Why You May Want To Think Twice Before Throwing Away Your Expired Passport

When was the last time you had to renew your passport? Whether the answer is one, five, or even nine years ago — and if it's this last one, your renewal date should be coming up before the 10-year mark — passport renewal can often feel like a hassle. First, you need to gather up all the required documents, fill out the application form, send in your old passport along with the application and a passport photo, and then wait anywhere from six to eight weeks to receive a brand new document in the mail. Add a $130 renewal fee on top of that, and you're out both time and money by the end of the ordeal. But once it's all said and done and you've got your shiny new passport in hand, the question of what to do with your old, stamp-filled passport remains.

Sure, an expired passport might feel more like clutter than a prized memento — especially when it's normally stuffed away inside a drawer. However, the reality is that expired passports can still be useful, even after they've served their primary purpose. Because even though expired passports can't be used for travel per se — at least on their own — they still have plenty of practical uses.

What is an expired passport good for?

The most important reason to keep your expired passport is that it'll make your life a lot easier when applying for a new one. If you've thrown out or shredded your expired passport, you'll need to send in additional documents — an original birth certificate, for example — along with your application as proof of citizenship. However, if you send in your expired passport, the passport agency will have a much easier time proving your identity and processing your application.

Along with this, expired passports in the United States still count as a valid form of identification and work as proof of citizenship if you ever have to renew your license. And let's face it: when it comes to dealing with DMV, anything to make the process easier and quicker helps.

Lastly, most countries still consider travel visas valid even if they're stamped inside of an already-expired passport. For example, say you're traveling to a country where U.S. citizens require a visa. If your expired passport holds a valid visa, you can use both your expired passport and new, valid passport during your trip. This will save you the hassle (and costs) of having to apply for a new visa when you already have a perfectly good one.

Other reasons to keep old passports safe

Aside from their practical uses, old passports also have unique sentimental value. After all, they hold a ton of travel memories that you might not remember otherwise. From first-ever trips to unforgettable vacations you love to relive, passports hold a collection of have-beens and must-returns that, along with travel photos and souvenirs, tell stories of your personal journey and adventures. Even that bad passport photo you hate has a lot to say!

However, if you're not the sentimental kind and you're not too bothered by bureaucratic processes either, it's also important to note that passports can't just be tossed into the recycling bin for someone else to take care of. Starting from 2007, all U.S. passports are embedded with an RFID chip that holds all of your personal information, which increases your chances of identity theft if you're not careful. Plus, tampering with or destroying this chip is also technically illegal.

That said, instead of trying to hack up your expired passport with a pair of kitchen scissors, the U.S. State Department passport agency recommends that you mail them the passport so that they can properly dispose of it. All the more reason to keep your expired passport safe.