Passport Card vs. Passport Book

I recently read an article on Facebook about a lady whose daughter booked her and four of her friends on a week-long vacation to Turks and Caicos. The daughter booked everything through an Online Travel Agency (OTA), which I will not name, but an OTA is Expedia, Travelocity, or Hotels.com. The ladies were excited, all packed, ready to go, and at the airport the lady whose daughter booked the trip was denied boarding. She had a passport card instead of a passport book. She could not get through to the OTA so she called a local travel agency and one of their travel agents told her what to do so she could get to Turks and Caicos.

 So why couldn’t she board with a Passport Card? According the U.S. Department of State, a passport card can be used to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda at, here is the big red flag, land border or sea ports-of-entry only. The passport card cannot be used for international travel by air. As this lady was flying to Turks and Caicos she was required to have a passport book.

So why is there a passport card? The passport card is very convenient to have as it is the size of a driver’s license and can easily be carried around in your wallet. It is much less expensive than getting or renewing a passport book. The passport card also contains an RFID chip that according to the U.S. Department of State does not contain any personal information. When the chip is read, it “points” to your secured information in one of the government databases. Border Patrol can then access your information and photo identification. Each card comes with an RFID blocking sleeve, just in case.

If you plan on crossing the Mexican or Canadian border often, a perk of having the passport card is that you can go through Ready Lanes. These are certain lanes at the border that can expedite inspection when you are crossing the border. Not all ports of entry have these lanes, but if you are interested in learning which ones have these Ready Lanes you can visit www.travel.state.gov.

If you are an avid cruiser and leave from ports of call in the US, then having a passport card is a convenience. But next time you are flying out of the US, please keep in mind to grab that passport book on the way out of the house so you don’t get denied boarding at the airport. Having the wrong identification will surly have you starting your vacation off on the wrong foot, and could cause delays in getting you to your destination. 

If you have any questions about photo identification for travel, please contact me with any questions or visit www.travel.state.gov.

 NOTE:  Life is Better Traveling always recommends a Passport Booklet even when cruising out of a US port. Why? If something were to happen and you were left behind on the island, you would need a passport booklet to return back into the states. The Passport booklet is just a few dollars more, and is good for 10 years, so we always recommend getting a passport booklet. 

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