Before you board an airplane, there is a journey you have to embark on through airport security. You have to find the shortest line, take your laptop out of your bag and remove your shoes. It's a daunting task but there is a way to speed up the process. You can apply for an expedited service that will lead you to a dedicated lane in the airport. But which one is best for you? Read on to find out!
There are two elements to airport security: verification of your identity and luggage/body screening. CLEAR speeds up the identity verification process, TSA PreCheck speeds up the luggage/ body screening process and Global Entry speeds up the process when your are returning to the U.S. after traveling internationally. They all compliment each other.
What is CLEAR?
CLEAR is a private identity verification service that cost $189 per year. They use biometric data (think Wesley Snipes in the Demolition Man) to expedite the screening process. You can apply online and finish the application at any CLEAR airport location where your fingerprints or eyes will be scanned and your picture will be taken.
After your identity is verified, you will be expedited to the TSA PreCheck line ahead of everyone else. There's no real benefit to using CLEAR over TSA PreCheck as you will still have to remove your shoes, laptops and liquids before going through the full-body scanner.
CLEAR does offer additional benefits that you can use in the real world like age verification when buying alcoholic beverages at sporting events, virtual queuing to eliminate long lines which is currently in effect at JFK and several other U.S. airports, manual check-in at hotels and more.
What is TSA PreCheck?
TSA PreCheck is a Transportation Security Administration run program that offers expedited service at over 200 U.S. airports. You can apply online and finish your application at an in-person appointment. The cost is $78 per person. A Known Traveler Number (KTN) will be assigned to you upon approval and must be indicated on your boarding pass to allow you entry into the expedited lane. Once your identification is verified, you can breeze through security by going through the metal detector instead of the body scanner. You can keep your laptop and liquids (3.4 oz or under) in your bag and keep your shoes, belts and jackets on. Children 12 and under can join you in the TSA PreCheck line without restrictions. Children 13 to 17 must be on your reservation and have a KTN on their boarding pass. Now this doesn't guarantee you'll get through faster than the regular security line, but it's good to at least have the luxury.
What is Global Entry?
Global Entry is a Department of Homeland Security implemented program that requires a one time fee ($100), a background check and an in-person appointment. This is the best option for international travelers. If you're approved, membership last 5 years and includes TSA PreCheck so there's no need to apply for both. You will receive expedited screening upon arrival in the U.S. after traveling internationally and access to any TSA PreCheck line when traveling domestically at participating airports. Unlike TSA PreCheck, everyone you are traveling with must have Global Entry in order to go through the dedicated lines (even if your child is an infant).
As an added benefit, many credit card companies will reimburse you for the cost of your TSA PreCheck and Global Entry application, so check with them before you apply. The $100 fee is non-refundable even if your application doesn't get approved.
After hearing the benefits of each service, which one would you choose?
If you need help planning the perfect vacation, schedule a consultation with me. Flexible weekly, bi-weekly or monthly payment options are available so I encourage you to plan as far in advance as possible.