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Passport card vs book: Which should you get?

passport
StockSnap / Pixabay

If you’re planning on traveling to an international destination, getting a passport is one of the first things on your to-do list. A U.S. passport is required to enter any other country, including Mexico and Canada. However, the U.S. Department of State also offers a passport card — a smaller, wallet-sized version of a passport. While it might seem intriguing to opt for a passport card over a standard passport book, the smaller price comes with some limitations to consider. Below, we’ll break down the differences between a passport card vs. book and how to determine which option is best for you.

Passport card vs. book

A standard passport book is required to enter any country by air travel. This means if you’re planning on heading to the airport, you’ll need to get a passport book regardless of your final destination. A passport card is a smaller, wallet-sized version of a passport that allows entry only into Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, or the Caribbean. A passport card cannot be used for air travel and is only valid for land or sea travel. For this reason, the passport card is a great option if you’re planning on driving into Mexico or Canada. Many people who live in states that border these countries opt for a passport card so they can easily enter bordering countries.

A passport card is also a good option for those who want to get a valid form of ID to travel domestically. If you don’t have a driver’s license (REAL ID), a passport card can be used instead for domestic air travel.

American Airline
PilotGo / Pixabay

How much is a passport?

Another difference between a passport card vs. book is the price. A standard passport book costs $130 to apply for the first time, plus a $35 processing fee. On the other hand, a passport card is a much cheaper option at $30 for an application plus a $35 processing fee. Both the passport and passport card are valid for 10 years. The renewal price for both a passport card and a passport book is the same as the initial application cost. Although the cheaper price is appealing, it’s important to remember that a passport card cannot be used for any form of air travel.

Should you get a passport card or passport book?

Choosing between a passport card and a passport book will ultimately depend on your travel goals. If you’re looking to drive into Mexico or Canada or head on a cruise, a passport card is a cheap alternative to purchasing a passport book. However, if you plan to travel anywhere internationally by airplane in the next 10 years, we think the passport book is a better investment. If you purchase a passport card and want to travel somewhere internationally by air in the next 10 years, you’ll end up having to purchase a passport book anyway.

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Emily Caldwell
Emily is a full time freelance writer with a special focus on health, fitness, lifestyle, food, and nutrition topics. She…
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