TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. Clear: Which is the Best Way to Speed Through Airport Security? (2023)

TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. Clear: Which is the Best Way to Speed Through Airport Security? (1)

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Table of Contents[Hide][Show]
  • TSA PreCheck+
    • How Much Does PreCheck Cost?
    • What the Application Process?
    • Who Should Get TSA PreCheck?
  • Global Entry+
    • How Much Does Global Entry Cost?
    • Who Should Get Global Entry?
  • The Other International Programs
  • Clear+
    • How Much Does Clear Cost?
    • Who Should Get Clear?
  • Free Ways to Get Through Airport Security Faster+
    • Credit Card Benefits
    • Ticket Add-Ons
    • Ditch Paper Boarding Passes
    • Book Mid-Week Flights
    • Dress Appropriately
    • Check Your Bags

What’s your biggest travel hassle? Mine’s a long, slow-moving airport security line. There’s nothing worse than waking up before dawn, getting to the airport and creeping along a never-ending TSA line. Having to unpack half of your luggage and strip off your jewelry, belt and shoes is no way to start a dream vacation.

Thankfully, there are a host of ways to zip through TSA security lines.

Here’s a look at the programs that allow you to buy your way to a shorter line, plus tips for speeding up airport trips without spending any extra cash.

Read More: Airport Travel Outfits that are Both Cute and Comfy

TSA PreCheck

To help you get through airport security faster, the Transportation Security Administration offers US citizens and permanent residents over 13 years old its own program to streamline airport visits. If you have younger children, don’t be discouraged – kids 12 and under can enjoy all the perks of PreCheck when traveling with a parent or guardian who is a member.

The program allows members to skip long lines by entering a separate TSA queue for ID check and security. Plus, members are spared the hassle of taking off shoes, belts and light jackets as well as removing cell phones and larger electronics from their carry-on bags.

That saves tons of time at security checkpoints. In December 2022, one of the busiest months of the year, TSA reported that 91% of PreCheck members waited less than five minutes in line at the airport. I recently got stuck in traffic on my way to Los Angeles International Airport, arriving just over an hour before takeoff, and spent most of that time waiting at the gate, thanks to a sub-10-minute security line with PreCheck.

How Much Does PreCheck Cost?

The enrollment application fee for TSA PreCheck and its security screening is $78. Membership lasts five years before you must renew.

Many travel and airline credit cards reimburse the cost of TSA PreCheck, so check with yours to see if you’re eligible.

(Video) Should You Get TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or CLEAR?

What the Application Process?

The process to apply is fairly simple: fill out a short online application and schedule an in-person follow-up appointment with TSA (you can do these at most airports). This appointment includes a short interview with an agent, a background check and fingerprinting. Expect the whole process to take less than 20 minutes.

After the interview, you should get approved within a few weeks. You’ll receive a “Known Traveler Number” which you can add to any US airline boarding pass to start skipping lines.

Who Should Get TSA PreCheck?

PreCheck is best for US citizens who primarily travel on domestic flights in the US.

If you regularly travel internationally, keep reading to learn about other options that might be better for you.

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Global Entry

International travel to the United States is handled by U.S. Customs and Border Protection rather than TSA. CBP offers a program called Global Entry.

Global Entry includes access to all of PreCheck’s airport security perks and speedy lines, but has additional benefits for your return trip to the States: you get to bypass both the lengthy passport processing lines and the entry paperwork. Instead, you’ll be able to use the agency’s Smartgate system to answer a short questionnaire at a kiosk, then report directly to a Customs agent, who will double check your kiosk receipt and send you on your way.

Unlike PreCheck, children of all ages must have their own Global Entry membership.

How Much Does Global Entry Cost?

Global Entry’s application fee is $100 and it’s valid for five years.

The application process is about the same as PreCheck. But the interview is with a Customs and Border Patrol agent and is a bit more in-depth.

(Video) Should YOU Get TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or CLEAR? (Complete Guide)

Also, Global Entry uses your fingerprints for biometric identification at its Smartgate kiosks. (PreCheck takes your fingerprints only for its records.)

The wait time for the results of your Global Entry screening process and application is considerably longer than PreCheck as well, with DHS estimating processing times at 4-6 months.

Who Should Get Global Entry?

Since it’s only about 20 bucks more than PreCheck, includes all of PreCheck’s perks and is good for five years, just about anyone who wants PreCheck should consider applying for Global Entry instead.

Unless you know you will never travel internationally, Global Entry is the right choice. If you take even one trip out of the country, you’ll be glad to skip the very long Customs lines when you return to the US.

Because the application process can take so much longer than PreCheck, apply now if you’re planning international travel more than six months out.

Read More: 20+ Airport Mistakes You Didn’t Even Know You Were Making and How to Fix Them

The Other International Programs

If you mainly travel to and from Canada and/or Mexico, consider the government’s other programs, NEXUS (Canada only) and SENTRI (both), which cost $50 and $122.25 respectively.

Both also include PreCheck and speed entry from those countries, but application processing times are currently estimated at a year or longer. You may want to hold off unless you plan to travel to one or both countries regularly.


Clear is a relatively new addition to the world of airport line-cutting, and is run by a private company. Clear is now in many major airports in the US.

You don’t actually bypass the regular security lines with Clear. Instead, you bypass the initial ID check line. Clear participants walk right up to a kiosk that scans their biometric data – think eye and/or fingerprint scan – to verify their identity. There’s no need to wait in line for a manual check of your driver’s license or passport by a TSA agent.

Once Clear members finish at the kiosk, they feed into the regular TSA baggage scan lines. That means you don’t get the benefits of the government programs like keeping your shoes, belt and jacket on.

(Video) Global Entry, TSA PreCheck, and More

How Much Does Clear Cost?

Clear is significantly more expensive than TSA PreCheck or Global Entry with a 2023 fee of $179. You can add up to three people to your membership at a discounted price of $60 each, but that still comes out to about $50 more than four separate TSA PreCheck memberships.

Clear is a lot more expensive over time because you must renew it annually.

Some credit cards do offer credit towards Clear memberships, so you might be able to get that price tag down. And if you’re regularly using a high-traffic airport at peak times, when even PreCheck lines get congested, you can combine Clear and PreCheck to get through security even faster – it’s just a matter of whether you’re willing to fork over the extra cash.

Who Should Get Clear?

Frequent flyers who regularly travel out of large metropolitan airports, such as O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, JFK in New York or MCO in Orlando. Check the list of airports that support Clear here.

If you want to keep your shoes on and your laptop in your bag, couple Clear with PreCheck to get the best of both worlds.

TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. Clear: Which is the Best Way to Speed Through Airport Security? (2)

Free Ways to Get Through Airport Security Faster

If none of these options seem to fit you, or you already have one and still feel like it’s too slow, try some of these travel tips for making air travel less painful.

Credit Card Benefits

If you have an airline credit card or other travel-based card, you may automatically qualify as a “preferred traveler” for one or more airlines. Often called “elite status members,” airlines like to make life easy for these people, and will set up express lanes for baggage checking, customer service and even security checkpoints.

If you travel regularly and don’t have one of these cards, consider signing up for one. Many card offers include thousands of miles after you spend a certain amount in the first few months. But note that most travel rewards credit cards charge an annual fee.

Ticket Add-Ons

Wait, didn’t we say these tips would be free ways to make your trip through security easier? Actually, if you already bought some kind of premium ticket – like a “plus” tier that includes extra legroom or is closer to the front of the cabin – your ticket might include access to your airline’s express lanes in the airport.

Check with the airline directly, as it varies from one carrier to another.

If you’re a preferred traveler from a credit card benefit, you might even be able to get a free upgrade! And if you’re a business traveler or fly first class, you probably have these perks already available to you.

(Video) Which One Do You Need? | Full Walkthrough TSA Precheck vs Global Entry vs Clear

Ditch Paper Boarding Passes

Have you tried to print your boarding pass at the last minute and run out of paper or toner? Or waited in long customer service lines at the airport to get one? Paper boarding passes are a hassle and something you might misplace , causing a security line kerfuffle.

Most airlines have their own apps for your phone or links to download your boarding pass online.These can be downloaded to your smartphone or even smartwatch so you always have them. And you won’t have to waste time standing in line to get a paper ticket printed.

Book Mid-Week Flights

Try to avoid flying on weekends, especially in the evenings; this is when most leisure travelers want to fly. And skip Monday mornings too. That’s when the bulk of business travelers head to the airport.

Booking a mid-week flight might even save you money. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are usually considered the “best” days to fly.

Dress Appropriately

If you’re in the regular TSA security line, remember that you’ll have to take off your shoes, as well as any jacket or belt you might be wearing, before going through the metal detector.

Wear shoes that slip on and off easily and avoid belts if possible…besides, wouldn’t you rather spend your long, boring flight in comfy pants?

TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. Clear: Which is the Best Way to Speed Through Airport Security? (3)

Check Your Bags

Remember that any carry-on bags have to go through the x-ray scanner for a security check. Your bag could get randomly pulled, forcing you to wait while an agent combs through your belongings. Plus there’s the restriction on liquids.

If you check your bags, you can skip this step in the security process. And checked bags aren’t subject to the liquid size restrictions for carry-on luggage. You’ll have to wait at baggage claim once you arrive. But you won’t have to lug your suitcase through security and onto the plane yourself. Plus, checked suitcases can be much larger than carry-ons – but don’t overdo it! Airlines have weight limits for checked bags.

This is another time to check your credit card — some offer reimbursement for checked bag fees.


Is it faster to get TSA PreCheck or Global Entry? ›

In most cases, Global Entry is a better choice, especially if you travel internationally. Not only does it include TSA PreCheck but it will also expedite your re-entry back into the U.S. when you arrive from abroad.

What is faster TSA PreCheck or clear? ›

Is Clear better than PreCheck? Since it is available at more airports and provides expedited security wait times as well as an easier screening process, the winner is TSA PreCheck.

Does TSA PreCheck get you through security faster? ›

Wait 5 Minutes or Less. In January 2023, 92% of TSA PreCheck® passengers waited less than 5 min.

Does Global Entry get you through TSA faster? ›

Global Entry provides expedited U.S. customs screening for international air travelers when entering the United States. Global Entry members also receive TSA PreCheck® benefits as part of their membership.

Is there a downside to Global Entry? ›

Cons Of Global Entry

The same pitfall of wait times at security applies to Global Entry as TSA PreCheck, too, since, again, you also get PreCheck with this program. Global Entry is also not as budget-friendly as TSA PreCheck.

Does clear work for international flights? ›

Any U.S. citizen and legal permanent resident who has reached the age of 18 is eligible for enrollment in CLEAR. The program is not open to international residents, though they likely wouldn't receive many benefits anyway unless they travel extensively within the U.S.

How much faster is clear at the airport? ›

In our experience, CLEAR® can cut your time waiting in airport security lines in half or more. With both CLEAR® and PreCheck, I regularly get all the way through security in five minutes or less.

Does TSA PreCheck let you skip line? ›

You can explore choices such as TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, CLEAR and Mobile Passport. These all give you the chance to skip the line and get through the airport faster. TSA PreCheck membership lets you join the shorter PreCheck lines at security.

Is TSA PreCheck good for all airlines? ›

The one catch is that TSA PreCheck only partners with specific airlines, so you may not always get that quick pass through security even when you have a PreCheck membership.

What time should I get to airport with TSA PreCheck? ›

When should I get to the airport for domestic flights? Usually, you are required to reach the airport two hours prior if you're a domestic traveler. Most of us do haul around a bit of luggage. If you have no baggage, it is okay to TSA PreCheck.

Is clear better than Global Entry? ›

Global Entry has the edge if you travel abroad. Global Entry membership also includes TSA PreCheck, giving you even more opportunity to save time as you travel. Some travelers who are considering Clear vs. Global Entry may want to apply for both — especially if they have a lot of international travel in their future.

Can I upgrade my TSA PreCheck to Global Entry? ›

You can't upgrade from TSA PreCheck to Global Entry

Even if you already have TSA PreCheck, you must apply for Global Entry separately. There is no way to get an automatic upgrade from TSA PreCheck to Global Entry. You must complete the Global Entry application documents and then make an interview appointment.

How long does Global Entry take at airport? ›

Just how long it takes will vary depending on which airport you're passing through and how many fellow travelers are also waiting to complete an interview. But with any luck, the whole process should take about 10 minutes or less!

What countries does Global Entry work for? ›

International Arrangements
  • Argentina.
  • Australia.
  • Bahrain.
  • Brazil.
  • Canada (eligible for Global Entry benefits through NEXUS program membership)
  • Colombia.
  • Germany.
  • India.
Dec 30, 2022

Should my boarding pass say Global Entry? ›

To receive TSA PreCheck®, you must include your Known Traveler Number (your CBP PASSID for Global Entry, NEXUS, or SENTRI members) in the appropriate field of your airline reservation, and the TSA PreCheck® indicator must be displayed on the boarding pass to access the lanes.

Can you rush Global Entry? ›

It's seemingly random. And unfortunately, there's not a whole lot you can do to speed up this conditional approval process. You can try calling the Global Entry information line at (877) 227-5511 to escalate your approval process, but there's no guarantee.

Can you use Clear to get through customs? ›

Before takeoff, TSA PreCheck and Clear allow travelers to go through the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) security lines faster. After landing, Global Entry speeds up checks at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) international checkpoints.

Is clear good for all airlines? ›

Additionally, TSA PreCheck only works when traveling with a participating airline. In contrast, Clear works when traveling with any carrier. Another distinction includes the ability to reach screening more quickly through Clear by speeding up the verification process and entering at the front of the line.

Can Clear be used for all airlines? ›

Having only Clear does not permit you to use an expedited security line. TSA PreCheck is available to use when flying more than 80 airlines from more than 200 U.S. airports, while Clear is an option at more than 50 airports and stadiums.

How do I make airport security CLEAR faster? ›

TSA PreCheck

Generally you'll get a simplified security screening as well, letting you leave the laptops and liquids in your bag, and keep on your shoes, belt, jacket and other articles of clothing. PreCheck lines are available at more than 200 airports and with over 70 airlines, including nine new airlines this year.

Can I set up CLEAR at the airport? ›

Visit any CLEAR airport location — no appointment necessary! We'll add your ID and your eyes or fingerprints to verify your identity. You'll be able to use CLEAR right away to breeze through security!

How can I speed up my time at the airport? ›

Enroll in TSA PreCheck

If you want to speed up this process and avoid waiting in a long security line, sign up for TSA Precheck. According to the TSA, most fliers who are registered with Precheck wait on average no more than five minutes to get through TSA screenings.

Should my boarding pass say TSA PreCheck? ›

You must have the TSA PreCheck® indicator on your boarding pass before you can access the TSA PreCheck® screening lane.

How long does TSA PreCheck take to get approved? ›

How do I know when I'm approved for TSA PreCheck®? Most applicants receive their KTN (Known Traveler Number) in 3-5 days, though some applications can take up to 60 days. Applicants can receive updates on their enrollment application status by email, phone, text or by checking online.

Can my wife go through TSA PreCheck with me? ›

If you're traveling with your family, kids 12 and under can use the TSA PreCheck lane with you, but kids 13 and up and any other adults, including a spouse or partner, must have their own TSA PreCheck membership to accompany you. Otherwise, they'll have to go through the regular security lane.

How do I put TSA PreCheck on my boarding pass? ›

Enter your PreCheck number during the booking process. After you've chosen your flight dates and times, you'll enter your name in the "Who's Flying?" section. Below that, there is a dropdown menu for "Secure Traveler Information." Click that button and then enter your PreCheck number in the "Known Traveler #" field.

How do I use TSA PreCheck at the airport? ›

Follow these steps to properly use TSA PreCheck at an airport:
  1. Apply for TSA PreCheck through their website or via Global Entry. ...
  2. Add your TSA PreCheck number to your flight reservation.
  3. Check whether TSA PreCheck is noted on your boarding pass when you get your boarding pass.

Do you really need to be at the airport 2 hours early? ›

"The two-hour recommendation is fairly standard across the industry," says Heather Lissner, a spokeswoman for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. "We recommend the two hours so that travelers have enough time to get dropped off or park their cars, check their bags and get through security to their gates."

How long does Global Entry take to get approved? ›

For new Global Entry applicants, the processing time for an application can exceed 90 days. A full background check will be completed to ensure our potential members qualify for expedited processing into the United States.

How long do you get TSA PreCheck with Global Entry? ›

How long does my TSA PreCheck® membership last? TSA PreCheck® memberships last five years. I am no longer receiving TSA PreCheck® on my boarding pass.


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