As a frequent traveler, time is of the essence for me. I HATE sitting in the airport for hours at a time waiting for a flight. I tend to not be that traveler that abides to the airports’ recommendations of arriving two/three hours before flights, whether it’s holiday season or not. A reason why we are informed to get to the airport on time is due to security checkpoint lines taking a long time. Well, part of the reason that I don’t stress over getting to the airport on time is because I breeze thru security in minutes. With these three essential travel programs, this will save you time, stress, and sanity.
Clear is fairly new to the airport family. I feel like I seen it pop up within the last two years as they slowly been rolled out to most major airports. A friend gave me her referral code during the Holidays 2018 and CLEAR changed my life!!! So what is CLEAR? CLEAR is an expedited security program that lets you cut the line. There is a separate lane entering the security checkpoint area that directs you to a CLEAR ambassador who then scans your biometrics (fingerprints or retina scan) and then you scan your boarding pass. BAM! You’re at the front of the line. Now if you have TSA Pre-Check, you cut EVERYONE. If you don’t have TSA Pre-Check, you cut the general security line (which is still awesome because we know how crowded and slow that line can be).
CLEAR costs $179 a year but some credit cards reimburse you for signing up for CLEAR and some airlines may offer it at a discount of $119. However, if you want a two month trial, here is my personal referral link for you to try it.
Pros of CLEAR:
- I can breeze thru security in a matter of minutes
- I don’t have to dig for my drivers license as it scans my biometrics (which you set up during registration for CLEAR)
- It works in conjunction with all other airport security programs
- They give you a warm “Welcome back” greeting every time. If you’re lucky, they will pass out mints or other little goodies too
- They are also at some major sports arenas so if you go for a sporting game or concert, you can use CLEAR to skip the long lines and get to the fun faster
- Hertz has announced their collaboration with CLEAR so renting a car can be done in a breeze since again…you don’t need to worry about drivers licenses. You can be in and out of rental facilities in minutes.
- You can sign up anytime. Unlike other airport security programs where you can to go in for an appointment, no appointment is needed for CLEAR
Cons of CLEAR:
- They are only at MAJOR airports. So if you fly in/out of regional or tiny airports, unfortunately you have to deal with just TSA Pre-Check
- The price tag can take some by surprise, especially if you aren’t a frequent travel to take advantage of it.
TSA Pre-check is one of the popular and well known airport security programs. As you seen going thru security lines, TSA Pre-check allows you to keep on your shoes, not have to take out laptops, or take off belts/jackets. It saves so much time because you literally just place your items on the belt and walk thru the scanner.
How it works is really simple. You enroll online (link is here). Once you get your confirmation that your application has been received, you make an appointment for your background check. Your background check consists of a few questions and fingerprinting and then you will leave with your “Known Traveler Number”. That Known Traveler Number is what you use when booking your future flights to have TSA Pre-check added to your boarding pass. The cost for TSA Pre-check is $85 for five years but some loyalty programs offer reimbursements. Here is the link to see if you could qualify for that.
Pros of TSA Pre-Check:
- You don’t have to take off your shoes, jacket, or belt
- You don’t have to take your laptops out of your carry on bag
- There is a separate line from general security, which tends to be shorter
- Its available in over 200 airports
Cons of TSA Pre-Check:
- With more travelers getting introduced to TSA Pre-check, the lines can be almost as long as the general security line
- It’s not available in smaller airports. However, some smaller/regional airports may give you a “expedited security” card that you won’t have to take off belts, shoes, and jackets but you will have to take out your laptop
Global Entry is what will save you a tremendous amount of time when returning back into the United States from an international trip. However, I have experienced global entry in a few non-US airports as well. Using Global Entry shortens your time going thru customs. When you get off the plane, you walk towards the Global Entry line to the kiosks to scan your finger prints and boarding pass. Once you do that, you will answer a few questions about your trip (like if you are bringing any fruit/veggies into the US, have you touched livestock, etc). After you’re finished, you will get a paper print out to take to the ICE officers for processing. IT’S AMAZING!
Global Entry costs $100 for five years but guess what?! IT INCLUDES TSA PRE-CHECK!! So for $15 more for 5 years, you get two for one. Therefore, global entry is similar to the process that I discussed for signing up for TSA Pre-check. However, they will ask a bit more questions about international travel.
Pros of Global Entry:
- It saves SO much time after a long international flight. I think I spent no more than 10 mins getting thru global entry
- It includes TSA Pre-check so its a two for one deal essentially
- You’ll get a plastic card that you can keep on you to reference your Known Traveler Number at anytime (therefore, come camera ready at your enrollment appointment. My picture is hideous)
Cons of Global Entry:
- Setting up an enrollment appointment to obtain Global Entry (and TSA Pre-Check for that matter) can take months. When I signed up, I think the next available appointment was 5 weeks out.
- Your enrollment appointments have to be done at an airport (or in DC I did mine at the DC Enrollment Center in the Ronald Reagan building)
I personally have never used mobile passport since I have global entry but I have heard from a number of people that have used it and even downloaded it while standing in the US customs line returning from an international trip. As you can see in the picture, its an app that you download to your phone. You set up your passport, answer a few question, and submit to CBP. From there, you get a receipt. So pretty much, its like global entry on your phone. The only con to Mobile Passport is that it doesn’t allow you to cut the line but it still saves time once you get to the front of the line. A pro of Mobile Passport is that it’s FREE. For more information on mobile passport, visit the US Customs and Border Protection site here.
Elite Status with Airlines
There are a few ways that you could fall into the category of elite status with airlines. Elite status can let you cut security lines as well (but remember if you don’t have TSA Pre-check, you have to abide to airline security rules). Also, when booking airline tickets, you can purchase priority access at rates based at the time of booking.
- If you rack up enough points with an airline(s), you could qualify for elite status with that respective airline.
- If you are a cardholder of particular airlines, you could qualify for elite status.
- If you fly first class, you could qualify for elite status.
Sooooo, I hope you see why all three (CLEAR, Pre Check, and Global Entry) are essentially beneficially to your travels and why I cap for ALL three programs. Elite Status is a nice perk if you fly first class or chose to fly first class. If you have additional questions about any of these programs, comment below!