r/awardtravel Jul 24 '21 Silver 1 Helpful 3 Wholesome 1 Hugz 1

Global Entry / TSA PreCheck / CLEAR Megathread

I've noticed a lot of posts about TSA PreCheck and Global Entry recently, and while it can be argued whether those have their place on this sub, I figured the best way to handle this would be to have a single thread for it.

What's the difference between CLEAR, TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and SkyPriority / Premier Access / etc.?

  • CLEAR is a private company offering you to completely skip the line at the TSA security checkpoint. Before going through security, you scan your eyes or fingerprints at an automated kiosk then a CLEAR employee will accompany you straight to the TSA agent who checks your boarding pass, right before the scanner. You then go through the scanner just like everyone else.

  • TSA PreCheck is a program from the TSA offering a dedicated and (often) shorter line at the TSA security checkpoint. Once you get to the scanner, you also have a couple of nice perks (don't have to remove your shoes / belt / light jacket when going through the scanner, and don't have to take your laptop / liquids out of your carry-on for the X-ray machine).

  • Global Entry is a program from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection offering a dedicated and (sometimes) shorter line when going through immigration. It itself serves no purpose on a domestic flight or an outbound international flight, however membership includes TSA PreCheck and its benefits listed above.

  • SkyPriority / Premier Access / etc. are programs from their respective airlines offering a dedicated and shorter line at the TSA security checkpoint (as well as other benefits: usually a dedicated airline check-in counter, priority boarding, priority checked bag handling on arrival, etc.).

  • Note: the U.S. Customs and Border Protection has two other programs: NEXUS (for frequent travel across the Canadian border) and SENTRI (for frequent land travel into the US from Canada and Mexico). These have fairly targeted use and tend not to be reimbursed by credit cards so they aren't as popular and are outside the scope of this post, but you might want to look into them if you often travel to Canada or Mexico. When flying into the US, these work exactly the same way as Global Entry (and also include TSA PreCheck).

How much do these cost?

  • CLEAR costs $179 a year, although just signing up for a free Delta or United frequent flyer account would reduce that to $119 ($109 if you have status and $0 if you have top tier status i.e. Premier 1K or Diamond Medallion). Up to 3 adult family members can be added for $50 each (children under 18 can tag along for free). Student pricing is $50 a year. The Amex Platinum currently offers a $179 statement credit as a card benefit, the Amex Green currently offers a $100 statement credit as a card benefit, and in July 2021 there was an Amex Offer for a $179 credit found on most Amex Gold cards (YMMV).

  • TSA PreCheck costs $85 and is valid for 5 years. Many, many credit cards will reimburse you fully.

  • Global Entry costs $100 and is valid for 5 years. Many, many credit cards will reimburse you fully.

  • SkyPriority / Premier Access / etc. depend on the airline. Sometimes it is provided free of charge for people with status, sometimes you can actually pay for it. Check with the relevant airline.

Can I combine these programs?

  • Global Entry is the only program that works at immigration, so its benefits are independent from the rest.

  • TSA PreCheck and SkyPriority / Premier Access / etc. offer a similar benefit (each have their dedicated line at the security checkpoint) therefore can't be combined. In busy times, the TSA PreCheck line can still be fairly long whereas the airline priority line usually stays pretty short at all times, however if you take the airline priority line you will not enjoy the TSA PreCheck perks at the scanner.

  • CLEAR and SkyPriority / Premier Access / etc. are redundant, since the airline priority line is shorter but CLEAR lets you skip the line altogether. The airline priority line may be available at checkpoints where CLEAR isn't available - that's pretty much the only scenario where the airline priority line would be more useful than a CLEAR membership.

  • CLEAR and TSA PreCheck can be combined because in this case the CLEAR employee will accompany you straight to the front of the TSA PreCheck line, meaning you still get to enjoy the TSA PreCheck perks at the scanner.

Enjoy this professionally made diagram summarizing the path you can take at the security checkpoint: https://imgur.com/IGE2eXX

Since Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck, why would anyone sign up for TSA PreCheck over Global Entry?

In the vast majority of cases, you're better off signing up for Global Entry.

Reasons someone would choose to sign up for TSA PreCheck instead:

  • TSA PreCheck is $15 cheaper (although for most people it doesn't matter since the credit card covers it),

  • the Global Entry application requirements are a bit more stringent (if you have a criminal record, you might be approved for TSA PreCheck but denied for Global Entry),

  • you can sign up for TSA PreCheck without a passport (but considering the current wait times to get a passport, you might want to apply for one as soon as possible just in case),

  • the TSA PreCheck interview can be conducted in a lot more places than the Global Entry interview (and as a result can also be much easier and faster to schedule).

If you never fly international then Global Entry won't be any more useful than TSA PreCheck, except the Global Entry card is considered a valid REAL ID when flying domestic (which could be useful if you don't have a passport and lose your driver license shortly before your flight, or if you somehow don't have a REAL ID yet).

I have a membership but I'm traveling on the same reservation as someone who does not, will they be able to follow me?

  • For CLEAR, they will only be able to follow you if they are under 18. Adults need their own membership (or be added as a paid family member in your account).

  • For TSA PreCheck, officially only children age 12 and younger can follow you in the TSA PreCheck line. In practice, traveling companions on the same reservation sometimes get the checkmark on their boarding pass (YMMV).

  • For Global Entry, everyone needs their own membership.

  • For SkyPriority / Premier Access / etc., check with the relevant airline but most likely everyone on your reservation will get the benefits.

Can I use these services at all airports?

No - most big airports will have all of them available, but smaller airports may not.


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u/DCJoe1 Jan 28 '22

You should call or email to check. Entirely possible somehow slipped through the final step in someone's computer list.