TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR: Cost and benefits of each

TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR: Cost and benefits of each

Standing in a long line at the airport is no way to start a vacation. And it is certainly no way for frequent business travelers to fly. You’ve likely heard of various programs that promise to get you through airport security faster, and you’ve probably endeavored to look into them when you found yourself making painfully slow progress through a TSA checkpoint. Perhaps you’re reading these words while standing in an airport security line right now!

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We know your pain. Here at CNET, we’re always traveling to cover breaking news, conventions or trade shows. And after all that time in the airport, we’ve learned a thing or two about the three major options to shorten the wait: TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and CLEAR. So before you take off your shoes and belt and remove your laptop and liquids from your carry-on bag, keep reading to learn about the costs, application process and benefits of each.

The choices and opinions below are based on independent testing by our editors. Note that CNET may get a share of the revenue if you buy or subscribe to anything featured on our site.

Our recommendations

Detailed examinations of the services follow, but here’s the express version.

Global Entry is the best overall option. One CNET writer once called it “the best $100 I ever spent” — and the first time you use it, you’ll agree. Global Entry folds in all of the advantages of TSA Pre — much faster and less invasive TSA security checks — and adds an express line through customs and immigration on your way back to the US from international destinations. If you have a passport, this is the one to get.

TSA Pre is the best option if you don’t have a passport. If you only travel domestically, TSA Pre will make flying a far less onerous process. But if you take even one international trip in the next five years, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t pay the $15 extra for Global Entry.

We don’t recommend CLEAR at its current price. The base price of CLEAR just feels prohibitive. It’s almost $200 a year, versus just $20 for Global Entry. And that membership fee doesn’t buy you the quicker TSA security check, so you’re probably still going to want to invest in Global Entry or TSA Pre anyway. Without a price drop or an expanded service tier, CLEAR just doesn’t seem to be worth it. However…

CLEAR Sports is worthwhile for sports fans and concertgoers in certain cities. No, this doesn’t really have anything to do with airports or traveling. But the free tier of CLEAR, called CLEAR Sports, will give you expedited entry into 16 stadiums around the country. If you live in one of the cities in which it’s offered — and you’re OK with the company Clear having your biometric data — this free service is worth checking out.

And, as you might suspect: If you’re a real stickler for privacy, you might want to skip all of these.

Want a deeper dive into each of these? Read on.

TSA PreCheck

With more than 7 million members, TSA PreCheck is the most popular of the expedited airport security screening programs. It’s run by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and lets you use a special TSA PreCheck line at the airport instead of fighting your way through the main security checkpoint with everyone else. In addition to the shorter line, the screening itself is expedited because you don’t need to remove your shoes or laptop, among other items, when going through a TSA PreCheck checkpoint. According to the TSA, 92 percent of TSA PreCheck members waited less than 5 minutes this past May.

Who’s it for?

Air travelers within the US. To be eligible, you need to be a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident. Also, TSA PreCheck members’ kids 12 and under can go through the TSA PreCheck line with their parents.

What does it do?

Not only will the line at the TSA PreCheck likely be shorter than what you’ll encounter at the regular airport security checkpoint, but you’ll go through quicker because you won’t need to remove your shoes, belt or light jacket, or take out your laptop or liquids.

security-screening
TSA

Where can I use it?

At more than 200 participating US airports and  67 participating airlines across the US.

What’s the cost?

TSA PreCheck costs $85 for five years.

How do I apply?

It’s a two-step process:

1. Fill out an online application and schedule an in-person appointment for a background check. There are more than 380 enrollment centers for the in-person interview. Unlike the early years of the program, they’re not all located in airports anymore, either.

2. Go to the appointment to get answer questions for the background check and get fingerprinted.

The TSA estimates the online application will take five minutes to fill out, and the in-person appointment will take 10 minutes.

How does it work?

Once you’ve been approved and paid your $85, you’ll get a Known Traveler Number (KTN). When you book a flight, you must add your KTN to your reservation, which will allow you to use the TSA PreCheck lane at the airport.

Global Entry

Global Entry is a no-brainer if you like the idea of TSA PreCheck and travel internationally. Run by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), this program includes TSA PreCheck and adds the ability to get through customs more quickly when entering the US from travel abroad.

Who’s it for?

International travelers going by air, land or sea. To be eligible, you need to be a US citizen, a lawful permanent resident or a citizen of the following countries: Argentina, Colombia, Germany, India, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan or the UK. Kids will need their own Global Entry membership at the same cost as adults.

What does it do?

It lets you skip the long line at customs along with the paperwork and awkward interview with a customs agent when returning to the US. In place of that unpleasant process, Global Entry members can skip through customs by using a self-serve kiosk. And on exit from the US, Global Entry also includes TSA PreCheck to get you through airport security faster.

global-entry
CBP

Where can I use it?

You can use Global Entry at dozens of airports in the US, including Guam, Saipan and Puerto Rico. It’s also available in some major Canadian airports (Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto and Winnipeg), as well as a handful of other international locations (Abu Dhabi, Aruba, Bermuda, Dublin, Grand Bahamas, Nassau). Again, that’s in addition to the advantages of a full TSA Pre membership, which you can use at over 200 domestic US airports.

What’s the cost?

Global Entry costs $100 for five years — only $3 more per year than TSA PreCheck.

How do I apply?

Similar to TSA PreCheck, you need to fill out an online application. Start by creating a Trusted Traveler Program account. Then, complete the application for Global Entry (which includes the non-refundable $100 fee). Once you are conditionally accepted, schedule an in-person appointment at an enrollment center and pass a background check. For your in-person interview, you will need a valid passport and one other form of identification such as a driver’s license or ID card. Lawful permanent residents must present their machine readable permanent resident card.

How does it work?

There is no additional paperwork needed beyond your otherwise unchanged US passport. Once you’re accepted, just look for the dedicated Global Entry kiosks at customs when entering the US at participating airports. The ATM-style kiosk snaps a photo and asks you about five of the same sort of questions you’d get on hand-written immigration forms (are you bringing in fruit, are you carrying $10,000 in cash) that you answer on the touchscreen. If the answers to those questions is no, you can hand off the printed receipt to an immigration officer as he or she checks your passport. You can be on your way to the luggage carousels in as little as 2 minutes…..Read More>>

Source:- cnet

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