CLEAR cost: Is it worth it?
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Of all the expedited airport security offerings, perhaps the most confusing is CLEAR. But for its high cost and lack of coverage, CLEAR also offers by far the most interesting value proposition — a free pass to always cut the security line and jump right to the front.
In this article, we’ll discuss the specifics of CLEAR’s cost and benefits and look at whether CLEAR might be worth it for you.
How much does CLEAR cost?
CLEAR offers an annual membership program and costs $179 per year. Although that may seem like a lot, that translates to just $15 per month. You can add an adult family member for $50 per year, and your children can come through the CLEAR line with you free. And most won’t need to pay full price!
For example, CLEAR offers a free trial to those who want to “test” out their services. This is an excellent option for anyone interested in CLEAR but who doesn’t want to commit without a trial run. We recommend everyone utilize the free three-month trial membership before moving on to full-blown paid membership.
Additionally, you can receive a discounted annual fee if you’re a member of or have elite status with one of a few different frequent flier programs. For example, the following discounts apply (and should be easily attainable for most!):
United MileagePlus discounts
- United 1K members: complimentary membership
- United Platinum, Gold and Silver members: $109 per year
- Basic cardmembers of the United co-branded credit cards: $109 per year
- General United MileagePlus members: $119 per year
Delta SkyMiles discounts
- Delta Diamond Medallion members: complimentary membership
- Delta Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion members: $109 per year
- Basic cardmembers of the Delta co-branded credit cards: $109 per year
- General SkyMiles members: $119 per year
Don’t forget to apply your Delta SkyMiles number or United MileagePlus number when registering for CLEAR to enjoy a discounted price.
What benefits do you get with CLEAR?
Once enrolled, you get CLEAR access at all participating airports in the U.S. There are currently ~35 airports that have CLEAR, including Los Angeles (LAX), New York (JFK, EWR, and LGA), Atlanta (ATL), Chicago (ORD) and more. For a full list of participating airports, visit CLEAR’s page here.
Remember, your CLEAR membership will help you instantly verify your identity (using biometric screening of your face and eyes) and skip right to the front of the security line. Your kids are CLEAR eligible as well, so this could be a potentially substantial time savings. Keep in mind that you can use CLEAR with TSA PreCheck to skip to the front of the TSA PreCheck line (so you can leave your shoes on!).
Finally, CLEAR offers some expedited access to specific sporting and event venues around the U.S. These locations can be found on the “Where We Are” page as well and include locations such as the Staples Center in Los Angeles and Yankee Stadium in New York. This benefit sounds nice in theory but hasn’t been a huge time saver for me in my experience over the past couple of years.
Is CLEAR worth it?
The million-dollar question is whether CLEAR is worth it for you and your specific travel needs.
The limiting factor is cost. But anyone can easily enroll in United MileagePlus or Delta SkyMiles, so the true out of pocket cost should be $119 per year for most. That’s just $10 per month for potentially substantial time savings, especially if you travel multiple times per month.
For example, four roundtrip flights each month could save you two hours of time waiting in line at a security checkpoint. This assumes you might save ~15 minutes with CLEAR on all eight of your departing flights. For many, $10 per month to save ~2 hours worth of waiting is well worth it.
The other important consideration is your location, and whether CLEAR is offered at your home airport or the airports you use most frequently. For example, any NYC based ultra-frequent traveler will likely quickly recoup their value because CLEAR is supported at all three major New York airports (JFK, LGA, and EWR). But if your local airport doesn’t have CLEAR or if you don’t frequent CLEAR supported airports, this probably isn’t the program for you.
If CLEAR doesn’t make sense, consider looking at Global Entry or TSA PreCheck as alternative options for expedited clearance at a lower cost.
CLEAR presents a unique and interesting opportunity for frequent travelers to save time at the security checkpoint. If you travel often enough from CLEAR supported airports, CLEAR can be a great deal to save you time and hassle by allowing you to skip to the front of the line.
That being said, $10 per month might be too expensive to make sense for travelers who fly infrequently. Keep in mind that the American Express® Green Card will reimburse up to $100 spent on CLEAR annually via a statement credit (here’s our full review of the Amex Green Card), making the value proposition even more compelling.
Have you used CLEAR? Did it practically save you a significant amount of time?
Featured image by Joni Hanebutt/Shutterstock.
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