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

May 31, 2021

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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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Using Clear
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.

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.

Clear airport
(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 $100 credit

If you have the American Express® Green Card, it comes with up to $100 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)
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.

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