EBT, also known as Electronic Bank Transfers, is used all over American. Aimed at low-income households, EBT accounts are set up for eligible households to receive governmentally issued cash benefits
If you’re reading this article, then chances are that you or a loved one is an EBT user – or about to become an EBT user.
So, what should you know about EBT? What is, and what can you buy with your EBT cash benefits? Is there anything you can’t buy? How do you check your balance?
Let’s find out.
Table of Contents:
- What Is EBT?
- How to Check Your EBT Balance in Maryland
- Frequently Asked EBT Questions
- The Bottom Line
What Is EBT?
To receive any governmentally issued cash benefits, you’ll need an EBT account. Your benefits will be paid into your account monthly, and you’ll receive a plastic payment card to make purchases with money from your EBT account.
EBT accounts are used to receive all kinds of electronic benefits, but most commonly SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which has replaced the old-style food stamp coupons.
Virtually all cash benefits are now sent out electronically, and you can only make electronic purchases (for example, online or with a card machine at a store checkout). You can’t use your EBT card to withdraw cash or ask for cash back at the till. Electronic transfers make it much harder to conduct unapproved transactions, like buying items not covered by EBT.
You can use your EBT card just like you would use a regular credit or debit card. You swipe your card at the checkout and enter your pin – it’s a simple as that!
However, the payment process can get a little more complicated when it comes to actually choosing your items. Not every essential household item is covered by your EBT. Next, we’ll discuss what you can and can’t buy with EBT.
What Can You Buy With EBT?
EBT and food stamps are designed to supplement a household’s nutrition. This means that virtually all food items (with one or two notable exceptions that we’ll discuss later) are covered by your EBT card.
Here’s what you can buy with EBT:
- Fruit and vegetables (frozen, canned, and fresh)
- Meat, poultry, fish, and seafood
- Bread, cereals, and grains
- Baking products
- Baby food
- Dairy and dairy substitutes (milk, cheese, almond, soy, or coconut milk)
- Non-alcoholic beverages (soda, juice, bottled water, etc)
- Snack foods (chips, ice cream, candy, etc)
As you can see, the average EBT user has a lot of freedom over what they will buy with their benefits. The only criteria for an item to be suitable for purchase with EBT is that it is classed as a food item – there’s no discussion of price, brand, or nutritional value.
So, this means you may be able to afford a few treats, like snack food and soda, as well as other “luxury” foods. Don’t worry if you don’t spend all of your benefits in one month. Any leftover balance will be added to the next month’s balance.
What Can’t You Buy With EBT?
Of course, it stands to reason that you can’t use your EBT card to buy whatever you want. Since EBT and SNAP benefits are usually designed to supplement a household’s income, most users will know not to use their benefits to buy personal items, non-food items, or alcohol, tobacco, and so on.
Here’s what you can’t buy with EBT:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Tobacco products
- Gambling/lottery tickets
- Pet food
- Medicine, vitamins, and supplements (some energy drinks are classed as supplements, so be careful)
- Personal items (like cosmetics, electronics, furniture, clothing, etc)
- Hot, preprepared food and drinks (fast food, rotisserie chickens, hot coffee, etc)
- Household supplies (paper goods, cleaning products, etc)
- Hygiene and grooming products (sanitary pads, tampons, soap, shampoo, etc)
Some unapproved items in this list are still essential household goods. Paper goods, cleaning products, medicines, and hygiene products are all necessary. Unfortunately, SNAP benefits can only be used to pay for food groceries.
Most stores allow customers to make multiple payments on one load of shopping, so you can use your EBT card to pay for food items and another method of payment for non-food groceries.
How to Check Your EBT Balance in Maryland
The easiest way to keep an eye on your EBT balance is to check your last receipt. Your closing balance should be listed there.
However, logging in to your online account is a good way to check your balance and view 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 access your EBT account.
- Step Two: If you’ve forgotten your user id, click the “forgot user ID” option below the login box. You’ll be prompted to enter some information, then you’ll need to answer your security questions. After that, your user ID will be emailed to you.
- Step Three: If you’ve forgotten your password, click the “forgot password” option. You’ll need to enter some information, then you can reset your password and create a new one.
- Step Four: If you’re struggling, click the “help” option below the login box, to open a popup box of helpful information.
Frequently Asked EBT Questions
It’s understandable that most new users will have a lot of questions. You’re likely keen to get the most out of your EBT account while playing by the rules. So, let’s briefly discuss a few commonly asked questions about using EBT in Maryland.
- Can I shop online with EBT in Maryland?
- What’s the income limit for food stamps in Maryland?
To be eligible for food stamps in Maryland, a household of one should earn no more than $16 744 per year. A household of four should earn no more than $34 450.
The Bottom Line
Using your new EBT card and benefits may be a little tricky at first. However, with a little work and practice, it’ll soon become second nature.