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Jobs are good but dreams are more important.  You gotta get a passport and you gotta travel. … You have to go not because you’re comfortable, but because you’re uncomfortable.

~Nikki Giovanni to a group of Northwestern University students, October 2013~

Recent statistics show that approximately 46% percent of Americans own a passport (excludes holders of passport cards).  This number doubled over a 10 year period.  Plenty of Americans are traveling abroad and I urge you to join their ranks.

Graphic provided by the u.S. State Department at www.travel.state.gov

Graphic provided by the U.S. State Department at http://www.travel.state.gov.

If you’re ready to get your passport you may be wondering whether you should get a passport card, passport book, or both.  What are the differences and advantages of both?

First, the similarities.  Both are good for up to 10 years for those aged 16 and older, and up to 5 years for those under the age of 16.  Each costs money for both the application and renewal processes.  And each one allows its holder to leave the borders of the United States and return.  The broad similarities end there.

A passport card is good only for regional travel between the U.S. and the following countries/regions at land border crossings and sea ports-of-entry:  Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean.  If you’re cruising from Miami to The Bahamas and that’s it, you’re golden with just a passport card.  If you’re flying out of the United States to Canada or Mexico, forget about it.  If you’re flying out of the country to get anywhere, a passport card is useless.

The most common document that Americans apply for in order to travel abroad is the passport book.  It measures about 5″ x 3.5″ when closed, as opposed to the passport card which is the size of a driver’s license. The passport book will let you travel just about anywhere in the world by land, sea, or air.

If you’re flying out of the country to get anywhere, a passport card is useless.

The best option if you want to travel widely?  A passport book, although it is more expensive.

Adults (those aged 16 and older) applying for a passport book for the first time will pay $110 to the government, and $25 to a passport processing agency (i.e., post office, court house, etc.). Conversely, first time applicants of a passport card (who do not already hold a passport) will pay just $30 to the government and $25 to a processing agency.  If you are a first time adult applicant who desires both a passport book and card?  It’ll cost $140, plus the $25 agency processing fee.  Renewal costs are the same as application costs.

Fees for minors under the age of 16 who apply for the first time are $80 for a passport book, $15 for a passport card, and $95 for both.  Those fees are in addition to the $25 processing fee required by the processing agency.

What are the advantages of getting a passport card if a passport book is the ultimate travel document?  A passport card can serve as a backup form of federally issued identification if you happen to lose your passport while abroad, although you will have to replace your passport before re-entering the U.S.  A passport card can be used in addition to your state driver’s license if you need to prove identity for official purposes like obtaining employment.  Lastly, a passport card may not be a bad idea for minors too young to get a driver’s license but who need to show identification at airport security checkpoints.  It’s relatively cheap to add on a passport card for minors.

The best option if you want to travel widely? A passport book, although it is more expensive.

Whichever option you choose, make sure that you put applying for a passport on your priority list of things to do.  You can thank me later.  There’s a whole world out there just waiting for you to explore it.  If not you, then who?  If not now, when?  Go explore, dream, and discover.


For more information on applying for a passport, go to www.travel.state.gov.