Making ends meet can be a serious challenge to many families. Whether it’s due to poor health, a large family, or just plain bad luck, families or individuals may find themselves struggling financially.
When this happens, a properly nutritious diet can be the first thing to suffer. Governmental benefits, like EBT and SNAP, can go a long way to helping users supplement their diet.
No doubt you have plenty of questions. What is EBT? If you live in Arizona, how can you check your EBT balance?
Let’s find out.
Table of Contents:
- What Is EBT?
- How to Check Your EBT Balance in Arizona
- Frequently Asked EBT Questions
- The Bottom Line
What Is EBT?
EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, is a governmentally issued benefit for persons of a certain income bracket. EBT is actually an umbrella term for all kinds of electronically issued benefits. The most commonly used benefit for EBT is SNAP, also known as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.
SNAP benefits have replaced the old-fashioned food stamps coupons, and they’re designed to buy, well, food. Not everything is covered by your EBT benefits, and it’s important to know what you can and can’t buy.
What Can You Buy With EBT?
Most groceries and whole foods are covered by EBT, but not everything.
Here’s what you can buy with EBT:
- Fruit and vegetables (canned, frozen, and fresh)
- Meat, poultry, fish, and seafood
- Dairy and non-dairy products (almond milk, soy milk, cheese, yogurt, etc)
- Cereals and grains
- Baby food
- Pastry and bakery items
- Non-alcoholic beverages
- Snack foods (chips, ice cream, candy, etc)
EBT and SNAP will also cover “luxury” food items, like steaks and seafood. While you can’t buy hot, preprepared coffee with your EBT, you can buy instant coffee and even coffee beans.
What Can’t You Buy With EBT?
It’s important not to buy unapproved items with your EBT card. At best, your card will be declined, and you’ll have to rummage through your shopping haul to discover the unapproved item. At worst, your benefits may be temporarily suspended and you’ll have to pay for any unapproved items which have already gone through.
Here’s what you can’t buy with EBT:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Tobacco products
- Gambling and lottery tickets
- Pet food
- Medicine, vitamins, and supplements
- Personal items, like electronics, cosmetics, and household decorations
- Preprepared hot food and drink, like hot coffee and rotisserie chickens
- Household supplies, like paper goods and cleaning products
- Hygiene items, like soap, shampoo, and sanitary products
As you can see, some unapproved items are fairly obvious, like alcohol and tobacco. However, products like household supplies and hygiene items are certainly essential non-food products.
Most big stores will allow you to make several payments on one load of shopping. This means that you can pay for your food groceries with your EBT card and use your own money for the non-food items.
How to Check Your EBT Balance in Arizona
It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your balance. While you can’t overspend on your EBT card (your card will stop working once you’ve run out of funds), once your money is gone, you’ll need to wait until your next payment.
The easiest way to check your balance is by reviewing your last receipt. If you can’t do that, you can check your balance online. Here’s how to do that:
- Step One: Start by visiting this website. You’ll be taken to a hub page, where you can view lots of information about your EBT card. Click on “Cardholder Login” at the far left of the page.
- Step Two: The “Cardholder Login” option will take you to another login page, where you’ll be prompted to enter your user ID and password. Once you’ve done this, you can view your account and check your EBT balance.
Step Three: If you’re having trouble logging into your account, click the “Trouble Signing In” option below the login button. This will take you to another page, where you can select the problem you’re having. If you still can’t log into your account, click on the red “Trouble Signing In FAQs” option at the bottom of the page. This will open a downloadable PDF detailing the most commonly encountered account issues.
Frequently Asked EBT Questions
Most new EBT users have lots of questions. Let’s discuss a few commonly asked questions from Arizona EBT users.
- Is Arizona getting P-EBT again?
Unfortunately not. The 2020-21 P-EBT (Pandemic EBT) period has ended. Most schools are now open, so there’s no need for eligible school children to be reimbursed for the meals they will miss.
P-EBT may be revived in the future, but as of now, the program is over.
- Can I use my EBT card to buy groceries online?
This is because although your EBT card will cover the cost of your approved groceries and food items, it won’t cover extra costs like delivery fees and tips.
The Bottom Line
EBT cards don’t work like debit or credit cards. You can’t overspend, and any benefits you don’t use will roll onto the next month. While there are some things you can’t buy, many grocery items are covered, and you have relative freedom to buy what food you want.
EBT cards can be used all over the US, as EBT is a nationwide program. You can use your card at most stores. However, if you plan to move to another state or travel between states, you may want to do some research on the EBT regulations in that state.
This is because some rules vary from state to state. For example, some states may make an exception on their “no restaurant food” rule for users with disabilities, or who can’t make food at home.
Either way, the key to using your EBT card – and using your EBT account – is practice. Logging into your account is the best way to keep an eye on your balance on the go.