Skip to content

12 crazy forms of identification that will get you through airport security

March 06, 2021
8 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

If you’ve ever arrived at the airport only to realize you’ve forgotten your driver’s license or passport – or worse, had either lost or stolen during your travels – there may be no reason for panic. As it turns out, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) actually allows some flexibility when it comes to alternative forms of identification to green-light you through security.

Today, we're going to look at 12 forms of alternative ID that you may be able to use in lieu of more formal identification. None are guaranteed to work, but they're worth a shot when you’re in a tight situation. Some options you may never have considered range from credit cards to your checkbook – and possibly even your Costco card.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

The official policy

There are at least 16 different forms of ID that are accepted by the TSA:

  • Driver's licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
  • Beginning Oct. 1, 2021, it must be REAL ID compliant.
  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS trusted traveler cards (Global Entry, NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Department of Defense ID, including IDs issued to dependents
  • Permanent resident card
  • Border crossing card
  • State-issued enhanced driver’s license
  • Federally recognized, tribal-issued photo ID
  • HSPD-12 PIV card
  • Foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver's license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada card
  • Transportation worker identification credential
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Employment Authorization Card (I-766)
  • U.S. Merchant Mariner Credential
  • Veteran Health Identification Card (VHIC)

Related: Top credit cards for Global Entry and TSA PreCheck

If that's not enough, there may be other options. The TSA has confirmed that if passengers are willing to provide additional information and submit to possible additional screening, there may be other means of substantiating an individual’s identity, including the use of publicly available databases. Passengers whose identity cannot be verified by the TSA may not be allowed to proceed through the checkpoint or onto their flight. The official policy states:

In the event you arrive at the airport without valid identification, because it is lost or at home, you may still be allowed to fly. The TSA officer may ask you to complete an identity verification process which includes collecting information such as your name, current address, and other personal information to confirm your identity. If your identity is confirmed, you will be allowed to enter the screening checkpoint. You will be subject to additional screening, to include a patdown and screening of carry-on property.
You will not be allowed to enter the security checkpoint if your identity cannot be confirmed, you choose to not provide proper identification or you decline to cooperate with the identity verification process.

With that out of the way, let's jump in! Note that the TSA does not require children under 18 to provide identification when traveling domestically.

1. Clear membership

Perhaps your best shot of getting through security is with a Clear membership. Clear is an expedited airport security program where members utilize biometric authentication (fingerprint or eye scan) at a kiosk rather than have a TSA agent inspect their ID. So long as your membership is already set up, you should be able to fly without an ID — that is, assuming Clear is even available in your terminal.

Related: How I got through airport security without an ID

Sign up for our daily newsletter
Clear checkpoints are available throughout the U.S., including here at Newark's Terminal C. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

2. Photos of your IDs

While it’s not ideal to indefinitely store these types of photos on your phone, you also might want to consider taking photos of all your forms of ID prior to traveling. In the event of theft or loss of your identification while you’re away from home, this system of photographing your IDs may not just get you through airport security, but also potentially help you prove your identity at your hotel, get new credit cards issued and more.

Related: What forms of ID can I use if the TSA won’t accept my driver’s license?

3. Credit card(s)

Aside from allowing you to play the points and miles game, credit cards may also help you verify your identity. It's not common for banks/issuers to include your photo on cards anymore. However, a TSA agent might be willing to pull you aside, call the card’s 1-800 number, and allow you to answer your security questions in order to prove you are who you say you are.

Related: The best travel credit cards

(Photo by Orli Friedman / The Points Guy)

4. Police report for a stolen wallet and/or passport

In the unhappy event that your wallet and/or identification is stolen, be sure to file a police report and carry the paperwork with you. If all other forms of your ID are gone, this may be your only hope of getting through security.

5. Work security badge

Chances are excellent that before they’ve issued you a work security badge with your photo, your workplace has run a thorough background check on you. And what’s good enough for your employer may also be good enough for the unsmiling security officer who holds the keys to making or missing your flight.

Related: Everything you need to know about getting a Real ID

6. Costco card

While Sam's Club eliminated this, Costco membership cards still feature a black-and-white photo of the cardholder, which may also enable access through airport security. If you’re already a Costco member, you could even hedge your bets against future forgetfulness by carrying a cobranded Costco credit card in your wallet.

(Photo by David Tonelson via Shutterstock)

7. Business card with a photo

If you happen to have a business card that features your photo, when flashed at security in conjunction with another form of ID, this might be the verification needed to get you to your gate.

8. Student ID

Just like a driver’s license, this card often features a photo, date of birth and sometimes even an address.

(Photo by Victor Metelskiy/Getty Images)

9. Checkbook

These usually don't have your photo, but they have your name, your address, and your bank’s phone number, so it couldn’t hurt to offer it as one piece of evidence of your identity.

Related: The craziest IDs that got people past the TSA

10. Magazine/utility bill with your name and current address

While this is an unlikely source of entry on its own, producing one of your utility bills or a magazine that bears a label with your name/address may help prove you are who you say you are when combined with other types of identification. Or, if you're the hip-hop artist G-Eazy and misplace your ID on tour, you may be able to convince the TSA to let you through security by holding up a magazine featuring your photo on the cover.

(Photo by Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images)

11. Marriage license

If you’re heading back from your destination wedding or honeymoon, presenting your marriage license might do the trick.

Related: TPG beginner’s guide to planning a honeymoon of a lifetime

12. Diploma

Why would you have this on you at an airport, you ask? Who knows, but presenting an educational diploma at security has worked for some TPG readers.

Bottom line

The easiest way to get through TSA without a driver's license is by having a Clear membership. The next best forms of ID are typically your passport or Global Entry card. However, if you don't have any of those, you might still have other options. There’s no absolute guarantee that the options listed above will work, but in a pinch, they may just get you to your gate. Just be sure to leave yourself extra time at the airport to complete the additional screening. Keep in mind, Real IDs will be required starting Oct. 1, 2021, so come prepared with another compliant photo ID if you don't have one by then.

Featured image by Courtesy of TSA
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day

Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023
Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

    75,000 bonus miles
  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023