Travel Tips · United States

Passports vs. Passport Cards

This is  my very first blog post …. and unfortunately, is it ever dull.  My sincere apologies (!) but I think it’s important to get the distinction between passport books and passport cards understood then out of the way, so we can get on to the fun stuff!  Hence ….

Passport Card:  this is a credit card-sized U.S. passport that signifies proof of U.S. citizenship & identity.  It is used because it is more convenient & less expensive than a passport book but it can ONLY be used to re-enter the United States at land-border crossings and sea ports of entry from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.  It’s important to note that the passport card is not necessary to enter these countries, only to get back into the United States, which is why you need it if you plan to come back.  (If you don’t want to come back, you’ve just saved yourself about $55.00.) Also, the passport card cannot be used for international air travel.  They are valid for 10 years for applicants 16 years and older and 5 years for those under 16.

You can apply for a passport card at the same time that you apply for a passport book.  There is a box you can click on at the top of the form to indicate that you would like to apply for both products.  The card does come with an electronic chip that contains no biographic data only a unique number linking the card to a secure database maintained by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State.  The card comes with a sleeve so that the number cannot be read when the card is not in use.

You can use this passport card to cross the border faster because U.S. Customs and Border Protection approved it to be used in Ready Lanes at several land border ports of entry. Please refer to the following link to get information about the Passport Card.


Paasport card back exemplar
Examples of the front & back of the Passport Card

The Passport Book can be used for international travel by air, sea, or land.  I will include a chart that is valid as of today’s blog post date but please refer to the following link to confirm current fees:

U.S. Passport Book U.S. Passport Card
Used For International travel
by air, sea, or land
Entering the United States at land border crossings and sea ports-of-entry from:

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • The Caribbean
  • Bermuda
Validity 16 and older: 10 years
Under 16: 5 years
16 and older: 10 years
Under 16: 5 years
Size 5″ x 3.5″ (when closed) Wallet size
  • $135 – applicants 16 and older
  • $105 – applicants under 16
  • $110 – renewals by mail

Please see Passport Fees for more information.

  • $55 – applicants 16 and older
  • $40 – applicants under 16
  • $30 – renewals by mail

Please see Passport Fees for more information.


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