For thousands of American households, EBT cash benefits are an important part of their daily life. Surviving on a low-income salary is extremely difficult, and benefits like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) allow households to pay for extra food groceries.
However, you likely have questions. Can you use your EBT card all over the US? What about users in a state like Hawaii? What even is EBT, and how do you use it?
Let’s find out.
Table of Contents:
What Is EBT?
EBT stands for Electronic Benefits Transfer and refers to all electronically issued cash benefits. For example, EBT is most commonly used to receive SNAP benefits, which have now replaced the traditional food stamps coupons.
However, when it comes to buying food online with your EBT card, you’ll need to have another method of payment attached, like a debit or credit card. This is because your EBT card covers the cost of the groceries, but not additional costs like delivery fees or tips.
You can’t overspend on your EBT card. Your benefits, like SNAP or any other benefit you might be entitled to, will be paid into your EBT account monthly. Once your money is gone, you can’t spend anymore, and you’ll need to wait for your next installment of benefits.
This can be reassuring for some users who are afraid of accidentally overdrawing on their EBT account. Additionally, any unused benefits at the end of the month roll on to the next month’s benefits.
What Can You Buy with EBT?
EBT and SNAP benefits are designed to pay for food groceries, so the vast majority of food items in any given supermarket are covered by your EBT.
Here’s what you can buy with EBT:
- Fruit and vegetables (frozen, canned, or fresh)
- Meat, poultry, fish, and seafood
- Dairy and dairy substitutes (milk, cheese, coconut, soy, and almond milk, etc)
- Non-alcoholic beverages (soda, juice, bottled water, etc)
- Bread, grains, and cereals
- Baking ingredients (sugar, flour, etc)
- Baby food
- Snack foods (chips, candy, ice cream, etc)
Essentially, most foods are covered by EBT – but not all, as we’ll discuss next. EBT users have a lot of freedom when it comes to buying food. You aren’t limited by price, and you have the freedom to buy “luxury” foods, like steak, seafood, and other expensive treats.
You can also buy snack food, coffee beans (but not hot, preprepared coffee), and even ice.
What Can’t You Buy with EBT?
Anything that isn’t classed as an essential food item isn’t covered by your EBT card. This includes some essential items like sanitary products, cleaning products, and diapers.
Here’s what you can’t buy with EBT:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Tobacco products
- Lottery tickets/gambling
- Medicines, vitamins, and supplements (some energy drinks are classed as supplements)
- Pet food
- Personal items (electronics, cosmetics, furniture, clothes, etc)
- Household supplies (paper goods, cleaning products)
- Hot, preprepared food (hot coffee, rotisserie chickens, restaurant food – although this may vary depending on your circumstances)
- Hygiene and grooming items (sanitary pads, tampons, soap, shampoo, etc)
As you can see, some unapproved items are fairly self-explanatory, like lottery tickets, alcohol, and tobacco products. However, medicines, hygiene products, and more are all necessities. What can you do?
Most stores allow customers to make multiple payments on one load of shopping. This means that you can use your EBT card to pay for your food groceries, and you can use your own money to buy the non-food essentials.
How to Check Your EBT Balance in Hawaii
The easiest way to check your EBT balance is to review your latest EBT purchase receipt. The receipt should have your closing account balance.
Of course, there are lots of reasons why you can’t check your receipt, or you may want to review other info that you can only find online. In that case, you’ll want to log in to your online EBT account. Here’s how to do that.
- Step One: Start by visiting this site. You’ll be taken to the EBT cardholders’ information page. To log in, click the “Cardholder Login” option at the far left of the page.
- Step Two: Clicking this option will take you to your EBT login page. You’ll be prompted to enter your user ID and password. Once you’ve entered your info, you can log in and view your EBT account.
- Step Three: If you’re having difficulty logging in, 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 (forgot password, forgot user ID, etc). Follow the instructions given. If you’re still struggling, click the red “Trouble Signing in FAQs” option at the bottom of the page. This will open a downloadable PDF booklet about signing in to your EBT account.
Frequently Asked EBT Questions
Learning to use EBT in any state can be tricky. Here are a few commonly asked questions about using EBT in Hawaii.
- Can I check my EBT balance by phone in Hawaii?
- Are SNAP and EBT the same?
No, SNAP and EBT are not the same – but you can’t use SNAP benefits without an EBT account. You can use your EBT account to receive different governmentally issued benefits, but it’s most commonly used to receive and use SNAP.
The Bottom Line
For many users, a lot hinges on their EBT cash benefits. That money goes towards nutritious food and makes the difference between making ends meet – or not.
So, EBT users are eager to learn how to use their benefits as quickly as possible. Fortunately, using EBT is straightforward, designed with its users in mind.