This blog post was updated on September 28, 2018.
Many of us loathe airports. Sure, they bring us to our desired destinations, but they can also be chaotic, crowded, exasperating spaces. Security lines and the hassle that goes along with them are one of the main reasons you might hate traveling through the airport. Airport security has greatly changed over the last 15 years, in which travelers must seemingly remove everything on their person to get to their gate. If you are tired of the annoyance and the waiting in security lines, there are a number of expedited security programs you can join. However, not all of these programs are right for every traveler.
TSA Pre✓: Brought to you by the Transportation Security Administration, TSA Pre✓ is an airport security program for U.S. citizens and U.S. lawful permanent residents. Membership lends travelers expedited screening at participating airports. You head to a TSA Pre✓ line where you don’t have to take off your shoes, belt and light jacket or take out your liquids or laptop to get through security. Membership will cost you $85 for 5 years. You must pre-enroll online and then visit an enrollment center to provide your ID and fingerprints. A traveler might find TSA Pre✓ useful if you are frequently traveling throughout the U.S. and with participating airlines. One of the main drawbacks of TSA Pre✓ is that you can still be singled out for extra screening like those average Joes and Janes in the line next to you.
Global Entry: Another popular airport security program is Global Entry. Available to U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, citizens of Germany, Panama and Mexico, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection program provides expedited clearance when you arrive to the U.S. from abroad. At the airport, you head straight to the Global Entry kiosks to scan your passport, fingerprints and to complete a customs declaration. Global Entry requires a background check and an in person interview. The cost is also more than TSA Pre✓ at $100 for five years. Also, Global Entry isn’t always convenient if you travel internationally with family. Only Global Entry members can use the kiosks so an entire family would need to get memberships. On the upside, Global Entry members who are U.S. citizens can take advantage of TSA Pre✓ benefits.
NEXUS: If you find yourself traveling between the U.S. and Canada frequently, NEXUS might be for you. Eligible for U.S. citizens, U.S. lawful permanent residents, Canadian citizens and Canadian lawful permanent residents, the program provides faster screening at airports and land borders between the U.S. and Canada. NEXUS members can also take advantage of the TSA Pre✓ and Global Entry benefits. Travelers use the NEXUS kiosks when entering Canada and the Global Entry kiosks when entering the U.S. A five year membership costs $50. The application process is similar to other expedited security programs in that you must apply online, undergo an interview and lend your fingerprints and ID.
CLEAR: CLEAR has relaunched recently, making it one of the newest airport security programs. While only in 11 airports currently, CLEAR does have some advantages over the big airport security programs. There are no random searches and you can use any airline with CLEAR. The application process is also somewhat easier in that you apply online and visit an airport location to confirm your identity. You don’t have to make an appointment for that interview. CLEAR costs $179 per year so it is decidedly the most expensive of the group, with $50 for each additional family member you want to add on to your membership. Children under 18 are free however. CLEAR functions similar to TSA Pre✓ in that once you pass through the CLEAR entry, you are escorted to the front of the TSA Pre✓ line.