Where Can I Travel With Just A Passport Card?

In 2017, the U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs reported there were 21,378,994 passports in circulation. Of those, 2,511,778. And these numbers are on the rise.

In 2008 when the Passport Card was first introduced, there were only 189,560 issued. That is an average increase of 122% over the course of 10 years.

If these passport cards are so amazing, why doesn’t everyone have one? Should you have one? What are the differences between a Passport Card and a Passport Book?

Read on to learn the answers to these questions and more!

What is a U.S. Passport Card?

A passport card is a wallet-sized, limited-scope U.S. Passport. Just like a standard Passport book, passport cards prove you are a U.S. citizen and confirm your Identity.

When traveling to “border” countries from the U.S., a passport card speeds up the security check process by using a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Chip. The RFID chip contains a unique number generated by the U.S. government when the card is issued.

The card is scanned, and the Customs & Border Protection Agency (CBP) use the number to look up your information before you arrive at the security station. To protect your identity, there is no personally identifying information on the chip itself.

Related Read: Do You Need a Passport to Travel Domestically

Passport Card vs. Passport Book

Be it a card or a book, a Passport is still a Passport. That is not to say these two pieces of identification are equal. They are not.

Related Read: Passport Books vs Passport Card

How are They Different?

Size: Passport Cards are wallet-sized. This makes them very convenient. Passport Books are a bit bulkier. When closed, they are 5″ x 3.5. By no means are they huge, but they aren’t going to fit snuggly in your billfold either.

Travel Visas: Passport books are required for Travel Visas. Passport Cards do not support Travel Visas because they do not have blank pages for them to go on.

Where you can go: You can only go to and reenter the U.S. from border countries with the Passport Card. Border countries are Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.

How you can get there: You can travel internationally via air, sea or land with the use of a Passport Book. With the card, you can only travel by sea or land. International air travel is not allowed with the card even if you go to a border country.

Cost: Depending on your circumstances, additional fees may apply, but the basic pricing information is as follows:

  • Applicants 16 or older can get a passport book for $145 or a card for $65.
  • Applicants under 16 can get a passport book for $115 or a card for $50.
  • Renewal Applicants can get a new passport book by mail for $110 or a card for $30.

Related Read: How Much Does a Passport Cost 2023

How are They the Same?

Who issues them: As previously mentioned, both the Passport book and the Passport card are Passports. As such, the Passport Services of the U.S. Department of State -Bureau of Consular Affairs issues them both.

Real ID Compliant: The passport book and the passport card are Real ID compliant. This means you can access federal buildings and fly domestically with either. You can no longer do so with a standard-issue state driver’s license.

Validity: How long is a passport card good for? For the same amount of time as the Passport Book. If you are 16 or older, both are good for ten years. Otherwise, they are valid for up to 5 years.

Do I need a Passport Card?

Since they are comparatively inexpensive, a passport card for a cruise is ideal! As long as you go by sea or air, they are also great for other types of one-time trips to border countries.

Because they speed up the security process, passport cards are also great if you frequent border countries but don’t stay long or travel outside of the U.S. otherwise.

How do I get my Passport Card?

Print and fill out form DS-11 or form DS-82 and head to a local Passport Application Acceptance Facility. Do not sign the application because giving it to an agent at the passport agency or you will have to fill it out again.

If you qualify to apply for your passport with the DS-82 form, you can mail it in instead of going to the agency in person. If you have to go, there are 8,400 facilities in the U.S. You can find one easily, but some locations require an appointment.

Once your application is filed, you can expect your new card in as little time as four weeks or it could take up to 3 months. The exact amount of time will depend on the demand at the time you apply.

Take a look at this article if you need more information about the specific documentation to apply for a Passport Card.

Which Form Should I Use?

The form you should use to apply for a Passport Card depends on whether you have had a passport before. How long ago you had a valid passport can also affect it.

If you have had a passport in the past, it does not matter if it was a card or a book, it is still a passport. It is important to keep that in mind when reading the below information.

You need to fill out a DS-11 form if:

  • You have never had a U.S. Passport
  • Your last passport was lost, stolen, or severely damaged
  • Your last passport was issued when you were 15 years of age or younger
  • You are currently under the age of 16
  • Your last passport expired more than five years ago.

If you do not fall within the above criteria, you can apply to renew your current password with form DS82.

Ready for Your New Passport Card?

Considering the amount of time it can take to get your Passport card after applying, you should get one as soon as possible if you plan to travel to a border country. Do not wait until it is too late, or you must pay $60 to expedite the process.

No one wants to shell out extra money.

If you have additional questions about the Passport Card, all you need to do is ask! We are always happy to help with your passport needs.


Getting a new passport can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be. With the right information and preparation, you can make sure your application process goes smoothly. If you are under 16 years of age or if your last passport expired more than five years ago, then you will need to apply for a new passport rather than attempting to renew your current one.

Remember that if you plan to travel to a country bordering the United States, the Passport Card may be right for you. And don’t forget that we are here to help with any questions or concerns you have about obtaining your passport! Good luck with your application process!

We wish you safe travels.

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