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What Is A US Passport Card & Why You Might Want One!

For those of you who are about to get a US Passport renewed or getting one for the first time, there is something called a "Passport Card" It's biometric and usually only good between rail, boat and car in Canada/Mexico/Bermuda/ etc But it is proof that you do own a US Passport. It's a drivers licenses sized hard card. It costs an extra $10.00 but well worth it. It cannot be used for air travel, but it's just a handy way to show you're an American without having to chance taking your US Passport everywhere!

I hoe this info helps someone!

WhateverLA (or WhateverParis for the time being)

Posted by
8889 posts

As this is only recognised by "Canada/Mexico/Bermuda/ etc", that is no European countries, it is no good to get you into any European country, or to cross any border in Europe.
In the unlikely event that you are asked for ID by the police, you need to show a real passport. The only people who would recognise it would be US embassy staff. So what is the advantage of getting one for Europe?

EU/Schengen countries have agreed to accept each other's ID cards in lieu of passports, but that requires:
1) An international agreement or treaty to accept these cards.
2) Reciprocity. Both countries would have to agree accept ID cards from the other country's citizens in lieu of passports.
3) Agreement to remove the need to stamp passports. You cannot stamp an ID card!
Would the US government agree to all this?

P.S. Why is this posted under "Tourist Scams"?

Posted by
104 posts

Sorry, I posted under the wrong section!

There are plenty of questions by United States folks wondering if they should or shouldn't carry their passports on day trips, etc. This is who my post is directed towards. I already stated it's not a card that is for international flight. Simply for a person to have in the event they should want to leave their passport in their hotel safe. Nothing more, nothing less. Why make a problem where there isn't one?


Posted by
8889 posts

"Simply for a person to have in the event they should want to leave their passport in their hotel safe"
But having this card does not allow you to leave your passport in the hotel safe. It is not recognised by any European country. If you were asked for ID by the police, and you showed this card, the answer would be "what is this, a library card? Now show me your passport please".

Of course only some countries require you to carry ID (passport).

Posted by
32228 posts

I'm sorry that you're upset, whateverLA, but that card is worthless in Europe. It won't identify you, and it isn't a place keeper. It has no more value than a note in pencil with your passport number on it. If you need a passport, the passport is what you need.


Posted by
1446 posts

I, for one, do not carry my passport on me everyday.

I only have it on me when I am in between accommodations or day-tripping. It is a matter of choice and opinion, regarding this practice... and I am not alone in doing so.

Most of us know that this practice is not in accordance to the strict interpretation of the law in some places. It is good to know that this card would NOT be a substitute for a passport, again in the strict interpretation of the law. However, for all of the other RS Forum readers who do as I do, and hold valid U.S. passports, this is an interesting card to hold, IMO. I have used my Canadian Citizenship card in the exact same fashion.

For years now, my Citizenship Card has been 'casually' regarded as an "Official National" piece of identification by everyone wearing a uniform in a country that does have such a thing. This has been my experience when I have had to produce an "official" piece of ID (National logo + photo + full name + ID number = a pretty good substitute). Yet, it has really no value at all. None. Most Canadians don't even know it exists, LOL!

Don't be so harsh on the OP.

If I were a U.S. citizen, I'd be glad to find out about this and I would get one. I'd find it much more useful, and would feel better having it on me, in addition to the photocopy of my passport. Especially given that - gasp - I make the choice to never carry my passport on me, on most days when I am in Europe.

Again, this card is no substitute for the times when a Passport is required. But it would be good for 'casual' presentation if needed, with the possibility of producing the actual passport fairly quickly, if needed. My opinion and a seasoned traveller's choice.

Posted by
104 posts

Funny thing Chris, but I've never seen a library card with a photo, my date of birth, my passport ID Number, my nationality, place of birth, and a seal of the United States and a statement "United States Department Of State" on it! Carried with a Xerox of a passport is good enough for me, and for the French policeman I stopped and asked today!!! Sorry, but I'd take the word of a random French Police officer any day of the week! Sheesh!!!

I never said it was for travel between countries, now did I? I plainly said "day trips" I can't be any clearer!!


Posted by
8889 posts

WhateverLA, I am not trying to get annoyed with you, but legally it is not valid ID, even on 'Day Trips'.
It is your choice whether you obey the law or not, and in many cases a policeman would see you are obviously a tourist and let you off.
But, if worst comes to worst and you are stopped by a policeman who does not speak English and wants to see your ID; he does not have to accept some card he has never seen before.

Posted by
3171 posts

WhateverLA, You are right, there are many people on this forum who don't carry their passports every minute. I have been known to leave my PP behind in the room. I have never been stopped by police, but I use my license for ID when asked by retailers, museum people, etc. The license does confuse some of them. I agree with you that the PP Card is a good temporary alternative identification. And that is all you are saying. A US border official once told my travel mate to never keep her license and PP together, as it is then too easy to steal her identity. I'm thinking the PP card might alleviate this issue. Too many people look at posts without reading the entire post (and responses), and that sometimes results in answers that somewhat deviate from the post. That might have happened here. I hope you are enjoying Paris! Wray

Posted by
3507 posts

Many people (in other forums) have reported that the Passport Card is useful in Europe to provide in places that require some form of ID as collateral when checking out things such as audio guides. Also seems to work well at hotels in Europe requesting your passport at check in. Since the Passport Card is apparently "worthless", it is better to leave that than your actual passport. Might not work in every situation, but why not.

Also, if you get a passport card separately from your passport, it has a different number and expiration date (also costs a bit more). This might come in handy. If you lose one or the other then both do not have to be replaced at the same time.

Posted by
518 posts

I wouldn't say the card (or color photocopy of passport, etc.) is completely "worthless" or that anything short of your actual passport is worthless. If you did manage to lose your actual passport or have it stolen and needed to present some form of ID at the consulate, I suppose that card (or your drivers license, or photocopy of passport) would do some good towards identification. Of course, we're talking doomsday scenario at this point. Unless of course, because you deemed those other non-actual-passport items worthless you didn't take them with you on your trip and instead committed your passport number to memory in the event you did lose your passport. Although, I've never needed to present myself at a consulate due to a stolen/lost passport so I don't know what they ask for and would be very interested to know from someone who has.

Posted by
104 posts

Wray, I'm having a wonderful trip! Tomorrow it's off to London! Thanks for the well wishes!

WhateverLondon (almost!)

Posted by
103 posts

The passport cards are wonderful for those of us who live near the border and drive to Canada frequently. It's no longer necessary for me to remember to take my passport -- I just keep the card in its special paper sleeve in my wallet, and it's there whenever I need it.

My niece doesn't drive and lives in the Washington, DC, area where for some reason she's unable to obtain a "state" ID. The local police department told her to get a passport card as an official government photo ID, and it has changed her life.

So the cards do have valuable uses. But, as many others have already stated, they are useless for crossing borders outside of North America and are allowed only for land crossings and Caribbean cruise ships.

Posted by
419 posts

I don't have a passport card but I got one for my kids. When we travel abroad of course I have their passports. However when we travel domestically by plane I am not required to show proof that they are mine. That always bothered me.