Passport Renewal - Routine Processing

Passport Book vs Passport Card

If you’ve wondered what the difference is between a passport book and a passport card, you’ve come to the right place. Our guide will show you the uses and advantages of each document, and will help you figure out which one is best for you, or if you should have both!

What are Passport Books and Passport Cards?

Passport books are likely what you think of when you imagine a passport – a booklet-style identification and travel document. Most US passports have a dark blue cover, and contain 28 pages. Of the internal pages, 17 are blank pages marked “Visas” that are meant for travel visas and country entry and exit stamps. They can be used for all international travel purposes as well as for proving your identity and citizenship.

Passport cards are a form of US passport that is the size of a credit card or driver’s license. They have been available to US citizens since 2008, and are meant to be a convenient way to prove your identity and citizenship. They can be used for land or sea travel to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean, but they cannot be used for any international air travel or for visas.

Comparing the Price of a U.S. Passport Card Vs. Book

There’s definitely a price difference a U.S. passport card and a passport book. U.S. passport books cost $135 for adults and $105 for minors, while passport cards are only $55 for adults and $40 for minors. When it comes time to renew, cards cost $30 as opposed to $110 for passport books.

For travelers on tight budgets, who cruise roundtrip from the U.S. and don’t plan to leave the country by air, it can be cost efficient and convenient to carry a U.S. passport card. A passport card also could be useful for Alaska cruises, as long as all border crossings into Canada are done by land or sea.

But if you anticipate traveling more frequently (and internationally), a passport book is always the best choice. In addition to being mandatory for air travel, it can offer peace of mind for emergencies. You never know when you might need to get off the ship because of an injury or illness, and arranging an unexpected flight home is much easier with a passport in hand.

Advantages of Passport Books

  • Can be used for international travel to all destinations by air, land, or sea
  • Can be used to acquire travel visas
  • Proof of your identity and US citizenship
  • You can expand the book with an additional 24 pages for visas, rather than applying for a new one.

Advantages of Passport Cards

  • Convenient – It fits in your wallet
  • Less expensive than passport books (passport cards cost $30; passport books cost $110)
  • Can be used for land or sea travel to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean
  • An excellent form of official identification for children or non-drivers

Disadvantages of Passport Cards

  • Cannot be used for international air travel
  • Cannot be used to acquire travel visas

Who Should Get a Passport Book?

Anyone who will travel internationally by air must have a passport book. It’s that simple!

If you have a valid passport book, you do not have to get a passport card as well. Your passport book can be used in any situation where a passport card could be used, but you may find that it is convenient for you to also have a passport card.

Both passport books and cards are valid for 10 years. Although not required on “closed loop” sailings, which call at foreign ports but sail roundtrip from the U.S., either type of passport can be used in lieu of the two documents you’re required to bring: proof of citizenship (such as a birth certificate) and proof of identification (such as a driver’s license).

Who Should Get a Passport Card?

Passport cards are particularly useful for some people. If any of the following apply to you, you may want to obtain a passport card.

  • People who frequently cross the Mexican or Canadian border by car or train.
  • Children too young to get a driver’s license or other state-issued identification cards.
  • Non-drivers who want a card-sized identity document.
  • Sailors and yachtsmen who sail in international waters between the US, Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. (Please note that cruise lines recommend that all cruise passengers hold a passport book in case an emergency requires that you be returned to the US by air.)

Before you apply for a new passport card, consider carefully whether or not you might be better off getting a US passport book. A US passport card can only be used for land and sea travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean. It cannot be used to travel to any other countries, and it cannot be used for international air travel at all. A US passport book may be a little more expensive and bulkier, but it can be used to travel anywhere, by any means and is the recommended passport to carry.

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