What is the Difference Between a Passport Book and Passport Card?

Traveling can be fun. It allows you to explore all the places you’ve dreamed of and take an escape from the pressures of everyday life. However, in order to do the international destination that you desire, you need a passport. Today, United States citizens need a passport to travel to neighboring countries such as Mexico and Canada. There are two options available.

One is a passport book, the traditional passport with the pages that get stamped. The other is the passport card, which is just like a driver’s license. The application process is the same for both. Both documents are valid for 10 years for adults 16 and older, and 5 years for those under the age of 16. The passport card is cheaper than the book. There are other differences as well. Which one is right for you? Should you get both?

The Passport Book

US Passport Book

US Passport Book

The passport book is the one that we’re used to seeing. The first page has the information of the citizen with the following pages for government stamps. The book allows for international travel. It is proof of your citizenship as well as your identity. The passport book allows for all travel, by air, land, and sea and you’ll need the passport book in order to receive a travel visa. The current cost for a passport book is $135 for adults 16 years and older, $105 for those under 16 (child passports cannot be renewed), and $110 for renewals by mail. As far as restrictions go, there are none with the passport book. The book measures 5” x 3.5” when closed.

The Passport Card

The U.S. passport card has been available since 2008. The passport card is the size of your driver’s license or state ID, fitting in your wallet. You can use the card for land and sea border crossings at Canada, Mexico, The Caribbean, and Bermuda only. The passport card is not valid for any air travel, including to Canada and Mexico. The card is cheaper than the book. Fees for the card are currently at $55 for applicants 16 and older, $40 for applicants under 16, and renewal fees are $30.

US Passport Card

US Passport Card

The passport card is more convenient than the book but there are restrictions on forms of travel. The passport card is best for those who travel to Canada or Mexico frequently by car or train. Children who are too young for a driver’s license or other state ID, or other non-drivers who want a wallet sized ID document, can also use the passport card.

The passport card has an electronic chip. This assigns a number to the card that’s read from a distance by U.S Customs and Border Protection. The chip has no biographical information, so there is no concern for identity theft if the card is lost or stolen. The passport card also comes with a sleeve that will prevent the number from scanning when the card is not in use.

The passport card is approved for the Ready Lanes at border crossings. This allows for faster crossing.

Sailors and other boatmen who travel international seas between the Unites States, Canada, the Caribbean, or Bermuda may also use a passport card. If you’re taking a cruise between these destinations, you need to hold the book in case you have to return to the United States by air in an emergency.

Do I Need Both?

You can definitely get both, but if you already have the passport book, there’s no need to obtain the card. The book covers all the international requirements you need and there are no travel restrictions. If you do have the book and travel frequently between through the boarders of Canada and Mexico or on ships to Bermuda, Mexico, and the Caribbean, you might want to consider applying for both when renewing your passport.

If you have the card, you may want to get the book as well in case you need to make unexpected flights. If you’re certain that you’ll only be traveling by land or sea, then the card should suit your needs. Keep in mind that if you do have the card, you will need to complete a new application for the book. You may use your card as identification on your application.

Even if you have no immediate travel plans, it’s good to have at least one of these forms of ID. The passport is an accepted form of identification internationally. If an emergency arises, you won’t have to wait weeks for a passport – and if you need a passport quickly because of an emergency or unexpected travel, we are of course here for you!