What Is a Passport Card?

By Leah Rendon

Card vs. book: When a passport card might be just what you need for travel

What Is a Passport Card?

There are few travelers in this world who aren’t interested in trying to save money while on vacation. If you find yourself frequently traveling to Canada or Mexico but not so much the rest of the world, a passport card is one way to help pinch some pennies. Limitations exist in what passport cards can do, but they’re also more portable and less expensive than passport books.

Q: Where can I use a passport card?

A: A passport card is used exclusively for entering the U.S. at land borders or seaports of entry to or from the following places:

  • Canada
  • Mexico
  • The Caribbean
  • Bermuda

Not all Caribbean nations accept passport cards at their ports. If you’re arriving in the Caribbean by ship, you should speak with the cruise line ahead of time to make sure your passport card is considered a valid form of ID.

Q: How do I apply for a passport card?

A: If you’ve applying for a passport card for the first time and you’re not trying to also renew a passport book, you must apply in person at a passport acceptance facility. You’ll find a list of facilities near you on the U.S. State Department’s website, but you should also call ahead to find out if they require appointments. You’ll need to bring the following items to the passport facility:

  • Completed Form DS-11, available to print out on the State Department’s website
  • Payment for fees
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a birth certificate
  • A photocopy of your proof of U.S. citizenship
  • A valid photo ID, such as a driver’s license
  • A photocopy of your valid photo ID
  • A 2-by-2-inch color photo

Q: How do I renew my passport card?

A: If you want to renew your passport card, you can do so by mail. You’ll need a completed Form DS-82, available on the State Department’s website, plus the passport card application fee and a new 2-by-2-inch photo. You can also apply by mail when adding a passport card to your passport book renewal application. In addition to the aforementioned items, you’ll also need to include your old passport book and fees for both passport applications. All of the materials must be compiled in one envelope and sent by mail. Make sure you ask the post office for a tracking number so you can monitor your package’s status.

Q: How long does it take to get a passport card?

A: Once you’ve completed the application process, you should receive your passport card by mail in about six weeks. Passport cards are valid for 10 years if you were 16 years of age or older when it was issued. If you were 15 or younger when it was issued, your passport card is only good for five years.

Q: How much does a passport card cost?

A: The fees for passport cards vary. If you’re 16 and older, the fee is $55; if you’re under 16, it’s only $40. If you can renew your passport card by mail, it only costs $30.

Q: What is the difference between a passport book and a passport card?

A: Passport book application fees can be as much as $100 more than passport card fees. The cost difference is understandable, however, as passport books also can be used for air travel. The two documents are also different in size. A passport card is a plastic wallet-sized card similar to a driver’s license, while a passport book measures 5 by 3.5 inches when folded like a book.

About the Author

A travel writer since 2002, Jane Gosford has written countless articles for online pop-culture magazines and various travel-related websites, including Eurobooking and World66. Gosford also has experience in copywriting, having developed a series of articles related to network marketing. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in theater arts.