Can a Social Security Card Expire?

It seems like everything has an expiration date in bureaucracy. Our driver's licenses, state IDS, passports and our bank cards all expire but what about our Social Security cards? We are going to take a closer look at Social Security cards and if they will eventually expire.

What Is a Social Security Card?

All people who are eligible to work in the United States are required by law to have a Social Security number if they intend to work. This comes in the form of a small card which features their full legal name and a unique nine digit number. These cards are considered an important piece of identifying documentation and are vital for American workers.

The Social Security number is a unique tax number that allows the government to withhold Social Security taxes from our paychecks. They collect these funds to act as a safety net which supplies income in the case of disability or for after retirement.

It was in November of 1935 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal that the first Social Security numbers were issued. It took just three months for some 25 million unique numbers to be issued.

On November 24th 1936, there were 1074 post offices of the 45,000 nation that had been converted to typing centers. This was so that they could type out millions of Social Security cards. These cards were then all sent to Washington D.C. where on December 1st 1936 a special drawing took place.

This special draw saw Social Security Administration representative Joseph L. Fay choose an individual application at random from the top of a stack. This application belonged to John David Sweeney Jr. of Rochelle, New York making him the first person to officially receive a Social Security number.

The Social Security numbers however were not issued in chronological order so Mr Sweeney did not get the lowest number which would have been 001-01-0001. This distinction actually went to Grace D. Owen of Concord, New Hampshire.

Until 1986 the average person applied for their Social Security number around the age of 14 as it was required to be able to work in the United States. After 1986 tax reform dictated that those claiming dependents over the age of five in their taxes had to obtain a Social Security number for them.

This change was to make sure that taxpayers were not claiming more dependents than they actually had. Previous to this the tax agency simply trusted that people were being truthful. Today you need to supply Social Security for all dependents claimed so most parents apply for a Social Security card for their child soon after birth.

Does Your Social Security Card Expire?

There is one thing that sets the Social Security card apart from driver's licenses and passports. Social Security cards do not have our pictures on them, they have our legal name and our unique tax identification number. It is for this reason that the answer to the question is no, Social Security cards do not expire.

Our Social Security number is issued to us usually at the request of our parents when we are infants. It is a nine digit number that in theory will never change at any point in our lives. There are some instances however when we may receive a change of number but we will look at those later in this post.

So as our legal name and our Social Security number are all that is found on our card there is no reason for it to expire. We will likely have the same number until the day we die and if we are careful with the card we could have the same one until then too.

Why Might You Replace Your Card?

Social Security cards are rather flimsy little rectangles of paper so they are vulnerable to wear and tear. If a card becomes unreadable or unusable we can request a replacement. This will be an identical card to one we previously had.

We can also get a replacement card if we lose or have the original stolen. It is in fact suggested that if you lose your card you immediately apply for a replacement as it may be needed for certain official purposes.

Another reason to get a new card is in the event of a legal change of name. This may be due to marriage or a court order that allows you to make a name change. Upon changing your name it is advised you should next do so with the Social Security Agency. This will make name changes on other things such as bank accounts and passports much easier.

Reasons You Could Get a New Social Security Number

Generally speaking the intent is that you will have the same Social Security number for your entire life. There are however some instances in which you may have to change your Social Security number.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a major problem in society and having your Social Security number stolen can completely destroy your financial well being. Thieves can open loans and credit cards in your name using your Social Security number. They can potentially access your bank accounts and even file fraudulent tax returns in your name.

When the identity theft gets to an uncontrolled state it is possible with the help of law enforcement and the courts for you to be issued a new Social Security number.

Domestic Abuse and Harassment

There are some real monsters out in the world who do not take rejection or being left well. Their former partners or stalking victims may be so afraid for their lives that they need to be able to disappear. In extreme cases they may need to change their names and even their Social Security numbers.

The Social Security Agency will allow a change of number if it is needed to help an individual escape a dangerous abusive person in their lives. An ex partner for example who was very controlling could possibly know their Social Security number and may be able to track them down using this information.

Sequential Numbers

Sometimes in rare cases family members may get Social Security numbers that are very similar. This obviously can lead to mix ups. In these situations one of those individuals can request a change of their Social Security number.

It Already Belongs to Someone Else

It is very rare but it has happened, sometimes a number will mistakenly be issued to two different individual's. In these cases a replacement number can be issued to remedy the situation

Religious Objection

There are certain numbers that might be offensive or considered extremely back luck for religious reasons such as 666 for Christians. A person therefore who has a Social Security number that has such a number within it can request a replacement on religious grounds.

How to Keep Your Social Security Card Safe

The Social Security card is a vital piece of documentation that allows us to do a great many things. If it is lost or stolen the effects can range from inconvenience to outright financial ruin. As such we do need to take care of the card and keep our number secret from would-be criminals.

Keep It Safe at Home

In many cases you only need to know your Social Security number to receive the service you require so the card itself need not be on your person. The best place for your Social Security card then might be at home in a locked box or even a safe with other sensitive documents.

Some people might even entrust the card to a bank's safety deposit box. Whichever way you choose to secure it make sure you can memorize the number but do not make a note of the number anywhere else. If you have a scrap of paper with nine digits in your wallet thieves are likely to guess that is your Social Security number so be smart.

Do Not Give your Social Security Number to Unknown Entities

There are some instances in which we need to supply our Social Security number such as opening bank accounts or applying for lines of credit. These are usually with reputable companies so we can generally do so safely.

Prospective landlords may also want the number to run a credit check before they will rent to you. They might if you ask, allow you to give them a credit report print out instead if you wish to keep your number secure. Some may not accept this so if you are at all unsure about the individual do not share your Social Security number and look elsewhere for accommodation.

As a general rule no company should ever call you requesting you to tell them your Social Security number to prove your identity. An unsolicited call claiming to be from your bank or the IRS asking for your Social Security is very likely a scam. Do not give them your number, hang up and then google the number. Chances are you will find the number reported as a scam by others.


Social Security cards have limited information displaying just your full name and a unique nine digit tax number. As this number and your name may never change at any point during your life then this card will never expire.

You may change your name and need to get a card replaced with one that shows a new legal name but the number stays the same so essentially the card does not expire. The closest a Social Security card comes to expiration is if you have to have a new number issued. The old number will be deactivated so it can no longer be used.

Reference SSA Locator

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  • " Can a Social Security Card Expire?". SSA Locator. Accessed on April 22, 2024.

  • " Can a Social Security Card Expire?". SSA Locator, Accessed 22 April, 2024

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