When you are headed to the airport for a flight, the biggest thing that will stop you from getting to your gate are security checks. Sometimes these can take more than an hour. Because of this, airport security add-on’s are very popular. Do you need them? How do they work? Well, I am one of those people who has tried the three add-ons available (TSA Pre-Check, Global Entry, and Clear) and I wanted to share my experience with you.
- Every single one will require a background check. You will need to fill out an application and have an in person interview and give fingerprints to ensure you do not have a background that would hinder your approval to bypass the traditional security point. Just a note on the initial process for Clear: After the online application process (you may also sign up at the airport) You must have your fingerprints and eyes scanned before you can utilize the service. This process is usually less than 10 minutes long. You could wait weeks for a TSA/Global entry interview.
- Once you are approved you are assigned a KTN – Known Traveler Number. This allows you to be identified as Pre-check approved. This is indicated by a check on your boarding pass or ticket.
- Global Entry gives you everything that TSA Pre-Check does for a combined price. Even if you don’t fly out of the country but you take cruises, this could be the add-on for you.
- Clear is a privately owned company that works with TSA in the airport and at some sports arenas and this shortens your wait for security scanning.
- None of these add-ons can guarantee you will not be searched or make you exempt from travel rules but they do give you perks…
The main perk is being able to move through the security process quicker. I live in Atlanta, home of one of the countries busiest airports in the US and the Pre-Check line has me thru security in about 15-20 minutes. There is a separate entrance for Pre-Check travelers and shorter scanner lines. Clear also works best for those that have TSA Pre-check (it is not mandatory for the service). After your retina and fingerprint scan at their kiosk you are escorted by a Clear employee to the nearest Pre-Check agent. TSA will scan your boarding pass and you will go to the luggage scanners. If Pre-Check is not busy I am less likely to use Clear. If it is busy it is well worth it. You can get a free 2-month trial using this link.
I would not suggest that you pay for TSA Pre-Check by itself. Global Entry gives you the same benefits as Pre-check, plus a few extras for $15 more. You will be able to go thru customs faster AND when you drive thru a check point at a border or come back from a cruise you can use the ID you were given at enrollment (similar to a drivers license) that will allow you to zip through those checks as well.
TSA Pre-Check is $85 for 5 years
Global entry is $100 for 5 years and gives you all the perks of Pre-Check.
Clear is $179 annually – Update! If you are a Delta Skymiles member or Skymiles credit card holder you can get this at a discounted rate! Medallion members can get it as low as $79 dollars. General members $99 per year. Use this link to get the info!
Clear is available at most major airports but not all at this time. It only works domestically (in the US) at this time.
If you are an avid traveler (more consistent travel per month), I would say Clear is a must especially if you run late for most things like I do. If you are a vacation traveler maybe 4 times a year I would choose Global Entry so you can zip thru the security lines.
I hope this summary of these add-ons are helpful. I look forward to reading your security or travel tips in the comments!