Guide To Maximizing Amex CLEAR Credits

Guide To Maximizing Amex CLEAR Credits

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A few American Express cards now offer annual CLEAR credits, which can save you time at the airport. With both The Platinum Card® from American Express and The Business Platinum Card® from American Express having recently added CLEAR credits as a benefit, in this post I wanted to take a closer look at how exactly that works.

Which Amex cards offer CLEAR credits, what is CLEAR, how do you sign-up, and how do you get the best value?

Which Amex cards offer CLEAR credits?

Currently there are three American Express cards offering CLEAR credits as a perk:

What are the restrictions associated with these CLEAR credits?

  • The credits are per calendar year (based on when the transaction appears on your card)
  • The credits can be used across multiple transactions, if you’re in a situation where you’re being charged the maximum credit amount by CLEAR
  • The credits apply to purchases directly with CLEAR
  • Purchases by the primary cardmember and additional cardmembers are eligible, though additional cardmembers don’t get additional credits
  • You can buy a CLEAR membership for anyone (including friends and family), as long as you pay with your card
  • The statement credits will post within two to four weeks of an eligible purchase

What is CLEAR?

CLEAR is essentially a technology company that stores biometric data to expedite clearing security at airports, and at select stadiums and other venues.

The way CLEAR makes your life easier is by allowing you to bypass the ID check at airports. While you still have to go through security, you simply go up to a CLEAR checkpoint at an airport, then your fingerprints or eyes are scanned, and then you bypass the ID check (though in some cases you may still be asked at random to show your ID).

It doesn’t matter whether you have Pre-Check or just “regular” security, as the CLEAR associate will direct you past the ID checker and into the appropriate line.

You can read about my experience with CLEAR in this post.

Where is CLEAR available?

CLEAR is currently available at 50+ venues — this consists mostly of airports, though also includes some stadiums and other venues. Not all terminals at eligible airports have CLEAR, though you can expect to find CLEAR in some capacity at the following 35+ airports:

  • Atlanta (ATL)
  • Austin (AUS)
  • Baltimore (BWI)
  • Birmingham (BHM)
  • Boston (BOS)
  • Chicago (MDW & ORD)
  • Cincinnati (CVG)
  • Cleveland (CLE)
  • Dallas (DAL & DFW)
  • Denver (DEN)
  • Detroit (DTW)
  • Fort Lauderdale (FLL)
  • Houston (HOU & IAH)
  • Las Vegas (LAS)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Minneapolis (MSP)
  • New Orleans (MSY)
  • New York (JFK & LGA)
  • Newark (EWR)
  • Oakland (OAK)
  • Orlando (MCO)
  • Phoenix (PHX)
  • Sacramento (SMF)
  • Salt Lake City (SLC)
  • San Antonio (SAT)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • San Jose (SJC)
  • Seattle (SEA)
  • St. Louis (STL)
  • Washington (DCA & IAD)
  • Westchester (HPN)
CLEAR is available at over 35 airports

How do you sign up for CLEAR?

The process of signing up for CLEAR is super easy. You can initially register online, which should take just a couple of minutes. Your payment will already be processed when you register.

Then the next time you’re at an airport with CLEAR you can simply see a company representative, and they’ll walk you through the registration process, which consists of them taking your biometric data. Unlike with Global Entry, there’s no “interview” required here. CLEAR is essentially just verifying your biometric data, so the company isn’t assessing how “risky” of a passenger you are.

How does CLEAR compare to TSA Pre-Check?

CLEAR, TSA Pre-Check, and Global Entry, are complements and not substitutes:

  • CLEAR gets you expedited ID checking at eligible airports
  • TSA Pre-Check gets you expedited security screening at eligible airports, as you don’t have to take off your shoes, or take liquids or laptops out of your bags
  • Global Entry gets you expedited immigration when entering the United States, allowing you to go straight to a kiosk and skip the main lines

When it comes to memberships:

  • A Global Entry membership gets you Global Entry and TSA Pre-Check, but not CLEAR
  • A TSA Pre-Check membership just gets you TSA Pre-Check
  • A CLEAR membership just gets you CLEAR

The ideal situation is to have a Global Entry membership and a CLEAR membership, as you’re then covered for all three programs.

How do you maximize value with CLEAR?

Ordinarily, a CLEAR membership costs $179 per year. You might be thinking “great, the Amex Platinum Card offers a $179 credit, so I’m all set.” Not so fast, because you can do much better than that. You can actually get CLEAR for two people with that $179 credit, and then some.

So let’s look at some of the strategies to maximize your Amex CLEAR credits.

CLEAR should cost no more than $119 per year

At the absolute most you should be paying $119 per year for CLEAR, before factoring in any potential Amex CLEAR credits. Why? Just for being a member of Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus you get a reduced CLEAR membership rate of $119 per year. Signing up for these programs is free and takes just a couple of minutes.

No status is required, but rather the discount is offered just for being a member of these programs:

Save even more with airline status or credit cards

You can save even more on a CLEAR membership if you have airline status or select co-brand credit cards:

Amex credits can be applied towards any of these discounted CLEAR membership opportunities.

Get CLEAR for $50 with family plans

CLEAR memberships are individual, so you can’t bring friends or family along with you, aside from children under 18, who can tag along for free without registering.

The good news is that CLEAR also offers family plans. With CLEAR’s family plans, you can add up to three people to your account for $50 each per year. The people you add don’t even have to be immediate or biological family. As CLEAR describes it, you can even add “chosen family, or friends that feel like family.”

There are no tricks here — you can just sign up for an individual membership, and then later can add people to your family plan.

The best CLEAR strategy with Amex credits

If you have a $179 CLEAR credit on the Amex Personal Platinum Card or Amex Business Platinum Card, and you’re not eligible for a further discount, the best strategy is pretty straightforward:

  • Sign up for the $119 annual CLEAR membership through the Delta SkyMiles or United MileagePlus links, and charge your Amex card for it
  • Sign up a friend or family member through the family plan option for an additional $50, and charge your Amex card for it

You’ll now be looking at two people getting CLEAR for $169, which is more than covered by the Amex Platinum $179 credit. That’s better than using up that entire credit on just one person, eh?

Meanwhile let’s say you’re a Delta SkyMiles Diamond Medallion member or United MileagePlus Premier 1K member, who gets CLEAR for free. If I had the Amex Platinum, my strategy would be to use the family plan option to add three people to my account for $50 each. The $150 in fees would be more than covered by the $179 annual credit.

Bottom line

Three American Express cards now offer CLEAR credits, and in particular both the personal and business version of the Amex Platinum offer a $179 annual CLEAR credit.

While $179 will cover a CLEAR membership for a year, you can actually get CLEAR for two people at that price. Just sign up through Delta or United so you pay $119, and then use the family plan option to add someone to your account for $50.

It’s awesome to see Amex add CLEAR credits, as it’s a nice alternative to the TSA Pre-Check and Global Entry credits we’ve historically primarily seen.

If you have an Amex card with a CLEAR credit, what has your strategy been?

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  1. John

    Each family member is now $60, not $50 (at least when I went to sign up through Delta).

    Either way, the Amex Plat credit should cover two people

  2. Justin

    This may work for anyone that already paid for their CLEAR membership and wants to capitalize on the credit. I called CLEAR and cancelled my membership (that had been paid with another card). I received a prorated refund from the $169 that I had paid a few months ago. After I got the refund I logged back in (account and all my data was still there) and reactivated the membership with AMEX Platinum. AMEX Platinum...

    This may work for anyone that already paid for their CLEAR membership and wants to capitalize on the credit. I called CLEAR and cancelled my membership (that had been paid with another card). I received a prorated refund from the $169 that I had paid a few months ago. After I got the refund I logged back in (account and all my data was still there) and reactivated the membership with AMEX Platinum. AMEX Platinum credit posted for the new $169 charge and I walked with the prorated refund from the previous charge.

  3. Peter

    Couple of mistakes.
    1) it's $60 for extra family not $50.
    2) it is family, not friends:
    "FAMILY MEMBER NO LONGER QUALIFIES FOR A CLEAR FAMILY PLAN IF THEY NO LONGER RESIDE AT THE SAME ADDRESS AS THE PRIMARY MEMBER AND WILL THEREAFTER NEED TO PAY AS AN INDIVIDUAL MEMBER TO USE A PAID PROGRAM."

  4. AC

    I live in Charlotte and fly out of CLT. Disappointed one of AA's busiest hubs (and top 5 in world in 2021) doesn't have Clear. On the other hand I have Pre Check (don't fly buy 1-2 international trips a year pre-COVID but likely will get Global Entry at some point) so not sure Clear adds a lot for me. I rarely (at any domestic airport) have to wait over 5-10 minutes in the Pre...

    I live in Charlotte and fly out of CLT. Disappointed one of AA's busiest hubs (and top 5 in world in 2021) doesn't have Clear. On the other hand I have Pre Check (don't fly buy 1-2 international trips a year pre-COVID but likely will get Global Entry at some point) so not sure Clear adds a lot for me. I rarely (at any domestic airport) have to wait over 5-10 minutes in the Pre Check line to have my ID/boarding pass checked and that is basically all Clear cuts out. I also see some airports with Clear not open (likely due to staffing) and also it seems rarely used.

    Just don't see the big deal about it and the few minutes it may save me on occasion just aren't worth the effort to apply (even though it is "free" with my Platinum card)

    1. Never In Doubt

      For “free” it’s definitely worth going through the process to sign up. The sign up hassle is only one time, but the benefits continue as long as you keep it.

      If the PreCheck line is super short, I don’t bother with CLEAR. But when the PreCheck line is a mess, I’m glad I have it.

  5. Diogenes the Cynic

    Clear also offers a $50 membership for students. There is a verification system but I'm a part-time graduate student and got it to work: https://www.clearme.com/studentenroll

  6. Allen

    Missing from the list of airports with CLEAR: Nashville (BNA), North Terminal, which serves Delta, United, and others.

  7. TM

    Lucky,

    I believe the Family Plan rates have gone up to $60/person. At least that's what it shows on my account if I wanted to add my wife.

  8. Frank B

    The add family members option shows up as $60 for me. I had an Amex Offer for 1 year free on my Gold card so I used that instead of the platinum card credit so I could still sign 3 friends up for $1.

  9. SteveO

    Additional cardholders don't get an additional CLEAR credit, correct?

    1. Never In Doubt

      Correct. It’s NOT like the Platinum Global Entry credit.

  10. Evan

    This may seem like a long list of airports with CLEAR, but I've been vexed by the lack of coverage on recent trips. It seems particularly bad for AA flyers: nothing at PHL, out of the way in BOS, and nothing at T8 JFK. I've got a flight out of EWR where I won't be able to use it either. I've taken a dozen flights since I signed up using one of these credits and still haven't used it once!

    1. TM

      I agree that the list of airports is very deceiving, and it's definitely geared towards Delta and UA hubs. BOS is terminal A only, which is exclusively Delta and you can't connect to any other terminal airside from A. EWR is Terminal C/United only. JFK is Terminal 2 & 4 only, which is mostly Delta.

  11. Mark P

    Does anyone else have any hesitation to do this for the fear of my biometric information being compromised in the inevitable data breach, or sold to the highest bidder? Or is that just needless paranoia?

    1. Never In Doubt

      As a practical matter, your SSN, medical insurance #, bank account/routing code, and many other things are more immediately valuable to more bad actors than your (certainly encoded) eye image and two digit fingerprints, it’s a matter of degree.

      Global Entry already has far more than that on you.

    2. Mark P

      Yeah, but I guess (perhaps mistakenly) Global Entry is run by the DHS which theoretically has better security than a random for-profit tech company.

    3. Eskimo

      It's a needless paranoia. There is nothing to fear. It will happen.
      What you should be afraid but you didn't realize it yet is the consequences of private companies selling your biometric information for marketing purposes.

      Just like soon, with all these facial recognition boarding, your face is waiting to be compromised too. (Bye bye iPhone locks)

      Oh and you trust DHS a bit too much. When it comes to federal agencies involving security,...

      It's a needless paranoia. There is nothing to fear. It will happen.
      What you should be afraid but you didn't realize it yet is the consequences of private companies selling your biometric information for marketing purposes.

      Just like soon, with all these facial recognition boarding, your face is waiting to be compromised too. (Bye bye iPhone locks)

      Oh and you trust DHS a bit too much. When it comes to federal agencies involving security, they are the best to cover up any data breach and likely not required by law to disclose them either. It's a matter of National security. Unless someone blows a whistle, it's not going to be disclosed. Just go ask Edward.

      So you're probably not the only one who sits on $179 Clear credit and dozens of $100 GE credits.

      @Never In Doubt
      You are underestimating these bad actors and overestimating what is encoded.
      You are also a bit short sighted, unless your life expectancy is less than 15 years you probably don't need to care. The differences between biometrics and your other numbers, an issue people today hardly realize yet, is the latter can be replaced but the former cannot.

  12. Shaun

    Does anyone know if you can pre-pay for your next year's AF?

    1. Tennen

      @Shaun, AFAIK, you can't. They charge you on your renewal date.

  13. Charles

    Any insight on how to maximise things when you already have an (inactive) Clear Membership. It looks like I can reactivate at a "promo" rate of $119, but I don't see how I can add family members. Is this something I can add after the fact for $50?

    1. Never In Doubt

      Maybe that $50/family member option doesn’t appear *before* you join (I don’t recall), but it definitely appears *after*.

Featured Comments Load all 22 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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John

Each family member is now $60, not $50 (at least when I went to sign up through Delta). Either way, the Amex Plat credit should cover two people

Justin

This may work for anyone that already paid for their CLEAR membership and wants to capitalize on the credit. I called CLEAR and cancelled my membership (that had been paid with another card). I received a prorated refund from the $169 that I had paid a few months ago. After I got the refund I logged back in (account and all my data was still there) and reactivated the membership with AMEX Platinum. AMEX Platinum credit posted for the new $169 charge and I walked with the prorated refund from the previous charge.

Never In Doubt

For “free” it’s definitely worth going through the process to sign up. The sign up hassle is only one time, but the benefits continue as long as you keep it. If the PreCheck line is super short, I don’t bother with CLEAR. But when the PreCheck line is a mess, I’m glad I have it.

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