The US passport book, expressly designed for international travel, accommodates air, sea, or land journeys. This compact, easily portable booklet starts with a page dedicated to the traveler's personal details, such as name, date of birth, and photograph.

Pages are allocated for immigration stamps and visas, which serve as official entry and exit records from different countries. Modern versions of the passport book include an electronic chip to enhance security and facilitate quick processing at borders. This chip contains a digital replica of the information displayed on the personal details page.

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The US also offers a passport card for individuals who primarily travel by land or sea to nearby countries, such as Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. This wallet-sized card is a convenient, more compact alternative to the traditional passport book. It's important to note that the passport card cannot be used for air travel; it is specifically designed for land and sea travel.

David Alwadish, the founder & CEO of Passport & Visa Services, notes that both the passport book and the passport card have a validity period of 10 years for adults, ensuring travelers can use their documents for numerous trips, making international travel smooth and efficient. Additionally, choosing between a passport book and a passport card—or to obtain both—allows travelers to select the document that best suits their travel needs, preferences, and habits.

Which passport should you get: book or card?

Consider your travel habits when deciding between a passport book and a passport card. If you frequently travel by air or have plans to visit countries beyond Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda, a passport book is preferable. However, a passport card might be sufficient for your needs if you primarily travel by land or sea to nearby destinations.

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Passport books are more expensive than cards. First-time applicants must pay an application fee and an acceptance fee. The acceptance fee goes to the facility that takes your application, and the application fee goes to the US Department of State.

Passport book cost for first-time applicants

  • For adults (16 and older): $165
  • For children (15 and under): $135

Passport card cost for first-time applicants

  • For adults (16 and older): $65
  • For children (15 and under): $50

Acceptance fees are dropped for renewal of both the passport book and card. Travelers can expect to pay $130 to renew an adult passport book and just $30 to renew an adult passport card.

Photo: US Dept of State

When to get both a passport book and passport card

The passport book is the all-encompassing identifier to carry regardless of where you travel. Having both passport types might be convenient, like if you travel equally by air and land. If you’re visiting Canada or Mexico by car, you might prefer a more compact document for traveling across the border. A passport card for regular land-based trips would be helpful.

Validity and renewal

Both documents are valid for ten years for adults and five years for children. If you already have a passport, you may be eligible to renew it. You can also correct incorrect information or report your lost or stolen passport. The routine processing time for a passport is six to eight weeks.

You can expedite the process, which takes two to three weeks and costs an extra $60. It is essential to consider the time to get a passport when booking travel. It may take up to two weeks for applications to arrive at a passport agency or center, and it may take up to two weeks for you to receive a completed passport after printing.

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Requirements for renewing your passport

  • Your passport is not damaged.
  • You have never reported your passport lost or stolen
  • It was issued within the last 15 years.
  • It was issued when you were 16 years or older.
  • It was published under your current name.

Renew by mail

  1. Confirm you meet the requirements
  2. Fill out your renewal form online
  3. Submit your most recent passport
  4. Provide a photo
  5. Calculate fees
  6. Submit application
  7. Enroll in email updates for tracking details

Using a passport card for domestic travel:

On May 7, 2025, US travelers must have a REAL ID to board domestic flights and access certain federal facilities. US passport books and cards are valid forms of ID for domestic air travel, but the card is more convenient to carry. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) accepts the passport card as ID for domestic flights in the United States.

When deciding on the best option for your travel documentation, consider the nature of your travel. A passport book is likely the most versatile and universally accepted form of identification and travel document. On the other hand, a passport card could be a more convenient and cost-effective choice if your travels mainly involve crossing borders by land or sea, especially to destinations like Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda. The passport card is smaller and easier to carry for day trips or frequent land and sea crossings, but it's important to note that it cannot be used for international air travel.