The Benefits Of A SNAP EBT Card
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also referred to as the food stamps program, allows qualified individuals to purchase groceries at participating retail food stores with the use of an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. EBT cards are authorized to be used in all 50 states as well as in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. Each month you remain eligible, regardless of weekends or holidays, your designated benefits amount will be transferred onto your EBT card. This process proves to be safer and more secure compared to older methods that involved the distribution of physical food stamps. Every EBT card transaction that you complete will be free and will not include a limitation on the number of times you can use your card.
Authorized EBT Products
Similar to a typical debit or credit card, the EBT card will be accompanied by a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to ensure the safety of your provided SNAP benefits. Your PIN is constructed of a four-digit combination and acts as your electronic signature. Your EBT card will not work if you do not enter the correct combination. Entering the incorrect PIN four times in a row will lead to your EBT card to become inactive until the following day. An additional EBT card can, however, be provided for you to share with another user of your choosing.
Every authorized SNAP retailer must participate in the program by using designated EBT system equipment and transaction services. Typically, retail stores are required to purchase EBT equipment and services on their own, except for certain local food markets. When using your SNAP EBT card, you can purchase foods for the household to eat, such as
- Breads and cereals.
- Fruits and Vegetables.
- Meats, Fish and Poultry.
- Dairy Products.
- Seeds and Plants which can produce additional food.
Be aware, however, of the products you cannot purchase with your SNAP benefits, such as the following:
- Alcoholic products
- Tobacco products
- Pet food
- Paper products
- Vitamins and medicine
- Hot foods
- Household cleaning products
Typically, live animals and birds cannot be purchased with your SNAP benefits. However, live seafood such as lobsters, fish and shellfish can be purchased using your EBT card. Along with live seafood, energy drinks that include a nutritional facts label are eligible products. Energy drinks that are accompanied with a supplement facts label are referred to as supplements by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines, making them ineligible products. Items such as gift or birthday baskets are eligible for purchase, as long as the value of the food items exceed 50 percent of the purchase price. Contrary to common belief, EBT cards can also be used to buy junk food products such as soft drinks, candy, ice cream, etc.
Certain local farmers markets provide an ideal opportunity for you to purchase fresh and healthy foods using your SNAP EBT card. Once you arrive at your local farmers market, use your card to purchase as many $1 wooden tokens you would like. The tokens will act as cash while you are at the farmers market, but only at authorized market booths. Any unused tokens can be returned to the booth for a refund back onto your EBT card. Products you can buy at the market are universal with other food retail stores. Establishments in which you cannot use your SNAP EBT card, include
- Liquor stores.
- Race Tracks.
- Commercial bingo facilities.
- Places that provide adult-oriented entertainment.
Along with your SNAP EBT card, you will be provided with an account that gives you an in-depth look into your benefits and recent transactions. For security purposes, you will be required to create a user ID and password to protect your SNAP benefits account. To complete this process, you must set up security questions and answers to protect your EBT account. With your EBT account, you have access to an array of helpful services, such as the following:
- Account balances
- The ability to change card PIN
- Transactions history
- The ability to report lost, stolen or damaged cards
- The ability to request a monthly statement
- The ability to change a user ID or account password.
You will be unable to access your account after three consecutive incorrect attempts to sign in. The only way to regain access is to retrieve the password using the reset password link provided. To complete the password reset, you will need to provide the personal cardholder information. Once completed, your user account will be automatically unlocked after midnight of that day, regardless if the password was changed.
EBT System Errors
An EBT system error might occur during a transaction, resulting in you having to place a claim with an EBT customer service representative. Errors can include being incorrectly charged more than once or some other system error. Typically, SNAP account claims will be resolved within a 15-day period. You are eligible up to 90 days from the date of suspected error to file your claim. In the instance you do not use your SNAP benefits for a period of 365 consecutive days, any remaining benefits will be removed from your account. Any expunged SNAP benefits will not be replaced to avoid any fraudulent activity.
24/7 Toll-Free Customer Service Hotline
To check your account balance, you have different options, such as viewing your last receipt, calling the 24/7 toll-free customer service hotline and checking your online EBT account. A toll-free customer service helpline will be available for you. The hotline service is available in Arabic, Chinese, English, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Korean, Russian and Spanish. The customer service hotline also allows you to choose from an array of options, such as
- Checking your available balance.
- Reviewing your last 10 transactions.
- Changing your PIN.
- Reporting damaged, lost or stolen cards.
- Requesting a replacement card to be mailed to your provided address.
D-SNAP EBT Card
Households that have been affected by a natural disaster might also be eligible to receive SNAP benefits through an EBT card. Through Disaster SNAP (D-SNAP) operations, eligible households will be provided with an EBT card within 72 hours of the application process – except in the case of delayed issuance for questionable applicants. To be considered for D-SNAP, a household must reside in the identified disaster area, have been affected by the disaster and meet certain D-SNAP eligibility requirements. The program will provide the applicant with one month of benefits.