Do note, however, that only 16 of these Global Entry kiosks are non-US or are located within US territories.
Furthermore, remember that those who are approved for the Global Entry Program automatically receive the same benefits as those approved for the TSA Precheck Program.
The requirements to get approved for the Global Entry Program are nearly identical; however, those who wish to be approved for this program must pay a fee of $100 every five years. This represents only a marginal $15 increase over the regular TSA Precheck Program.
Additionally, because the Global Entry Program focuses heavily on international travel, make sure that you have a valid US passport. Without one, you may not qualify for the program, as you will not be eligible to leave the country.
Remember that if you do only wish to make domestic travels, you won’t need this service; instead, TSA Precheck may be the right option for you.
Furthermore, make sure that you’re prepared to answer questions about your intentions to fly internationally before taking your interview. By coming prepared, you’ll be able to ace your enrollment into the Global Entry Program.
What is the CLEAR Program?
CLEAR is the only private company on the list, and the way it functions proves to be a bit different than the other two programs on the list.
Because CLEAR isn’t run by the government, for example, it cannot provide the security discounts that the other programs do. In other words, though you will definitely enjoy faster transport to the security table, you’ll be required to follow all of the regular security screening requirements—unless you’ve got TSA Precheck or Global Entry as well.
CLEAR is currently the smallest of the three programs; however, it does provide relatively-quick service.
However, this speed does come at a cost. CLEAR is by far the most expensive program on this list—priced at $179 per year.
This staggering price tag is enough to make most casual flyers turn their heads. However, if you’re a frequent flyer or do a lot of travel for business, this program may be well worth it for you. That’s because this program works to literally allow you to bypass nearly everyone to be transported directly to TSA screening.
Keep in mind that because CLEAR is a private company, they can’t help you move through your security check any quicker once you’ve arrived at the TSA. Those wishing to reduce the time it takes to make it through this portion of security should sign up for either TSA Precheck or Global Entry.
As of now, CLEAR is only available at certain airports around the country; however, this looks to expand as the program’s popularity continues to grow. Ultimately, some estimates predict that CLEAR can shave your processing time down to about five minutes. It does so by establishing separates lanes directly with airport personnel, allowing CLEAR customers to have privileged access to the TSA security check.
Which Should You Choose?
Which of these programs is right for you? Ultimately, only you can answer that question by looking at your personal and travel situations.
However, do keep in mind that you’re not limited to picking just one. Flyers are allowed to own both government and privately-owned passes at the same time—a wise invest for those who are seriously looking to cut down on their airport transit times.
By doubling down on the security-reducing properties of the TSA Precheck of Global Entry Programs while simultaneously capitalizing on CLEAR’s ability to jump one in line, individuals can enjoy the best of services. In doing so, one can make flying more convenient than they’d ever thought possible.