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Passport, Passport Card Or REAL ID?

Tips From The Auto Club On Preparing For New ID Requirements For Domestic Flights

Real ID 2020 PSA
Image courtesy of California DMV

As consumers make travel plans for 2019 and 2020, the Automobile Club of Southern California is reminding them about another consideration: as of Oct. 1, 2020, they will likely need to present a different form of identification to board a domestic flight.

Beginning in October 2020, the accepted forms of identification for boarding domestic flights or for entering most federal facilities will be a current passport, passport card, military ID, or REAL ID-compliant state driver’s license. The standard California driver’s license is not REAL ID-compliant and cannot be used to board a commercial flight as of October 2020.

The California DMV is now offering residents the option of either continuing to renew their standard driver’s license/ID card OR obtaining a REAL ID-compliant driver’s license or identity card. The REAL ID applicant must appear in person at a DMV office and bring several DMV-accepted documents that verify their identity, U.S. legal residence or citizenship status, and current address. The DMV strongly recommends making an appointment to conduct this transaction, either by calling (800) 777-0133 during business hours or using the DMV’s online appointment system.

This new requirement stems from the federal REAL ID Act of 2005, which was passed as a Department of Homeland Security measure. It established new standards for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards to improve security by making them more tamper-proof.

“The Auto Club is urging travelers to prepare for this upcoming change,” said Pamela Shepherd, the Auto Club’s vice president for branch operations. “As the October 2020 deadline draws nearer, it may become more difficult for consumers to obtain their REAL ID, passport, or passport card in a timely manner.”

For those who plan to fly domestically and don’t have to renew their driver’s license before October 2020, Shepherd suggests they should get or renew a passport or passport card if they don’t already have a current one. Passport applications and renewal forms are available online and at all Auto Club branches, along with passport photo services for both members and non-members.

Those who already have passports that were issued no earlier than 15 years ago can usually renew them by mail. However, first-time applicants, those who have lost their passports, or those with expired passports issued more than 15 years ago must apply in person at one of more than 500 U.S. Passport Acceptance Facilities in California during their passport processing hours with a completed application, documents and document copies verifying their identity and U.S. citizenship, and a passport-compliant photo.

The process for getting or renewing a passport card is the same as for a regular passport. Shepherd said that some travelers might prefer to use a passport card for domestic flights because it is smaller, easier to carry and less expensive than a regular passport. However, a passport card is only a valid form of ID for travel within the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean. Consumers also have the option of obtaining both a passport card and a regular passport.

Below is a comparison of the features of the California REAL ID-compliant driver’s license, REAL ID identification card, U.S. passport and U.S. passport card:

ID Type



Where to get it

Minimum # of needed documents**


Valid ID for:

When do I get it?

REAL ID California Driver’s License


Every 5 years

Any one of 173 DMV offices processing driver’s licenses


3 3/8” by 2 1/8”

Domestic flights only

Two-three weeks minimum

REAL ID California Identification Card


Every 6 years

Any one of 170 DMV offices processing ID cards


3 3/8” by 2 1/8”

Domestic flights only

Two-three weeks minimum

U.S. passport

$145 for new; $110 for renewal

Every 10 years

Any one of over 500 facilities in California; renewal by mail is available

Two for new passport (plus copies of each); none for renewal

5” by 3.5”

Domestic and international flights

Usually six weeks; three weeks for an additional fee

U.S. passport card

$65 for new; $30 for renewal

Every 10 years

Any one of over 500 facilities in California; renewal by mail is available

Two for new passport card (plus copies of each); none for renewal

3 3/8” by 2 1/8”

Flights in North America only

Usually six weeks; three weeks for an additional fee

*As of March 1, 2019

**As of April 1, 2019

Some other points to keep in mind:

  • Make sure you bring the correct form of payment with you. You will need either checks or money orders (two separate payments) to pay for a new passport at a Passport Acceptance Facility. The California DMV accepts cash, checks, money orders or ATM/debit cards (no credit cards).
  • To assist travelers, several California Passport Acceptance Facilities are hosting Passport Acceptance Fairs for new applicants on various dates in March.
  • A REAL ID is not required for children under the age of 18. The Transportation Security Administration does not require identification for minors boarding domestic flights (a passport is required for both minors and adults for international flights). However, airlines may have identification requirements for minors such as a certified copy of a birth certificate to verify their age in certain situations when the fare is free or discounted.
  • A passport, passport card or California Identification Card is not a substitute for a driver’s license. You still need a valid driver’s license to operate a motor vehicle.

For more information about the California REAL ID, visit the DMV website. For more information about passports and passport cards, visit the U.S. State Department website.

Media Contacts

Marie Montgomery
(714) 420-0477 (cell)

Doug Shupe
LA-based media contact
(512) 659-1632

CST 1016202-80 Copyright © Automobile Club of Southern California. All Rights Reserved.
The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.