CLEAR Airport Check-In Service: Is It Worth It?

What is CLEAR Airport Check-In Service?

Picture this: You score a cheap airline ticket, you arrive at the airport, speed through the TSA check points and are grabbing a coffee near your gate – all within five minutes. Sound too good to be true? Meet CLEAR, a new company that puts you ahead of pesky airport security lines with a nifty identity card.

CLEAR is the re-invention of a service originally offered by the now-bankrupt Verified Identity Pass. VIP had 160,000 subscribers and was available in 18 airports. Former VIP customers can re-activate their cards for use with CLEAR.

How Does CLEAR Airport Check-In Service Work?

CLEAR subscribers pay $179 annually to receive priority screening at TSA checkpoints in participating airports. Other household members can be added for a $50 annual fee. Children under 18 are always free.

To join, visit the CLEAR website and complete the online registration. Next, bring your driver’s license and passport (or other approved personal identification) to a CLEAR enrollment center where the company verifies your biometrics – using a fingerprint and iris imaging. You should receive your card in the mail within a week.

The website states: “Bring your CLEARcard and boarding pass to airport security and let the CLEARcube guide your way.” Use your card at a CLEAR kiosk, verify your biometric information and whiz through airport security like a pro.

Currently, only Denver and Orlando airports have CLEAR kiosks and enrollment centers. But, according to its website, the company is “working aggressively to expand the CLEAR airport network and [is] in discussion with major airports across the country.”

TSA SecurityCLEAR Airport Check-In Service: Should You Use It?

For frequent flyers, owning a CLEAR card might be tempting. After all, who wants to spend all that time standing in security lines? But, as one commenter on a CNET.com article said, if you have premiere or platinum status with most airlines, you can already access an express security line. Why pay the extra money?

Another concern about CLEAR cards is privacy. Some potential customers were concerned about the security of the company’s customer database; especially considering it would contain biometric data on all its subscribers. This is a legitimate fear: In 2008, a VIP company laptop containing the personal information of 33,000 customers went missing for a week at San Francisco International Airport.

The Bottom Line: Signing up for a CLEAR card means less time at the airport, which might be a worthy investment for people who travel frequently, don’t have elite airline status and/or travel with kids. As more airports get kiosks, CLEAR could become popular with those who don’t put a price tag on convenience and a hassle-free airport experience.

If you only travel a few times a year, the price tag is probably not worth the investment. Security lines can get lengthy during busy travel times; so if you want to save your money and avoid the wait, try to fly off season when the lines are “clear.”

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Published: August 11, 2011