US Passport Card - Should I Get One?

by Mattfromtexas on January 28, 2011

US Passport Card - Should I Get One?

Don't you hate it when you're checking into a hostel, buying a bus ticket, or making a credit card purchase abroad and the clerk asks to see your passport? If you are anything like me, you keep your passport strategically buried in your backpack or tucked away in a money belt. Taking it out in public places for simple tasks can put your passport at risk, and can be time-consuming, awkward and sometimes embarrassing.

During my recent trip to South America, I discovered a neat alternative to avoid continually handing over my most prized travel accessory. The solution is the U.S. Passport Card, sometimes referred to as a border card or PASS card. For those of you who are not U.S. citizens, this article may not apply to you. Sorry.

The U.S. Passport Card is a credit card-sized identification card that can be used by U.S. citizens to enter the United States from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda at land border crossings or sea ports-of-entry. You can order it from the U.S. Department of State website for a $30-55 fee. Prices differ depending on whether you are a first-time applicant, previous passport holder or a minor.

Below are a few of the reasons why I think the U.S. Passport Card is awesome, and why you should consider carrying a passport card in addition to your passport book.

1. The U.S. Passport Card works everywhere (except border crossings). Printed in big, bold letters across the U.S. Passport Card is the word "passport." Although this isn't your passport, in practice, most clerks accept it as a form of identification. During my five months in Central and South America, it was rejected only once out of the hundred or so times I used it.

2. The U.S. Passport Card can help prevent identity theft. Your U.S. Passport Card number is different from your U.S. passport number. So, the number international clerks sometimes carelessly record in their reservation books or unsecured computer systems is not your main passport number.

3. Losing your U.S. Passport Card isn't as bad as losing your passport. The U.S. Passport Card is not your main passport. So, if you lose it or it gets stolen, it is not the end of the world. Yes, you have to report it lost or stolen, but you don't have to visit the U.S. Embassy, face an inquisition of questions, or wait 24 hours for a temporary passport book to be issued.

4. You can carry it anywhere. It fits in your wallet just like a credit card or driver's license, and it's waterproof. Pretty convenient!

DISCLAIMER: It is important that you remember that the U.S. Passport Card is not your passport! Government officials in other countries will not accept it. So, use your head.