Is Clear Worth the Cost?

Sam KemmisMarch 27, 2020
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Are you thinking about going with Clear? The private biometric screen company lets paying members bypass part of the security line at airports and stadiums in some cities, making it a compelling option for frequent travelers.

But is it worth paying a subscription to save a few minutes at the airport?

The answer to that question depends on a number of factors, including your travel habits and level of patience. Importantly, it also depends on how much a Clear membership would actually cost for you.

How much does Clear (really) cost?

The standard price for an annual Clear membership is $179. Unlike government programs such as TSA Precheck and Global Entry that offer several years of membership with a single fee, Clear’s fee is annual.

On the surface, $179 is a huge price to pay for a little convenience. Thankfully, there are two ways to knock that price down to more reasonable territory.

United and Delta frequent flyer members save at least $60

Clear partners with Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus to offer discounted annual rates for members. The current rate is $119 per year for both programs, with a further $10 discount for members with status or those who hold an airline-branded credit card.

Note: This $119 offer is for all members, not just elite status holders, which means there's no reason not to take advantage of these rates, since both programs are free to join. Here are the sign-up pages:

AmEx Green cardholders save another $100

One of the biggest perks of the American Express® Green Card is its $100 annual Clear credit. This credit nearly covers the cost of Clear membership when combined with the airline promotion described above, bringing the effective cost down to $19 per year.

That’s a great deal, especially assuming you’ll get plenty of other value from the card’s $100 LoungeBuddy credit and 3x earning rate on travel and restaurants to offset the card’s $150 annual fee.

What does Clear membership get you?

Clear uses biometric data (fingerprints and eye scans) instead of traditional ID documents like driver’s licenses or passports. This lets you skip the TSA checkpoint for IDs, which can often be the longest part of the line. However, members still have to pass through security screening just like everybody else.

Clear is completely separate from TSA Precheck and it doesn't provide access to the Precheck line. Those who have both Precheck and Clear will still pass to the front of the Precheck line, however.

Clear is available at over 65 locations, including airports and stadiums. So the service will provide far less benefit for those who live near smaller airports.

Is it worth it?

At first blush, $179 is a big price tag for cut-in-line privileges at some airports. Yet it’s easy to knock $60 off this price by using your Delta or United membership number, and fairly easy to knock another $100 off with the American Express® Green Card.

In the end, whether Clear is worth it to you depends on a number of factors:

  • Do you fly a lot? Even someone who takes 10 round-trip flights per year is still spending about $6 per use at the lower $119/year price.

  • Does Clear support your home airport (and preferred terminal)? If not, it’s almost certainly not worth it.

  • Do you have or are considering getting the American Express® Green Card? That $100 credit moves Clear to the “worth it” category for many.

  • Are you impatient? Clear only saves a few minutes in most security checkpoint situations — but if those minutes are important to you and you’ll take advantage of the discounts, then it could certainly make sense.

All information about the American Express® Green Card has been collected independently by NerdWallet. The American Express® Green Card is no longer available through NerdWallet.

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