Passport vs Passport Card: What’s the difference and how do I know which one I need?
This is an awesome question and one you need to be fully informed about. I recently came across this article “Couple’s Trip to Mexico Halted Over Passport Card” and it brought to light something that can be overlooked or misunderstood. When you book your vacation YOU are responsible for ensuring you have all the correct documentation (passports, visas, vaccination records, letters of consent, etc.) to travel wherever you are going.
Some people I have come across tell me they have a Passport Card and not a Passport. They are under the misconception a Passport Card and Passport are basically the same thing. They tell me the Passport Card is a lot cheaper than a passport. We will look at that in a moment. For now we are going to look at the differences between the Passport Card and the Passport.
According to the Department of State website the Passport is for valid for international travel by air, sea, or land. The Passport Card is valid when entering the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry. Not valid for international travel by air.
Now as for the cost, yes the Passport Card is way cheaper than the Passport. At the time of writing this the Passport Card was $55 and a Passport was $135. When it comes to the cost, think about this…what happens if you are cruising the Caribbean on a wonderful 7-night cruise. You are three days into your cruise and you have spent the past couple of days relaxing by the pool. Now you are visiting one of the Caribbean Islands and all of a sudden you get a message from back home and you have a family emergency. You have to leave the cruise ship and get home ASAP! BUT there is one BIG problem…you are traveling with a Passport Card and not a Passport. You can’t fly home as Passport Cards are not valid for international travel by air. Now what is the true cost of a Passport Card vs a Passport.
Yes, this is an extreme case of what can happen, but it does happen. This is life. We can’t predict what life events we will face when we are on a vacation. We only know we can prepare the best way we know how.
Is there any value in the passport card? Absolutely. For those who DRIVE across the borders to Canada and Mexico frequently, then I can see a good use for the Passport Cards. If you need to get home in an emergency you are able to drive back across the border. On a cruise ship you don’t have the luxury of driving across the border. If you need to disembark early for medical treatment or an emergency back home, then a Passport is what you are going to need to fly back to the US.
Personally, for me it is a no brainer. When traveling, even domestically, I have my passport with me. If I get a call from NZ that will require to fly home at a moments notice I don’t want to waste time traveling back home to pick up my passport. I want to be able to catch the next flight out of wherever I am and get to NZ as soon as possible.
You are the only person that can make the decision that is right for you. All we can do as travel professionals is advise you on what you need for travel documentation and why so you can make informed decisions.
What are your thoughts on Passport Card vs Passport? Please leave your comments in the fields below.