Is CLEAR Worth It Anymore?

CLEAR is a private, fee-based service that takes your biometrics and lets you identify yourself with your fingerprints or retina scan instead of showing an ID. At airports where they’re located you can then skip to the front of the security line – whether PreCheck or regular security.

However at some airports, like Atlanta, the lines for CLEAR can be longer than regular PreCheck and as a result this confers no advantage.

Clear pre-check isn't worth it anymore. This was the 'CLEAR' line at Atlanta Airport.

— Everything Georgia (@GAFollowers) October 8, 2022

It’s not surprising to see long lines for CLEAR in Atlanta. Delta owns a stake in CLEAR, and has marketed it to all of its SkyMiles elites with discounts. And everyone in Atlanta is elite. To borrow a phrase from Delta, “When everyone is CLEAR, no one is.”

What’s more, the Amex Platinum card offers a statement credit that covers the full cost of clear. And Delta hub customers find it especially valuable to have Amex Platinum cards, since it confers lounge access when flying their home market’s dominant carrier (this is also a key driver of the long lines to get into many of those clubs).

But CLEAR is still worthwhile in many places, and it’s good to have choices of which line to use based on current conditions. That sometimes CLEAR lines are long doesn’t mean they are always long. If you have a CLEAR subscription you have the option to use CLEAR or another security line. If you don’t have a subscription you don’t have the option. You use whichever is fastest on a given day.

And if you have an Amex Platinum card (and aren’t factoring the price of CLEAR into the value prop that justifies the card’s annual fee) then you’ve got the option for CLEAR at no extra cost anyway.

I should note that United Airlines also owns a stake in CLEAR. American Airlines does not, and American blocks CLEAR from setting up in terminals it controls. In fairness to American the public reason they don’t work with CLEAR in places like New York JFK terminal 8 and several Dallas – Fort Worth terminals is that they don’t see it as a long-term solution, and the long lines for CLEAR in places like Atlanta support that argument.

However a long CLEAR line doesn’t mean that the alternatives are better. Here’s a PreCheck line at Washington National airport from before the reconfiguration of security queues there:

Having access to CLEAR is better than not having access. I wouldn’t want to travel without it, because it frequently saves me time in my home airport (Austin).

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