To use an EBT card, you have to bring the card to the POS terminal of the partner retailer to be swiped or tapped.
Due to card magnetic strips, EBT transactions are authorized online. In-store purchases require PIN verification, similar to credit/debit cards. After retailer approval, accounts are debited, and the store is credited. Some transactions may incur sales taxes or processing fees based on laws.
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What You Can Buy With EBT:
- Food Items — Items used in preparing a meal at home are included under this category. These include fruits, vegetables, meat, chicken, fish, milk, yogurt, eggs, cereals, and bread.
- Cakes And Gift Baskets — You can enjoy cakes on special days with government assistance, but decorations shouldn’t exceed half the cake’s value. Gift baskets are allowed if food makes up over 50% of the total cost.
- Plants And Seeds — SNAP recipients can use EBT cash benefits to buy seeds and plants for gardening, focusing on plants and not animal raising.
- Some Energy Drinks — Energy drinks with nutrition labels can be bought using EBT cash benefits. Those with supplement information, deemed as vitamins or medicines, aren’t covered by SNAP.
- Snacks — With SNAP’s goal to offer healthy food to low-income individuals, EBT cash benefits still allow purchases of snacks like chips, candy, and ice cream.
- Food Enhancements — All items that enhance food taste or help prepare food fall under this category. Food enhancements include spices, ketchup, sauces, sweeteners, and edible oil.
What You Can’t Buy With EBT:
- Alcohol — Alcohol products like wine, beer, or liquor can’t be purchased with EBT cash benefits, even at SNAP participating retailers.
- Cigarettes/Tobacco Products — Tobacco products and vaping items, including e-cigarettes and vape juices, can’t be bought with EBT. Violators risk immediate EBT benefit suspension.
- Non-Food Items — Only food for meal preparation can be bought with EBT. Non-food items like cleaning supplies, cosmetics, or toiletries aren’t allowed. While EBT can’t cover rent, utilities, or other non-food expenses, TANF benefits can.
- Pharmacy Items — SNAP doesn’t cover pharmacy items like multivitamins or medicines. Some may be covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
- Hot Food — Hot or freshly prepared foods, including tea and coffee, aren’t EBT eligible. However, canned beverages and pre-packaged foods can be bought with EBT cash assistance.
- Pet Food — Pet food isn’t covered by EBT cash benefits. However, you can share EBT-purchased food, like meat or fish, with your pets.