General Question

eadinad's avatar

What's the difference between a passport book and a passport card?

Asked by eadinad (1263 points ) October 10th, 2008

I’m trying to get my passpost, and I’ve never had one before. I’m really confused. The government website lists different fees for a passport book and a passport card. Do I need one or the other, or both? Help!

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16 Answers

JackAdams's avatar

The passport card facilitates entry and expedites document processing at U.S. land and sea ports-of-entry when arriving from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. The card may not be used to travel by air. Otherwise, it carries the rights and privileges of the U.S. passport book and is adjudicated to the exact same standards.

More details on the card (and a photo of it) are here.

eadinad's avatar

Okay, so if I’m using it to fly from the US to and around Europe, I need the passport book, right?

La_chica_gomela's avatar

You want the book!
Forget about the card, the only place it gets you are Mexico, Canada, and some islands. It’s not that much cheaper than the book and a lot less useful.

JackAdams's avatar

You want BOTH!

If one is lost/stolen, you have the other as a kind of back-up ID.

Keep them in separate places, always.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

There is really no need for both. If you’re in Europe a card will do you absolutely no good. A black and white paper copy of your real passport would be a lot more helpful. Also the “just in case” card that is sent with your passport. It includes your ID Number and expedites getting a new real passport.

Do you have both, Jack? Because I’ve been to Europe, and I’ve talked with Americans who live abroad, and none of them I talked to had a “passport card” or thought there was any benefit it in.

JackAdams's avatar

Please re-read my complete post, for my explanation for having both.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

I did read your complete post. The card is worth exactly the same as any other gov’t issued ID, just a lot more expensive. If you already have a Driver’s License and a real passport, there is *no reason to get a passport card.

JackAdams's avatar

If you lose your passport BOOK, you can still travel to Mexico and Canada (if necessary) using your passport CARD.

I have both of them, because when I went to get my passport BOOK renewed, the passport officer said, quoting him, “Sir, if you are planning on visiting Canada or Mexico, you might wish to have BOTH, because only the more convenient-to-carry card will be needed for those places, and most folks carry their card with them at all times, so they never forget to have it with them for spur-of-the-moment trips to either place.”

I followed his advice, got both, and I lived happily ever after.

Amen.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

OOooohh OKKKKK, I see nowwwww, because it’s useful becaues it’s more convenient to carry. That difference of less than 2 square inches is really cumbersome, I know. I didn’t even think about that! My mistake!!!!!!

JackAdams's avatar

You are forgiven, I’m sure.

Even though you continue to misunderstand the reason why I (and millions of others) have both

kurtmasur's avatar

The Passport Card is particularly useful if you live near the border with either Canada or Mexico. I live on the Mexican border and it is quite common here to go on short same-day errands into Mexico and back. I have both the Passport book and card (and btw, “La chica gomela”, I am also an expat in Europe most months out of the year, and it was precisely through a US Embassy in Europe how I got my card), and let me tell you that if you live on the border it is far more convenient to carry the card with you rather than the book. The passport card is the same size of a credit card or driver license.

Another benefit of the Passport Card, is that it is a cheaper alternative to the book. It costs $45 the first time, valid for 10 years, and to renew it thereafter costs only $20 (my Texas Drivers License is more expensive at $26 and on top of that it is valid for only 6 years.). Otherwise, paying the steep $100 fee for the book would be too much in a region with people living below the poverty line. Imagine a family of 4 or 5. Multiply that by $100, and it becomes too expensive… especially if all you need it for is for short same-day errands across the border.

Sorry I made this rather long, but I felt I had to comment on the Passport Card and its usefulness… I assume some people here (esp. “La chica gomela”) do not live anywhere near a US border and therefore might overlook the usefulness of the Passport Card.

kurtmasur's avatar

The Passport Card is particularly useful if you live near the border with either Canada or Mexico. I live on the Mexican border and it is quite common here to go on short same-day errands into Mexico and back. I have both the Passport book and card (and btw, “La chica gomela”, I am also an expat in Europe most months out of the year, and it was precisely through a US Embassy in Europe how I got my card), and let me tell you that if you live on the border it is far more convenient to carry the card with you rather than the book. The passport card is the same size of a credit card or driver license.

Another benefit of the Passport Card, is that it is a cheaper alternative to the book. It costs $45 the first time, valid for 10 years, and to renew it thereafter costs only $20 (my Texas Drivers License is more expensive at $26 and on top of that it is valid for only 6 years.). Otherwise, paying the steep $100 fee for the book would be too much in a region with a lot of people living below the poverty line (and who would thus be less likely to travel overseas). Imagine a family of 4 or 5. Multiply that by $100, and it becomes too expensive… especially if all you need it for is for short same-day errands across the border.

Sorry I made this rather long, but I felt I had to comment on the Passport Card and its usefulness… I assume some people here (esp. “La chica gomela”) do not live anywhere near a US border and therefore might overlook the usefulness of the Passport Card.

Bottom line, the Passport Card was designed with the needs of border residents in mind.

loomy's avatar

Can anyone tell me if the passport card number is the same number as the passport except that it has a C in front of it? I have the card but I am still waiting on the booklet and I need to register my passport number and I wanted to make sure they are the same when you have both.

kurtmasur's avatar

The number on the card is completely different from that of the Passport Book.

niceguyadam's avatar

Okay. To put out the fire in the above posts. The PASSPORT CARD can only be used for LAND & SEA travel to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. If you are flying by plane, a cape, a giant eagle, or anything for that matter, you have to get the PASSPORT BOOK. I called the passport agency at 877–487-2778 to confirm this…twice.

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