The one thing that everyone can agree on when it comes to traveling is that nobody enjoys waiting in a long security line at the airport. It's a good thing that when it comes to spending a little extra money to avoid the crowds, there are a few options to consider.
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees (of up to $100 every four years) are increasingly becoming a common feature of many travel rewards cards, with some offering up to $100 in credit every four years. And with the addition of a third option, CLEAR, to the mix, deciding which program to use for expedited screening at the airport might be a difficult decision to make.
If you travel frequently, these are excellent bonuses that can save you both time and money – but which program offers which features and benefits?
We look at the differences between each travel perk, including TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and CLEAR below.
TSA PreCheck is a program that allows you to bypass the line at the TSA checkpoint.
If you just travel internationally on a regular basis and don't want to pay for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck is $85 for a five-year subscription that allows you to bypass security lines at more than 200 designated airports across the United States. If you do not have a passport from the United States, this is your best alternative. Additionally, if you live in New York, this is a viable Global Entry option because Global Entry applications for New York residents have been temporarily suspended since September 2017.
My family and I have personally enjoyed the benefits of TSA PreCheck because it was a perk that was paid for by my travel reward card. Even if I didn't get it this way, I would have invested in it. It has proven to be more than helpful when avoiding the long lines in security.
Anyone who has gone through the TSA PreCheck process will agree that it is less invasive than the usual security screening procedures. You are not required to remove your shoes, belt, light jacket, laptop, or liquids that have been authorized by the TSA.
The application process begins with a 10-minute in-person appointment at one of the enrollment centers, which is followed by the submission of an online application. A background check and fingerprinting will be performed during the appointment.
Entry on a global scale.
Global Entry is a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that permits pre-approved, low-risk visitors to receive expedited clearance upon arrival in the United States after traveling worldwide. It is administered by the CBP. To put it simply, it means going through customs and immigration in a faster and less stressful way after a lengthy journey.
To be considered, you must submit an application along with a non-refundable $100 application fee. Upon approval, your five-year subscription will grant you access to both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck in the United States.
To be eligible for Global Entry, you must be a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States. Residents of certain countries may also be eligible, and you can find out more about the requirements for foreign applicants here. Participants in Global Entry who are under the age of 18 must obtain the approval of their parent or legal guardian. Learn how to apply for Global Entry.
Credit cards that provide statement credits for TSA PreCheck/Global Entry
The Chase Sapphire Reserve®, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, and The Platinum Card® from American Express are all popular cards that eliminate the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck costs. Despite the fact that each of these cards has an annual cost, the travel bonus may be used to essentially offset the fee once every four years — not to mention all of the other points you can earn by using these cards on a regular basis.
According to the card you have, the Global Entry and TSA PreCheck credits are worth up to $100 or $85, respectively, and are normally available every four or five years, depending on which card you have. Your credit is issued after you submit and pay for an application. It may take several weeks before you see the cost of your application credited to your account.
Biometrics for global travel
CLEAR, the newest addition to the growing list of options for expediting airport security inspections is another Global Entry alternative. When you travel, CLEAR uses your eyes and fingertips to authenticate your identification rather than traditional IDs like passports and visas. CLEAR, the most expensive of the three programs, costs $179 for an annual subscription and does not include TSA PreCheck, as does Global Entry. Global Entry does, however, include TSA PreCheck.
You can add up to three adult family members to your CLEAR account for $50 per year each. Children under the age of 18 are admitted free of charge and do not require enrollment. Members of Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus who have reached a certain level of status can frequently take advantage of CLEAR discounts.
To apply, you must first sign up online and then complete a biometric scan in person. The experience of getting through security at the airport is rather straightforward if you have been permitted to use CLEAR services. You report immediately to a CLEAR kiosk, where your fingerprints or eyes are scanned for identification. After that, you'll be escorted to a security checkpoint by a representative.
If you are a sports or music enthusiast, your membership also includes access to CLEAR Sports, which allows you to avoid the security queue at many major stadiums and entertainment venues across the country, including the Staples Center and Madison Square Garden.
Credit cards that offer statement credits for Clear?
Currently, there are two credit cards that provide statement credits that can be applied toward the CLEAR membership cost. In exchange for using your American Express® Green Card, you can receive up to $100 in statement credits toward a membership each calendar year.
This credit can be used to help pay the $150 annual charge for the Green Card (see rates & fees), while you also get to take advantage of a discounted CLEAR membership. Cardholders of the American Express® Green Card receive 3X Membership Rewards® points on eligible travel, transit, and dining purchases made anywhere in the globe, as well as 1X Membership Rewards® points on all other purchases.
NEW American Express Platinum Card® users can use their card to get up to $179 back per year on their CLEAR membership when they pay for membership using their Platinum card if they are new to the program.
No, you don't have to be a frequent flyer to get the most value out of any of these three travel plans.
Enrolling in one of these programs can frequently be justified even if you only fly a few times a year because the inconvenience of waiting in airport security lines is too much to bear.
In general, it is suggested that you apply for Global Entry rather than TSA PreCheck if you are traveling internationally (as long as you have a U.S. passport). A five-year membership in Global Entry, which provides members speedy entry back into the United States after visiting worldwide, is available for just $15 more. For an additional $15, you can also gain access to TSA PreCheck.
Although CLEAR provides the added benefit of entertainment access, the cost of membership is significantly greater, and you must fly through one of the 35 airports in the United States on a frequent basis in order to reap the benefits. If you do not have TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, you will still need to purchase these in order to have shorter security waits when traveling.
These three programs are designed to reduce the amount of time spent waiting in lines, which is a wonderful advantage no matter where you are traveling.
It's a wonderful feeling to stroll past a ridiculously long security line in the airport and get to your departure gate with plenty of time to spare.