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Security Pre-Check Packages: What’s the Difference?

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A long security line: our personal hell.

For frequent flyers, getting pre-checked as a safe traveler is a major time saver. Pre-checked flyers are often able to speed through security in a separate line, not worrying about being held up by the people ahead (who maybe aren’t in as much of a hurry, or didn’t know they had to take a laptop out of its case). Yes, you’ll have to pay to apply—but if you travel often, the price is well worth the time (and frustration) you save.

But guess what? There’s more than one pre-check package. So which one do you choose? Here are a few of the most popular preapproval security passes and the benefits of each.

(An important aside: you’ll need to apply for these programs well in advance of your trip, since most require rigorous background checks in order for approval.)

1. TSA PreCheck program ($85 processing fee)
The TSA PreCheck program saves you the trouble of having to take off your belt, shoes and light outerwear when you go through security. You can also keep your laptop in its case. You have to apply for the program and should check out the eligibility requirements before doing so, as the application fee is nonrefundable.

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2. Global Entry program ($100 application fee)
As the name suggests, the Global Entry program allows you get through entry security more quickly when arriving in foreign countries. To qualify, you must fill out the online application form, and get interviewed at a Global Entry Enrollment Center. This process is very comprehensive but can save you tons of time getting through Customs in new places. Again, the application fee in nonrefundable.

3. CLEAR ($179 per year)
CLEAR is great for family travels, since it’s free for kids below 18 years of age. It’s also great for adults and business professionals because having a CLEAR membership allows you bypass long security lines and get to your flight more quickly. On average, CLEAR reports that it only takes five minutes for their customers to get through security. Whether or not that time saver is worth the yearly fee, though, is up to you.

Photo by Quinn Dombrowski/Flickr

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