This state is introducing digital driver’s licenses. Here’s what you need to know

Screenshot by Lance Whitney/ZDNET

By the summer of 2025, many North Carolinians will have one less thing in their wallets. The state has announced plans to offer residents the option of a digital copy license instead of carrying a traditional driver’s license. 

So, what exactly is a digital ID, and how does it work? Here’s what we know. Currently, 11 states have active digital driver’s license programs: Arizona, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, and Utah. At least a dozen more states are either working on digital ID programs or have announced plans to do so. 

Also: How New York’s new digital driver licenses work: TSA, privacy features, and more

In states that utilize digital IDs, your ID is stored inside a secure app on your phone instead of your physical wallet. It contains the same information as your regular license. You show the app when needed just like a physical license. For now, enrollment in participating states is voluntary. Digital IDs aren’t replacing physical copies yet.

Some digital IDs only allow users to share a portion of their information, say their date of birth at a bar. Information is stored only on your local device and is updated automatically if you change your name or address. 

Also: 5 reasons why I switched to a digital wallet, and you should too

If you’re involved in a traffic stop, you hand your phone to the officer as you would with a regular license. In some states, your digital license appears as a code that must be scanned. In some, it looks just like your regular license. 

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TSA accepts mobile IDs at about 30 security checkpoints nationally, so check with the airport to see if you need to grab your regular wallet. 

Remember that you’ll need a Real ID by May 7, 2025, whether you opt for digital or physical. US travelers must be REAL ID-compliant to board domestic flights and access certain federal facilities. 

The rise in popularity of services like Apple Wallet and Google Wallet means your phone is replacing your credit cards and hotel keys, insurance cards, boarding passes, theme park passes, concert tickets, and more. In some states, you can even add your digital ID to Apple Wallet or Google Wallet.

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