With the help of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, thousands of families and individuals across the nation receive help from the federal government.
This help comes in the form of funds that are then deposited into the beneficiary’s EBT card, which they receive upon being approved for the assistance program.
The funds on this card can be used to purchase a variety of qualifying products from participating stores, with an emphasis being on food items and grocery stores, although some other retailers will accept EBT as a form of payment.
At times, you can use the EBT card as a way to withdraw this money from your SNAP benefits, although you will require clearance from your program administrator to do so.
Keep reading and learn more about what you can and can’t do with your EBT card and how to make the most of the benefits you’re entitled to.
What is an EBT?
The electronic benefits transfer card functions similarly to a standard prepaid debit card, although it’s limited to purchasing only eligible food items from stores that accept it as payment.
In fact, it’s currently the only way to receive your SNAP benefits, which will be deposited onto the card on a monthly basis.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is need-based, and you’ll have to apply for it manually if you wish to collect the benefits you may be eligible for.
Essentially, the program was designed as a means of providing struggling individuals and families with access to nutritious meals every day, and sometimes it also serves as a lifeline for elderly Americans who can no longer generate income and put food on the table for their loved ones.
It’s important to note that the EBT card isn’t limited to just you, and any member of your household can use it to purchase eligible items, so long as they know the PIN code on it.
Where can you use it?
At the time, every Walmart store and most grocery stores across America will accept your EBT card as a form of payment, although you may find that a growing number of farmer’s markets have also become part of SNAP.
While some states will allow anyone to use your EBT card, others will require you to provide a photo of the head of the household upon applying for benefits, and if you qualify, only that person will be able to use the funds stored on the card.
However, these funds can’t expire and will roll over into the next month if you don’t use all of them, meaning that if you’ve managed to save up some money you may be able to afford more than you would normally with the benefits that are deposited onto the card.
That being said, if no funds are withdrawn from the card in 9 months, all of it will be removed from the card and the card itself will become invalidated unless you reapply for the program.
Generally, SNAP will allow you to purchase a variety of different food items using the funds on your EBT card, ranging from fruits and vegetables to snacks and dairy products.
This also includes beverages as well as seeds and plants that you can use to grow food in your own home.
However, what you can’t purchase with EBT funds is much more defined, as SNAP doesn’t allow users to spend their benefits on alcohol, tobacco, vitamins, and a number of non-food items such as pet food or cleaning supplies.
On top of this, you can’t purchase already prepared hot foods with the EBT card, meaning that you’re limited to purchasing products that you’ll be using to make nutritious meals at home.
If you’re in need of additional money to purchase other items for your household, you may want to refer yourself to another assistance program in order to secure the funds for those expenses as well.
Using the card
Before heading to the store, you’ll first want to check your EBT balance, which you can either keep track of by writing down all of your expenses or by logging into your SNAP account.
You may also be able to call your state’s EBT service, which will inform you of the current balance of your account after you’ve provided them with some personal information.
Similar to how you’d use a standard debit/credit card, all you’ve got to do from this point on is swipe your card at the POS terminal, after which the exact amount of funds will be deducted from your account.
Some stores will deliberately discriminate against EBT users, and you should report them to the local SNAP administrating agency right away, as purchasing items in a participating store is one of your rights as a SNAP beneficiary.