Back in December, I finally signed us up for CLEAR. That’s the service that gives you an express lane access past the TSA ID checkpoint. I had a free trial membership with TripIt Pro for three months and a free family membership so I figured we’d give it a shot. Well it’s been over six months and I’ve been able to use the CLEAR lanes a couple of times. As of now, I just don’t see how it’s worth the extra money they charge for the service. There are several things that led to this conclusion.:
Sharon and I had the same feeling after using CLEAR for the first three months. I had to renew my membership since my free trial was running out. I decided that just three months wasn’t enough time to make a conclusion on the matter. Her free trial was extended (because of some problems with her initial signup) so I’d only have to pay the $79 as a Delta co-brand credit cardholder to renew for another year. I figured after 15 months, I’d be able to make a definitive statement on if we found it worth the money.
I’ve decided to stop the trial early and release my findings.
If Sharon and I both had to renew, our cost would be $159 for a year’s membership for the two of us. New members would have to pay even more because CLEAR increased prices for Delta Skymiles members in April 2019.
For that price, it’s just not worth it for us.
Why We Haven’t Fallen In Love With CLEAR
1. It hasn’t saved us any time at our home airport
The TSA Checkpoint lines at Orlando Airport can be terrible. It’s gotten so bad that the airport now tells passengers to get to the ticketing counter no less than two hours before a flight. However most of the time to get through TSA checkpoints is spent waiting for ID and bag screening. Those are lines we hardly ever would need to stand in because we have TSA Pre-check. As we’ve walked to the CLEAR lanes, we’ve looked at the Pre-check lines and they’ve been almost empty. It’s almost seemed that between going to CLEAR and getting our fingerprints to work takes longer than the simple process of showing my boarding pass and ID to a TSA agent. (BTW, if CLEAR took a retinal scan, how come they never use it to verify identity?)
I understand this is a uniquely Orlando problem. The security lines at MCO are a mess (here’s why we think that is) but we miss almost all of that just by having TSA Pre-check.
2. Places we’ve flown to just haven’t had CLEAR checkpoints
Our travel plans aren’t typical. We often fly to places that aren’t the most popular or we’re flying on the cheapest fare we can find. Those aren’t places CLEAR has outposts. Even when we flew to New York, our last two trips from JFK and LGA left from terminals that didn’t have CLEAR.
3. We tend to fly at unpopular times
If we’re flying using points or paying cash, we’re looking for the best deals. Those flights usually involve flying either before or after the frequent flyers want to be on the planes., so we tend to take a bunch of late morning/early afternoon or early evening flights. Checkpoints also tend to be less busy during those hours. Even at the places without CLEAR, we’re usually through security in less than 10 minutes.
This is totally a Your Mileage May Vary situation
I know some flyers who say that having CLEAR has been life changing for their travels. I don’t doubt that’s true. At other airports, the Pre-check line can be horrendous and that’s when CLEAR is a lifesaver. If you’re that person who’s stood in a 30-40 minute Pre-check line every week, CLEAR totally makes sense.
But for us, our travels and our experience, CLEAR just isn’t worth the extra cost. I have no doubt that we may come across a trip where having CLEAR saves us a significant amount of time. But for one or even two trips, is it worth $79 or $109? I’ll pay myself that money and wait patiently on line.
Now if only there could be a credit card that would offer a CLEAR membership as a perk (that would be different from the five cards I have that give me TSA Pre-Check or Global Entry fee reimbursements), then I’d consider it. Until that happens, I’ll use CLEAR until our membership expires and then go back in line with the rest of the people who have paid for TSA Pre-check.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary