Understanding Your SSN and Social Security Card

Your Social Security number (SSN) is an important identifier. Depending on your circumstances, there are different ways the federal government can issue this number to you. Your SSN is printed on your Social Security card, which you may need to produce when you apply for loans, open a bank account or receive medical coverage. Whether you are interested in learning about SSNs for you or your child, these numbers are extremely important.

If you were born in the United States, an SSN card should be available to you. In specific situations, you may can also get a Social Security card or number if you were born abroad. Regardless, it is important that you understand how these identifiers work and what they mean for you.

What is a Social Security card?

Your federally-issued Social Security card is provided to you after you apply for one. If you were born at a hospital in the United States, your parents may have applied for one on your behalf. If you are a new U.S. resident, there are other ways you can apply for this identification later in your life. If you want to apply for a Social Security card for your child, it is also possible to complete this task.

Your Social Security card is extremely important because your SSN is printed on it. If you ever plan to apply for government benefits, you need to provide your number. Therefore, you need to make sure you 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 is part of a system the federal government uses to identify you. If you live and work in the United States, you need this number to conduct official business. As a child or young adult, you need your Social Security number to enroll in school or apply for college. As an adult, you need this number in order to apply for a job, passport or Social Security benefits. If you reside in the United States and do not have one of these numbers, you should apply for an SSN as soon as possible.

How long is a Social Security number?

Your Social Security number consists of nine digits. If you are wondering, “How are Social Security numbers assigned?” know that this process is not entirely 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. These numbers correspond to the state you apply in. Often, these numbers are associated with 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. However, the Serial Number 0000 does not exist.

Even though there is some Social Security Number meaning regarding how the numbers are assigned, your SSN is still difficult to figure out. If someone knows when and where you were born, this is not enough information to decode your SSN.

What is my Social Security number?

Once you understand the Social Security number format, you may wonder what your 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 learn what your SSN is.

Can you change your Social Security number?

In some instances, you may be able to change your Social Security Number. However, 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. If you wish to apply for a new Social Security Number, you 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?

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. However, you may be asked to submit your SSN if you open a checking or savings account at a bank.

This site is not affiliated with the SSA or any other government services.