Passport Book vs Passport Card: What’s Different?

January 3, 2024

2 min. read


do i need both the passport book and card

In 2008, passport cards were introduced by the State Department to accompany traditional passport books so that U.S. citizens could travel by land or sea more conveniently. A passport card is a cheaper version of a passport book but it cannot be used for international travel by air to any country.

Let’s clarify what you need to know about both to make the right choice between a passport card vs passport book.


Passport book vs. passport card: most important difference

Both your passport book and passport card prove your U.S. citizenship and identity. You can travel using both but with some exceptions. As we mentioned before, you can travel with a passport card only by land or sea to and from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and Caribbean countries, but you can’t travel internationally by air. A passport book (vs. passport card) can be used for any world destination and any means of transport.

What is a passport book in 2024 (vs passport card)?

The image of a passport that usually comes to mind is that of a passport booklet. The regular passport is navy blue and is issued for 10 years by the U.S. government. It is accepted as a form of official identification and is also recognized as a Real ID.

The passport book has blank pages for entry stamps and visa stickers and allows international air travel. It has a photo and personal information, passport issue and expiration dates, passport number, date of birth, gender, birthplace, etc.

Also, mind that a new document of 2024 will have extra layers of protection and a non-colored photo. However, you need to prepare two 2×2 passport photos in color and with white background to submit with your passport application. For instance, you can take a passport photo at Walmart or get it prepared online. Either way, it’ll be a compliant picture according to the official rules.

What is a passport card and is it good for international air travel?

In the U.S., passport cards differ from passport books firstly in their shape and size. A passport card looks pretty much like a driver’s license and is wallet-sized. It’s a Real ID-compliant identification form that has 10-year validity. It allows its holders to travel internationally with some limitations, that is by land and seaport entry.

A passport card is typically used for international travel to Canada and Mexico by land, to pass the Caribbean countries and the Bermudas’ foreign border entry by sea or for domestic travel. The document has its unique passport card number and carries the holder’s personal information. Some passports don’t have a card form though, like a US purple passport for urgent travel.

More differences: U.S. passport book vs passport card

what is passport card vs book

A passport book and passport card differ in price. Passport books are more expensive. For first-time applicants aged 16 and older, an adult passport book costs $165. For those under 16, it costs $135, and $130 for those who renew their passport books by mail, including the acceptance fee.

Applying for an adult passport card costs $65 for first-time applicants aged 16 and older. It’s $50 for younger applicants. Passport card renewals are $30 only if done by mail.

It’ll cost you $35 less for both. And in case, you’re a passport card holder already, the fee for the card will be waived.

Do I need both the passport book and card?

You can decide for yourself if you need one or both documents. Here are the main points to think over. You need a valid passport book to use international flights at all times. At the same time, passport cards are designed to ease the commute to and from neighboring countries by land or sea.

Passport cards also come in handy for those who don’t have a driver’s license as a state-issued ID since they count as Real IDs and can be used for domestic flights.


Can you get both a passport book and passport card?

It’s no problem to get a passport book and card at the same time. However, it makes sense to get a U.S. passport book that grants you air, land, and sea travel domestically and internationally.

The attractive part with passport cards vs passport books is that the former can be used for Ready Lanes in Canada and Mexico (border zone) which is the expedited vehicle and pedestrian border entry for approved users by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

How to Get Passport Books and Passport Cards?

It’s easy to apply for both travel documents (passport book and passport card) with the same paperwork. What you need to do is tick the appropriate box in the application form. If it’s your first-time application, you have to apply in person and get Form DS-11 filled out. With renewals, you use Form DS-82 and send all the documents by mail.

Remember to provide proof of your U.S. citizenship, a second form of eligible ID and a passport photo. Please follow the link: to double-check the renewal rules by mail and if you’re eligible to use such a service.