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Surveying Americans on REAL ID [Which States Are Most Prepared?]

Alex Miller's image
Alex Miller
Alex Miller's image

Alex Miller

Founder & CEO

295 Published Articles

Countries Visited: 34U.S. States Visited: 29

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
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Keri Stooksbury

Editor-in-Chief

35 Published Articles 3211 Edited Articles

Countries Visited: 47U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now editor-in-chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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Navigating the airport can be a daunting experience, especially when it comes to ensuring you have the necessary documents. For domestic flights, it often means juggling your passport along with a driver’s license or U.S. military ID as a backup. Amidst the hustle and bustle of long queues, security checks, and last-minute gate changes, the REAL ID Act passed by Congress in 2005 adds an added layer of complexity. With the REAL ID start date set for May 7, 2025, there is significant confusion surrounding its requirements.

To shed light on Americans’ knowledge and preparedness regarding REAL ID, we surveyed over 2,000 participants. Our aim was to gauge their understanding by asking key questions such as, “When do you need a REAL ID to fly?” and, “Do you plan to get your REAL ID?” By exploring these aspects, we aimed to determine which states are the most and least prepared when it comes to their residents obtaining their REAL ID. Keep reading to see which states are ahead of the REAL ID curve.

REAL ID Readiness: The Most and Least Prepared States

Made with Flourish

When it comes to sweeping changes like the implementation of REAL ID, some states are better prepared than others. 

California stands out as the most prepared state, scoring 69.89 out of 100. 97% of respondents in California are familiar with REAL ID, and 86% are aware of the necessary steps to obtain it. 

Following closely behind is Indiana, ranking second in preparedness with a score of 68.08 out of 100. Indiana residents were able to identify the REAL ID enforcement date within a narrow margin of 41 days. On average, respondents selected the date June 17, 2025, while the actual REAL ID start date is May 7, 2025.

Nevada is another state that demonstrates a high level of preparedness, scoring 66.82 out of 100. An impressive 97% of respondents in Nevada are familiar with REAL ID, and approximately 53% have already obtained their REAL ID. To further facilitate the process, the Nevada DMV has established a dedicated website, GetREALNevada.com, to encourage residents to upgrade their identification.

Moving on to the fourth and fifth positions, Missouri and New Mexico showcase their preparedness with scores of 64.31 and 63.46 out of 100, respectively. 94% of residents in Missouri and 89% of residents in New Mexico know what a REAL ID is. 

On the flip side, several states exhibit a lower level of preparedness when it comes to obtaining their REAL ID. Alabama ranks last in preparedness with a score of 27.15 out of 100. Alarmingly, approximately 44% of Alabamians are unaware of what REAL ID entails. 

Nebraska also fell to the bottom of our list with a score of 29.54 out of 100, indicating a significant lack of preparedness. Respondents from Nebraska estimated the REAL ID requirement to be 870.58 days off, demonstrating a considerable gap in their understanding of the timeline (they guessed December 2022 most, on average). 

Similarly, Georgia placed 41st on our list with a score of 34.76 out of 100. 56% of respondents say they don’t know how to obtain their REAL ID, which may attribute to the fact that only 37% of respondents in Georgia currently possess one. 

Other southern states, such as Mississippi (40th place) and Arkansas (39th place), received scores of 38.26 out of 100 and 40.50 out of 100, respectively. In Mississippi, a significant 66% of surveyed individuals stated that they do not possess a REAL ID compared to 63% in Arkansas. 

Hot Tip:

To access specific regulations and information on how to obtain a REAL ID in your state, you can visit the REAL ID website and click on your state.

Infographic detailing REAL ID trends across the country
Image Credit: Upgraded Points

To gain a broader understanding of the overall preparedness of Americans regarding REAL ID, we sought to examine national trends.

Remarkably, 78% of Americans are aware of what a REAL ID is. However, it appears that Baby boomers (69.6%) and Gen Z (72%) are the generations least likely to have heard about REAL ID

For avid travelers who are self-reported frequent travelers, our findings revealed an intriguing pattern. Frequent travelers are 19% more likely to have awareness of what a REAL ID is, and 49% are more likely to have acquired one for themselves. It’s important to note that a REAL ID can be identified by the presence of a gold star located in the upper right-hand corner of a driver’s license, driver’s permit, or identification card.

COVID-19 created a 2-year REAL ID extension, which may have led to even more confusion surrounding REAL ID compliance. Americans don’t seem to have an accurate pulse on when the REAL ID enforcement date is, with the average respondent mistakenly believing that the deadline falls on January 22, 2024, which is actually 470 days prior to the actual REAL ID start date of May 7, 2025.

A majority of people (88.6%) mistakenly believe that REAL ID is required earlier than it is, which may lead more people to get their REAL ID sooner. The REAL ID deadline has been extended multiple times, which may be the source of this confusion. 

Only a small percentage of people (7.1%) can accurately identify the REAL ID date within a month, and an even smaller subset of individuals (1.3%) are aware of the actual REAL ID enforcement date.

Surprisingly, more than a quarter of people think the REAL ID date has already passed as of June 2023, highlighting the significant confusion surrounding the deadline.

When it comes to acquiring a REAL ID, 1 in 3 people (31.9%) say they do not know how to get their REAL ID. To obtain a REAL ID, you will most likely need to take a trip to your local DMV and wait in a very long line. 

Roughly 30.6% say they do not plan to get their REAL ID, with women being 18% more willing to get their REAL ID compared to men. Among those who plan to obtain it, the average target date is set for mid-February 2024, allowing them ample time to complete the process.

Cost becomes a significant concern for a portion of individuals who do not plan to obtain their REAL ID. Approximately 1 in 10 respondents cite cost as a barrier to getting their REAL ID. In states such as Pennsylvania, for instance, there may be both a 1-time fee and a renewal fee amounting to over $60.

Methodology 

To assess Americans’ knowledge and preparedness regarding REAL ID, we conducted a survey involving 2,150 respondents. We asked various questions around if they know what REAL ID is, if they have it, and if they plan to get it. With the REAL ID extension confusing the start date, we also inquired whether respondents were aware of the REAL ID date without looking it up on their own. We asked participants to self-report their status as a frequent traveler, allowing us to consider this factor in our analysis as well. 

To evaluate overall preparedness, each question was assigned a ranking score ranging from 0 to 5, with 5 indicating the most prepared. Based on the sum of each factor score, each state analyzed in the study received a score out of a possible total of 100, with a higher score indicating a higher level of preparedness.

It is important to note that some states, namely Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming, were omitted from the survey due to insufficient sample sizes.

Final Thoughts

Certain states, such as California, Indiana, and Nevada, have shown a higher level of preparedness in understanding the process of obtaining their REAL ID compared to other states. States like Alabama and Nebraska have less knowledge regarding REAL ID compliance. Interestingly, women appear to be more proactive than men in planning to obtain their REAL ID and a majority of Americans believe the REAL ID deadline is earlier than it actually is.

Learn more about the REAL ID Act, what it looks like, and what it means for you. Happy traveling!

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About Alex Miller

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business, The New York Times, and more.

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