With the news that TSA is ramping up photo identification checks for CLEAR Plus members, that begs the question: is having CLEAR even worth it?
This post has been edited with updated information.
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How CLEAR Works Right Now
For those unfamiliar, here’s how CLEAR works — at least, for the moment. (CLEAR is a publicly traded company — with airlines like Delta holding some stake.)
New members sign up online or in person at an airport. The program costs $189 a year per person. (Delta Diamond Medallions are entitled to free CLEAR Plus memberships.)
CLEAR ambassadors (representatives) at airports complete the final stages of registration: verifying photo ID, as well as scanning and recording the member’s fingerprints and retinas.
When a CLEAR member shows up at a participating airport, their biometrics positively identify them. A CLEAR ambassador verifies a successful identification and leads the member directly to the TSA officer checking IDs, thus bypassing the TSA lines. The CLEAR member earns disapproving looks from those waiting in said lines 🙂 .
The CLEAR ambassador tells the TSA officer that the passenger is all clear. The officer waves the passenger through to the baggage scanner.
Here’s What Will Happen
Well, now that TSA may verify everyone’s photo IDs, CLEAR might not be quite so helpful.
The current increase in ID verification for CLEAR users is only the beginning. A TSA spokesperson has confirmed to me that soon all Registered Traveler participants (CLEAR is the biggest such program) will need to present IDs to TSA agents:
“All Registered Traveler participants will be required to present ID, whether physical or digital, to TSA’s Credential Authentication Technology (CAT), with the timeline for implementation to be determined.”
CLEAR’s popularity skyrocketed in recent years. I think that’s due to discounts, its convenience, and up to $189 in CLEAR Plus statement credit opportunities with several American Express® Membership Rewards® cards (terms apply):
- The Platinum Card® from American Express
- The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
- American Express® Green Card
- All information related to the American Express® Green Card was collected independently by Eye of the Flyer and was neither reviewed nor provided by the card issuer.
Some CLEAR lines are longer than TSA PreCheck lines. At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP), a checkpoint traffic director explicitly warned people not to go into the CLEAR line, saying members would “regret it.”
As I interpret this, during peak travel times, your CLEAR membership basically entitles you to skip (or get far ahead of) the TSA line. It’s sort of akin to elite status with an airline, hotel chain, or casino rewards program.
Think something along the lines of priority bag check and service at airports. Or the priority check-in line at hotels. The express lines for seating at casino restaurants.
I’m curious why TSA decided to change policy.
Is this a government power trip over the commercial sector?
Is this a security concern? For example, were there rogue or green CLEAR ambassadors who led some people directly to the TSA officers — without proper identity verification?
Is the government trying to force CLEAR out of business — and then somehow collect all their data and start its own biometric identification system? (Let’s face it: the government probably has some stuff on us anyway. Remember when we were fingerprinted as kids “just in case we were kidnapped”? 😉 )
Will I Keep My CLEAR Plus Membership?
My annual CLEAR Family Plan membership cost (grandfathered in several years ago) is entirely covered by my card_name. So, why not? It can’t hurt anything. Although, this change certainly devalues the CLEAR Plus membership benefit.
All CLEAR members may soon need to present photo IDs to TSA officers — even once verified by CLEAR ambassadors.
This change could majorly devalues the CLEAR service — and turn it into a glorified skip-the-line service.
What do you think about this change? Will it affect your plans to enroll in or keep your CLEAR Plus membership?
To see rates and fees for the American Express® Green Card, please visit this link.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, please visit this link.
For rates and fees of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, please visit this link.
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