If you’re reading this article, then chances are that you’re either an EBT user yourself, or you know somebody who is. Perhaps you’ve recently applied for EBT, and you want to know what to expect.
Like any governmentally issued benefit, EBT needs to be used carefully, and users should stick to a certain set of guidelines. So, what does this mean for you?
What is EBT? How can you use it? How can you check your EBT balance? We’ll discuss the answers to those questions and more in this article.
Table of Contents:
- What Is EBT?
- How to Check Your EBT Balance in Indiana
- Frequently Asked EBT Questions
- The Bottom Line
What Is EBT?
EBT stands for Electronic Benefits Transfer, and it essentially provides an electronic account for all of your benefits to be paid into. In years gone by, governmentally issued cash benefits (like food stamp coupons) were paid in cash, or with physical paper coupons.
Now, all of your benefits will be transferred to you electronically, and can only be used for electronic transfers. This helps to cut down on benefits fraud and the buying of unapproved items.
To use your EBT card, you’ll receive a plastic payment card and a PIN number, and you’ll swipe your card and enter your PIN just as if you were using a regular payment card. However, unlike a debit or credit card, you can’t overdraw on your EBT account. ONce your benefits have run out, you won’t be able to make any more purchases.
EBT is used to receive many different types of benefits, but it’s most commonly used to receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). SNAP is now used instead of food stamps.
While SNAP and EBT are closely connected, they aren’t the same thing. You can get an EBT account with SNAP benefits, but you can’t receive SNAP cash benefits without an EBT account.
What Can You Buy With EBT?
EBT and SNAP benefits are designed to pay for a household’s food needs. That means that most food items can be bought with your EBT card.
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)
You can also use your EBT card to make online purchases. However, you may need to attach another method of payment, like a debit or credit card. This is because while your EBT balance will cover the approved food items, it won’t cover any personal items or other fees, like delivery charges and tips.
What Can’t You Buy With EBT?
Unfortunately, many personal items and non-food essential groceries aren’t covered by EBT. If you try and buy unapproved items, your whole shopping haul may be declined at the checkout.
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 obviously inappropriate to buy with food stamps, such as alcohol and tobacco. However, many of these unapproved items are still essential groceries, like hygiene products and medicine.
You can make multiple payments on one load of shopping at many major stores, so you can use your own money to buy non-food groceries and your EBT card to pay for the rest.
How to Check Your EBT Balance In Indiana
However, logging in to your online account can allow you to check your balance and review other information. Here’s how to do that.
- Step One: Start by visiting this site. You’ll be prompted to enter your user ID and password. Then you can view your balance and access other information.
- Step Two: If you’ve forgotten your user ID, click the “Forgotten User ID” option below the login button. You’ll be prompted to enter your ZIP code, date of birth, and EBT card number. Then, you’ll need to correctly answer your security questions. After that, your user ID will be emailed to you.
- Step Three: If you’ve forgotten your password, click the “reset password” option below the login button. You’ll be prompted to enter your ZIP code, date of birth, and EBT card number. After that, you can reset your old password and create a new one.
- Step Four: If you’re still having difficulty logging into your account, click the “help” option below the login box. This will open a popup box offering help and suggestions to access your account.
Frequently Asked EBT Questions
Many EBT users – especially new EBT users – have plenty of questions, particularly about using their benefits in their current state. So, let’s discuss a few commonly asked questions about EBT in Indiana.
- Can I use my Indiana EBT card in other states?
- How long will the increase in food stamps last in Indiana?
The extra pandemic food stamps (P-EBT) expired on September 30th of 2021. This is because the purpose of the extra food stamps was to replace free or reduced-price school meals that eligible children would have received.
The Bottom Line
For many American households, EBT makes the difference between making ends meet – or not. While users do have a lot of freedom when it comes to what they buy, approved items are strictly restricted to food. This means that a family can use their benefits to supplement their diet and eat well without missing out on paying the bills.