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You've seen them at the airport: travelers who breeze through the long security lines on hectic travel days. They make it through the metal detectors without taking their shoes or jackets off while you're still waiting in line. Or perhaps you've returned from a trip abroad and noticed a few passengers speed through passport control.
The good news is you don't have to be a VIP to travel like this. All you need to do is join a trusted traveler program like CLEAR or Global Entry. Both programs provide expedited security screenings for a reasonable application fee that many people can easily get waived. So which program should you sign up for? We'll explain both programs and look at the ways CLEAR and Global Entry compare.
What is the Difference Between CLEAR and Global Entry?
$189 per year
Add up to 3 family member for $70 each
$100 every 5 years
How to Use
Use the CLEAR pod and scan your eyes or fingerprints. Then head through the security metal detectors.
Upon arrival, scan your passport or ID at a Global Entry kiosk, then proceed to baggage claim or your exit.
Expedited security screening through faster document checks before airport security
Streamlines wait time at certain concerts and event venues
Federal program offering expedited customs screening when arriving in the U.S.
Includes TSA PreCheck (valued at $78 every 5 years)
Apply online (must finish application in person) or in person at a CLEAR airport location
Provide biometric information (eye scan or fingerprint)
Apply online and do an in-person interview at an enrollment center
CLEAR and Global Entry are trusted traveler programs that expedite screenings at airports. Here are some of the differences between CLEAR and Global Entry:
- How they work: The main difference is that Global Entry speeds passengers through customs and border control after international travel. CLEAR gets them through the ID security line using biometrics.
- Where to use them: Global Entry is valid at airports only, while CLEAR also works at entertainment venues. It's also worth noting that Global Entry includes automatic TSA PreCheck enrollment, which gets you expedited security screenings at over 200 airports around the country. CLEAR is only available in around 50 airports and at several sports and entertainment venues.
- How much they cost: CLEAR is more expensive than Global Entry. A CLEAR Membership costs $189 per year. Global Entry costs $100 for five years and includes TSA PreCheck, which usually has a $78 application fee. By signing up for Global Entry, you'll essentially get two trusted traveler program memberships for the cost of one.
- How to sign up: CLEAR has a quick application that can be completed online, but you have to complete the final steps in person at an airport, though that should only take a few minutes. Global Entry has a lengthy application and requires an in-person interview, which can be tough to schedule in advance.
You must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to apply for CLEAR or Global Entry.
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Should You Choose CLEAR or Global Entry?
Global Entry is a better value if you're looking for an affordable, trusted traveler program that gets you expedited security and border entry. It's also more affordable than CLEAR, at $100 for five years (including TSA PreCheck). Global Entry is also offered at more airports than CLEAR. However, the TSA PreCheck line is often more crowded than CLEAR, with folks taking advantage of a cheap membership fee offset by credit cards.
If you're primarily a domestic traveler and don't want to deal with a more tedious application process, CLEAR might be a better choice for you. The number of airports offering CLEAR is limited, but the CLEAR lane is often less crowded than TSA PreCheck. If you frequently travel through airports served by CLEAR, then a CLEAR membership might make more sense. The program has the added advantage of being easier to join, with a much faster approval process.
That said, you could apply for CLEAR and Global Entry to get the best of both worlds. You can speed through customs on your way home from international trips and have your pick of expedited security lanes during busy travel seasons. With so many ways to save on membership, you won't have to pay much (or anything) out of pocket.
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CLEAR Membership Discounts
A CLEAR membership can be pricey at $189 per year. But luckily, there are ways to avoid paying full price for the program if you know where to look or how to qualify for CLEAR discounts.
Loyalty Programs Offering Discounted CLEAR
If you're a member of the Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus loyalty programs, you can save significantly. Both offer discounts on CLEAR membership, waiving the fee entirely for top-tier elites.
- Delta Diamond Medallion and 360 members: free
- Delta Gold, Platinum, Silver: $149
- General SkyMiles members: $179
- Premier 1K, Global Services members: free
- United Silver, Gold, Platinum: $149
- General MileagePlus members: $179
These frequent flyer programs are free to join. So if you're considering a CLEAR membership and you're not a SkyMiles or MileagePlus member yet, it's definitely worthwhile to join and save at least $60.
Credit Cards That Offer CLEAR Credits
You can get a free or discounted CLEAR membership with the right credit card.
If you have one of the United credit cards, you'll qualify for a discounted CLEAR rate of $149 per year.
- United℠ Explorer Card
- United Club℠ Infinite Card
- United℠ Business Card
Not to be outdone, Delta credit cardholders get the same discount:
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Gold Business American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Platinum Business American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card
- Delta SkyMiles® Reserve Business American Express Card
The Platinum Card® from American Express and Business Platinum Card® from American Express also offer up to $189 in credits toward CLEAR membership. Both cards carry $695 annual fees, which are partially offset by this credit. The uber-exclusive Amex Centurion Card also offers CLEAR credits for cardholders and their family, though these are invite-only.
You don't have to carry a premium card to save on CLEAR membership. The American Express® Green Card also offers up to $189 toward CLEAR membership every calendar year.
CLEAR Discounts for Students & Free Trials
If you're a student with a valid school email address and ID, you can sign up for a CLEAR student membership that costs just $60 per year for four years. That's a considerable discount over the regular $189 annual cost.
Travelers can also get a two-month free trial membership. This membership is valid for families, making it ideal for bypassing the crowds during the busy summer travel season.
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Free Global Entry Credit Cards
While no loyalty programs offer discounted Global Entry membership, plenty of travel rewards credit cards cover the entire application fee. Some of these cards carry high annual fees, but most do not.
If you already have a rewards credit card, you might be sitting on an application fee credit you haven't used. Most of these cards will issue a Global Entry application fee credit to your statement every five years if you pay it with the card:
- Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
- Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
- Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card
- IHG One Rewards Premier Credit Card
- Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant®
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- United Club℠ Infinite Card
The cheapest way to get a Global Entry fee credit is with the United Explorer Card or U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card. Both cards have a $0 intro annual fee for the first year and then $95, meaning you can get your Global Entry application fee covered without paying a credit card annual fee.
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Children need their own Global Entry membership, though CLEAR allows members to bring kids under 18 through the CLEAR lane without charge. CLEAR members can also add up to three adult family members to their account at a discounted rate of $70 each.
CLEAR and Global Entry offer expedited screening in different ways. Global Entry offers faster re-entry through customs when you arrive in the U.S. after an international trip, while CLEAR gets you through ID security screenings faster. The time you'll save with either will depend on how busy the airports are at the time you travel.
If you want to minimize your overall time spent at the airport waiting for security screenings and getting through customs, then getting both CLEAR and Global Entry can help you save time. CLEAR also offers reduced wait times at concerts and stadiums, which can be useful if you attend these events frequently.