5 Simple Steps to Using Your EBT Card

May 7th 2016

After completing your transaction, do not forget to save your receipt, which has your balance printed out at the bottom. New retailers join the SNAP program all the time, so be sure to check on the USDA website for recently added stores participating in your area.

Find a Store

Most grocery stores, corner delis and bodegas accept SNAP, along with several big-box retailers including Wal-Mart and Target. Many farmers' markets also accept SNAP. To find out if a store accepts EBT, look for retailer participation signs at the entrance or checkout. You can also look up participating retailers using the SNAP Retailer Locator on the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service website.

Check Your Balance

Funds are automatically deposited into your benefits account each month. Check your balance by looking at the bottom of your last grocery store receipt, which prints out your available funds, or call your state's EBT customer service hotline. Most states also let you check your balance online. Find your state's online SNAP website on the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website in the page titled Online EBT SNAP Accounts.


Shop as you normally would, but keep in mind you cannot use SNAP to pay for hot food or prepared food, such as sandwiches at the deli counter or hot salad bars. Also, SNAP does not cover nonfood items of any kind, including purchases such as toilet paper, dish soap, zip-lock bags, toothpaste and pet food. You also cannot use SNAP for vitamins and nutritional supplements, tobacco products or alcohol. If you need these items, have them rung up separately so you can pay for them with cash.


To pay, just swipe your EBT card at checkout as you would any debit or credit card. Some credit card readers prompt you to confirm whether the card is debit, credit or EBT. Select the EBT option. If the reader asks you to select from EBT or Food, choose Food to ensure the balance is subtracted from your SNAP benefits and not other benefits you may have.

Enter PIN

When prompted, enter your PIN to complete the transaction. Your PIN is the number you created when you received your EBT card. It ensures only you can use your account.


Electronic Benefits Transfer cards, or EBT cards, let you use the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to pay for groceries just as you would with a debit card. The technology streamlines checkout and makes it easy to keep track of your balance. Depending on your benefits and the state where you live, you may also use your EBT card for cash benefits or to pay for medical services. Learn how the process works by reviewing these five steps.

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