Is a Passport Card Worth the Cost?
Most travelers are familiar with acquiring and using a passport book, as it’s required for international air travel.
But, when you refer to a passport for international travel, there is an option besides the booklet. A passport card is also available for certain travel situations.
United States citizens can get either a passport book or a passport card for their travels abroad.
Although, keep in mind, while both can be used as forms of ID when traveling, the passport card has some restrictions. Deciding which is best for you boils down to where you’re traveling, how frequently you travel, and your budget.
The passport card was designed with the northern and southern U.S. border communities in mind. Residents near the border travel frequently by land into the nearby countries. The passport card allows them to travel easily to and from the nearby countries by land and by sea.
According to Travelers United, the U.S. passport card is only accepted as an ID to visit 20 foreign nations. Those countries include Mexico, Canada, Bermuda and 17 islands in the Caribbean.
If you’re planning a trip to any other destination, then you would need a U.S. passport booklet. This really limits where you can use that passport card.
If you’re a border resident and want something small and manageable, a passport card is easy to carry and use. Passport cards are wallet sized while the passport book is larger and thicker.
If you’re thinking of going on a cruise, the passport card might be nice when you need a from of identification to get on and off the ship. But, the passport card can only be used for international travel by land and sea. If you’re on a cruise and need to take an emergency flight somewhere, that passport card won’t be valid and could leave you stranded.
If you’re a frequent traveler to Canada or Mexico by land or sea, then the passport card can be a budget-friendly option.
Both passport books and cards are valid for 10 years, so if it fits your travel plans, the passport card can be a cheaper alternative. Passport books are $145 for adults and $115 for minors. Passport cards cost $65 for adults and $50 for minors. Then, when renewal time comes, you’ll need to spend $110 on a passport book and $30 on a passport card.
Any frequent traveler knows how pricey foreign travel can get. That price difference can be significant for trips across the different borders.
But, you have to keep in mind the limitations on a passport card. You’re restricted to traveling to 20 countries and only by land or sea. Also, you cannot use your passport card for international air travel, only as ID for domestic air travel.
The passport booklet represents a universal travel option for U.S. citizens. That small book is the key for entry into over 150 countries throughout the world.
If your travel plans fit the limitations of the passport card, then it is a budget-friendly option to obtaining a passport book. Both the passport card and passport book are proof of your U.S. citizenship and identity and thus can be used as an alternative form of ID.
But, if you intend to travel outside those 20 nations or via plane within the next 10 years, the booklet proves necessary.
Do you need a passport for an upcoming trip? Passport Health can help! Call us at or take a look at any of our other Passport and Visa services.
Written for Passport Health by Brianna Malotke. Brianna is a freelance writer and costume designer located in Illinois. She’s an avid coffee drinker and enjoys researching new topics for writing.