If you’re reading this article, chances are, you’re an EBT user. Perhaps you’ve had a few months or even years’ worth of experience in using these benefits, or perhaps you’re a brand new user.
Either way, you likely have questions. What is EBT, and who needs it? What can you buy with EBT – and more importantly, what can’t you buy?
We’ll discuss these questions and more in this article.
Table of Contents:
- What Is EBT?
- How to Check Your EBT Balance in Colorado
- Frequently Asked EBT Questions
- The Bottom Line
What Is EBT?
EBT stands for Electronic Benefits Transfer. This is an umbrella term for all kinds of electronically issued benefits. For example, the old-fashioned paper food stamp coupons have been replaced with SNAP benefits – Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program.
Like the food stamps program, SNAP is cash benefits for individuals or families in a low-income bracket and is designed to supplement their weekly and monthly food bills. EBT is really just an electronic account, and your monthly benefits (SNAP as well as other benefits you may be eligible for) will be deposited there.
To use your benefits, you’ll be given a plastic EBT card, which works like a debit or credit card. You can swipe the card at a store checkout or you can use it to pay online, although not all online stores accept EBT cards.
However, there are some differences. For one, you can’t use your EBT card to withdraw cash. EBT payments should only be made digitally, as withdrawing cash makes it easier for users to buy unapproved items. You can’t get cashback on your EBT card.
You also can’t overdraw your EBT card. Once you’re run out of money in your account, you simply won’t be able to make any more purchases.
Also, certain items can’t be bought with EBT. Let’s take a look at what you can – and can’t – buy with EBT.
What Can You Buy With EBT?
Food stamps are designed to buy – well, food. Most whole foods and food groceries will be covered by your EBT card, with a few notable exceptions that we’ll discuss later. Most food shopping staples will be covered by your benefits.
Here’s what you can buy with EBT:
- Fruit and vegetables (fresh, frozen, and canned)
- Meat, poultry, fish, and seafood
- Dairy and dairy substitutes (milk, cheese, soy milk, almond milk, coconut milk, etc)
- Baby food
- Non-alcoholic beverages (soda, juice, bottled water, etc)
- Cereals, grains, etc
- Snack foods (chips, ice cream, candy, etc)
EBT users have a lot of freedom with what they want to buy. For example, you could choose to use your benefits to buy the cheapest and nutritious foods available to make your money stretch further, or you could buy some “luxury” foods, like steak, seafood, snack foods, etc. It’s up to you!
Any benefits left over at the end of the month will roll on to the next month, and that will give you a bit of extra spending money.
What Can’t You Buy With EBT?
SNAP benefits are only designed to pay for food items. This means that all non-food items – even essential ones – are not covered by your EBT. Some food items may also not be covered by EBT, as the purpose of the benefits is to provide nutritious food for a family or individual to cook and eat at home.
Here’s what you can’t buy with EBT:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Tobacco products
- Gambling or lottery tickets
- Preprepared hot food and drinks (rotisserie chickens, hot coffee, etc)
- Pet food
- Medicines, vitamins, or supplements (some energy drinks may be classed as supplements)
- Personal items (cosmetics, electronics, furniture, clothing, etc)
- Household supplies (paper goods, cleaning products, etc)
- Hygiene and grooming items (soap, shampoo, sanitary pads, tampons, etc)
As you can see, some unapproved products are fairly straightforward. Most EBT users don’t need to be told not to spend their food stamps on alcohol, tobacco, or lottery tickets!
However, some unapproved items are still essential household goods, like household supplies and hygiene products. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to use your EBT to buy these products, and you will have to use your own money.
How to Check Your EBT Balance in Colorado
Keeping a close eye on your EBT balance is the best way to avoid running out of food money halfway through the month. How can you check your balance?
The simplest way to check your balance is to look at your last receipt. If you used your EBT card to pay, your closing balance should be noted. However, checking in online is another great way to check your balance and other info.
Here’s how to do that.
- Step One: Start by visiting this site. You’ll be taken to a login box, and prompted to enter your user ID and password. Then you’ll be able to view your balance and other account information.
- Step Two: If you’re having problems signing in, click the “Trouble Signing In” option below the login button. This will open another box, and you can click on your problem (for example, if you’ve forgotten your password). Follow the instructions, and you should be able to log into your account.
- Step Three: If you’re still struggling, or you just don’t feel comfortable using your online account, click the “trouble signing in FAQs” option to open a downloadable PDF pamphlet.
Frequently Asked EBT Questions
Many new users have lots of questions. Let’s take a look at two commonly asked questions for using EBT in Colorado.
- Where is EBT accepted in Colorado?
- Can you convert EBT to cash?
No. EBT is designed to pay for food items, and your EBT card won’t work if you try and buy unapproved items. Withdrawing cash would make it possible for users to buy unapproved items.
The Bottom Line
Using your EBT balance doesn’t have to be complicated. Remember, practice makes perfect! If you have any questions, call the customer service number on the back of your card with any queries.