What is the EBT card (Electronic Benefit Transfer Card)?

Reviews, evaluations and opinions of our experts on the products and services that appear on this page are totally objective and independent. Some products may be from our partners who compensate us, which may influence where and how they are displayed. Advertising disclosure.

For those who have not heard, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) replaced the famous food stamps with the EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card.

This modernization has also favored the inclusion of other programs in this system and here we tell you their most relevant details.

You may be interested in: Social Security phone number

What is the EBT card?

EBT cardThe EBT card is part of the electronic system associated with the SNAP Program. It is a debit card that can be used in any of the 50 states of the United States, plus the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Those who participate in the Electronic Benefits Transfer system are eligible to obtain the EBT card. It is not a credit card because the money is deposited into an account and you can use the funds at certain merchants and products, without deferring payments.

As you will see below, the benefit families receive depends on the number of people, income and assets.

What is P-EBT (pandemic EBT)?

P-EBT is part of the federal government's response to the covid19 pandemic and was established by the FFCRA (Families First Coronavirus Response Act).

This program provides benefits to children who would have received free or reduced-price school meals had it not been for staffing shortages or covid-related closures.

How does EBT work?

The EBT system has been in place since 2004 to enable people to take advantage of SNAP benefits. This platform is also used to incorporate other government assistance programs. Beneficiaries receive a debit card with a magnetic stripe and PIN.

Along with SNAP, the government has incorporated WIC, TANF and other general assistance plans into this electronic payment system. When you receive this assistance, they deposit cash and money from food stamps into an account that you can access with your PIN. You can use the card at POS, ATMs and EBT affiliated businesses.

You may be interested in: What is Supermarket23 and how to send food to Cuba

The Food Stamp Program was renamed by Congress as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2008.

Everything it includes is funded by the federal government and the funds are managed by each state. It is the public administrations that work with contractors to have an EBT system suited to their needs.

How to use the EBT card?

When you are accepted for food benefits, the contractor who manages EBT in your state assigns you an account. From there, all you have to do is wait for the funds to be deposited and use them.

All states provide the card to purchase or withdraw money. The system that processes the payment verifies the PIN and balance, sending the approval/rejection to the merchant.

During a transaction, you will be debited the amount from your account associated with the card and the merchant receives their money for your purchase. This avoids the exchange of cash and there are no additional fees. Taxes and processing fees are by law and the merchant receives the funds at the end of each business day.

SNAP Program Requirements for the EBT Card

After the change through the 2008 Farm Bill, the SNAP referral was replaced with the EBT card. Of course, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) eligibility has a number of specific requirements that must be met:

  • Recipients can only use the card at SNAP-affiliated stores or merchants.
  • Not to exceed the maximum income. 
  • The amount of money loaded onto the EBT card depends on the number and income of the household.
  • Assets have to be below a certain limit: households without someone 60+ or with a disability must show assets of $2,500 or less. With someone over 60, assets cannot exceed $3,750.

You should also note that there are people who are not eligible for SNAP regardless of what they have or earn. Here we find:

  • Those who are on strike.
  • Some lawfully residing immigrants.
  • Anyone without documented immigration status.
  • Students who go to college more than half-time.

You may not purchase alcoholic beverages, supplements, tobacco, vitamins or freshly prepared food. You are also not allowed to purchase non-food items, such as hygiene or cleaning supplies or pet food.

WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) is another program that uses the EBT card. It was designed to protect the health of low-income pregnant women. It also includes instances of postpartum, breastfeeding and children up to age 5 who may be at nutritional risk.

Español: ¿Qué es la tarjeta EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer Card)?