The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program has strict limits on the amount of money you can have without it affecting your eligibility for benefits. (For an overview of the Social Security Administration (SSA) rules on the different types of resources you can have, read our article on the SSI asset limits.) Here are some common questions that people ask about cash and bank accounts as they relate to SSI.
You can have up to $2,000 in cash or in the bank and still qualify for, or collect, SSI (Supplemental Security Income).
To be eligible to receive SSI benefits, an SSI applicant or a current SSI recipient can't have more than $2,000 in any type of property or assets. (But not all assets count toward this SSI resource limit, as we'll discuss below.)
If you're married (whether your spouse is eligible for disability for SSI or not), you can't have more than $3,000 in cash or assets.
SSI is a federal need-based program for people with low income and low assets. It's run by the SSA. When you apply for SSI, Social Security will ask you about your income and resources from all sources. After you're approved for SSI, you'll need to report your income to the SSA each month.
Social Security will also ask you about your bank accounts and assets you own. If the amount of money you have goes up, either from gifts or from working, you need to report the change in your assets to the SSA. Social Security will decide whether certain assets or gifts will count against the $2,000 or $3,000 limit.
If you fail to report a change in the amount of cash or other assets that you have, Social Security could apply a penalty to your payments.
Yes, Social Security can check your bank accounts, including:
When you fill out the application for SSI benefits, you agree to let Social Security check any of these financial accounts, both at the time of the application and during recurring eligibility checks.
To check bank accounts, Social Security uses the "Access to Financial Institutions" (AFI) process, which can also search geographic areas for accounts that you haven't told the SSA about.
Yes, because Social Security doesn't count cash from the following sources, even if it's in your regular bank account:
All other cash, money in bank accounts, and savings are counted toward the resource limit, with the exception of money in special savings accounts like an ABLE account, Individual Development Account, or PASS (Program to Achieve Self-Support) savings account.
Note that you can't have $2,000 in cash (as an individual) if you have other "countable assets." You can have the full $2,000 in cash only if you don't have other countable assets. For instance, say you have jewelry that you bought for investment and it's worth $1,000. You can have only another $1,000 in cash.
It's easier to define what countable assets are by pointing out what they are not. Countable assets don't include the house you live in or your primary automobile, but Social Security will count second and third cars or trucks, as well as additional real estate. Social Security also ignores the value of household goods, including:
For more details, see our article on which resources are included in the SSI asset limit.
If you co-own a bank account with another SSI recipient, Social Security will assume half of the money in the account belongs to you and will apply it toward the resource limit.
If you co-own a bank account with someone who is NOT an SSI recipient, Social Security will assume all of the money in the account belongs to you and will apply it toward the resource limit.
But you will get a chance to explain that you don't own all the funds in an account, or that you don't have the ability to withdraw funds from an account. Social Security calls this "rebutting" (arguing against) their assumption.
When Social Security pauses your benefits because you are "over resource," the agency will send you a letter explaining that it believes you have too much money in your bank account. You can rebut this assumption by calling Social Security or filing Form SSA-2574, Information About Joint Checking/Savings Accounts. The same is true if Social Security denies your initial application because you have too much money in your bank account.
If you're over the resource limit, Social Security will stop your SSI payments. But it may take several months for the SSA to figure out that you are over the $2,000 or $3,000 limit, so you may get SSI payments for the months that you are over the limit. Social Security will consider these payments as "overpayments." Social Security will want to get the overpayments back, even if it's not your fault that the agency made the payments by mistake. Here's what Social Security will do when it discovers an overpayment.
Updated March 16, 2023