CLEAR logo and verification machine
Source: CLEAR

To CLEAR or NOT to CLEAR that is the Question

As a traveler, I am always looking for tips and ways to make travel more enjoyable. Lounges and expedited check-in options are two examples for a better airport experience.

I have been a TSA PreCheck® member since the golden ages, and it has served me well. I remember signing up and then having to drive 2 hours south since there was no place in Austin to do an approval interview. It has saved me countless hours, and overall I would give PreCheck an (A-) review. But, there have been times when the TSA PreCheck line was long and the CLEAR line was empty or mostly empty. I remember wishing I could jump to the other line only if I had a CLEAR membership. This recently happened to me when I was in Orlando (MCO) for NBAA on October 20th, 2022 (see photo below). CLEAR employees were walking the line telling PreCheck customers that if they have an American Express Platinum Card, they get free membership and can signup in minutes; I saw one man jump our line for a CLEAR signup. I was a bit envious.

people waiting at TSA PreCheck line at MCO
TSA PreCheck at MCO      Source: Lounge Guide

Well, this week,  I saw a deal for a 3-month trial for CLEAR being offered by Kayak, and I decided to take the leap and give CLEAR a try. I know other travelers that swear that having both (CLEAR and PreCheck) is ideal, so you can decide when you get to the airport which option you want to use. I signed up and got an email with the code needed to take to the airport and complete my registration. I will be doing this soon!

On a related note, one of the things that has annoyed me over the years is how most of the premium credit cards don't offer a membership to CLEAR but do offer TSA PreCheck reimbursement. I have the American Express Delta Reserve, Capital One Venture X, and American Express Marriott Bonvoy Brilliant cards but NONE of them offer coverage for CLEAR. I assume there is some reason why, but I would love to be able to use my $100 TSA PreCheck allocation for CLEAR. I know that PreCheck is $85 (for five years), and the base price of CLEAR is $189 per year, but I still would love to have one year of CLEAR partially covered by my credit card.

Closing Thoughts

For me, there are two main things that weigh the CLEAR decision. One is the annual price of the membership, and the other is the fact that none of my premium credit cards help cover the price of the membership. I recommend if you are on the fence and want to try this service, sign-up for a three-month trial and see if it helps your airport experience.