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Real ID Deadline for Domestic Flights in 2020: Are You Ready?

Oct. 25, 2019
Travel, Vacations & Trip Planning
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If you’re a traveler hailing from the U.S., you may have recently been notified that your driver’s license (or other form of identification) is not Real ID compliant and that pretty soon you won’t be able to board a domestic flight without a compliant form of identification.

This raises the question: What is Real ID compliance, and what does it mean for travelers?

What is the Real ID Act?

First of all, let’s talk about what Real ID means. The Real ID Act was passed by Congress in 2005 and established a baseline, uniform standard for identification documents across all 50 states. After the ratification of the act, all 50 states became subject to the same security measures as they pertain to the acquisition of personal ID cards.

Real ID does not just exist to standardize the security rules for domestic commercial air travel. Real ID-compliant identification documents will be necessary to access certain federal facilities as well as nuclear power plants.

When is the deadline?

States have until Oct. 1, 2020, to comply with Real ID standards. On and after this date, travelers without a Real ID-compliant forms of identification will not be able to board a commercial aircraft.

If you don’t have a compliant ID, we suggest scheduling an appointment with your Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) as soon as possible.

» Learn more: How to get a new driver’s license

Is my ID compliant?

How do you know if your ID card is compliant? If you haven’t received any notification from your state that your ID isn’t Real ID-compliant, you can check its status yourself.

Look at the upper right-hand corner of your driver’s license or state ID card. If there is a star, then your ID card is Real ID compliant. If no such star shapes exist on your card, you’ll need to schedule an appointment to obtain a Real ID.

Note that if you are a resident of certain border states and a holder of an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL), your EDL will be considered an acceptable alternative to a Real ID compliant driver’s license.

What does this mean for travelers?

Travelers can use a valid U.S. passport, EDL or Real ID-compliant driver’s license or ID card for domestic travel. You won’t need a combination of these; just one document will suffice.

Note that minors are not required to hold a Real ID-compliant form of identification when traveling with an adult companion. Although most U.S. driver’s licenses are issued at age 16, all accompanied minors under 18 will not be required to show identification.

Since all states have already proven compliance, you may already have your Real ID compliant card on hand. If not, you have less than a year to apply for one, which should be relatively easy. On Oct. 1, 2020, you will be required to have your Real ID compliant card, EDL or passport in order to board a commercial flight within the U.S. Otherwise, you’ll be denied boarding.

The bottom line

Now that you understand the Real ID Act and its ramifications for your life, you’ll be well prepared for its final enforcement in October 2020. If you don’t yet have a Real ID-compliant form of identification, we recommend scheduling an appointment at your state office as soon as possible so that you won’t have to worry about unnecessary travel delays next year.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
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