CLEAR Identity Verification: 6 Things to Know Before You Sign Up

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CLEAR, airport line shortcut service, line at TSA security checkpoint at Reagan National Airport
Image Credit: Dreamstime

If you’ve been in a major U.S. airport lately, someone has probably tried to get you to sign up for the CLEAR ID verification service.

CLEAR uses biometrics — namely your fingerprint and the iris in your eye — to confirm your identity, rather than old-school forms of ID like driver’s licenses and passports.

As a result, you’re able to bypass the general security lines at dozens of airports and some other big sports and concert venues across the country, saving you valuable time in the process.

But with a membership fee that generally runs well above $100 a year, is CLEAR worth signing up for?

In this article, we’ll talk about what exactly CLEAR does, where you can use it and how much you can expect to pay for the service. We’ll also get money expert Clark Howard‘s take on who should be signing up for CLEAR and who would be better off skipping it.

Table of Contents

  1. What Is CLEAR?
  2. How Does It Work?
  3. How Much Does It Cost?
  4. Where Can You Use CLEAR?
  5. Should I Be Worried About Giving My Biometric Data to CLEAR?
  6. Is CLEAR Worth the Money?

Should You Sign Up for CLEAR to Speed Your Way Through the Airport Security Line?

In order to determine whether a CLEAR membership would be a wise purchase, you need to understand some things about it. Here are the details you need to know…

1. What Is CLEAR?

CLEAR, a New York-based startup, promises to help you get through lines at places like airports and stadiums quicker than you would without the service. They do that by verifying your identity ahead of time and linking it to biometric data like scans of your iris and fingertips.

CLEAR transforms those biometrics into an encrypted code that is unique to you. Every time you check in at a CLEAR location, the system matches your fingerprint and iris scans to that code to ensure that it’s really you.

2. How Does It Work?

Although you can use CLEAR to enter some stadiums and other venues across the country, the primary draw of CLEAR for most people is its presence in around 30 airports around the country, including most of the busiest ones.

There are two stages to the security check at every U.S. airport: Identity verification and a security screening. When you sign up with CLEAR, you use it to bypass the part where you wait in line to present your ID to a TSA agent. Instead, you go to a CLEAR kiosk and scan your eye or fingertip.

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Once the system confirms that it’s really you, a CLEAR employee will escort you directly to the security screening, which is usually much faster than standing in the line waiting for the TSA agent.

Although lines can and do form at CLEAR kiosks, they generally move at a much quicker pace than the other lines waiting to get through security.

Clark has been a CLEAR member since the company relaunched in 2010 and has been very impressed with CLEAR’s efficiency.

“In Atlanta, for example, there are times when the CLEAR line goes all the way into Delta ticketing, but it’s still quicker than anything else. The longest I’ve ever been in that line — even on holidays — is 15 minutes.”

Compare that to general security lines that have exceeded an hour at times over the last couple of years and you can see how CLEAR could be a big time-saver.

If you have TSA PreCheck, you can get through security even faster. Where CLEAR expedites your trips through the documents-clearing portion of the process, PreCheck gets you through the physical screening quicker. If you have PreCheck, a CLEAR agent will escort you to the expedited PreCheck lanes once your identity is verified.

It’s important to note, though, that signing up for CLEAR does not automatically get you PreCheck status — they are separate programs.

3. How Much Does It Cost?

A CLEAR Plus membership — which offers access at participating airports and all other CLEAR locations like stadiums — is $179 a year. If you join CLEAR Plus, you can add up to three adult family members to your account for $50 each per year. Children under 18 don’t need an account. They can accompany family members in the CLEAR line for free.

However, Clark Deals Managing Editor Charis Brown points out that they often see promotional codes for discounted and even free trial months of membership. Keep an eye out for those and sign up for the Clark Deals newsletter to be alerted when the Deal Diggers there spot one.

CLEAR has also partnered with two airlines — Delta and United — to offer their frequent flyers discounted memberships.

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Delta Diamond Medallion members get free CLEAR membership. Platinum, Gold and Silver Medallion members can enroll for $109 a year and any non-Medallion SkyMiles member pays just $119. That means that if you are thinking about joining CLEAR, you can save yourself $60 a year simply by becoming a SkyMiles member at no charge.

As for United, MileagePlus Premier 1K members can enroll in CLEAR for free. Premier, Platinum, Gold, and Silver level flyers pay $109 a year, while it will cost Non-Premier flyers $119.

Both airlines also have branded credit cards that could allow you to get a discounted CLEAR membership. If you have one of those cards, check with the issuer to see if you qualify for a discount.

The American Express Green Card also now offers a $100 statement credit if you purchase your membership with the card, which could make your total $79 or less per year.

4. Where Can You Use CLEAR?

You can use CLEAR at the following airports and venues. While a CLEAR Plus membership gives you access to all of them, you can enroll in CLEAR Sports for free to get access to the non-airport venues. Just remember that you will not get the airport benefits with that plan.

City  Location(s) 
Atlanta, GA Hartsfield–Jackson Atlanta International Airport

SunTrust Park

Austin, Texas

Austin–Bergstrom International Airport

University of Texas – Texas Memorial Stadium

Baltimore, Maryland

Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Birmingham, Alabama

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston Logan International Airport

Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Chicago, Illinois

O’Hare International Airport

Cincinnati, Ohio

Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport

Cleveland, Ohio

Cleveland Hopkins International Airport

Progressive Field

Dallas, Texas

Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport

Dallas Love Field Airport

Globe Life Park in Arlington

Denver, Colorado

Denver International Airport

Coors Field

Detroit, Michigan

Detroit Metro Airport

Comerica Park

Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport

Houston, Texas

George Bush Intercontinental Airport

William P. Hobby Airport

Las Vegas, Nevada

McCarran International Airport

Los Angeles, California

Los Angeles International Airport

STAPLES Center

Banc of California Stadium

Miami, Florida

Miami International Airport

AmericanAirlines Arena

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport

Target Field

New Orleans, Louisiana

Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport

New York City Area, New York

LaGuardia Airport

John F. Kennedy International Airport

Yankee Stadium

Madison Square Garden

Citi Field

Westchester County Airport

Newark, New Jersey

Newark Liberty International Airport

Orlando, Florida

Orlando International Airport

Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport

Salt Lake City, Utah

Salt Lake City International Airport

San Antonio, Texas

San Antonio International Airport

AT&T Center

San Francisco Bay Area, California

San Francisco International Airport

RingCentral Coliseum

Oracle Park

San Jose, California

Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport

Avaya Stadium

Seattle, Washington

Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

CenturyLink Field

T-Mobile Park

Washington, D.C.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

Dulles International Airport


5. Should I Be Worried About Giving My Biometric Data to CLEAR?

To enroll with CLEAR, you have to physically appear at one of the locations above — although you can start the process online if you like. It’s at that point that CLEAR takes your iris and fingerprint scans.

You’ll also have to present a valid driver’s license, U.S. passport, permanent resident card, or U.S. military card. Then you’ll be given a unique personalized quiz based on publicly available information to verify your identity.

So should you be worried about CLEAR knowing this much about you?

According to the company itself, “Privacy is at the center of everything we do at CLEAR and we are fully committed to protecting our members’ information. We never sell or rent personal information. Personal information is only used to deliver a frictionless and secure experience with CLEAR.”

Clark says he’s not concerned at all. In fact, he embraces biometric scanning.

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“Iris scans have already become a thing in a lot of airports for checking in for a flight. For example, if you fly Delta internationally out of Atlanta they scan your eye. It’s going to become a core part of air travel,” he says.

6. Is CLEAR Worth the Money?

Obviously, there could be a lot of benefits to being a CLEAR member. But is a membership a good investment for every traveler?

Clark says he loves the service.

“Having CLEAR means that even if it’s the busiest day of the year, you still know that you’re never going to have a long wait at security.”

But that doesn’t mean he’d recommend it to everyone.

“I’d say CLEAR is only worth it if you travel around 15 or more times a year, because it is fairly expensive,” he says.

The other thing to consider is if there are CLEAR lanes at the airport or airports you fly in and out of most frequently. If there are not, it may not be worth it.

Have you signed up for CLEAR? If so, do you think it’s worth the money? Share your review in the comments below!

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