My wife and I recently renewed our passports and we opted to get passport cards while we were at it. The Passport Card was originally intended as a convenient form of your passport to use when crossing land borders and ports-of-entry. But we don’t do that much. As in, pretty much never.
So why would we get a passport cards?
As identification for local flights
While a passport card can’t be used as identification for international flights, it can be used for local flights instead of your driver’s license. So why use the passport card instead of your drivers license?
First off, some state licenses are not Real ID compliant, but a passport card is. At some point the TSA will require Real ID compliant IDs. While most states will eventually comply, having a passport card removes any question concerning having a valid ID.
Secondly, when checking in at the airport you usually need to show an ID twice: first at the counter when you check your bags, then at security. That means two times digging into your wallet to get out your driver’s license. That means two opportunities to loose your license and two times you have to remember to put it back in your wallet. With a passport card you can leave it easily accessible in your carry-on (like you do with passports) and it can stay with your travel papers instead of your wallet.
Also, if you loose your license and want to rent a car — you’re pretty screwed. If you loose your passport card you’re just out $30. You still have your license for identification and driving.
To use for employment verification
A passport card is considered a “List A” document for I-9 employment verification just like a passport is. So you can leave your passport safe at home when doing employment verification.
To use as an international ID
While a passport is required for international travel, once you are at your destination you can often leave your passport in the hotel safe and carry the passport card as an ID.
And if for some reason you loose your passport, you can use the passport card to help facilitate getting a replacement since it identifies you and your citizenship. Of course you should always have a photocopy of your passport for this reason as well, but the passport card provides some additional redundancy.
To use a backup ID
A friend of mine was on business travel when he lost his wallet the night before his early morning flight. He spent much of the night trying to figure out what to do at the airport, and when he arrived at the airport he was put through the wringer before being allowed to board his flight.
If only he had a passport card in his carry-on bag. Then he would have avoided these headaches.
Now if he had kept his passport card in his wallet, he would have lost both. So it is important to treat the card similar to a passport. Don’t keep it in your wallet. Keep it with your travel documents.
And in the end that’s what a passport card is. Cheap insurance. It is a second form of picture ID that is Real ID compliant, giving you a little bit of extra redundancy that can be very valuable if you loose your driver’s license (or vice versa).