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Social Security Q&A: I Can’t Find My Social Security Card

Question: I can’t find my Social Security card. How can I get a new one?

Answer: First, consider whether you really need a new card. You need to apply for a replacement Social Security card only if you don’t know your Social Security number or if you need to show your card to a new employer or other entity. If you decide that you do need a card, you can replace it for free in three easy steps:

Step 1: Complete an Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5).

Step 2: Show Social Security documents proving your identity; and U.S. citizenship or immigration status.

Step 3: Take your completed application and original documents to your local Social Security office or your local Social Security Card Center. You’ll receive your replacement card in the mail in about 10 to 15 days.

You can find all the information you need, including what documents you will need to submit, at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.

Question: How can I calculate my own retirement benefit estimate?

Answer: Use the Retirement Estimator at www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator, which produces estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record, so it’s a personalized, instant picture of your future estimated benefit. Also, you can use it to test different retirement scenarios based on what age you decide to start benefits. For example, you can find out your estimated monthly payments if you retire at age 62, 70 or anytime in between.

Question: How do I earn Social Security credits?

Answer: “Social Security credit” (sometimes referred to as a “quarter of coverage”) is the measure of your work under the Social Security program. Your total covered yearly earnings from both wages and/or net earnings from self-employment are used to compute Social Security credits.

The amount needed for a credit increases automatically each year as average wages increase. For example, in 2014, you earn one credit for each $1,200 of wages or self-employment income. You can receive a maximum of four credits for any year.

Generally, you need 40 credits to be eligible for retirement benefits. Learn more by reading How You Earn Credits, available at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

This column was prepared by the Social Security Administration. For fast answers to specific Social Security questions, contact Social Security toll-free at 800-772-1213 or visit www.socialsecurity.gov.