How to Get a Free Social Security Card Replacement

Losing an important piece of documentation such as a driver’s license, passport or Social Security card can not only be annoying and inconvenient but also costly. A replacement driver’s license for example depending on the state can cost $10 to replace.

If you were to lose your passport that could cost you $130 to replace and if you didn’t get the new one in time it could cost you the holiday of a lifetime. In this post though we are looking at the Social Security card and how much that costs to replace.

What Is a Social Security Card?

The Social Security card is a small rectangular piece of banknote paper which bears your legal name and a very important nine digit number. This number is an important piece of identifying documentation. Most people's parents will apply for this document before they even leave the hospital after they are born.

In the early years of Social Security most people didn’t apply for their Social Security card until they were ready to start work generally after the age of fourteen. These days however things have changed due to tax laws. In order to claim a child as a dependent on taxes they must have a valid Social Security number. This is why most hospitals will actually assist new parents in making the application on their child’s behalf. This then is generally the first piece of identifying documentation that most people have.

The reason for the Social Security card's existence and the subsequent unique nine digit number is to identify the bearer for taxation purposes. You need to possess a Social Security card to find legal employment in the United States.

This card and number allows the U.S. government to withhold Social Security insurance taxes from our paychecks. The money collected goes into a universal fund from which state pensions and other Social Security benefits are drawn.

History of Social Security Card History

It was on August 14th 1935, that President Franklin D .Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law as part of his New Deal initiative. This new law would create a three person presidentially appointed department known at that time as the Social Security Board (SSB).

With no initial budget the board eventually secured temporary funding from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration. It took a little over a year for the first Social Security office to open its doors in Oct 1936, in Austin, Texas.

It was in January of 1937 that the first Social Security insurance taxes started to be collected from the paychecks of workers. Just three years later Ida May Fuller of Brattleboro, Vermont was the first recipient of a pension check from the Social Security fund. Ida received $22.54 in that first check.

How Much Does a Replacement Social Security Card Cost?

So a passport is a pretty major document and that costs over $100 to replace which makes sense seeing as it’s a specially made booklet. Your driver’s license costs $10 to replace because it’s smaller and less complex than a passport so that makes sense.

What about a Social Security card? It’s a small piece of banknote paper with your name and some numbers printed on it. How much could that possibly cost to replace? Well good news everyone it’s much cheaper than a driver’s license in fact it’s $10 cheaper.

Yes you read that right there is an important government issued piece of identification that they do not charge you to replace it’s completely free. This is within reason of course. We are eligible for up to three replacements per calendar year and a maximum of ten throughout our entire life.

So if we go ahead and lose 11 Social Security cards we are going to have to pay for number 12. I’m not sure how much that would cost because I don’t think anyone is that bad at holding onto cards. Regardless, the replacement is absolutely free so let's get into how you get a new card.

Why Do You Need to Replace a Social Security Card?

It’s true that in most situations you only really need to know your Social Security card number and do not have to produce the card itself. Why then should we bother replacing the card if it’s lost or destroyed?

The answer is simple really because you might need it today or tomorrow or even two years from now but you will need that little piece of banknote paper eventually. If you don’t bother replacing it then when it comes time that you need that card you could be waiting the best part of a month to get a new one.

You may need to show a new employer your physical Social Security card as proof of eligibility to work. A tax preparer may also need to see your original card as well. With the growing issue of people using stolen Social Security numbers to file taxes, security is becoming more of a concern so you should really have your card for that.

Applying for a New Social Security Card in an Office

This may seem like an absolute nightmare of an option as you could be spending hours in a Social Security office to get this done but in many ways it is the best option. If you for example mail in an application you run the risk of losing original copies of important documents.

If you want to keep hold of those documents and you care to bring yourself to make a trip to an office see below for what you need to do.

  • (Optional) Consider making an appointment ahead of time rather than just walking in. If you have a little time to play with before you need the card an appointment should minimize the time you spend actually in office
  • Prior to going to the office, print out the SS-5 new Social Security card application. It is important to note you will need to know your Social Security number to fill out this form. Preparing the form ahead of time will speed up the process
  • Gather together your required documents. This may require proof of identity as well as proof of eligibility to work in the United States. The documents that are required may vary depending on the state so find out what you require before you arrive at the office

The process in office is simple as long as you have a form filled out and the right documents in your hand. They should be originals and not photocopies and they should also be up to date as expired documents will be rejected.

Mailing Your Application

As mentioned many people avoid this option because they do not want to risk losing important original documents. Those who like to live on the wild side however might prefer this option as it keeps you out of the office and is less complicated.

  • Print out the SS-5 application form as you would for an in person visit. Fill out the form correctly and legibly remembering you will need your Social Security number
  • Gather your documents, the same rules apply as in person
  • Find out the address to send your application to based on your state of residence. Package up the documents and application, ensuring you use adequate postage for it to reach its destination

Applying Online

Without question this is the easiest method to apply for a free replacement Social Security card. It does however depend on a couple of things. You must have a My Social Security account, you must be a U.S. citizen and you can only request an identical copy of your Social Security card (name changes must be in person or by mail)

  • If you have a My Social Security account you have already completed this step. If you do not have this account you must set one up to use this method. You will need your Social Security number to do so
  • Sign into your account and fill in a replacement card application. You will also be asked to upload a scan of your driver’s license or state-issued ID card

That’s it, it is that simple to do online.

What if You Are Not a U.S. Citizen?

Certain visas allow non citizens to hold Social Security cards in order to be taxpayers and authorized to work in the United States. These obviously can be lost as well so there may be a need to get a replacement.

This is still free but will require a trip to a Social Security office in person. There will be different document requirements. As non citizens they will have to prove their legal eligibility to work in the U.S. as well as their identity.

It is important to make sure you know what documents you will require so check the state requirements beforehand. Remember you can not apply online unless you are an American citizen although you can have a My Social Security account.


It is a completely free service to apply for a replacement Social Security card. There may be fees for gathering the required documents for your application but the actual Social Security Administration does not charge you anything.

Reference SSA Locator

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  • " How to Get a Free Social Security Card Replacement". SSA Locator. Accessed on May 26, 2024.

  • " How to Get a Free Social Security Card Replacement". SSA Locator, Accessed 26 May, 2024

  • How to Get a Free Social Security Card Replacement. SSA Locator. Retrieved from