What’s the Difference between a US Passport Book and Card?

Published by Travel Visa Pro on Mon Nov 20 2017

When most of us think of a passport, we tend to imagine a book with pretty pictures of iconic sights across the US filled with stamps and papers documenting our travels over the years. This is the most common type of travel document in any country for one particular reason: unless one country offers visa-free with another (easy across the EU), a mark will need to be made in a passport to prove the visit occurred. This can’t be accomplished when someone has a passport card, so when and where could we possibly use them?


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Validity and application process of passport cards

The good news is a passport card is generally valid for the same time and has the same application process as a 26- or 52-page passport book; if you’re applying for a child under the age of 16, his passport card will be valid for five years. An adult applying for a US passport renewal or first-time passport can receive a card valid for ten years.

One difference is the cost. While adult passport book applications and renewals cost $110 for a ten-year travel document, a passport card will only run $30 plus an execution fee. For children, a mere $15 for a five-year passport card, while a book costs $80. However, it doesn’t have to be one or the other; both adults and children who are US citizens can legally hold both a valid US passport book and card.

Why is a passport card so cheap?

US Passport Card - What’s the Difference between a US Passport Book and Card?

A passport card allows significantly fewer opportunities for the holder to travel, but often it’s enough for some. Passport books can be accepted in any country (unless they’ve barred US citizens from entry, like North Korea), and are valid for visa applications, while a passport card can only be used to enter countries by land or sea.

Which countries can be accessed with US passport cards?

This is probably the area of most confusion when it comes time to decide whether a passport book or card would be right for you. Right away, we can definitively say no passport card can be used for international air travel, even it’s to a country that does allow entry with a passport card by land or sea. For example, you can take a cruise to Bermuda and have no problems getting past immigration with just a card, but if you fly over there, you’ll most likely be refused entry and sent packing.

However, a passport card still has its uses. With the Real ID Act slowly being enforced across the country, many residents of certain states are starting to realize their driver’s licenses are not sufficient to fly domestically; passport cards, as a federally-issued documents, can be used in their place.

Naturally, there are only two options for land border crossings with the United States: Mexico and Canada. Both permit passport cards to be used (until recently, a state-issued driver’s license was sufficient). By sea, many islands in the Caribbean, including Bermuda, are willing to let US citizens enter with just a passport card, but others like St. Martin and Barbados are not; check the country pages of the US State Department before you depart.

Why would anyone choose a passport card over a book?

If you have no plans to travel outside of North America for work or leisure for the next ten years, then there’s very little reason to pay for a 52-page passport book. In addition, there are many travelers with a fear of flying, and a passport card allows them to visit other countries by car and boat. However, unexpected things often happen when it comes to travel. Someone needing to take a flight to Paris, or hop a freighter to New Zealand may consider applying for both a passport book and card at the same time and only take the one they need. A passport book may not be a massive document by any means, but having something as small as the card to fit in your wallet is definitely less of a hassle.

What’s the Difference between a US Passport Book and Card?

If you still got any questions about US passport book and card, you can always contact Travel Visa Pro!