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Close up of smartphone showing a QR code that will lead to COVID test results
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The First At-Home Molecular COVID Test: Cue COVID-19 Test Review

SmarterTravel

Rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 are easy to find these days, but if you need a more accurate molecular test, you generally have to trek to a testing site and wait for results, which can be stressful if you need a test for travel. Fortunately, there’s now an at-home molecular test option that will give you results in 20 minutes. We tried out Cue’s COVID-19 test. 

What is the Cue COVID-19 Test?

Components of the Cue Health molecular COVID home test
Cue Health

Cue’s COVID-19 test is a molecular nucleic acid amplification tests (NAAT) that can be done at home. Molecular tests are more accurate than antigen tests. (PCR tests are also molecular tests.) Cue’s accuracy is similar to a PCR test. According to the company, “Cue’s COVID-19 test matched central lab PCR results with 97.8% accuracy in an independent study by Mayo Clinic.”

This test can be self-administered at home. You’ll need to purchase the reusable Cue Reader ($249), and tests ($195 for a three-pack).

To use the Cue test, follow these steps:

  1. Download the Cue app
  2. Insert the test cartridge into the reader
  3. Allow the test cartridge to heat up for one minute
  4. Swab both nostrils with the included wand
  5. Insert the wand into the cartridge

You’ll receive your results within 20 minutes, which are sent to your phone in an easy-to-read format that’s great for travel.

What Makes the Cue COVID-19 Test Different?

The CUE COVID-19 test is the first FDA-authorized at-home molecular test. If your destination requires a molecular or NAAT test for travel, this test will be hugely helpful for you. (However, be sure to check if travel requirements call for the test to be conducted by a professional—since the CUE test is self-administered, it wouldn’t qualify.)

The test is also more straightforward than most other at-home COVID-19 tests. You don’t have to mix any solutions or read the results yourself, meaning there is less room for user error.

Can You Use the Cue COVID-19 Test for Travel?

Whether or not you can use Cue’s test for travel depends on your destination. If you’re returning to the United States, you’ll need to purchase the CUE+ Complete membership in addition to the reader and tests. This membership includes the supervised telehealth portion of the test that is required for travelers entering the United States.

If your international destination does not require the test to be taken or supervised by a professional, and NAAT tests are accepted, then Cue’s test would be useable for travel. 

Results are sent to Cue’s app instantly after the test is complete, so you can easily show them on your phone or upload them to an airline’s portal for travel.

Cue COVID-19 Test Pros:

  • Significantly more accurate than other at-home COVID tests
  • Results in 20 minutes
  • Great option if you need a NAAT test for travel
  • No waiting for results to come back from a lab
  • No appointment needed
  • Can be taken at-home or on the road
  • Easy to use
  • Less room for user error

Cue COVID-19 Test Cons:

  • Requires purchase of expensive reader
  • Must pack cartridge, reader, and tests if traveling
  • Membership required for telehealth visits (and to use for travel to the United States)
  • Cost per test is expensive

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