Recently, the government began offering international travelers a choice between the familiar passport books of old and new passport cards. What’s the difference between old school passports and passport cards, and which type of passport do you need for your trip?
The most obvious difference between passport books and passport cards is the design, of course. The wallet-sized passport card is designed to be more convenient and less cumbersome than regular passports. You can just slip it in your wallet, right behind your driver’s license. Passport cards are also cheaper than passports. The application fee for a passport card is only $20, versus $75 for a passport book.
So, passport cards are cheaper and more convenient. That makes them better than regular passports, right? Not so fast…for many travelers, passport cards have a fatal flaw in that they aren’t acceptable for air travel like regular passports are. If you’re driving into Mexico, you might not think that’s much of an issue. But, what if you have an emergency while you’re in Mexico and you need to fly home? A regular passport book may cost a little bit more, but it’s valid for 10 years for all types of travel. Regular passports are a better value for frequent travelers because you won’t have to reapply if your next trip out of the country is by plane.
If you leave near the border, drive across frequently, and simply don’t want to carry the slightly bulkier passport book, you may want to consider a passport card. For most people, though, a passport book is the best bet.
Finally, you can expedite a passport book, but if you need to leave the country in a hurry, there’s currently no way to expedite a passport card.