Dauntless JaunterExplore • Educate • Experience • Enlighten

US Passport Book vs Card: Which Type of Passport is Right for Me?


What’s the difference between a US passport book vs card? We outline the main differences so you can choose between these passport types quickly and easily.

In the United States, travelers have two options to use for international travel: the traditional passport book and the all-new passport card.

But, what’s the difference between a passport book vs card?

In this post, we’ll cover the main differences so you know exactly which passport option is right for you.

The US Passport Book

a United States passport book is still more useful than a passport card
Taken by L. Ventura via unsplash.com. [Public Domain].

The passport book is your typical passport, a bound, paged booklet that is issued by the US Department of State verifying your identity and nationality, usually for the purpose of traveling internationally.

All international air travel for US passport holders, regardless of origin or destination airport, must be accompanied by a valid US passport book.

A passport book is valid travel documentation for all international travel: by air, sea, or land. If you learn how to teleport, the rules are vague 😉 Additionally, any valid passport is conclusive proof of US citizenship or naturalization, since you must be a US citizen or national to receive one.

To enter and leave the United States, a US passport holder must use their passport book. However, there is nothing stopping a US citizen from obtaining passports from other countries and using them for travel, as long as neither the origin or destination of travel is the United States.

Did you know? US passports are not valid for travel to, in, or through North Korea. For that, travelers wishing to visit the DPRK must request a special validation from the US Dept of State. Otherwise, it’s a felony and you could lose your passport for good!

The US Passport Card

US passport card vs passport book - the passport card is not as powerful
Sample passport card image from the US Dept. of State.

US passport cards are technically passports, but they are much more limited in their usability.

Issued also by the US Department of State, the passport card is a official identification document, but a limited-travel document.

Most importantly, a US passport card can’t be used for international air travel.

However, a US passport card is a valid document:

  • For travel by land or sea to, from, and inside Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda
  • As a REAL ID for all domestic flights within the United States
  • To satisfy the Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification process
  • As a form of personal identification inside the United States and in other countries.

Related Read: What’s the difference between a consulate and an embassy?

US Passport Card vs Passport Book – Conclusion

So, given the differences between a passport book vs passport card, which one is right for you?

If you need to travel internationally, you must have a passport book. However, if you’re considering a passport book vs passport card, just get both!

Living abroad, I keep my passport book tucked away in a safe location for when I need to travel internationally. During my day-to-day, I just carry around my passport card in my wallet like I would a driver’s license back home, and it has never failed me as proof of identity in the 10+ countries where I’ve had the chance to whip it out.

Well, hope this quick summary of the difference between a passport book and card was useful! If you have any feedback, questions, or other points to add about passport cards or books, let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!

Want some more difference busters? Check out our articles on the differences between magnetic north vs geographic north, climate vs weather, Spanish vs Latin American, ethnicity vs race, and Arab vs Persian.

Christian Eilers
Written by
Christian Eilers
Join the discussion

Dauntless Jaunter