Airport security: What's the difference between TSA PreCheck, CLEAR, and Global Entry?

SAN FRANCISCO -- By now most of us know the routine. Airport security means long lines, taking off your shoes, removing electronics from your luggage and pulling out your toiletries.

If you have signed up for TSA PreCheck, you go to the usually shorter line, keep your shoes on, with your computer packed and toiletries stowed away. The cost? Just $85 for five years. That's $17 bucks a year.

If you want to step it up and make things go even quicker, you can get CLEAR. Available at all Bay Area airports, CLEAR offers a VIP experience. Once signed up, you skip most of the security line by going to the CLEAR electronic kiosk.

There, your ticket is scanned along with your eyes or fingertips. Then a CLEAR representative walks you past all of those waiting in line, up to the TSA agent. The only part of the line CLEAR subscribers have to deal with is the physical check.

CLEAR's Howard Kass says with CLEAR. you get certainty.

"The airport is a place where sometimes there are no lines and other times they can be out of the door," Kass says. "But with CLEAR you know when you are going to the airport you are going to have certainty as to your time going through the screening process."

CLEAR costs $179 a year, but if you know the secrets you can drop the price substantially. For those with a frequent flier or credit card account with either Delta or United, the price drops to either $119 or $109. Kids can be added for free; adult family members for $50 each.

Now, how about coming home from an overseas trip? The lines can be long, but you can skip the line completely if you have Global Entry.

In the regular line, those entering the country wait in a line for a while, then eventually speak with a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent for clearance into the country. Those with Global Entry instead go an electronic kiosk, scan their passport and fingertips, then head out, rarely spending much time speaking with Customs and Border Protection.

Global Entry costs $100 for five years, and TSA PreCheck is included.

Rocco Melchione has had Global Entry for two years.

"This is just fast and easy," Melchione says. "There are still not a lot of people who have it, so there is never a line. I get through in 15 minutes every time."
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