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The Best Way to Get a Passport in a Hurry

Passport expeditor services, which can get a brand-new passport to your door in as little as 24 hours, cost a healthy chunk of money. Plus, it's not exactly easy to find a reputable expeditor, since the field is filled with agencies that don't always offer fair pricing or adequate customer service.

But expeditors aren't your only or best option when it comes to getting a passport in a pinch. Obtaining your new passport through government channels is often the easiest and cheapest way to go. Here's an overview of what to do—and who to turn to—when you need a passport in a hurry.

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If You Need a Passport in a Few Weeks

The simplest way to get a passport kind of fast—that is, within a few weeks: Pay the U.S. State Department to expedite the process. This isn't a guaranteed fix, though. Wait times vary based on all kinds of factors, such as government sequesters. See the most up-to-date door-to-door estimated processing times here. You'll have to pay $60 on top of standard passport application or renewal fees, plus $12.85 for overnight delivery if you'd like that as well.

If You Need a Passport as Soon as Possible

Need your passport yesterday? Forget the expeditor, says SmarterTravel Senior Account Manager Colin Quigley, who lost his passport a few days prior to an international trip. Quigley made an appointment at a local passport agency, arrived in person with the proper documentation, photos, and fees, and received a passport later that day. The same-day passport cost $195, which is less than what most expeditors would charge for same-day service.

If you go this route, just make sure you have all the necessary documents and identification. (Find a smart rundown of what you need to bring on this blog.) According to Quigley, who visited his local Boston agency, "The people working there are really helpful and they truly want to help you. It didn't feel like a typical government agency to me. However, you truly need to follow the directions they provide you very closely. I saw several people turned away for not having a particular form filled out or for simply showing up without making an appointment or only have one form of ID."

Here's a list of regional passport centers in the States. If you're nowhere near a regional center, though, an expeditor might be your best option.

Finding an Expeditor

Not all expeditors are created equal. Rates and quality of customer service vary. Some expeditors offer a money-back guarantee; some don't. Ripoff Report has a robust thread of complaints about one particular offender, RushMyPassport.com: According to a customer, "Keep in mind that all they do is stand in line for you at the U.S. passport office, which is not open on weekends. They do not mention this to you until after you get paid. You will not get your passport when you need it and you will not get a refund. Do not fall for it like I did!"

Check reviews of prospective companies on Yelp and Angie's List. It's also smart to look up ratings on the Better Business Bureau website.

How Much Should You Pay?

That largely depends on how soon you need your passport. But overall, it's reasonable to expect to pay $50 to $300, depending on speed of service. A few of the major expeditor companies offer one- or two-day turnaround for $199 plus standard government fees. Be wary of any companies that charge more than $300 for this kind of service.

Have you used a passport expeditor service? Share your experience (positive or negative) in the comments.

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·         The people working there are really helpful and they truly want to help you.  It didn’t feel like a typical government agency to me.

However, you truly need to follow the directions they provide you very closely.  I saw several people turned away for not having a particular form filled out or for simply showing up without making an appointment or only have one form of I.D.

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