Can You Buy Alcohol With Food Stamps? [Learn The Facts]

Like any other governmentally issued benefit, food stamps (now known as SNAP benefits) come with rules and regulations. 

Food stamps are given to eligible low-income American families, and they’re designed to supplement a household’s diet. The point of food stamps is to buy, well, food. 

If you’re a SNAP recipient, you may wonder about “gray” areas – groceries that are still essential but aren’t food. For example, can you buy alcohol and similar products with food stamps? Let’s find out.

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Table of Contents:

Can You Buy Alcohol With Food Stamps?

No, you can’t buy alcohol with food stamps. Food stamps, also known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), are strictly designed to pay for a household’s food. Alcohol is a non-essential item and isn’t covered by any of your benefit money. 

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If stores allow you to buy alcohol with your food stamps, they risk losing their license to participate in the EBT program, as well as risking a possible fine. 

However, you can buy alcohol along with your weekly shop – so long as you pay for it out of your own money. Some stores allow you to make multiple payments on one load of shopping, meaning that you can use your food stamps money to pay for your food, and your own money to pay for any non-food groceries. 

What Can You Buy With EBT?

EBT, which is mostly used for SNAP benefits, is designed to pay for food and ingredients that can be taken home and prepared. 

So, here’s what you can buy with EBT/SNAP benefits:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Meat, poultry, and seafood
  • Bread, grains, and cereal
  • Dairy products 
  • Snack foods
  • Nuts, beans, and legumes
  • Seeds (for growing food at home)
  • Non-alcoholic beverages

If you’re not sure whether an item is approved under your SNAP benefits, call the customer service number on the back of your EBT card.

What Can’t You Buy With EBT?

Not everything is approved for buy with your EBT balance. If you try and buy something unapproved, your EBT card will likely decline. Even if the transfer goes through, you’ll likely have to pay for the item yourself later. 

Here’s what you can’t buy with EBT/SNAP benefits:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Tobacco products
  • Gambling/lottery tickets
  • Electronics
  • Clothes, furniture, or home decor
  • Medicines, supplements, and vitamins
  • Pet food 
  • Hot food, pre-prepared food, fast food, or other restaurant food 
  • Household supplies (this includes cleaning products and paper goods)
  • Personal hygiene and sanitary items (this includes shampoo, soap, sanitary pads, and more)
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Once again, if you’re not sure about an item you’d like to buy, call the customer service number on the back of your EBT card.

The Bottom Line

So long as you’re focused on buying delicious, nutritious food for yourself and your family (and not cigarettes or alcohol), you’re unlikely to try and buy the wrong thing. Most groceries fall pretty neatly into food and non-food categories.

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