New Passport Cards: What You Need to Know

On Tuesday, the U.S. State Department announced the launch of a limited-time pilot program that allows citizens to apply for a passport card online. But here's the kicker: You have to already hold a passport in order to participate in the program.

Previously, flyers had to apply for a U.S. passport card through the mail by sending in a filled-out form DS-82 (if they already hold a valid passport book) or in person using form DS-11 at an acceptance facility or a passport agency (if they don't). But now, U.S. citizens ages 16 and older who hold a passport book that will not expire for at least a year are eligible to apply for the wallet-size card over the Web.

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With a passport card in hand, citizens can travel by land or sea to Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Bermuda (and back again) without a traditional passport. Those flying, however, will still need a passport book in order to cross international borders.  

Why buy the card if you already have a passport? We spoke with State Department spokesperson John Echard, who told us that a passport card could speed up things in the security line. Passport cards don't have to be stamped like passport books, and cardholders could experience an expedited security process when crossing over borders. If you travel a lot between the U.S. and Mexico, the Caribbean, or Canada, a passport card could save you some time.

Furthermore, compared to passports, passport cards are less expensive to replace if lost or stolen. If you already have a passport book, a replacement passport card costs just $30, whereas a replacement passport book will set you back $110.

The pilot program will last for 90 days or until 20,000 applications have been submitted. To apply, click on the link at the bottom of this page.

Don't have a passport? You can still apply for the passport card the old fashioned way.

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(Photo: Shutterstock/infinity21)

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