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TSA PreCheck vs. Global Entry vs. CLEAR: What's the difference?

If you travel often, TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and CLEAR are great benefits that can save you time and money — but how do they differ? CNBC Select reviews each so you can decide what's best for you.

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If there's one thing everyone can agree on about flying, it's that nobody likes a long security line at the airport. Thankfully, when it comes to paying a little extra to skip the crowds, there are a few options to choose from.

Increasingly, statement credits for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fees (of up to $100 every four years) are becoming a standard benefit of many travel rewards cards. And with a third alternative added to the mix, CLEAR®, the decision of which program to choose for expedited security at the airport can be a difficult one to make.

If you travel often, these are great benefits that can save you both time and money — but which program does what?

Below, CNBC Select reviews the difference between each travel perk — TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and CLEAR.

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TSA PreCheck

If you rarely travel abroad and don't want to pay for Global Entry, TSA PreCheck is $85 for a five-year membership and gives you expedited security checks at more than 200 select airports in the U.S. If you don't have a U.S. passport, this is the best option.

For anyone who has experienced TSA PreCheck, the process is also less invasive than the standard security screenings. You don't have to remove your shoes, belt, light jacket, laptop or TSA-approved liquids.

To apply, you have to submit an online application and then schedule a 10-minute in-person appointment at one of the many enrollment centers. The appointment includes a background check and fingerprinting.

Global Entry

Global Entry is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the U.S. after traveling internationally. It basically means getting in the express line at customs and immigration, which can save you time and a potential headache after a long trip.

To apply, you must submit an application, pay a non-refundable $100 fee and complete an in-person interview. If you're approved, your five-year membership includes both Global Entry and TSA PreCheck in the U.S.

To qualify for Global Entry, you must be a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident. Residents of select countries can also qualify, and you can learn more about international application requirements. Applicants under 18 must have a parent or legal guardian's consent to participate in Global Entry. Learn more about eligibility for Global Entry, and be sure to check out Select's how to apply for Global Entry.

Which cards offer TSA PreCheck/Global Entry statement credits

Here's a sampling of some popular travel credit cards that waive the Global Entry or TSA PreCheck fees. Though each of these cards has an annual fee, this travel perk can help offset it — not to mention all the additional rewards you can earn using these cards regularly.

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

On Capital One's secure site
  • Rewards

    5X miles on hotel and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, 2X miles per dollar on every other purchase

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $95

  • Intro APR

    N/A for purchases and balance transfers

  • Regular APR

    20.24% - 28.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    0% at the regular transfer APR

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

 

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

On Capital One's secure site
  • Rewards

    10X miles on hotels and rental cars, 5X miles on flights when booked via Capital One Travel; unlimited 2X miles on all other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $395

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    21.24% - 28.24% variable APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    0% at the regular transfer APR

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

Terms apply.

United℠ Explorer Card

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases; 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, eligible delivery services and hotel stays; 1 mile earned on every $1 spent on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

  • Annual fee

    $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    20.74% - 27.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

 

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

On Chase’s secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5X total points on flights and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases plus, 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2025

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

  • Annual fee

    $550

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    21.24% - 28.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

Terms apply.

 

The Platinum Card® from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 1X points on all other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.

  • Annual fee

    $695

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit Needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

Global Entry and TSA PreCheck credits are worth up to $100 or $85, respectively, and they are typically offered every four or five years, depending on which card you have. You receive the statement credit after you submit and pay for an application, and it can take a few weeks to see the cost credited to your account.

CLEAR®

CLEAR® is the newest addition to accelerating airport security screenings. CLEAR uses your eyes and fingertips rather than traditional IDs to verify your identity when you travel. The most expensive program of the three, CLEAR costs $189 for an annual membership and does not include TSA PreCheck, like Global Entry does.

With CLEAR, you can add up to three adult family members for only $50/year each. Kids under 18 are free and don't need to enroll. Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus members with status can often receive CLEAR discounts.

To apply, you sign up online and complete an in-person biometric scan. Once you are approved to use CLEAR, your experience going through security at the airport is pretty seamless. You report directly to a CLEAR kiosk and scan your fingerprints or eyes. A representative then escorts you to a security checkpoint.

For sports and music fans, the membership also grants you CLEAR Sports, which allows you to skip the security line when attending many major stadiums and entertainment venues throughout the country, including Staples Center and Madison Square Garden.

Which card offers CLEAR® statement credits

Right now, there are two cards that offer statement credits toward the CLEAR membership fee. With the American Express® Green Card, you can receive up to $189 in statement credits per calendar year toward a membership. Terms apply.

This credit can help offset the Green Card's $150 annual fee (see rates and fees) while you get to enjoy a discounted CLEAR membership. American Express® Green Card cardholders also earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on eligible travel, transit and at restaurants worldwide and 1X Membership Rewards® points on all other purchases.

Additionally, new cardholders who apply for The Platinum Card® from American Express can use their card to get up to $189 back per year on their CLEAR membership when they pay for membership with their Platinum card. This benefit is also available to those with The Business Platinum Card® from American Express. Terms apply.

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases. Also, earn 1.5X points (that's an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 120,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months of card membership

  • Annual fee

    $695

  • Intro APR

    N/A

  • Regular APR

    18.74% - 26.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year, 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel, 1X points on all other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.

  • Annual fee

    $695

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    See Pay Over Time APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit Needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

Meanwhile, all Delta SkyMiles American Express and some co-branded United card members can get CLEAR® at a discounted rate of $149 per year ($40 off).

Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card

On the American Express secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 2X Miles on Delta purchases, at U.S. Supermarkets and at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and 1X Mile per dollar on all other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 70,000 bonus miles after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months.

  • Annual fee

    $0 introductory annual fee for the first year, then $99

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    20.24% - 29.24% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    N/A

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

See rates and fees, terms apply.

United℠ Explorer Card

On Chase's secure site
  • Rewards

    2 miles per $1 spent on United purchases; 2 miles per $1 spent on dining, eligible delivery services and hotel stays; 1 mile earned on every $1 spent on all other purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 50,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open.

  • Annual fee

    $0 intro annual fee for the first year, then $95

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    20.74% - 27.74% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent/Good

Terms apply.

 

FAQs

What is better, Clear or Global Entry?

Clear and Global Entry are very different programs because Clear saves you time going through security screenings, while Global Entry saves you time at customs and immigration upon arrival in the U.S. after traveling internationally. Depending on your travel habits, it could make sense to sign up for both programs.

Does Global Entry include TSA PreCheck?

Global Entry members automatically receive TSA PreCheck expedited security benefits as part of their membership.

Do I need Global Entry if I already have TSA PreCheck?

While Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck benefits, TSA PreCheck does not include Global Entry, so anyone that travels internationally regularly will need to apply for Global Entry separately. There is also no option to simply upgrade a TSA PreCheck membership to include Global Entry — you must pay the full application fee if you want to switch.

Is getting Global Entry worth it?

Global Entry can definitely be worth it as it saves you a lot of time and hassle when returning from an international trip. The cost is just $15 more than TSA PreCheck and it includes all PreCheck benefits as well. Plus, there are many travel credit cards that offer Global Entry application fee credits.

Bottom line

You don't have to be a jet-setter to really benefit from any of these three travel programs.

Even if you only fly a few times a year, the hassle of waiting in airport security lines is often enough to justify enrolling in one of them.

Overall, it's generally recommended that you apply for Global Entry rather than TSA PreCheck (as long as you have a U.S. passport). Global Entry, which grants members expedited entry back into the U.S. after traveling internationally, is a five-year membership that also gives you access to TSA PreCheck, for just $15 more.

Although CLEAR offers the added entertainment access perk, its membership cost is substantially higher and you have to regularly fly through one of the 40+ U.S. airports it serves to really benefit. Otherwise, you will still need to purchase TSA PreCheck or Global Entry to have shorter security lines when traveling.

Whichever route you choose to go with, these three programs are designed to minimize the amount of time spent waiting in queues, which is a pretty nice travel perk no matter where you are headed.

For rates and fees for the American Express Green Card, click here

For rates and fees for the Platinum Card® from American Express, click here

For rates and fees of the Business Platinum Card® from American Express, click here

For rates and fees of the Delta SkyMiles® Gold American Express Card, click here

Information about the American Express® Green Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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