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What Can You Buy With EBT Cash Benefits?

Written by: Jody Adams
Last updated: April 29, 2024

A family of four in 2023 must have a gross monthly income at or below $3,007 to qualify for SNAP benefits.[1]


States issued a mean of $3.2 billion in monthly cash benefits, equivalent to 1.1 billion meals, through P-EBT from March to June 2020.[2]


The COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in food insecurity, pushing SNAP participation to over 42 million in 2022.[3]

Managing finances can be tough, especially when it comes to buying everyday essentials. The EBT cash benefits program is here to help! With this program, individuals and families can get temporary support during financial hardships.

But do you know that not every item on your favorite grocery store aisle is eligible for EBT cash benefits? In general, the allowed purchases with EBT cash benefits include:

  • Food items
  • Clothing & footwear
  • Household supplies
  • Personal care items
  • Work-related tools and clothing
  • Essential items such as baby supplies, gardening items, and educational accessories

In this guide, let’s discuss the items you can buy and what you cannot in detail. Let’s help you maximize your EBT cash benefits and keep your household running smoothly.

Allowed Purchases with EBT Cash Benefits

EBT cash benefits provide financial support for buying a variety of essential items. Here’s what you can buy:

Food Items

  • Fruits and Vegetables: Fresh, frozen, canned, or dried.
  • Meat and Poultry: Includes beef, chicken, pork, and other meats.
  • Fish and Seafood: Fresh, frozen, or canned.
  • Dairy Products: Milk, cheese, butter, yogurt.
  • Breads and Cereals: All types of bread, cereal, pasta, and rice.
  • Snack Foods: Chips, crackers, nuts.
  • Non-Alcoholic Beverages: Coffee, tea, juice, soda.

Clothing & Footwear

  • Everyday Wear: Shirts, pants, dresses, suits.
  • Seasonal Clothing: Coats, gloves, hats, scarves.
  • Footwear: Shoes, boots, sandals.
  • Specialty Apparel: Maternity clothing, children’s clothing.

Household Supplies

  • Cleaning Products: Detergents, disinfectants, sponges, brooms.
  • Kitchen Supplies: Utensils, foil, wraps, disposable plates, and cutlery.
  • Bathroom Supplies: Toilet paper, soap, shampoo, toothpaste.

Personal Care Items

  • Hygiene Products: Deodorant, feminine hygiene products, razors.
  • Health Items: Over-the-counter medications and first aid supplies.

Work-Related Tools and Clothing

  • Tools: Tools required for your job, such as hammers, wrenches, and screwdrivers.
  • Clothing: Uniforms, work boots, and other job-specific apparel.

Other Essentials

  • School Supplies: Notebooks, pens, pencils, and calculators.
  • Baby Supplies: Diapers, baby wipes, baby food.
  • Gardening Supplies: Seeds, small gardening tools.

Restrictions on EBT Cash Benefits

Things You Can't Buy With EBT

Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco

  • Alcohol: Beer, wine, liquor, and any other alcoholic beverages.
  • Tobacco: Cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, and other tobacco products.

Non-Essential and Luxury Items

  • Electronics: Televisions, smartphones, computers.
  • Cosmetics: Makeup, non-prescription skin care products.
  • Decorative Items: Home decorations, art supplies unless for educational purposes.

Gambling and Financial Services

  • Lottery Tickets: Any type of gambling tickets or casino tokens.
  • Financial Services: Money orders, wire transfers, or investing funds.

Firearms and Explosives

  • Guns: Handguns, rifles, shotguns.
  • Ammunition: Bullets, cartridges.
  • Explosives: Fireworks or any other type of explosive materials.

Miscellaneous Prohibited Items

  • Illegal Drugs: Any substances that are illegal under federal or state law.
  • Prescription Medications: Any drugs that are not covered under health assistance.
  • Pet Supplies: Pet food, toys, or grooming items.
  • Entertainment: Movie tickets, concert tickets, sporting event tickets.
  • Bail Bonds: Any services related to posting bail.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I buy both eligible and non-eligible items in the same transaction?

Yes, you can buy eligible and non-eligible items in the same transaction. First, use your EBT card to pay for eligible purchases. Then, use another form of payment like cash or a credit card for items that are not covered by EBT benefits.

What should I do if my EBT card is not accepted at checkout?

If your EBT card is declined, check your balance first to ensure you have enough funds. If funds are enough, verify that the items are eligible for EBT purchase. If issues persist, contact your EBT customer service or report a malfunctioning card.

Are there any monthly limits or tracking requirements for EBT cash purchases?

There are no specific monthly spending limits for EBT cash benefits. But it's important to track your spending to manage your budget. You can check your balance and transaction history online, through an app, or by phone. Be aware of any ATM withdrawal limits or fees if applicable to your benefits plan.

Maximizing Your EBT Benefits for Financial Empowerment

Using the EBT with care helps manage expenses and improves your financial stability. Knowing what you can buy and what is not allowed ensures you get the most out of your benefits.Want to know more about different grants and programs that can help you? Read our next article on Free Christmas assistance for single mothers and maximize your benefits.

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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