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What’s the Difference Between TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, and CLEAR?

By Daily Passport Team
Read time: 5 minutes

As travelers, we love jetting off to new destinations, but before we even board our flight, we must first get through the hurdle of airport security. In 2023, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened a record number of travelers in U.S. airports, and many travelers reported longer wait times than ever before. Standing in a long security line — or a lengthy customs line after a long international flight — can be one of the most frustrating parts of travel, but, fortunately, there are ways to reduce your wait time. Below, explore how you can speed through airport security by enrolling in TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or CLEAR. 

What Is TSA PreCheck?

Passenger handing documents to ticket agent at airport
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TSA PreCheck is what’s known as a Trusted Traveler Program, which the government offers to eligible passengers who are deemed low-risk. It allows these travelers to bypass certain parts of the airport security process. The program, which is available on flights departing the U.S., offers a separate, exclusive line that’s often much shorter. (According to the TSA, 99% of PreCheck passengers wait 10 minutes or less.) Passengers with PreCheck can skip taking off their shoes, belts, and light jackets — and they don’t need to remove laptops or liquids from their carry-on bags.  

Those eligible for TSA PreCheck are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents who do not have any of the disqualifying offenses, which include having previously committed treason, espionage, or murder, and being on the terrorist watch list. Of note, in order to use the line, travelers must add their Known Traveler Numbers (KTN) to their itinerary when booking (you’ll receive one after getting approved). 

What Is Global Entry?

Close-up image of woman holding passport and luggage at airport
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Global Entry is another Trusted Traveler Program that operates similarly to TSA PreCheck but is geared towards travelers who take frequent international trips. The program allows those returning to the U.S. from abroad to receive expedited reentry to the country after landing. In lieu of waiting in an often lengthy line at customs, those with Global Entry head to dedicated kiosks, which take photos of travelers to confirm their identity and allow them to head straight to a customs officer without waiting in a long line. 

Citizens of the U.S. and certain foreign countries are eligible for Global Entry, provided they are also deemed low-risk and do not have any customs violations or convictions on their record. Enrolling in Global Entry requires applicants to schedule an in-person interview and complete a lengthier application process than TSA PreCheck. Currently, application processing time is around four to six months, so you’ll need to plan ahead if you have an international trip on the horizon and want to take advantage of Global Entry.

How Much Do They Cost?

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As of 2024, it costs $78 to apply for TSA PreCheck, while Global Entry will set you back $100. Once approved, enrollment in either program is good for five years. Additionally, certain credit cards will reimburse you for your TSA PreCheck and Global Entry fees.

If you’re interested in both programs, you should know that enrollment in Global Entry also includes the TSA PreCheck benefit as well as its expedited customs screening — so it may be worth it to pay the slightly higher fee if you have any international trips planned. All you have to do to get the TSA PreCheck perk is make sure you use your Known Traveler Number upon booking a flight.

What Is CLEAR?

Sign at airport indicating security checkpoint
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If you’re looking to speed through the airport even more quickly, consider also signing up for CLEAR. While TSA PreCheck shortens the security screening process itself, CLEAR allows travelers to bypass the security lines. Instead of waiting in line for a TSA officer to inspect your physical ID, CLEAR has dedicated kiosks at select airports that use biometric technology to verify your identity. A CLEAR team member will then escort the traveler to the front of the security line to proceed through the scanning machines. 

Unlike TSA PreCheck, CLEAR is run by a private company. And it’s not as widely available — as of 2024, there are around 55 airports across the country with access to CLEAR. The cost is also steeper: $189 per year (versus $78 for five years with PreCheck). However, enrolling in both programs is often the fastest way to get through airport security. Like PreCheck, there are also several credit cards that come with CLEAR membership, so you can offset the additional cost.

What Do I Have to Do to Get TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or CLEAR?

Passengers waiting in line at airport
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If you’re a U.S. citizen or permanent resident who does not have any of the disqualifying offenses on your record, you can apply online for TSA PreCheck. From there, you can find an enrollment center near you and schedule an appointment to meet an agent and finish the process. The TSA has also recently partnered with several new providers to offer increased enrollment options. 

The application process is similar for Global Entry. Travelers will fill out an application, pay a fee, and attend an interview. Provided their interview is successful, they’ll receive their Global Entry card. Meanwhile, CLEAR is available to travelers who are 18 years or older and who possess one of the following: a U.S. driver’s license, a U.S. passport, or a U.S. state-issued I.D. Travelers can apply for this program online or at one of their kiosks in any participating airport. It takes five minutes to sign up, and there’s no interview required.

Can Kids Use Global Entry, TSA PreCheck or CLEAR?

Couple with small child on rolling suitcase in airport
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There is no age requirement for TSA PreCheck; however, depending on a child’s age, it may be worth getting them their own membership. Children under 12 who are traveling with a parent or guardian who has TSA PreCheck can go through the expedited line with them. However, if the child is 13 or older, they must use the regular security line, even if their parents are using TSA PreCheck.

There is also no minimum age requirement for Global Entry. However, no matter the age of the person you are traveling with, every member of your party must also have Global Entry in order to benefit from the program. For CLEAR, children under 18 can use the lane for free when accompanied by a member, and they don’t have to enroll.

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