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Passport Card VS. Book: What’s The Difference?

The Department of State in the U.S. issues two different versions of a passport: a passport card and book. So what is the difference between a passport card vs. book?

Passport cards and books differ in their appearance and purposes. A passport card is essentially an identification document, whereas a passport book is a regular passport document that consists of multiple pages for various visas and stamps.

This article will explain what a passport card and a passport book are, what functions they serve, how much they cost, and which is suitable for your situation.

As countries around the world are reopening their borders and you can once again engage in international air travel and sea border crossings, you will need to get a valid travel document. Therefore, it is important to understand the difference between a passport card vs. book to ensure you have everything you need to travel internationally.

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What is a Passport Book?

A passport book is an official travel document that is used for international travel by air, sea, or land. Passport books of individuals aged 16 or older are valid for ten years, while those under the age of 16 need to renew their passport book every five years.

Passport books allow space for customs stamps and visas acquired when individuals visit foreign countries. When a passport book is closed, it is 5 by 3.5 inches in size.

There is a unique passport number assigned to every passport book. On the first page of any passport book, you’ll see the individual’s personal information, such as their full name, date of birth, nationality, sex, place of birth, and the passport issue date, along with its expiration date.

The remainder of the passport book consists of blank pages intended for visas and immigration stamps. Some international travel destinations require up to four black pages.

Only electronic passports have become applicable as of 2007. Electronic passports consist of an electronic chip storing information, a biometric identifier of the individual’s passport photo, an identification number, as well as a digital signature of the traveler.

What is a Passport Card?

A passport card is an identification document that serves as permission at land border crossings and various seaports worldwide.

A passport card, contrary to a passport book, isn’t sufficient for international air travel but rather serves as an alternative form of a regular ID.

A passport card is valid for five years for persons under the age of 16 and ten years for persons older than 16 years.

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For American citizens, a passport card is sufficient for travel to the following countries:

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • Bermuda
  • The Bahamas
  • Anguilla
  • Barbuda and Antigua
  • The Grenadines and Saint Vincent
  • Aruba
  • The Virgin Islands
  • Dominica
  • The Dominican Republic
  • The Cayman Islands
  • Saint Lucia
  • Grenada
  • Jamaica
  • The Caribbean Netherlands
  • Monserrat
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • The Caicos Islands and the Turks

A passport card can be acquired by American citizens and individuals who are non-citizen nationals, but only certain places accept it as valid, and it can only be used for land or sea travel.

Regardless of your country or state, a passport book can never be used for international air travel.

A passport card is a practical form of identification, as it fits neatly into a standard wallet card slot and contains your full name, passport photo, place and date of birth, nationality, the issues and expiration dates, and the passport card number unique to you.

You can also use your passport card to gain faster entry across Mexican and Canadian land and sea borders, as it contains a Radio Frequency Identification.

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How Much Does a Passport Book Cost?

A traditional passport book costs $145 for first-time applicants who are above the age of 16. First-time applicants younger than 16 need to pay $115 for a passport book. A passport book renewal costs $110.

If you need to travel for an emergency or an urgent matter, you can pay an additional $17, and your passport book will be delivered to you within one to two days.

How Much Do Passport Cards Cost?

Passport cards cost less than Passport books in the U.S.

A U.S. passport card cost is $65 for first-time applicants above the age of 16. First-time applicants younger than 16 need to pay $50 for a passport card.

To renew your passport card, you will need to pay $30, and the passport card will be delivered to you by mail. If you need it urgently, you can select the First Class mail option for faster delivery.

It usually takes between four and 14 days for a passport card to be processed.

The Benefits of a Passport Book

The primary benefit of a U.S. passport book is that you can use it for international air travel, unlike a passport card.

Moreover, passport books are more practical for traveling to international countries, as it reserves space for visas and stamps. Passport books also serve as proof of identity and citizenship. Overall, passport books are more convenient for traveling to international homeports or airports.

The Benefits of a Passport Card

One of the primary benefits of a U.S. passport card is that it is a convenient form of identification, as it fits comfortably in any standard wallet. It can also be used at land border crossings and sea ports of entry in places like Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean, among others.

If you are traveling to countries like those mentioned above, a passport card is a handy travel document that essentially serves as a birth certificate. It is considered a more compact document compared to a passport book.

Passport cards are also valid identification for domestic flights. Passport cards are not as expensive as passport books, so it is also a great way of saving money if you aren’t traveling internationally via a flight. A passport card is especially useful as an identification document for those who don’t or can’t drive or are too young to possess a driver’s license.

Free Woman Looking At The Map Stock Photo

The Difference Between a Passport Book and Card

Although both a passport book and card are forms of identification, there are a few noteworthy differences between them.

(1) Border Entry for International Travel

The most significant difference between a passport book and card is their eligibility for international travel. Passport books are valid travel documents for all international countries, whether it is reached by means of air, land, or sea travel. On the other hand, passport cards are only valid for crossing land and sea borders.

(2) Foreign Destination

Another noteworthy difference between a passport card vs. passport book is the countries that deem each form of passport eligible for entry.

Your passport book can be used for entering any country in the world, provided you have the appropriate visa and customs stamps. In contrast, passport cards are only valid for crossing a land or sea border in Mexico, Canada, more than a dozen Caribbean Island nations, and Bermuda, among others.

Cruise passengers cannot cross land or sea borders in European countries with only a passport card; a passport book is required for that.

(3) Size & Format

There are certain physical differences between a passport book and passport card. Passport books consist of several blank pages for visas and immigration stamps and measure 5 by 3.5 inches. A passport book is, in essence, a booklet, so it is much bulkier than a passport card, which is quite simply a card the size of a driver’s license or credit card.

(4) Price

Passport books cost more to obtain than passport cards. Acceptance fees of $35 apply to both a passport card and book for first-time applicants. This fee is included in the respective prices of passport cards and books.

An adult Passport book costs $165 and $135 for persons under the age of 16.

An adult passport card costs $65 and $50 for persons under the age of 16.

As you will only be required to pay one acceptance fee, this additional cost isn’t included in passport book/card renewable costs. Renewing a passport book costs $130, whereas a passport card costs $30.

Is it Necessary to Have Both the Passport Book and Card?

You will need to go through the passport application process if you’re traveling to a foreign country, but do you need to get both a passport book and card?

To answer this question, you must ask yourself how you will be traveling. If you are going to travel internationally by air travel, you will always require a valid passport book. You don’t need to get a passport card in addition to your passport book if you don’t want to.

A passport card is ideal for individuals who frequently cross land borders, such as Mexican or Canadian borders. Passport cards are also useful for people who don’t have a driver’s license and will be traveling via domestic air travel.

Sailors often opt for passport cards when their sailing in international waters between places like the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Caribbean countries.

The only cases where it is highly recommended to get a passport book and a passport card are for cruise passengers. There have been many cases where passengers lost one or the other and were not able to board the ship or enter a foreign country with the rest of the group.