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Social Security Credits - Qualifying for Social Security Benefits

Social Security Guide

Qualifying for Social Security Credits Work Credits Earn Social Security Benefits

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Earning Social Security Credits
When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn Social Security credits. Most people earn the maximum of four Social Security credits per year. Each of the three main Social Security programs accumulates credits in the same way. In 2010, you received one Social Security credit for each $1,120 of earnings.

In future years, the amount of earnings needed for a Social Security credit will rise as earnings rise. The Social Security credits you earn will remain on your Social Security record even if you change jobs or have a period of no earnings. Self-employed individuals and military personnel earn Social Security credits in the same way as regular workers.

However, special rules apply for certain types of work. If you have one of the following types of jobs, contact your nearest Social Security Administration office or call 1-800-772-1213 for more information: Domestic Work; Farm Work; Church or church-controlled organization that is exempt from Social Security taxes.


Social Security Survivors Benefits

A widow(er) can qualify for Social Security Survivors Benefits based on the deceased spouse's work history. The amount of the Survivors Benefit is based on the deceased spouse's earnings. The family of a deceased worker may be able to qualify for Social Security Survivors Benefits even though the deceased worker had fewer Social Security credits than are needed for Social Security retirement or disability benefits. For details, see: Social Security Survivors Benefits.

Please note that if you receive benefits as a dependent or survivor of the worker, special requirements may affect your right to receive Social Security payments while you are outside the U.S. See: Social Security: Your Payments While You Are Outside The United States. Before you leave the U.S., read Social Security Overseas: Apply for SSN, Card, or Benefits Abroad - Outside the United States for information on Social Security services outside of the country.

For more information (inside the U.S.), contact your nearest Social Security Administration office or call 1-800-772-1213.


Social Security Disability Benefits

Disabled workers qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits based on their work history, and the amount of the Disability Benefit is based on their earnings. The number of Social Security credits required for Disability Benefits depends on the age when a worker becomes disabled.

If you become disabled before age 24, you generally need six Social Security credits during the three-year period ending when your disability began. If you are age 24 through 30 (until the day before your 31st birthday), you generally need Social Security credits for half of the period between age 21 and the time you become disabled. If you are disabled at age 31 or older, the Social Security credits you need increase every year. For example, at age 52 you would need 30 Social Security credits. Also, you must have earned at least 20 of the credits in the 10 years immediately before you became disabled. For more details, see: Social Security Disability Benefits.

To learn more about whether you qualify for Social Security Disability Benefits, visit your nearest Social Security Administration office or call 1-800-772-1213 for assistance. If you are living overseas, or plan to be, see Social Security Overseas: Apply for SSN, Card, or Benefits Abroad - Outside the United States for information on Social Security services outside of the country, and read Social Security: Your Payments While You Are Outside The United States for important benefit information.


Social Security Retirement Benefits

To qualify for Social Security Retirement Benefits you must have worked for at least 10 years for a total of 40 Social Security credits. (See Social Security: Frequently Asked Questions). You can find out how much you can expect to get in Social Security Retirement Benefits based on your own earnings record by requesting a Social Security Statement online or by calling toll-free: 1-800-772-1213.

It is a good idea to apply for Social Security Retirement Benefits three months ahead of your retirement date so that you start receiving your Social Security payments as soon as you retire. You can apply by calling toll-free 1-800-772-1213. Social Security Administration representatives can make an appointment for your application to be taken over the telephone or at any convenient Social Security office. When you apply for Social Security Retirement Benefits, you will need the following information:

  • Social Security Card or record of your Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Original birth certificate or a reissued one if it has an official stamp
  • Original marriage certificate if you are signing up on your spouse's record
  • Recent W2, or tax return if you are self-employed
  • Military discharge papers if you had military service
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status if you were not born in the U.S.
  • Bank account information for direct deposit of benefits

Once you have fulfilled all of the requirements, and you have earned the requisite number of Social Security credits, you will start receiving your monthly Social Security payments. For more details, see Social Security Retirement Benefits.

If you are living overseas, or plan to be, see Social Security Overseas: Apply for SSN, Card, or Benefits Abroad - Outside the United States for information on Social Security services outside of the country, and read Social Security: Your Payments While You Are Outside The United States for important benefit information.

For more information (in the U.S.) on your Social Security Retirement Benefits, contact your nearest Social Security office or call 1-800-772-1213.

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