Shopping is often not a particularly fun experience, especially not food shopping. However, shopping can quickly turn from a dull but necessary chore into a very worrying one. When a household is struggling to make ends meet, the food bill is often the first thing to be cut.
Of course, cutting down on groceries – despite a few obvious thrifty measures – is not necessarily the best thing for anyone. This is where EBT and other benefits come in.
But what is EBT? What can it buy? We’ll discuss the answers to these questions and more in this article.
Table of Contents:
- What Is EBT?
- How to Check Your EBT Balance in North Dakota
- Frequently Asked EBT Questions
- The Bottom Line
What Is EBT?
EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, is an electronic account for receiving governmentally issued benefits. It’s most commonly used to receive SNAP.
SNAP, or Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, is a program that has replaced the old-fashioned food stamps coupons, relying on electronic transfers instead.
All EBT payments must now be done electronically. You can’t use your EBT card to withdraw cash, either at an ATM or in a store. This is to reduce the possibility of fraud or buying unapproved goods.
To use your EBT card, you’ll receive a plastic payment card, much like a debit or credit card, and a PIN number to enter at the checkout. You’ll swipe the card at the checkout, and you can also use it for online purchases.
Unlike a debit or credit card, you can’t overdraw on your EBT account. Once you’ve run out of money in your account, you won’t be able to make any more purchases. However, any leftover benefits will roll onto the next month, you won’t lose unspent benefits.
What Can You Buy With EBT?
Like any other governmentally issued benefits, EBT comes with a few rules. Mostly, these rules relate to what you can and can’t buy. While EBT is suitable for most food items, not everything is suitable to buy with an 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)
The average EBT user has plenty of freedom as to what they can and can’t buy. For example, there are no rules as to brand or price. As long as an item is classed as food, you can buy it. Even products like ice, baby food, and coffee beans are covered by your EBT card.
What Can’t You Buy With EBT?
Not everything is covered by your EBT card, and it’s important not to buy unapproved items. Since some items are still essentials, you’ll need to use another method of payment at the checkout to pay for them.
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)
It’s easy to accidentally add an unapproved item into your shopping. However, unapproved items will lead to your card being declined at the checkout. At best, you’ll have to rifle through your shopping and find the guilty item, and at worst, your card and benefits may be frozen.
Repeatedly trying to buy unapproved items (especially alcohol and tobacco products), or trying to get cash from your card could lead to your benefits being suspended altogether.
How to Check Your EBT Balance In North Dakota
The simplest way to check your EBT balance in Texas (or anywhere else, for that matter) is to review your last EBT purchase receipt. Your closing balance should be listed there on the receipt.
However, logging into your online account can be just as quick and easy as fishing out an old receipt, and it also allows you to review other information. Here’s how to do that.
- Step One: Start by visiting this site. You’ll be taken to the EBT login site. Clicking on the “Cardholder Login” option on the far left of the page will take you to the official login page.
- Step Two: Next, you’ll be prompted to enter your user ID and password. Once you’ve done this, you can access your EBT account and view your balance.
- Step Three: If you’re having difficulty logging in, click the “trouble logging in?” option below the login button. Then you can click on your particular issue (for example, if you’ve forgotten your password, click the “forgot password” option. Then, follow the instructions given onscreen.
- Step Four: If you’re still having difficulty logging in, click the “trouble signing in FAQs” option in red at the bottom of the page. This opens a separate downloadable booklet that outlines a few frequently asked questions about logging onto your EBT account.
Frequently Asked EBT Questions
Let’s discuss a few frequently asked EBT questions for EBT users in North Dakota.
- What is P-EBT?
- Can I shop online with my EBT card in North Dakota?
Yes, you can, although you will need to pay for delivery fees, tips, and other charges yourself, as well as any extra personal items you might want to buy.
The Bottom Line
EBT is a relatively straightforward concept. If you have any serious concerns about what you can and can’t buy, feel free to call the customer service number on the back of your EBT card.
If you aren’t sure whether a store accepts EBT, ask a member of staff – preferably before you start shopping!