The days of “breezing through” TSA checkpoints are mostly long gone. Increased security measures and drastic budget cuts have left the agency understaffed and overworked. But, if you’re willing to shell out a bit of cash upfront, it’s still possible to eliminate most of the headaches and frustrating wait times. Here are three paid services to help you do just that.
The Good Option: Clear
CLEAR is the only privately-owned, expedited airport security program currently operating in the United States. Subscribers are provided access to dedicated CLEAR lanes at participating airports. There, a CLEAR employee will scan their boarding pass and escort them directly to the front of the line for physical screening. It’s a bit like being an airline crew member without the obligation of actually flying the plane. The company ensures customers can pass through security in five minutes or less. The downside: Although it is expanding, the service is only available at limited U.S. airports. At $179 USD annually, it’s also the most expensive program on this list.
The Better Option: TSA Precheck
TSA Precheck is Custom and Border Protection’s most basic trusted traveler program. For just $85 every five years, the program provides expedited processing at security checkpoints throughout the country. Subscribers needn’t remove their shoes or take laptops/liquids out of their luggage. The experience recalls the “good ol’ days” of air travel: put your bags on the belt, step through the metal detector, and be on your way. In our experience, Precheck members often zip through security in one-third the time of regular passengers. The downside: during periods of heightened security (which is happening more often these days), subscribers may need to wait in standard lines just like everyone else.
The Best Option: Global Entry
While the Global Entry program is primarily targeted at international travelers, it’s the best option for anyone who travels out of the country two or more times per year. The main reason: cost. For just $100 every five years ($3 more per year than TSA Precheck), you get all the benefits of the TSA Precheck program, plus the ability to zip through customs and international border security in minutes. Cardholders reentering the United States simply present their credentials at an automated kiosk and can often save hours of travel time per trip. The downside: the application process can be long, tedious, and requires a boat load of personal background information.
Once you finally board, treat yourself to this travel playlist:
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