The Real Difference Between A US Passport Book vs Passport Card

The US Passport Book vs Passport Card debate has many of us confused as to which one we should apply for. We take a closer look to help you understand which one to apply for in which situation.

We’re currently living in a time of political uncertainty. If you’re anything like us, you too are probably sick of hearing all of the bad news every single day, without fail. This wanting to get away from it all has us all thinking of going abroad for the holidays. Of course, the most important thing to pack is your passport book… or card?

To help you in making the right choice, we’re going to be looking at the differences between a passport book and a passport card. Now, as you may or may not be aware, the U.S State Department can issue its citizens with not one, but two versions of a passport.

These come in the form of a traditional passport book, along with a passport card. The passport card is basically an individual credit card-sized ID card. The passport book is much larger and it contains a series of pages for arrival and departure stamps, along with visas and so on.

Now, in terms of a passport book vs passport card, if you happen to be applying for a passport, you will need to consider which to get. Here’s a look at the key differences and various other pieces of info which will prove very useful.

What are the differences between Passport Book vs Passport Card?

When it comes to the choice between a passport book vs passport card, it pays to know the key differences between each one. As mentioned, a passport card is basically one credit-card-sized I.D card. It is similar to a driver’s licence in terms of design as it is small, plastic and is designed to slip into purses and wallets like any other card.

Passport books, however, are much bigger and they are packed full of blank pages. These are used for arrival and departure stamps, as well as visas. Each time you enter and exit a country, you will receive one of these stamps on these pages.

The Cost between Passport Book vs Passport Card

A passport card costs US$65 whereas a passport book will set you back $145. There are, however, some key differences that need to be considered.

To begin with, passport cards can NOT be used for air travel. Passport cards are also only valid in Mexico, Bermuda, Canada and the Caribbean. This means that they only cover you for crossing the border via land, or via sea.

You can NOT use passport cards on international cruises from international homeports unless they’re US territories. A passport book, however, will cover all bases. This is the only form of documentation which the US government requires you to possess in order to enter a foreign country.

The vast majority of foreign countries require nothing more than a US passport book to enter. That being said, there are some that require visas. If you opt for both the card and the book, you can get them both at a discounted rate of US$175.

How long are they valid for?

Both a passport book and a passport card will be valid for 10 years for adults. For children, though, things are a little different.

For children under the age of 16, both the passport card and the passport book are only valid for 5 years. If you are unsure about the validity of your passport book or your passport card, you can visit the State Department’s website, which should tell you everything you need to know about the items in question.

So, which is recommended? The Passport book or the Passport Card?

So, what is better between a Passport Book vs Passport Card? Well, in an ideal world, if you want to cover yourself for all potential eventualities, then we recommend that you go ahead and purchase a passport book along with a passport card.

Unfortunately, we don’t necessarily live in an ideal world and sometimes funds can be limited. Now, if you intend on doing a lot of international travel, including air travel, then a passport book would obviously be the only viable choice.

However, if you plan on travelling internationally by road or sea, within the areas covered by the passport card, then a passport card would be considerably cheaper, and it would still give you everything that you need covering.

Not only is the card cheaper, but it is also more convenient as it is smaller, lighter and can be carried in your purse, wallet, or pocket. The only downside here is that it would also be easier to lose or misplace the card. This is where a travel wallet would prove useful as it would securely hold your passport card, and various other pieces of important documentation as well.

If the cost of both the passport wallet and the passport book is not much of an issue to you, though, we strongly recommend that you go ahead and purchase both. Even if you don’t anticipate needing a passport book, it certainly pays to have one just to be safe.

Say for example that you are on a cruise which would ordinarily only require a passport card, but you were forced to disembark the cruise ship and need to unexpectedly fly home, having only the US passport card rather than a book would still make things a lot harder and a great deal more complicated. Basically, you never know when an emergency may strike. Being in possession of both documents will offer you peace of mind if nothing more.