About Social Security Cards and Numbers

As a citizen of the United States of America, your Social Security number (SSN) is the most important personal identifier you can have. Your SSN is printed on your Social Security card. This card and number is relied on when you apply for loans, open a bank account or even receive medical care.
Depending on your circumstances, there are a number of ways the federal government can issue a Social Security number to you. If you were born in the United States, an Social Security card is available to you and necessary for all kinds of services. Even if you were born abroad, you may can also get a Social Security card if you are a US citizen. Regardless, it is important that you understand how this system works and how to use it properly.

What is a Social Security card?

Your federally-issued Social Security card is a physical card with your Social Security number printed on it. If you were born at a hospital in the United States, your parents may have applied for a Social Security Number for you. As you get older and want to get a job, for instance, you can contact the Social Security Administration and have them send you an official card with your number printed on it. If you are a new U.S. resident, there are additional ways you can apply for this identification later in your life. If you haven’t yet, but want to apply for a Social Security card for your child, you can still do it.

Your Social Security card is extremely important because your identifying Social Security Number, or SSN is printed on it. If you ever plan to apply for government benefits, you need to provide your number and in some cases, your physical card. Like a passport, it is very important to take good care of this document. There is a limit on how many times you can replace your Social Security card during your lifetime.

What is a Social Security number?

Your SSN functions as an identity if you live and work in the United States and is issued by the federal government. You must have this number to conduct official business with the United States, such as paying your taxes. Young people and adults need a Social Security number to enroll in school or apply for college. Workers need this number in order to apply for a job, passport or Social Security benefits. If you reside in the United States but do not yet have one of these numbers, apply for an SSN as soon as possible.

How long is a Social Security number?

Your Social Security number consists of nine digits. It is interesting how Social Security numbers assigned. The process is not random. Your SSN is broken down into three components:

  • Area Number. Your Social Security Area Number consists of the first three numbers in your SSN. The federal government assigns these numbers based on geography, for instance the state in which you lived when the number was issued to you. Typically, these numbers are based on the state where you were born. However, this is not always the case.
  • Group Number. Your Social Security Group Number is the middle two numbers in your SSN. The process of assigning a Group Number originally began for administrative purposes before information was stored digitally.
  • Serial Number. Your Social Security Serial Number is assigned numerically. Interesting to note is that the Serial Number 0000 does not exist.

Though some parts of the Social Secuirty Number are assigned based on your circumstances when you applied, even if some one knows when and where you were born, it is still difficult to guess your number.

What is my Social Security number?

Now that you understand the format a little bit you may wonder what your personal number is. If you do not know your SSN or have a copy of your card, contact your local Social Security office. This is the safest and most efficient way to discover what your SSN is.

Can you change your Social Security number?

In some instances, you may need to and be able to change your Social Security Number. By design and to reduce abuse, this is not an easy task to accomplish. You must prove you are the victim of identity theft or harassment before the Social Security Administration (SSA) will issue a new SSN. But, if you wish to apply for a new Social Security Number, you will need to prove:

  • Your identity.
  • How old you are.
  • That you are a U.S. citizen or lawful immigrant.

Is my Social Security number a bank account?

No, your Social Security Number is not a bank account and cannot be used in this manner. You cannot use your SSN as a routing or account number to access financial resources. It is simply identification in the national id system of the United States. You may be asked to submit your SSN if you open a checking or savings account at a bank, but you cannot magically receive money simply because you have an SSN.