You must earn at least 40 Social Security credits to qualify for Social Security benefits. You earn credits when you work and pay Social Security taxes.
The number of credits does not affect the amount of benefits you receive. We use the number of credits you’ve earned to determine your eligibility for retirement or disability benefits, Medicare, and your family’s eligibility for survivors benefits when you die.
We cannot pay benefits to you if you don’t have enough credits.
How Credits Are Earned
Since 1978, you can earn up to a maximum of 4 credits per year.
Credits are based on your total wages and self-employment income for the year. You might work all year to earn 4 credits, or you might earn enough for all 4 in much less time.
The amount of earnings it takes to earn a credit may change each year. In 2023, you earn 1 Social Security and Medicare credit for every $1,640 in covered earnings each year. You must earn $6,560 to get the maximum 4 credits for the year.
During your lifetime, you might earn more credits than the minimum number you need to be eligible for benefits. These extra credits do not increase your benefit amount. The average of your earnings over your working years, not the total number of credits you earn, determines how much your monthly payment will be when you receive benefits.
Read our publication, "How You Earn Credits," for more information.
Number of Credits Needed for Retirement Benefits
You need 40 credits to qualify for retirement.
Number of Credits Needed for Disability Benefits
To be eligible for disability benefits, you must meet a recent work test and a duration work test.
The number of credits necessary to meet the recent work test depends on your age. The rules are as follows:
- Before age 24 - You may qualify if you have 6 credits earned in the 3-year period ending when your disability starts.
- Age 24 to 31 – In general, you may qualify if you have credit for working half the time between age 21 and the time your disability began. As an example, if you develop a disability at age 27, you would need 3 years of work (12 credits) out of the past 6 years (between ages 21 and 27).
- Age 31 or older - In general, you must have at least 20 credits in the 10-year period immediately before your disability began.
The following table shows how many years of work credits you need to meet the duration of work test based on your age when your disability began. For the duration of work test, your work does not have to fall within a certain period. The table only provides an estimate of how many work credits you need. It does not cover all situations. If you are statutorily blind, you must only meet the duration of work test. When statutory blindness is involved, there is not a recent work test requirement.
NOTE: This table is an estimate only and does not cover all situations
|If you develop a disability...||Then you generally need:|
|Before age 28||1.5 years of work|
|Age 30||2 years|
|Age 34||3 years|
|Age 38||4 years|
|Age 42||5 years|
|Age 44||5.5 years|
|Age 46||6 years|
|Age 48||6.5 years|
|Age 50||7 years|
|Age 52||7.5 years|
|Age 54||8 years|
|Age 56||8.5 years|
|Age 58||9 years|
|Age 60||9.5 years|
Number of Credits Needed for Survivors Benefits
The number of credits needed for family members to be eligible for survivors benefits depends on your age when you die. The younger you are, the fewer credits needed. Nobody needs more than 40 credits.
Under a special rule, we can pay benefits to your children and your spouse caring for your children, even if your record doesn't have the number of credits needed. They can get benefits if you have credits for 1 and 1/2 year's work (6 credits) in the 3 years before your death.
If you are receiving retirement or disability benefits at the time of your death, we will pay your survivors based on that entitlement. We will not have to determine your credits again.