How (and When) To Apply For Social Security Retirement Benefits

If you know what to expect, applying for Social Security can be a smooth experience.


Applying for Social Security benefits is a big step – and often a stressful one – but it can be a smooth one if you know what to expect and have the right information at your fingertips.


1 U.S.A dollar banknotes
1 U.S.A dollar banknotes. Picture by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.


Depending on the benefit you want, you may have the option of applying in person, by phone or online.

  • Applying in person. This can be easy but it might take time. Tip: You can find the nearest office by going online to Click on Search, type in “find an office,” and when the office locator pops up, enter your zip code.
  • Applying by phone. You can call the SSA toll-free at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778), Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. ET to 7 p.m. ET. If you call outside those hours, you can still get some information about benefits, eligibility and online services.
  • Applying online. You can apply online for some, but not all, Social Security benefits. In some cases, you may begin your application process online but will complete it in person or over the phone. Go to to get started. The online application system is available Monday through Friday, from 5 a.m. ET to 1 a.m. ET; Saturday, 5 a.m ET. to 11 p.m. ET; and Sunday, 8 a.m. ET to 11:30 p.m ET. On federal holidays, the system is available on the usual hours for that day of the week.

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