The Best Service to Quickly Get Through Airport Security

Best way to skip the airport security line

The Best Service
to Quickly Get Through
Airport Security

TSA PreCheck versus Global Entry versus Clear.
Which is worth the money?

Travel is exciting and full of promise. There's a real thrill to jetting off to somewhere new, but one of the downsides of air travel is that it can often kick off a trip with stress and aggravation—all before you get to the gate. We're talking about airport security. Depending on when you show up to the airport, those slow snaking lines can either be an annoyance or a downright disaster.

According to a recent study by Upgraded Points, wait times at some of the most popular airports in the US (Miami, Houston, Newark and Las Vegas) have average wait times that range from 23 to 60 minutes during peak travel times. And then, by the time you make it to the stack of bins, you've got to empty your pockets, take multiple items out of your bag and remove your shoes, all while pushing the person in front of you who's asking the TSA agent why they have to remove their jacket.

To make travel more pleasant, it's worth paying a little more to get a lot in return. Ask anyone who's ever shelled out for the subtle but appreciated comforts of Premium Economy. The same goes for security. There are now several services that help you breeze through the line without all the delays and headaches. You've probably heard about them from your friend who travels for business all the time. Or maybe you just Googled "how to get through airport security faster" and are reading this while standing in line. Either way, the three major options to choose from are TSA PreCheck, Global Entry and Clear. But which one's right for you? Read on below and take your pick.

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TSA PreCheck

TSA PreCheck sign

Good for Travelers
Without a Passport

Good for Travelers Without a Passport

TSA PreCheck sign

This government-sponsored program, available at more than 200 US airports, streamlines the security process. You get access to shorter, faster-moving lines because you aren't required to remove your laptops or liquids from your bag and you can keep on your shoes, belts and light jackets. According to the TSA, 92% of TSA PreCheck members wait less than five minutes for screening.

The Cost

$85 for five years

How to Apply

Submit an online application, then schedule an appointment at your nearest enrollment center (there are nearly 400 across the country). At your interview, you'll have to give your fingerprints and undergo a brief background check. The TSA estimates the online application takes about five minutes to fill out, and your in-person appointment will take about 10 minutes.

Global Entry

Global Entry sign

The Best for
Serious Travelers

The Best for Serious Travelers

Global Entry sign

This program, overseen by US Customs and Border Protection, allows you skip the long line at customs when returning to the United States. As well as the usual paperwork and awkward chats with an immigration agent. Instead, you'll check in at an ATM-like kiosk and scan your passport and fingerprints. The kiosk will spit out a receipt, and you simply hand that to an agent and you'll be off to baggage claim in about two minutes. Global Entry also includes TSA PreCheck eligibility, so you get all of the benefits of that too.

The Cost

$100 for five years

How to Apply

You'll first create a Trusted Traveler Program account on the US Customs and Border protection website. Then, fill out an online application for Global Entry. You'll be conditionally accepted after passing a background check. Schedule an in-person appointment at your nearest enrollment center and pass a background check. For your interview, bring a valid passport and another form of identification such as a driver's license, ID card or permanent resident card.

Clear

Clear sign

When You Hate
Standing in Line

When You Hate Standing in Line

Clear sign

This is the easiest to apply for but comes with the least amount of benefits. Essentially, Clear allows you to skip the security line, but not the security process. After scanning your retina and fingerprints to confirm your identity, you'll be ushered to the front of the line but without TSA PreCheck, you'll still have to remove your computer and toiletries from your bag and take off your shoes. Honestly, with the above options, it's hard to recommend Clear, unless your job will cover the cost. It's nearly ten times the cost of TSA PreCheck without the added benefits.

The Cost

$179 per year (plus up to three family members for $50 each)

How to Apply

You fill out an online application and finish the process at an airport that offers Clear. And you can start using Clear on the very same day you enroll.

FYI

According a study published in the BioMed Central Infectious Diseases journal, half of all airport security bins are carrying viruses that cause respiratory infections—including the common cold and flu.

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