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EBT Card Benefits For SNAP Recipients

After being accepted into the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), applicants will receive their benefits through an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card. These cards are typically used by welfare programs to distribute funds to recipients. In particular, the SNAP focuses on providing food benefits to individuals and families who cannot afford groceries. Thus, beneficiaries may use their EBT cards to purchase an array of nutritious ingredients to create delicious and filling meals. The amount of food benefits received on an EBT card each month is ultimately dependent on a beneficiary’s income and household size.

Easy EBT Card Activation Process

EBT cards are fairly simple to use. However, they must be activated before a SNAP recipient can access his or her funds. Beneficiaries will receive their EBT cards in the mail with instructive brochures on how to properly use them. To active these cards, enrollees must create a four-digit personal identification number (PIN). In some states, PINs are pre-assigned and notified through a notice in the mail.

After creating a PIN, EBT card users must call the customer service number assigned to their state. These numbers are typically found on the back of an EBT card. Recipients will need to follow the automated system and select the appropriate options to active their EBT cards. These cards may also be activated online on most state SNAP portals. Recipients will typically be asked to enter their card numbers, Social Security Number (SSN), name and address. Accounts are usually administered by the JP Morgan Chase bank, where EBT cards can be activated through the U Card Center.

How Do SNAP Recipients Use Their EBT Cards?

EBT cards are very similar to credit and debit cards. SNAP recipients can swipe their cards at any participating retailer’s point of service (POS) machine to purchase eligible food items. The process works the same way as a debit card transaction. The POS machine will ask a SNAP recipient to enter his or her four-digit PIN before completing a purchase. Upon approval, the benefits will immediately cover the purchase and the remaining account balance will appear on the recipient’s receipt. However, SNAP beneficiaries should always check their account balances before making a purchase in order to avoid over usage or denial of funds. Account balances can be checked for free at food stores, online or by calling the customer service number provided on the back of an EBT card.

What Can SNAP Recipients Purchase With EBT Cards?

SNAP recipients can use their EBT cards at any participating retailer that displays a QUEST symbol. Most, if not all, grocery stores and farmer’s markets accept EBT cards. SNAP beneficiaries are also not limited by using their cards within their state. In general, EBT card users can make tax-free purchases in all states across the United States. Popular types of food that can be purchased with SNAP funds include:

  • Bread and cereals
  • Dairy products
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meats, fish and poultry

In some locations, EBT cards may be used at restaurants that are authorized to accept SNAP benefits in exchange for inexpensive meals. However, EBT cards may not be used to purchase any alcoholic beverages, hot foods, foods that can be eaten in the store and nonfood items. These limitations are to ensure that SNAP recipients solely use their food benefits to purchase nutritious and affordable food items. Moreover, unused funds may rollover to the next month. This way, recipients do not have to spend all of their food benefits on items that will eventually go to waste.

EBT Card Design

Old paper food stamps were easily recognizable by other people at grocery stores. As a consequence, many food stamp recipients were embarrassed to use them, while those who needed the program were reluctant to apply. Despite the fact that SNAP beneficiaries have nothing to be ashamed of, EBT cards are particularly beneficial to enrollees who cherish a sense of privacy.

EBT cards are inconspicuous, emulating the design of a regular plastic debit or credit card. Additionally, these cards are easily accessible and can be placed in a wallet or bag. Previous paper food stamps were easy to lose track of and took up a lot more space. With EBT cards, SNAP recipients do not have to worry about easily ripped or damaged food stamps. Furthermore, recipients do not have to wait for their food stamps to come in the mail every month. Instead, food benefits are electronically distributed the same day every month to a SNAP recipient’s account.

EBT Card Protection

It is a SNAP recipient’s duty to ensure that his or her EBT card is protected at all times. An EBT card should be kept in a safe place and no one other than the user should have access to the card’s PIN. However, in the case of a stolen or lost EBT card, SNAP customer service representatives can freeze the account to prevent unwanted transactions to be made. Additionally, an account will be automatically locked if an unauthorized user enters a PIN number incorrectly more than three times. In the case of lost, damaged or stolen cards, a recipient may receive up to two replacement cards at no charge.

Additional Discounts For SNAP EBT Card Recipients

SNAP recipients using EBT cards may be eligible to receive additional benefits provided by third-party companies. These participating services include internet providers, student loan providers, fast food restaurants, power companies, cellular providers and museums, to name a few. For example, Amazon Prime offers a discounted monthly subscription to EBT card users for $5.99. Furthermore, states like Arizona allow low-income families to show their EBT cards when purchasing admission tickets to attractions such as the Phoenix Zoo. In addition, various YMCA organizations offer discounted memberships for SNAP families using EBT cards. Moreover, beneficiaries should check with their internet and cellular service providers about discounts for EBT card holders. Student SNAP beneficiaries should contact the Federal Student Aid office to inquire about income-based repayment plans to pay as low as $0 a month. While discounts are subject to changes, recipients should always check with their state’s SNAP office to find out about any additional benefits they can obtain with EBT cards.

EBT Cash Benefits

In addition to food benefits, low-income SNAP recipients may be eligible to receive cash assistance through other welfare programs. These cash benefits are issued onto EBT cards by programs like the Refugee Cash Assistance (RCA) and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Specifically, the RCA program provides medical aid and cash assistance to refugees during their first eight months in the U.S. Conversely, the TANF program provides temporary financial assistance to families facing financial hardship to help them reach self-sufficiency. SNAP recipients who qualify for these welfare programs may apply to receive additional cash benefits on their EBT cards.