Why You Should Never Laminate Your Social Security Card

Yes, it's flimsy. No, you can't make it less flimsy.
Yes, it's flimsy. No, you can't make it less flimsy. / Kameleon007/iStock via Getty Images

Considering how flimsy your Social Security card is, laminating it seems like the most responsible course of action to keep it from slowly deteriorating as decades pass.

According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), however, you absolutely shouldn’t. Unlike COVID-19 vaccination cards, it’s not because you might have to write in updates sometime in the future—but rather because “lamination prevents detection of many security features.” These security features were introduced in 1983, when the SSA overhauled the design and manufacturing process to make the cards less susceptible to counterfeiting. (If your Social Security card was issued before 1983, it may not have built-in security measures, but you still shouldn't laminate it due to the potential for the ID problems noted below.)

In addition to being printed on banknote paper, all cards issued after October 31, 1983, boast at least one of the following attributes: a “tamper-proof background”; “color-shifting ink”; engraved text; yellow, pink, and blue circles; a hidden image that you can only see if you tilt the card a certain way; or an “anti-copy pattern” that only shows up if you photocopy the card. If your card was printed in February 1996 or later, it might have your nine-digit number in “red fluorescent” ink on the back. And if yours was issued in April 2007 or later, the issue date might be beneath your signature line.

For anyone who laminated their Social Security card before stumbling upon this article, don’t worry too much—it’s not illegal. But it could cause you a bit of a headache if you start a new job and the human resources department refuses to accept it as a valid form of identification. If that happens, you might have to call the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which has directed HR staff to accept a laminated Social Security card on at least two occasions in recent years.

Instead of laminating your card, you can always stick it in a baseball card sleeve or some other similar removable plastic case to protect it.