Passport Card vs Passport Book – Differences, Costs, and Application Process

Passport Card vs Passport Book

Traveling to different countries is exciting, and to do that, you need special documents called a passport or a passport card. A passport book is like a small book that proves who you are and lets you fly anywhere in the world. A passport card is smaller, like a credit card, and it’s cheaper but only good for traveling by land or sea to nearby places like Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean. In this guide, we’ll explain the differences between a passport book and a passport card, how to apply for them, and which one might be best for your travels.

What is a Passport?

A passport is a small book that proves who you are and where you’re from. It’s like a key that lets you travel from one country to another. When you visit a different country, you show your passport to prove your identity and citizenship.

What is a Passport Card?

A passport card is like a small version of a passport book. But, it’s only used for traveling by land or sea—not flying—between the U.S. and certain places close by, like Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. It’s a handy option for people who travel these routes often but don’t need a full passport.

The United States introduced the passport card in 2008 to make it easier and cheaper for people to travel to nearby countries without needing a full passport book. It was designed to help people who live close to the borders and travel back and forth often.

Read Also: Passport Bio Page

Differences between Passport Book and Passport Card

  • Travel Methods: You can use a passport book for all types of travel, including air, sea, and land. The passport card, however, is only good for entering the U.S. at land border crossings and seaports from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean.
  • Size and Convenience: The passport card is the size of a credit card, so it’s easy to carry in your wallet. The passport book is bigger and needs more space, like in a travel bag.
  • Cost and Validity: A passport card costs less than a passport book, making it a good choice for frequent travelers to nearby countries. Both are valid for the same amount of time, but the passport book is more flexible for different types of travel.

The Application Process

Applying for a Passport Book

  • Get the Form: The first step is to get an application form called DS-11. You can find this form online on the U.S. Department of State’s website or at a local post office.
  • Fill Out the Form: Fill out the form with your information. Make sure everything is correct!
  • Gather Your Documents: You need a few important things to apply:
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship (like your birth certificate)
  • A recent photo of yourself that fits the passport photo requirements
  • An ID card (like your driver’s license)
  • Pay the Fee: Applying for a passport book costs money. You’ll need to pay a fee, which you can find out about on the official website or at the post office.
  • Submit Everything: Take or mail your completed form, documents, photo, and money to a passport acceptance facility. This can be many places, like some post offices, libraries, or government offices.
  • Wait: After you apply, it takes about 6 to 8 weeks to get your passport. You just have to wait a bit, and then you’ll be ready to travel.

Applying for a Passport Card

Applying for a passport card is very similar to applying for a passport book. You use the same form (DS-11), fill it out, and submit the same types of documents. However, because the passport card is limited in use (you can’t use it for international air travel), it costs less than the passport book.

  • Same Steps, Different Document: You follow almost the same steps as applying for a passport book. You still need your birth certificate, a recent photo, and any name change documents.
  • Fill Out the Same Form: You use the same form as for the passport book. Just make sure to mark the option that you’re applying for a passport.
  • Lower Cost: A big plus is that the passport card is cheaper than the passport book. So, if you don’t plan to fly internationally and only travel by land or sea to the places we talked about, this might be a good choice.
  • Submit Your Application: Just like with the passport book, you can mail your application or go to a passport acceptance facility. Remember, if you are under 16, your parents need to be with you


Having the right travel documents can make all the difference when you’re planning a trip. Both passport books and passport cards have their own special advantages. Let’s explore what makes each one useful!

Advantages of a Passport Book

  • Travel Anywhere: The biggest advantage of having a passport book is that it lets you travel almost anywhere in the world. Whether you want to fly to Paris, take a boat to a Caribbean island, or drive across a border, your passport book is accepted globally.
  • Long Validity: Passport books are valid for 10 years if you get them when you are 16 years old or older, and 5 years if you are younger. This means you don’t have to worry about renewing them too often.
  • Extra Security: Passport books contain lots of security features that protect your identity. This makes it hard for anyone to fake or tamper with them.
  • Visas and Stamps: When you visit a new country, you often get a stamp in your passport book. Collecting stamps can be fun, like collecting stickers, showing all the places you’ve been. Also, if you need a visa to enter a country, it goes into your passport book.
  • Emergency Identification: In case of an emergency, having a passport book can help identify you and make sure you get the help you need, especially when you are far from home.

Advantages of a Passport Card

  • Cost-Effective: A passport card is cheaper than a passport book. If you only travel by land or sea to places like Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean, it can save you some money.
  • Convenient Size: The passport card is the size of a credit card, so it fits easily in your wallet. You can carry it around just like your school ID, which makes it super convenient.
  • Long Validity: Just like the passport book, the passport card is valid for 10 years for adults. That means you don’t have to worry about renewing it very often.
  • Renewal Simplicity: Just like the passport book, you can renew your passport card by mail if you meet certain conditions. It’s simple and doesn’t always require a visit to an application center
  • Less Waiting Time: Often, getting a passport card can be faster than getting a passport book, especially if you apply during a time when not many people are applying for travel documents.

Costs Involved

Cost of Obtaining a Passport Book

  • For Adults (16 years and older): If you’re an adult and you’re getting a passport book for the first time, it usually costs about $145. This includes the application fee and the fee for accepting your application. If you need to renew your passport book, it costs a bit less, around $110.
  • For Minors (under 16 years): For kids and teens under 16, the cost is lower. It’s about $115 to get a passport book. That’s because kids’ passports are only good for 5 years, not 10 years like adults.

Cost of Obtaining a Passport Card

  • Cost of Passport Card: A passport card is cheaper than a passport book. For adults, a passport card costs only $65 if you’re getting it for the first time. If you already have a passport book and just want to add a passport card, it’s even cheaper—about $30. For renewing, it’s the same price as adding one.
  • For Minors: For children under 16, the cost to get a passport card is about $50. If the child already has a passport book and just wants a card too, it’s around $15.

Processing Times

Standard and Expedited Processing Times

  • Standard Processing: This is the normal way and takes about 6 to 8 weeks to get your passport book or card. It’s the slower option but also the cheaper one.
  • Expedited Processing: If you need your passport quickly, you can choose expedited processing. This option costs more but speeds things up a lot. With expedited processing, you can get your passport in about 2 to 3 weeks. You might choose this option if you have a trip coming up soon and need your passport right away

Detailed Uses and Limitations

Traveling with a Passport Book

A passport book is like an all-access pass to the world. With it, you can travel to almost any country by plane, ship, or car. It’s a small book filled with pages where new stamps from different countries can be added each time you visit them. This is very exciting because each stamp is like a trophy showing where you’ve been.

Traveling with a Passport Card

A passport card is more limited than a passport book but still very useful. It’s a small card, just like a school ID, and you can keep it in your wallet. With a passport card, you can travel to certain places without needing the bigger passport book. However, you can only use it for land and sea travel—not for flying—between the U.S. and nearby countries like Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean.

Safety and Security Features

Passport books are packed with cool safety features. They have a special type of paper that’s hard to copy, and there are small lines and patterns that only show up under certain lights. The photo page, where your picture and information are, is made from plastic and is very tough to change without showing signs of damage.

Passport cards also have great security features. They have a smaller chip, called a vicinity-read chip, which works a bit differently from the one in the passport book. It can be scanned from a short distance, which helps speed things up at border checks when you’re traveling by land or sea. Just like passport books, the card has special patterns and materials that make it tough to fake.

Frequently Asked Questions

No, you need a passport book to travel to Europe and other overseas destinations.

Yes, children can apply for a passport card.

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