I’m in a lot of travel-related groups on the internet and Joe and I even hosted our own travel group on FB for a few years. When you stay in the same group for an extended period of time, you tend to see the same questions over and over. We’ve gone over some of them in the past:
- What to do if your TSA PreCheck status isn’t on your boarding pass
- How to get a hotel room upgrade 100% of the time
- How to override hotel thermostat settings
- Countries you can & can’t enter with a criminal record
- A guide for how early YOU should get to the airport nowadays
That last one had a lot of readers, I guess because instead of giving overall, one-stop-shop advice, it gave readers the tools to help them know what might work best for THEM, as individuals/families, based on the specifics of their travels.
The same goes for deciding if getting CLEAR is “worth it” to you.
About something being “worth it”
The first thing I’ll say is I’m not really a fan of the term “worth it.” Unfortunately, there’s no way for one person to tell another person if CLEAR (or anything else) is actually “worth it” or not. Why? Because the “worth” of anything is a value judgment.
noun: value judgement
an assessment of something as good or bad in terms of one’s standards or priorities.
So yeah, a value judgement is based on each person, their experiences and what’s important to them. That will, of course, change from person to person. What you may think is “worth it” may totally be not “worth it” for someone else, and vice versa.
But enough of that; let’s say you’ve been considering CLEAR.
What is CLEAR?
CLEAR is essentially a “skip part of the queue” pass. Instead of standing in the regular queue or the TSA PreCheck queue before you get to the TSA officer, you go to the designated CLEAR Lane and are cleared by matching biometric data in your eyes or fingerprint that you’ve given them upon signing up for CLEAR.
Once you’ve gone through the CLEAR Lane, the CLEAR representative “clears” you with the TSA officer and you’re funneled into whichever queue you’re entitled to go on: the (usually longer) regular one or the (usually shorter) TSA PreCheck one.
You can pay for CLEAR membership for yourself (more on that in a second), and then any 3 adult family members or friends are $60 per person. Kids under age 18 can go through the CLEAR Lane with you for free.
CLEAR’s recent price increase
If you hadn’t heard, CLEAR recently announced a pretty painful price increase. The base price went from $179 to $189. But the discounts it gave to general Delta SkyMiles members and general United MileagePlus members were cut significantly. Certain credit card holders also had a cut (although not as bad).
Joe recently went over a way to get around the price increase, but it still usually means paying a significant amount per year for CLEAR (Delta Diamond Medallion and 360° members and United Premier 1K and Global Services members still get CLEAR for free. But if you have any of those statuses, you’re probably not reading this post anyway LOL).
So let’s say you’re Chris Q. Public, don’t have any of those credit cards and certainly don’t have any high-ranking Delta or United status. And you’re trying to figure out: IS getting CLEAR worth it for YOU? These are some of the things to consider:
What’s more important to you? Time or money?
- Whether or not $189 (plus more for adult family members) is a significant sum to be spending on CLEAR is probably going to be different for an investment banker vs. someone who’s making minimum wage.
- Someone who travels once every 3 years and whose home airport tends to be quiet/slow (or that doesn’t even HAVE CLEAR kiosks – right now it’s only in 51 airports) will have a different opinion about investing in CLEAR than someone who travels in and out of MIA every week.
- Some people just don’t have the patience to stand in a line for X amount of time. I don’t mean someone with special needs; I just mean anyone who just hates standing in long lines. Or maybe someone who frequently travels with very young children who don’t have that patience. Getting a CLEAR membership can be helpful in those types of situations.
Do the math
Every airport out there has different waiting times at the TSA checkpoint. Assuming you travel at least a few times per year, you have some idea of how fast or slow the queues are at your home airport, as well as those at the airports you travel to/from most often.
- How long do you usually have to wait until you get to the TSA officer who checks your driver’s license (and maybe your boarding pass, but maybe not)? 3 minutes? 30 minutes?
- How many times per year do you fly? 2? 200?
- Multiple “how many minutes in your average wait” X (times) “how many times per year you fly.” That’s roughly how many minutes per year you’re waiting in the queue before reaching the TSA officer.
- Is “that many” minutes “worth” $179+ to you?
And then you have your answer.
The only one who can say if CLEAR is “worth it” to you, is you
So again, whether or not CLEAR is “worth it” is about as much of a Your Mileage May Vary situation as one can get. It will vary from person to person, based on their own value judgements.
Do your research. Make your decision. Ask others what they experienced with CLEAR. Ask them what they liked and didn’t like. But really, don’t bother asking if it was “worth it.” As closed-ended as a question as it appears, it’s really as open-ended as could be.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary
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At Washington IAD, PreCheck or even the standard security lanes faster than Clear in the morning. Completely useless at that time of day.