Do You Want To Know What Can’t You Buy With Food Stamps [Learn The Facts]

Any new EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) user will have the same worry: What if I buy the wrong thing? 

While the rules to using food stamps, now known as SNAP benefits, are seemingly simple, there are a lot of gray areas. The benefits are supposed to pay for food, but what about fast food, pet food, or baby food? 

What can you buy with food stamps – or more importantly, what can’t you buy with food stamps? 

Let’s find out. 

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Table of Contents: 

What Are SNAP Benefits Designed For? 

SNAP benefits, known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, is designed to supplement a household’s grocery money, allowing them to buy extra food. Like most modern benefits, SNAP is distributed via an EBT account

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You can’t use your EBT card to get cash. You can only use it for online purchases or shopping in-store. 

What Can’t You Buy With Foodstamps? 

Some items which aren’t covered by your SNAP benefits are fairly obvious – alcohol and tobacco, for example. However, some unapproved items are less clear. 

Here’s what you can’t buy with food stamps:

  • Liquor, tobacco products, and gambling 

It’s fairly obvious that you shouldn’t use your SNAP benefits to buy alcohol, tobacco, or any kind of gambling product (like lottery tickets). SNAP is only for essential food groceries.

Once again, it’s obvious that you shouldn’t use your SNAP benefits to buy pets! However, there are ways to get help buying pet food for your existing pets. SNAP, however, is only designed for human food. 

  • Hot food, or preprepared items designed to be eaten immediately

This includes restaurant food, fast food, coffee shops, and more. While instant coffee, tea, and even coffee beans are covered as food items, hot coffee and hot food are not. This also includes products like rotisserie chickens.

Medicines are essential but are unfortunately not covered by food stamps. Vitamins and supplements involve more than just bottled pills – some energy drinks and smoothies are classed as “supplements”. 

An easy way to tell is to check the label on the back of the product: a supplement facts label means that the item is a vitamin or supplement.

  • Electronics or home decor

Once again, SNAP benefits cover food items only.

  • Household supplies
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Household supplies, like cleaning products or paper goods, are essential, but not covered by SNAP benefits. 

  • Hygiene or grooming products

Hygiene or grooming products include soaps, shampoos, and sanitary items. While these are essential goods, they are not food items, and so aren’t covered by your SNAP benefits. 

Other Items You Can’t Buy With EBT Food Stamps Includes:

 

The Bottom Line

Most stores allow shoppers to make multiple payments on one order. This means that you can use your food stamps to pay for food groceries and use your own money to buy non-food essential items, like household and hygiene products. 

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

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