EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, is a governmentally issued benefit for low-income American families or individuals. Of course, if you’re reading this article, you probably already know this, and chances are, you have more pressing questions.
Like any governmental benefit, EBT comes with rules and regulations. You might worry about what you can and can’t buy with your benefits, what rules you should stick to, and how you can check your current benefits balance.
So, let’s dive right in.
Table of Contents:
What Is EBT?
EBT is really an umbrella term, referring to all kinds of electronically issued benefits. While there are several different types of cash benefits you can receive via EBT, the most commonly received one is SNAP.
SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) is essentially food stamps coupons, with electronic transfers replacing physical paper coupons. SNAP benefits are designed to supplement the nutrition of low-income families and can be used to buy all kinds of food.
However, not all foods are covered by SNAP or EBT benefits. If you try and buy these items in your weekly shopping haul, you may find that your EBT card gets declined, and you’ll have to rummage through your shopping to remove the guilty item.
What Can You Buy With EBT?
EBT and SNAP benefits give you plenty of options when it comes to buying food. It’s more or less up to you what you choose to buy, and most grocery food options are covered by your benefits.
Here’s what you can buy with EBT:
- Fruit and vegetables (canned, fresh, or frozen)
- Meat, poultry, fish, and seafood
- Dairy and non-dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheese, soy milk, almond milk, dairy substitutes, etc)
- Grains and cereals
- Baby food
- Beans, nuts, legumes, etc
- Non-alcoholic beverages
- Snack foods (ice cream, candy, chips, etc)
You can also buy “luxury” foods with your EBT. This might include an occasional treat of steak, shrimp, coffee beans, or some other expensive food. You can also buy junk food and processed food, although it’s probably better to use your monthly food benefits money to buy healthy food if you can.
What Can’t You Buy With EBT?
Unfortunately, EBT can’t be used to buy just anything. While some items might be quite obviously off-limits, there are some essential grocery products that aren’t covered by your benefits.
Here’s what you can’t buy with EBT:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Tobacco products
- Lottery tickets or gambling
- Electronics or personal home items, like cosmetics, furniture, or decorations
- Pet food
- Medications, vitamins, and supplements
- Restaurant food (this rule may be lifted for some users who aren’t able to cook food for themselves at home)
- Hot, preprepared food and drinks (hot coffee, rotisserie chickens, etc)
- Household supplies (paper goods, cleaning products, etc)
- Personal hygiene items (soap, shampoo, sanitary products, etc)
While it’s fairly clear that you shouldn’t use your EBT to buy alcohol or tobacco, products like household supplies and personal hygiene items are still necessities. Unfortunately, you’ll need to use your own money to buy these.
Checking Your EBT Balance in Alaska
Checking your online EBT balance should be a simple process. Of course, new users might need to go through the process once or twice to get familiar.
The simplest way to review your EBT balance is to check your last receipt, where your closing account balance should be listed. Failing that, you can call the customer service number on the back of your card.
However, many users prefer to check their balance online. This way, you can view your account as well as other information. Here’s how to do that:
- Step One: Start by visiting this site. This will take you to the EBT EDGE website. Click on “Cardholder Login” on the far left of the page.
- Step Two: You’ll be prompted to enter your login details. Enter your user ID and password, and then you’ll be able to enter and access your account, viewing your balance and other information.
- Step Three: If you’re struggling to log in, click the “Trouble Logging In” button below the login button. This will take you to another page, where you can select your problem. You’ll need to do this for your first time logging in, to unlock your user ID. If your problem still isn’t solved, click the “Trouble Signing In FAQs” option in red below the login options. This will open a downloadable PDF booklet which outlines some common problems that users face when signing in.
If you still have problems signing in to your online account, call the customer service number on the back of your card. You should be able to check other information, like your EBT balance and the date of your next payment.
You may not be particularly comfortable with using the internet, but it’s no secret that the best way to keep track of your electronic benefits is, well, electronically. Checking your balance online in Alaska or anywhere else is quick, easy, and efficient.
Frequently Asked EBT Questions
Finally, let’s review a few commonly asked EBT questions by Alaska EBT users.
- Is P-EBT a monthly payment?
- How do I know when my EBT card will refill?
Your EBT benefits should arrive at the same time every month. However, if you’re not sure, call the customer service number on the back of your card.
The Bottom Line
Learning to use EBT may be a little difficult at first, especially if you’re not sure what you can and can’t buy. However, you may be reassured to know that you can’t accidentally overspend your EBT – your card will simply stop working once your money has run out.
This can be reassuring if you aren’t able to check your balance as frequently as you’d like!