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What Is An EBT Card And How To Get It?

Written by: Jody Adams
Last updated: January 31, 2024

Customer experience is essential for major retailers like Amazon and Walmart. Even if you don't have much to spend, these establishments want you to enjoy their services. That's why they accept EBT cards as a mode of payment and will sometimes offer additional discounts to cardholders, facilitating easier access to essential items like pet food, paper products, and non-food items.

EBT cards are government-issued welfare cards where low-income individuals can access their benefits. Read on to learn more about EBT cards and how to get one. 

What Is An EBT Card?

EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, is a system that allows those who receive government benefits, such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), to access their funds using a card similar to a debit or bank debit card.

SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program, deposits its monthly food stamp allowance to the EBT card. The same applies to cash benefits like state general assistance and temporary cash assistance programs.

There are approximately 42 million EBT cardholders in the United States, and in 2016, the average monthly benefit per EBT cardholder was $125.

EBT cards can be used to purchase eligible food items, including groceries, snacks, baby food, and non-alcoholic beverages. They are accepted at over 260,000 retailers nationwide, including retail stores, grocery store, and convenience stores.

The following people are eligible for EBT cards and would primarily benefit from using them:

  • A family struggling to make ends meet
  • single parent working at several jobs and struggling to pay the rent
  • A senior with a small pension that's not enough for daily expenses

Benefits Of Having An EBT Card

EBT Card Benefits

When you have an EBT card, you can enjoy the following benefits:

  • Conveniently receive a fixed amount of money every month which can be checked via transaction history on a sale terminal or online.
  • Use the card as a form of payment at significant establishments and qualified retailers
  • Enjoy discounts on specific purchases like food and grocery items
  • Use as a qualifier for other government and non-government assistance programs like free laptops and free tablets, providing recipients with the necessary tools to bridge the digital divide and participate fully in the modern digital landscape. Whether it's for online learning, job searches, or staying connected with loved ones, these free tablets can make a significant difference in people's lives. Additionally, the inclusion of a free tablet with EBT benefits extends valuable support to low-income individuals, opening doors to a more inclusive and equitable technological experience

Is EBT Similar To A Credit Card?

EBT cards can be used at designated retailers to purchase approved items and can also be used to withdraw cash from an ATM or utilize cash withdrawal services at certain sale machine locations. EBT cards are issued by the state where the recipient resides and are managed by the Department of Human Services.

Remember that EBT cards are not credit cards and cannot be used to make purchases on credit. However, EBT cards can be used at some retailers, such as grocery stores, that accept credit cards. 

Checking Your EBT Balance

If you're an EBT cardholder, keeping track of your balance is essential so that you don't run out of benefits. Luckily, there are a few easy ways to check your EBT balance. 

  • Call the EBT customer service number or toll-free number. You'll need to enter your 16-digit EBT card number when you call. Once you're through to a customer service representative, they'll be able to tell you your current balance.
  • Check your balance online. To do this, you'll need to create an online account and log in. Once you're logged in, you'll be able to see your balance information. 
  • Check your balance at an ATM or the EBT POS machine at a grocery store. If you have any questions about your EBT balance, be sure to contact customer service for assistance.

The EBT card is beneficial for anyone receiving government financial assistance. Make sure to apply for one and enjoy the government's aid to help you overcome your financial struggles.

Check out our post on How to Apply for EBT to claim your EBT card.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Here are some commonly asked questions about EBT cards and government assistance.

Who can get SNAP benefits?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, provides food benefits to eligible low-income individuals and families. SNAP benefits can be used to purchase food items at participating retailers. Individuals and families eligible for SNAP benefits receive an EBT card, which is used to access their benefits.

What are emergency SNAP benefits?

Emergency SNAP benefits are available for households that need additional help in times of need. For example, you may be eligible for emergency SNAP benefits if you experience a job loss or a natural disaster. 

How is SNAP eligibility determined?

Individuals must meet certain income and resource requirements to qualify for SNAP benefits. Households with incomes below the poverty line generally qualify for SNAP benefits. Families with higher incomes may still be eligible if they have high expenses, such as child care or medical bills. 

Individuals who are not U.S. citizens may also be eligible for SNAP benefits if they meet specific criteria. For more information about who can get SNAP benefits, visit the USDA's website or contact your local SNAP office.

Can I use my Electronic Benefits Transfer Card in another state?

EBT cards are accepted nationwide, so you can use your card to purchase food no matter where you are in the country. 

What is the highest income for food stamps?

According to the USDA, the highest monthly income an individual can make and still qualify for food stamps is $1,316. For a family of four, the maximum monthly income is $2,592. However, these figures are only a guide – each state has its own EBT program, and income limits and eligibility requirements may vary slightly. To find out if you’re eligible for food stamps, contact your local EBT office or county office.

Want to know other EBT Card benefits? Visit our article about how to get a free tablet with food stamps!

Jody Adams
Jody Adams is an accomplished editor-in-chief with a deep understanding of social care and government benefits issues. With a background in journalism and a master's degree in Public Policy, Jody has spent her career shaping the narrative around social policies and their impact on society. She has worked with renowned publications, effectively bridging the gap between complex policy analysis and public understanding. Jody's editorial expertise ensures that vital information on social care and government benefits reaches a broad audience, empowering individuals to make informed decisions.
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