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Hate airport lines? Why your family may want to get Clear before your next flight

May 31, 2021
8 min read
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with the latest information.


Travel is back. Really, really back. Flights and airports are full, rental cars are in short supply and leisure resorts are at high occupancy as we enter the summer travel season.

Demand has returned so quickly, in fact, it's often outpaced the rate at which supply can come back online. The result, at times, is long lines and limited availability. Think: Backups at airport security.

TSA PreCheck has been around for a decade, since 2011, and is still an indispensable tool. But if you want the shortest security wait possible, it's not always enough. Even in pre-pandemic times, PreCheck lines can become exceedingly long in certain locations or during peak times (ahem, Denver).

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Kids can join in the Clear line at no extra charge (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

As you may have noticed at the airport, PreCheck isn't always the only way to skip the traditional security line. Another service that will expedite your airport security experience in many airports is Clear.

After deeming it unnecessary or duplicative to PreCheck for a period of time, my family first used Clear to get through security quickly in 2018 when all the other lines were so long we may have missed our flight if we waited. And now, it feels more important than ever to be able to get us all through security as quickly and painlessly as possible, especially as PreCheck is, once again, getting crowded or may not always be available.

Now that I've used Clear for a few years, I know it doesn't take the place of PreCheck -- it can actually be used in conjunction with PreCheck. Clear is a paid service, so it may not make sense for people who aren't flying yet or who only fly once a year or so. However, there are ways to make it more affordable, and since children under 18 are able to tag along with a parent who has a membership, it can be a relatively family-friendly service.

How Clear works

Instead of using traditional documents that are checked by TSA screeners, Clear uses biometrics -- such as your eyes and face — verified by machines. This means you may. be able to clear security just by scanning your eyes. You don't need to touch anything or have anyone handle your ID when using Clear. Even before the pandemic, not having to dig your ID out of your bag is pretty fantastic.

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When you bring your kids with you using Clear, they don't have their biometrics scanned or checked -- they'll simply have their boarding passes checked.

While kids can only piggyback with you in PreCheck until they turn 13, they can come with you for free through Clear until they turn 18.

Related: Guide to using CLEAR

While I have seen a bit of a line for Clear before in places like Atlanta, I'm usually through Clear and escorted past the TSA screener by a cheery Clear staff member in under two minutes.

If you also have PreCheck, as I do, not only do you keep your ID in place, but you can also still take advantage of all the normal PreCheck offerings like keeping your shoes on and your tablet or laptop packed away. In the event you don't have PreCheck -- or you just don't get it on that particular flight -- you can still use your Clear membership.

That's happened to my family when leaving Orlando when we just randomly didn't get PreCheck that day and would have had a 30-minute wait in the security line, but having Clear helped us zip right through the process.

(Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

How much does Clear cost?

Clear isn't free, which is its biggest downside for some, but it is also why the lines to use it are generally shorter. The longest lines I've seen for Clear are found in places where the largest number of travelers who get it for free reside -- such as Atlanta thanks to all the Delta Diamonds who can get it without charge.

The retail price for Clear is $179 per year, per person. But you don't need to pay that much.

Delta SkyMiles discounts

United MileagePlus discounts

To take advantage of these rates, simply apply your SkyMiles or MileagePlus number during enrollment or link your SkyMiles or MileagePlus account after enrolling. Since it's free to join Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus, this means any U.S.-based passenger can access the $119 per year membership rate by linking their SkyMiles or MileagePlus accounts to their Clear account.

American Express® Green Card

If you have the American Express® Green Card, it comes with up to $189 in statement credits each calendar year toward Clear membership, which is pretty unique in the rewards card space.

Considering the card's annual fee is only $150 (see rates and fees) and it also comes with up to $100 in LoungeBuddy statement credits, that could be a good avenue to explore if you could make use of both of those credits. Enrollment is required for select benefits.

The information for the Amex Green card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Saving on Clear for family members

Clear security line (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Once you are a Clear member, you can log in to your account on Clear's website and add up to three family members for $50 each per year. Remember that children under 18 can use the lane for free when accompanied by a Clear member and aren't eligible to enroll in Clear themselves.

Families can truly come out ahead when using Clear because children under 18 can come through the line with an adult for free with no registration required. Not only that, but a Clear member can add up to three additional adults to their plan for $50 per year, per person. That means two parents and all kids under 18 can enjoy a year of Clear for just $169 or less by using a Delta or United member number when joining.

Free Clear trial

If you just want to give it a try, there's a TPG code for a free two-month trial:

Get a free two-month trial of Clear using code TPG2M

Bottom line

I joined Clear years ago on a day that the regular security lines were beyond insane.

Luckily for me, I was able to just pop over to the Clear machine and get registered with a Clear employee and start using it on the spot. At the time, I had no idea how much I would appreciate having Clear.

Years (and a pandemic) later, it's a service I'm frequently immensely grateful for -- especially with my kids along for the ride at no extra charge.

For rates and fees of the Amex Green card, click here.

Featured image by (Image courtesy of CLEAR)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,300+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023