The (Mostly) Useless U.S. Passport Card

I picked up one of those new passport cards a couple years ago. I was told it could be used to travel to Canada or Mexico, and doubles as another wallet sized ID in the event I misplace my license. Compelling enough, so I added one back in 2010 when I renewed my passport.

Yesterday I flew to Vancouver with my Dad to visit my brother, who’s here studying at the Vancouver Film School. I was ready to use my passport card for the first time. It seemed like a good opportunity. I was flying out of White Plains, New York, as I was at a friend’s wedding in Connecticut the night before, so I packed up all of stuff Saturday morning before the wedding.

I have to admit, I meant to either confirm that the passport card would work or grab my real passport before I left for the wedding, but I didn’t. Since the nice man at the post office explained to me the card was good for travel to Canada, and I couldn’t think of what else it would be used for, confirming this wasn’t really at the top of my list of things to do.

So I arrived at the wedding around 4:00pm Saturday, and then realized I had never checked. I pulled out the card to read the back, and was alarmed to learn that the card is only good for land and sea travel to Canada. Air travel requires a real passport.

This makes absolutely no sense to me. If the U.S. and Canadian governments went to the trouble of making a new standard and then implementing the technology and training to accept it at some borders, why not allow it at all borders? If it’s deemed a secure way for for Canadian officials to confirm my identity at a land crossing, how is it less secure when I’m arriving in a plane?

So this left me in a tough place, as I was about three hours from Boston, and I had a wedding to attend. I checked the cost to have my real passport shipped overnight. It was $500, since it would be a weekend with a Sunday arrival. Pretty outrageous. I looked into changing my flight to leave from Boston rather than White Plains, but that would have cost a few hundred dollars. After about 20 minutes of brainstorming, I accepted the reality: I was going to go to the wedding, and then wake up at 3:00am to drive three hours to Boston and grab my passport, and then turn right around and drive three hours back to Norwalk, CT (my girlfriend and friend were going to drive my car back from the wedding to Boston).

About twenty minutes after the wedding ceremony started, I get this text message from my Dad, who must have heard about my predicament from my Mom:







Thanks Dad! Well, it all worked out, and it wasn’t so bad in the end. I’m just glad I picked up that passport card. It’s such a useful thing to have.


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