The U.S. Passport Card Identification Anomaly

Today marks the tenth time I have used my United States Passport Card as identification while flying a domestic flight rather than my drivers’ license since I received it this past February. Today also marks the fourth time a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Transportation Security Officer (TSO) checking identification and board documents has looked up at me and told me they needed a valid form of government issued identification, such as a drivers license or … wait for it … a passport.


The U.S. Passport Card, like a conventional passport, is issued by the United States Department of State for international travel, although it has limitations.  The U.S. Passport card is Valid only for international land and sea travel between United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda,” however it is a valid U.S. government issued piece of identification for all domestic purposes … after all it proves my identity and citizenship as a United States Passport.


The TSA TSO who first refused my U.S. Passport Card was at Los Angeles International Airport, who told me he could not accept it, as U.S. Passport Cards are valid for land and sea travel only.  That said, I was traveling from Los Angeles to New York, a domestic flight where a passport is not required and proof of citizenship isn’t required. After a brief back and forth the TSO asked his supervisor to look at the Passport Card and it was accepted as valid identification.


The second time my passport card was refused was at Honolulu International Airport, and I’d almost give the TSO a pass on this. The TSO told me she had never seen one before, which is understandable due to Hawaii’s geographic location. The statistical number of Passport Card issued in Hawaii is probably lower than anywhere else in the United States.


The third issue with a TSO no initially accepting my U.S. Passport Card was at New York’s JFK Airport Terminal 3, where I have used it more than anywhere else. The TSO informed me that the identification looked fake. He’d never heard of a Passport Card or seen one. This TSO summoned over his supervisor because he wanted to have the police get involved over the use of a fake Federally issued identification.  Obviously that never happened, the Supervisor informed him that U.S. Passport Cards were valid and a legitimate form of identification.


This leads to this morning at Providence’s T.F. Green Airport.  I handed the TSA TSO my U.S. Passport Card and was told, “We can only accept a drivers license, passport, military ID for identification.”  I informed the TSO he was looking at my U.S. State Department issued Passport Card and the reply I received was “What I meant is we can only accept a valid Passport Book for identification.” As there was no line at all, I asked him to check their sheet, which not only lists acceptable identification, but also displays an image of each valid form of identification. After a moment of looking, at an angle I could not see the sheet, I was informed “I will accept this ID today, but in general we will not accept it in the future.”


The reason I began using my U.S. Passport Card at TSA checkpoints was not to see if it would be accepted.  It just happens that where I keep it in my wallet is easier quickly pull it out than my driver’s license.  After the second time I used it resulted it in begin rebuffed by a TSA TSO I decided to keep track for a little while and see if it was a common occurrence to have a Passport Card refused.


I had heard from a few people that had problems using a U.S. Passport Card flying out of Philadelphia International Airport, but now having experienced having my U.S. Passport Card refused in four out of ten uses for identification with the Transportation Security Administration I have to wonder this … why are federal security employees working under the banner of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) so quick to refuse a piece of valid federally issued identification when it only takes a moment to verify that it is completely valid for domestic air travel?


If you’re unfamiliar with the U.S. Passport Card, a photo of mine is below (with portions of the identification numbers removed or blurred).


Happy Flying!






  1. I have a Passport card too and was weary of using it at the airport for this same reason. I’m actually a little worried about using it when I got to Mexico the next time.

  2. I utilize my Global Entry card for any airport ID situation that does not specifically require a passport. I have had several TSOs ask a supervisor if they “accepted” a Global Entry Card, only to hear, “It’s a USG issued ID and is valid.”

    Ironic that the people who are supposed to keep us safe cannot even figure out what IDs to accept when the information is posted on a sheet in front of them.

  3. interesting. i have had the same experience with my global entry. I keep it in a place easier for me to get to than my license (which is sometimes just left in the car) and I have had to call the cops on a 7-11 clerk who refused to hand it back to me saying it was fake. Same thing at HNL airport where they demanded they need a govt approved form of ID.

  4. They have the same sort of heartburn around Global Entry Cards. My drivers license was expired and in the renewal process so I used my Global Entry Card thinking a valid US Gov ID would be better than a state DL with a corner loped off. They looked at it, said I could use it THIS time, but don’t try it again. I guess next time I carry my electric bill along. Apparently its easier with that than a US State Department ID….

  5. I have used my Global Entry Card on several occasion and TSA didn’t say anything about not able using it yet.

  6. I used the passport card, from when they were available, until I got my Global Entry card (guess that was last year). I had occassional hesitation, but never an outright denial you seem to have experienced (could be just seeing it writing vs experiencing the discussion). I did visit each of those airports you reported on, plus many others. I was unwilling at any time to take a No, and have suggested asking someone else before they make a fool of themselves, and got through it every time.

    I use these cards because they limit the personal information displayed, are valid and the GE card, at least at Dulles, helps with the getting on a better line when those 3beeps are not there for pre check.

  7. This reminds me of the TSA/TSO agents at SFO that refused to allow a gentleman through security with two bottles of water that he declared for his dietary purpose (the video was on Right This Minute).

    Bottom line is this: many of the TSA/TSO agents don’t have a full comprehension of the rules. Personally, if I ever found myself in this situation, I would request that the refusing agent be scheduled for additional training.

  8. I don’t use it just for these reasons. Let’s be honest, US government programs are far from efficient and timely, and officers hired by the TSA are in general not going through much training. Passport cards are probably mentioned once, if at all, in training. Officers are simply going to err on the side of caution and, if challenged, will just try to assert their position of authority in order to intimidate people into conforming.

    I just keep it in my bag, separate from my wallet, as a second form of identification in case I lose my license. Maybe one day, if I’m early for a flight and there isn’t a line for security, I’ll try it out.

  9. I have used my passport card many times at LGA or EW/R without issue. I find some of the more regional airports (MVY or GNV) sometimes question it at first but give in when you explain to them what it is (ironic, right?). One time I had a TSO refuse and I keep a print out of ( in my laptop bag, and after consulting with his supervisor let me use it.

  10. I used my GE card at the TSA check – as an ID in HNL and LAX without any issue or request for a DL etc.

  11. I used my Passport Card yesterday on the A-list/First Class line at LAX T-1 (WN/US) for a domestic flight, and had no issues at all.

  12. I’ve frequently had problems using a NEXUS card.

    Nothing beats my experience in September 2011 at PHL when my *US Passport book* was refused by the TDC. I didn’t want to call attention to my international travel (to Canada) the previous week, during which US CBP had gladly accepted my passport on my return.

  13. I have usd my Global Entry card. Usually it gets a wave, occasionally they check if its approved, which is perfectly fine since I would rather they confirm if unsure.

    Had a very positive experience in CLE when, after showing the card, a TSO said there was no problem, but asked if I minded waiting for a minute. I was happy to wait. He called over a number of juniors who were in training and had them look at the card, and told them all it was an unusual ID but an approved one; instructing them always to ask for advice rather than rejecting if they encounter an unfamiliar ID. Nice to see really good training by TSA!

  14. I love using my passport card just to get “the look” from TSA agents as they aren’t used to seeing it. What I love most about it is taking ashore with me on cruises since its a little more water safe and if I lost it its not like losing my passport book.
    Oh and the right wing comment above is unwarranted. It’s the left that is against tracking who is legally allowed to be in the country.

  15. I bet you also have a stack of $2 bills you use on unsuspecting clerks, don’t you? I’ve been meaning to get a passport card for just this same purpose (confusing the authorities, of course) and I probably will when I get home from my current trip. I’ve used my GlobalEntry card for ID at Logan, don’t know if they’re supposed to take it.

  16. Your several experiences with the Passport Card do not surprise me at all. While the PPC IS suitable identification for the purposes that you mentioned, please keep in mind that the front line staffers at TSA are not the sharpest pencils in the box! One obvious requirement for the job is an INABILITY to think for one’s self.

  17. I believe Costco cards are accepted with more frequency than Passport cards or trusted traveler cards such as Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI.

  18. With all the furore against a national ID card, does nobody realize that this is essentially such an ID card, albeit not mandatory? In a few years, it might be a more common thing to have, and might even get more information (why they don’t have a signature on them is beyond me).

  19. The one time I had an issue with a “cop” demanding ID refused the passport card as ID and tried to demand a Driver License. He said I’d be arrested unless I gave him a Driver License instead of the federal Passport Card (and I was not driving… so…) Well…. next his supervisor and three other cops arrived. He looked at him, at me, and may Passport Card; then he proceeded to ream the cop several new assholes in front of everyone present… He said that the “Passport Card always trumps the Driver License as ID” as it “requires a criminal background check and special security validation to get” and is much harder than a driver license to get. Yeah the supv was also misinformed – but in the opposite direction.

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