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What Can You Buy With EBT?

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

EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, is a system that allows government benefits to be distributed via a plastic card that can be used like a debit card. It is used in all 50 states in the US, as well as in Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

In 2016, 42.2 million people in the United States received benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.

Read on to learn what you can buy with an EBT card and why it's beneficial.

5 Benefits Of An EBT

Low-income families in the United States have long had to rely on food stamps to help make ends meet. However, in recent years, the government has switched to using a system known as Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT. 

If you're currently receiving food stamp benefits, then you should definitely consider switching to an EBT card instead. The transition is easy to make and comes with several significant benefits.

Here are five benefits of using an EBT card.

1. Convenience 

An EBT card is much more convenient to use than food stamps. For one thing, you don't have to worry about losing them. Additionally, you can use your EBT card at any store that accepts debit cards, which means you have more options for where you can shop. You can simply go to an ATM and withdraw money from your EBT account if you need cash. 

2. Discretion

Using an EBT card is also more discreet than using food stamps. When you use food stamps, everyone in line behind you knows that you're receiving government assistance. With an EBT card, however, no one but you will know that you're using government benefits. 

3. Accountability

An EBT card can help hold recipients accountable for how they're spending their benefits. For instance, if a parent were using their food stamp benefits to buy alcohol or cigarettes, they would no longer be able to do so once they switched to an EBT card. 

4. Better Nutrition

One of the goals of the EBT program is to encourage recipients to eat healthier foods. To this end, some states offer additional benefits for those who purchase certain healthy items with their EBT card. 

5. Less Stigma

Perhaps the biggest benefit of using an EBT card is that it lessens the stigma associated with receiving government benefits. Food stamps have long been seen as a sign of poverty, but an EBT card looks just like any other debit card. This can help recipients feel more dignified and empowered to receive support for their daily meals. 

What Can You Purchase With EBT On Amazon?

While EBT cards are typically associated with grocery stores, did you know that you could also use them to shop on Amazon? 

Amazon offers a wide variety of EBT-eligible products, from groceries to electronics, so you're sure to find what you're looking for.

Here are some examples:

What Else Can You Buy With EBT?

Aside from items on Amazon, what can you actually buy with an EBT card?

Groceries for Delivery or Pickup

This includes items like meat, dairy, produce, bread, etc. Basically, anything you would find in the average grocery store.

Cakes and Gift Baskets

Believe it or not, you can use your EBT card to purchase these items as long as they're considered "prepared food." So if you're looking for a last-minute birthday cake or holiday gift, your local bakery should be able to hook you up.

Restaurant Food

Again, this only applies to prepared food. You cannot use your EBT card to cover the cost of ingredients (e.g., ordering a pizza from Domino's). 

But if you're at a restaurant that offers a la carte items or has a taste for something more exotic than what your local grocery store offers, go ahead and treat yourself! Just make sure you have enough cash to cover non-eligible items, like tips.

Farmers Market Fare

Most farmers' markets accept EBT cards these days, so if you're looking for fresh, locally-sourced food, this is a great option. Just be aware that some markets only offer produce, while others may also include prepared foods (baked goods, honey, etc.)

Plants and Seeds

Yep, even plants and seeds are fair game when it comes to using your EBT card! This can come in handy if you're looking to start a garden but don't have the extra cash on hand to buy everything upfront.

What Can't You Purchase With EBT Cards?

EBT cards can be used for pretty much anything, but several restricted items can't be bought with an EBT card.

Hot Prepared Food

Unfortunately, hot-prepared food is not eligible for purchase with an EBT card. So, if you were hoping to grab a quick bite at your favorite fast food restaurant or warm up with a cup of Starbucks coffee, you'd need to use cash or another form of payment instead. 

Pet Food

While it's essential to make sure your furry friends are well-fed, too, pet food is not covered under the EBT program. You'll need to set aside some extra cash each month to cover Fido's kibble or Fluffy's wet food.

Cigarettes and Tobacco Products

This one probably doesn't come as much of a surprise, but tobacco products—including cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, etc.—cannot be purchased with an EBT card. 

Beer, Wine, and Liquor

Alcohol is also not eligible for purchase with an EBT card. So if you're planning on hitting happy hour after a long day of work or stocking up on beer for your weekend BBQs, you'll need to use another form of payment instead.

While there are some restrictions on what you can buy with an EBT card, overall, it's a pretty versatile form of payment—especially regarding food! So, whether you're stocking up your pantry or grabbing a bite at your favorite restaurant, as long as you keep this list in mind, you should have no problem using your EBT card to make all of your purchases.

Are you ready to claim your EBT card? Learn How To Apply For EBT in this blog post.

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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