CLEAR Plus — often referred to as just CLEAR — is a paid membership program that expedites the identify verification process at select airports and venues. Members can skip the regular queue and use biometrics (finger print or eye scan) instead of a traditional ID. CLEAR Plus is currently available at 55+ airports across the US, plus a 15+ sporting arenas and venues.
It’s important to note right off the bat that CLEAR Plus is separate from and different than TSA PreCheck. CLEAR Plus expedites the ID check piece, while TSA PreCheck expedites the actual security screen. These memberships can operate in tandem, but they do not have to. More on that later.
In this post, we’ll go over everything you need to know about getting and using CLEAR Plus.
Benefits of CLEAR Plus
There are two main benefits of using CLEAR Plus at airports.
- There is a dedicated queue for CLEAR Plus members. This (usually) means shorter waits to pass the ID check, then straight on to security.
- CLEAR Plus members can use biometrics — their eyes or fingerprint — as their ID. This (usually) means less hassle and a quicker experience than the typical ID check.
In other words, CLEAR Plus gets you through to security faster. In an ideal world, you walk up to a CLEAR portal, scan your eyes, and immediately get escorted past the ID check to begin the security screen. Realistically, it’s not always that smooth.
As CLEAR Plus becomes more popular, there is often a wait to use CLEAR. While this line is usually shorter and moves faster than the regular or TSA PreCheck queues, it doesn’t always. Another common complaint is that members have to show their ID anyway. Sometimes this is a “random” security check, other times it’s for profile updates. All I know is that I’ve been asked for my ID more times that not.
As mentioned above, CLEAR Plus is not the same as TSA PreCheck. CLEAR Plus membership does not include TSA PreCheck membership. At most airports, there are separate CLEAR Plus queues that funnel into either the TSA PreCheck security lanes or the standard security lanes.
Finally, CLEAR Plus queues do not operate 24 hours a day. The specific hours vary based on the airport, terminal and can even differ for PreCheck and standard security lane access. Be sure to check the official hours on the CLEAR or airport website in advance.
How to Use CLEAR
Unlike TSA PreCheck, you do not need to do anything in advance or enter any information on your flight booking to utilize the CLEAR Plus queues. Your membership is verified at the portal when they take your biometric scan.
If you want to utilize the CLEAR Plus queues in combination with TSA PreCheck, you will need to have PreCheck indicated on your boarding pass. Otherwise, you will have to use the CLEAR Plus lanes that feed into the standard security check.
When you arrive at the airport, follow signs for CLEAR Plus. There are usually separate queues for CLEAR Plus with TSA PreCheck and without, so pay attention to which sign you follow.
Before you enter the queue, a CLEAR agent will verbally asked to confirm you’re already a member. (This is mostly to save you time in case you’re not.) If you’re trying to access the CLEAR Plus with TSA PreCheck lane, they will also verify that it’s indicated on your boarding pass.
Once you’ve entered the queue, CLEAR Plus is pretty straight forward. You’ll be matched with an agent, who will escort you to a portal. If you’re traveling as a group, one agent will help your whole party together. You can choose to scan your eyes or fingerprints, with eyes being the default. Next you’ll scan your boarding pass. From there, the agent will escort you past the regular ID check agent and leave you to go through the security check.
Notes for Family Travelers
CLEAR Plus has a pretty generous and easy family policy. Children under 18 can use the CLEAR Plus lanes when they are traveling with a CLEAR Plus member. Children don’t need a CLEAR account and the member doesn’t need to “add” them to their account.
If you plan to utilize the CLEAR Plus with TSA PreCheck lanes though, children will need to have TSA PreCheck indicated on their individual boarding pass in order to join you in that lane. TSA PreCheck is a bit stingier/complicated with their children’s access, which you can read a bit more about in our Beginner’s Guide to TSA PreCheck post.
Overall, CLEAR Plus is a good investment for families, especially if you’re frequent travelers. When combined with TSA PreCheck, you can breeze through the ID check and security check with minimal wait and friction. This means you can get to the airport later, spend your airport time relaxing airside and/or bask in the glow of starting a travel day without any meltdowns. Nice work.
Combining CLEAR Plus with TSA PreCheck
We’ve talked about this a lot already, and that’s because these two programs go hand-in-hand. CLEAR Plus and TSA PreCheck are separate membership programs, which when used together can eliminate a majority of the wait time and stressors that come with airport security.
TSA PreCheck is a membership program that offers an expedited security queue and simplified security requirements. Signing up for the program requires time (up to 60 days or more), effort (an in-person interview) and money (prices vary, but typically around $70-$85 for 5 years). Once approved though, members can use the TSA PreCheck lanes. In these lanes, passengers do not have to take off their shoes or light jackets or remove items like laptops and liquids.
When combining CLEAR Plus with TSA PreCheck, you can enjoy shorter waits for the ID check and the simplified security screen. The most important thing is to understand how the programs are different and making sure you comply with the membership steps for both. On the CLEAR Plus side, this is easy: you just have to have a valid membership.
On the TSA PreCheck side, you have to be an active member, but you also need to add your KTN onto your booking and have it listed on your boarding pass for each flight. If you do both of these things properly, you can use CLEAR Plus to breeze through the ID check and then TSA PreCheck to breeze though security.
These memberships can work in tandem, but do not have to. If you don’t have TSA PreCheck, you can still use CLEAR Plus. There’s usually a separate line for this, but you’ll skip the bulk of the security queue with CLEAR Plus. After passing through the CLEAR portal, you’ll then be taken right to the start of the regular security queue. You’ll still have to comply with the full security rules, like removing shoes and liquids, but your wait to that point will be shorter.
CLEAR Plus at Sports & Events
CLEAR Plus is also available at a handful of venues and sports arenas. At these locations, CLEAR Plus members can use a dedicated lane to skip the long security lines.
The process to use CLEAR Plus at these locations is a bit different than at the airport, as there are no CLEAR portals to verify your biometrics. Instead, members will need to download the CLEAR app and log into their account. Inside the app, you can generate a QR code, which will be scanned at the CLEAR entrance to the venue.
Another benefit of CLEAR Plus at these non-airport locations is that you can bring one other adult with you, even if they are not a member. Children under 18 can also use these lanes if they are entering with an adult member.
I’ve used the CLEAR lanes to enter Yankee Stadium, and it was a huge time saver! That stadium can be a zoo to enter right before the game, but with my CLEAR membership, I have always walked right in.
It’s usually not worth it to pay for CLEAR Plus just for the sporting events perk. However, if you are already a member, it’s a great perk to know about. Some notable venues with CLEAR include Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center in NYC, SoFi Stadium and BMO Stadium in LA, and Nationals Park and Capital One Arena in DC. You can check the full list of locations here.
CLEAR Plus versus RESERVE by CLEAR
In 2021, CLEAR announced a new time-saving program called RESERVE powered by CLEAR. This is a free program that is available to anyone. Basically, passengers can reserve their spot in the security line, so they have a shorter wait when they get to the airport.
It works like this. First, make a reservation online in advance for your specific airport. You need to enter your flight information and party size, and then select a specific arrival time. You’ll receive an email with a QR code, which you can then use to access the RESERVE line at the airport. Your reservation is good for 10 minutes on either side of your scheduled time.
Once you enter the RESERVE line — which is different than the CLEAR Plus line — you will (usually) enjoy a shorter wait than the standard security line. The rest of the process, including the ID check and security screen is standard.
RESERVE powered by CLEAR is different than CLEAR Plus in a few ways.
- RESERVE requires a reservation, and CLEAR Plus does not.
- RESERVE requires that you still show your ID for the document check, and CLEAR Plus uses biometrics instead.
- RESERVE cannot be combined with TSA PreCheck, and CLEAR Plus members can use the TSA PreCheck lanes if they are members of both programs.
- RESERVE is free, and CLEAR Plus is a paid membership program.
As you can see here, RESERVE is less beneficial than CLEAR Plus. While CLEAR Plus members can use RESERVE, it doesn’t make sense for them to do so. If you’re a CLEAR Plus member, you can ignore RESERVE for the most part.
Signing up for CLEAR
Let’s move on to how you can sign up for CLEAR Plus. Spoiler Alert: it’s really easy.
Who can get CLEAR Plus
Anyone 18 years and older with a valid U.S. government-issued ID (such as a driver’s license or passport) can sign up for CLEAR Plus. Children under 18 can use the lane for free when they are accompanied by another CLEAR Plus member.
There is no background check or interview required for CLEAR Plus.
How to sign up for CLEAR Plus
You can sign up for CLEAR Plus online at anytime or on-demand at the airport.
If you sign up online, you can finish your registration and set up your biometrics at a CLEAR portal the next time you’re at the airport. This is still helpful though, because the registration process will be quicker at the airport.
Whether you started online or not, when you arrive at the airport, follow signs for the CLEAR lanes. Most airports will have a separate set of portals outside of the actual lanes where they process registrations during busy hours. If there’s not, just head to the regular lane.
You’ll need a valid form of ID and a credit card to pay the fee. At this time, they will take your finger prints and scan your eyes. You’ll use these biometrics as your ID in the CLEAR lanes moving forward. Registration is usually pretty quick and takes less than five minutes.
Memberships are annual, and will renew automatically. You can cancel your member at anytime.
Saving on the CLEAR Plus fee
As of publication, the cost of CLEAR Plus membership is $189 per year. You can then add up to 3 adults to your account for an additional $99 per person per year. That’s substantially more expensive than TSA PreCheck, which is about half as expensive and valid for 4 more years.
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can save on a CLEAR Plus membership. More and more credit cards include credits for CLEAR Plus and other airport programs. One of our favorite such cards is the AmEx Platinum, but the AmEx Green and Business Platinum cards, as well as the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire card all offer a credit for the full cost of CLEAR Plus membership.
Several other credit cards (with lower annual fees than those) will instead offer a discounted rate for CLEAR Plus, usually around $150.
And finally, you can save a few dollars on CLEAR Plus membership just by signing up for select free loyalty programs. For example, United MileagePlus members (a free-to-join program) can get CLEAR Plus for $179.
Is CLEAR Plus worth it?
I complain a lot about CLEAR, but the truth is I keep renewing my membership. That is because at the end of the day, CLEAR Plus ultimately saves me a lot of time at airports. (Plus we have the AmEx Platinum, which keeps paying the fee.)
My biggest complaint about CLEAR is that it doesn’t actually replace a physical ID. More often than not, one of us gets flagged for a secondary ID check. For that reason, we always keep our IDs out and ready, and the biometrics just take extra time. On top of that, we often get hit with required updates that also take extra time.
Another frustration I have with CLEAR is that it can take longer than TSA PreCheck. This is mostly true during times when both lines are very short. If you have trouble with your scan or get flagged for an ID check, suddenly you’ve lost time using CLEAR. As annoying as it is, this is still only a matter of 5 minutes max.
When lines are long across the board though, CLEAR Plus is always the way to go. I’ll never forget when we traveled over Christmas and opted out of the CLEAR Plus line, only to suffer twice as long in the PreCheck lane. Lesson learned.
Even though CLEAR Plus has its flaws, at the end of the day, it has saved us a lot of time at airports. I might huff about the experience taking 5 minutes instead of 3, but that’s always better than the 15 in PreCheck or 30 in standard without it.
Overall, CLEAR Plus is worth it if you travel often — let’s say 5+ times a year. It’s an expensive subscription, so it’s not worth the price if you’re flying once or twice a year. But if you are a frequent traveler, that time saved adds up. Parents with children under 18 will also get a lot of value out of CLEAR, since children can share their membership for free.
I’d also argue that CLEAR Plus is really only worth it if you also have TSA PreCheck. If you’re not willing to pay the <$100 for 5 years of PreCheck, I can’t imagine justifying the cost of CLEAR.
If you had to choose one between CLEAR Plus or TSA PreCheck, I’d spend your money on PreCheck. PreCheck is cheaper, valid for longer, and saves you time and effort at security. It’s also offered at more airports than CLEAR. Then, upgrade to CLEAR Plus if you want to shave that time down even more.