Q: I can't find my Social Security card. How can I get a new one?
A: 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. Even then, you may only need a Social Security number printout to verify your number. If you decide that you do need a card, you can replace it for free in three easy steps.
Step 1: Gather documents proving your identity and citizenship or immigration status.
Step 2: Complete an Application For a Social Security Card (Form SS-5)
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 about 10 to 15 days. The types of documents you need to provide depends on your specific situation. Find out what you need by visiting our “decision tree” at www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber.
If you don't need a new card and the printout will do, you still need to show us documents to prove your identity and U.S. citizenship or immigration status. However, you can get your printout during your office visit. Learn more about the Social Security number printout by visiting www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs and typing “printout” in the publication search box on the left side of the screen.
Q: I worked for the last 10 years and I now have my 40 credits. Does this mean that I get the maximum Social Security retirement benefit?
A: Probably not. The 40 credits are the minimum number you need to qualify for retirement benefits. However, we do not base your benefit amount on those credits; it's based on your earnings over a lifetime of work. To learn more about how you earn Social Security credits and how they work, read or listen to our publication 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. For more information, visit www.socialsecurity.gov.