EBT Payment Card for Food Stamps

An EBT account is a payment card, like a credit card, that is used in all states to deliver benefits to those who receive SNAP, WIC, cash or food stamp benefits. SNAP and WIC are the current food benefits available to citizens, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is the name of the EBT accessible cash benefits program. These benefits are automatically deposited onto the card for use as they become available.

Why use an EBT card?

There are many reasons why the use of an EBT card is beneficial. The card replaces the need for paper food stamps and checks. It is more secure and convenient for the beneficiary to carry and use. It allows for faster payment of benefits for the user, and because it is like a credit card transaction, the user receives and up to date benefit balance at each transaction.

What should you know about the EBT card?

Those who receive food stamp benefits can use the EBT card for purchases at some retailers and many grocery stores. There are restrictions on the types of foods that one can buy with the EBT card. You cannot use an EBT card to buy:

  • Pet Food
  • Paper Products
  • Soaps, Detergents or Household Supplies
  • Cosmetics or Grooming Products
  • Medicines (including Vitamins)

Food stamp benefits are limited to the purchase items that are authorized by the SNAP food stamp program. For more information about what can be purchased please visit the USDA's website here.

Those that receive cash benefits on their EBT card can use it much like a bank debit card. This includes making other purchases, with less restrictions, and getting cash back along with your purchases.

Using an EBT for food stamps does not cost you anything and for as long as you remain eligible some states issue the benefits each month. The day that your benefits become available will depend on the last two digits of your case number, your Social Security number or date of birth (depending on your state). You can click here to view the benefits issuance schedules to find the day of the month your benefits should be available.

Do not forget that if the available benefits are not used within 365 days of issuance they will be removed from your account. There is no way to have any removed benefits replaced or re-issued.

If you would like more information about the EBT card and the SNAP program please watch the following video:

How to use your EBT card

Once your level on benefits has been determined that information is transferred to your state's EBT provider. They will set an account up in your name and the benefits will then be deposited each month. You will receive your plastic bank card, like a credit card, with your personal PIN number.

After you have the EBT card, you can use it to make purchases at authorized retailers. Please remember that cash benefits may be used to purchase any item, where food stamp benefits can only be used to buy certain food items. Each store has to be an authorized participating retailer in order for you to use your EBT card at their establishment.

If you are receiving cash benefits on your EBT account you can also get cash back from a retailer, or even make cash withdrawal from certain automatic teller machines (ATMs).

Every state has a system that can use the EBT card. When making a food stamp (SNAP) purchase your card will be swiped, like a credit card, through a magnetic reader or at the cash register. You will then be asked to enter your secret PIN number to access the account. At this point the system will verify your PIN and account balance, and send authorization to the retailer. If you receive authorization that purchase amount will then be taken from your benefits account balance. You should not have to give the retailer any cash; the retailer will receive an automated clearing house transfer (electronic) for the money at the end of that day.

Please use the link below to find an authorized Food Stamp (SNAP) retailer.

SNAP Retailer Locator: www.snapretailerlocator.com

Keep Your EBT Card and Benefits Safe

If your card is ever lost, stolen or damaged you should report it as soon as possible. You can click here to find your local contact information to report issues with your EBT card.

Below is a list to help you keep your access to your benefits safe:

  • Keep your card in a safe location
  • Do not let others use your card without your express permission
  • If your card is stolen use the link above to contact your local EBT assistance
  • Do not use ATMs that appear altered or unusual
  • Keep your PIN separate from your card and change your PIN regularly