People walking through an airport, featured in "Breaking down the difference between TSA vs Global Entry vs CLEAR"

In the past year, I’ve had countless people ask me what the difference between TSA PreCheck vs Global Entry vs CLEAR is. How much are they? Are they worth it? How does it all work? And, seriously, what is with this new CLEAR line we see at the airport?

With so many ways to get through the airport quicker, you’re going to want to apply for what fits you best as a traveler. If you fly quite a lot, it might just be worth it to spend an extra few bucks on TSA PreCheck to get you sweeping through security lines. If you’re a frequent international traveler, then Global Entry might just become your best friend. What’s more, there are also other options under the Trusted Traveler Program (TTP)…. Let’s untangle the mystery!


TSA PreCheck

This program is an expedited screening process that sends those who are enrolled into a separate security line at the airport. You’ll get an assigned Known Traveler Number (KTN) that you can include when you purchase your airline tickets–the information will automatically be applied to your boarding pass, so security officers already know you belong in the TSA PreCheck line, which is shorter and faster than the regular security line. Other perks? You don’t have to remove shoes, belts, light jackets, 3-1-1 liquid bags, or your laptop.


Start with a short online application. Then, schedule your appointment with an enrollment center near you. There are 500+ available (and you can even find them at your local Staples store!). These in-person appointments are quick and easy, involving fingerprinting and a background check. Bring a form of ID, too.


$85.00 for 5 years


Global Entry

The difference between Global Entry vs TSA PreCheck is that enrolled travelers have an expedited entry upon arrival back to the US from another country. Instead of waiting in the long immigration line, you go to a kiosk that will usher you right through to baggage claim…and eventually home! You’ll even get a fancy Global Entry card. Important to note is that Global Entry includes TSA PreCheck.


This process is a bit more involved. Start with an online application. Then, schedule an in-person appointment. Make sure to bring along your passport, a secondary form of ID, and proof of address. They’ll ask you pretty basic questions. Don’t sweat it!


$100.00 for 5 years


Other Trusted Traveler Programs

  • NEXUS is for those entering back into the US from Canada. 
  • SENTRI is for those entering back into the US from Canada or Mexico. 
  • FAST is for truck drivers entering and exiting the US from Canada and Mexico.


This program gets you through the airport ID check quicker before you go through the security line. So, instead of showing the officer your boarding ticket and ID, you skip the line and go to a kiosk to get your eyes or fingerprints scanned. You can add family and friends to your account which is nice. But it can get pricey annually, especially if you don’t travel often–this might be something for frequent flyers to consider more than others. 

CLEAR is not a part of the TTPs–they are privately run. Therefore, you won’t get TSA PreCheck, Global Entry, or any other TTPs with your enrollment. 


Start with an online application. Unlike the others, no scheduled in-person appointment is needed! To finish your enrollment, you simply bring your ID to a CLEAR location at the airport. Someone will be there to assist you.


$189.00 for 1 year



What’s your pick? I personally have Global Entry (again, that includes TSA PreCheck), and I do think it’s been worth it. TSA PreCheck has saved me from missing flights during snow storms, and Global Entry had me thanking all my lucky stars that I didn’t have to wait for hours in a long line after an exhausting flight back from another continent. 

I travel for both pleasure and for work, so this is something particularly useful that I know I want to invest in every 5 years. If you’re traveling with young ones or older folk, I’d highly recommend looking into these options, too.

Hopefully this CLEARs (*insert wink here*) up any questions you might have about TSA PreCheck vs Global Entry vs CLEAR!


Updated 9/12/23. 



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