The United States government started the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP in the early 1900s. This federal program, also known as Food Stamp Program, provides food-purchasing assistance for low and no-income people. This is spearheaded by the United States Department of Agriculture under the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).

The amount of SNAP benefits received by a household depends on the number of people in the family, income, and expenditure. In the beginning, the program used paper-denominated stamps or coupons in the denominations of $1 (brown), $5 (blue), and $10 (green). These stamps were bound into booklets of various denominations that had to be torn out individually and used for purchases. 


What is Electronic Benefits Transfer [EBT]?

In the late 1990s, the Food Stamp Program was modified. Some states replaced food stamps with a specialized debit card system known as Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), provided by private contractors. The other states followed the cue and implemented EBT cards. Since June 2004 all states follow this system. 

This system made it easier for the government to administer SNAP benefits to households. After EBT cards were launched, SNAP benefits were directly deposited into the household’s EBT card account every month. Households may utilize EBT to pay for food at supermarkets, convenience stores, and other food retailers, including certain farmers’ markets.

After the EBT system started gaining popularity, many states merged the use of the EBT card for public welfare programs as well, such as cash assistance. This system helped the government to save money as it eliminated the printing of coupons. It made benefits of the program available immediately instead of requiring the recipient to wait for mailing or picking up the booklets in person.

Currently, there are over 40 million people that enjoy the benefits of the SNAP program. Many states have over 20% of the households on EBT cards. Most supermarkets, pharmacies, and corner stores in the United States now accept EBT Cards. Walmart, Target, Costco, and Trader Joe’s all now accept these cards for purchases. 

Are you Eligible for an EBT Card?

To qualify for SNAP benefits, a household must meet three criteria.

The gross monthly income of the household must be $2,252 a month for a three-person family in a fiscal year. Households with an elderly or disabled member need not meet this limit. The net monthly income must be less than or equal to the poverty line. 

The third condition is that the assets that a household owns must fall below certain limits. Its assets must fall below certain limits: in the fiscal year 2019, the limits were $2,250 for households without an elderly or disabled member and $3,500 for those with an elderly or disabled member. State governments will both provide and track the use of these cards through the EBT system. 

How to Apply for an EBT Card?

Each state has its own application form for SNAP. If you can’t find it online you will need to contact the local SNAP office. You will be able to find local offices and each state’s application form on the USDA national map. Local offices are listed in the State or local government pages of the telephone directory as well. The office information would be listed under “Food Stamps,” “Social Services,” “Human Services,” “Public Assistance,” or a similar title. You can also call your state’s SNAP hotline numbers, most of which are toll-free.

What Can You Buy With an EBT Card?

Household members may use it to purchase food at one of the retailers authorized to participate in the program. More than 80 percent of benefits are redeemed at supermarkets or superstores. With an EBT card, you will only be able to purchase food and drinks. For instance, you can buy fresh and frozen foods. You can also purchase canned, prepackaged, and live food using an EBT card. 

Here is a list of things that are eligible for purchase with the card:

  • Bread and cereal
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat and poultry
  • Fish and seafood
  • Dairy products
  • Seeds and plants which produce food for households to eat

Note that your EBT card cannot be used to purchase alcoholic beverages, cigarettes, vitamin supplements, non-food grocery items such as household supplies, or hot foods.

  Here is a detailed list of products that cannot be purchased with an EBT card:

  • Pet Food and Supplies
  • Household Supplies
  • Baby Food and Diapers
  • Supplements and Medicines
  • Beer, wine, and liquor
  • Tobacco products
  • Hot, ready-to-eat, and prepared foods

Other establishments where you cannot use your EBT card includes:

  • Race tracks
  • Casinos
  • Video lottery facilities
  • Off-track betting facilities
  • Commercial bingo facilities
  • Places that provide adult-oriented entertainment in which performers take off their clothes or perform without clothes

How do I use my cash and SNAP benefits?

If you are an EBT cardholder you may access cash and SNAP benefits at participating EBT locations anywhere within your State. Cash benefits may also be accessed at participating ATMs and authorized retail store locations. Many retail stores also provide cashback with your purchase. To avail of this, you can check with the store for their cashback policy.

EBT card works just like a normal debit or credit card. To use your EBT card at an authorized retail store you would require your EBT card and Personal Identification Number (PIN). You can swipe the card on the machine and enter your pin at the cash counter. This will help you make a successful purchase at a participating retail store.  Make sure to keep your receipts safe for your EBT purchases.

Does Target accept EBT? 

Target is a common grocery shopping destination in the U.S. The retail chain does accept EBT cards in exchange for purchases at all their stores. Do remember that you can only purchase products that are eligible under the SNAP program. Also, there are numerous other supermarket stores like Walmart, Whole Foods, and Lowes Food that accept EBT cards.

It is possible to return groceries that you bought at Target using your EBT card as long as Target accepts your returns. The money will be returned to your SNAP account. 

What is SNAP Retail Locator?

If you want to find out which grocery stores near you accept EBT cards, then you can try the SNAP retail locator. The SNAP Retailer Locator is an easy way to locate nearby SNAP-authorized retailers. Once you are on the page enter a street address, city, and state, or zip code. Enter your starting location and choose a retailer or tap on a map point to get details and directions. 

EBT cards can be a great relief to families that are under the poverty line. These cards can help you get groceries at a much cheaper rate. Considering that groceries always cut a chunk out of your income, it is financially advisable to apply for an EBT card. This can help you save a chunk of money from your monthly income. 

SNAP enables low-income households to afford more healthy food items. Because SNAP benefits can be spent only on food, they increase families’ food purchases.  SNAP program helps to reduce the extent and severity of poverty and hardship among U.S citizens. 

We hope this information helped you!

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