The weekly shop is never fun. It’s even less fun for low-income households when the remaining money for grocery shopping is very low – or even nonexistent.
In this situation, most households have options in the form of EBT and SNAP benefits. These benefits are designed to supplement a household’s nutrition, providing money for much-needed groceries.
So, if you’re a new or existing EBT user, what do you need to know? How can you use EBT? What can you buy – and more importantly, what can’t you buy? How can you easily view your remaining balance?
Let’s find out.
Table of Contents:
- What Is EBT?
- How to Check Your EBT Balance in Nebraska
- Frequently Asked EBT Questions
- The Bottom Line
What Is EBT?
EBT stands for Electronic Benefits Transfer. If you receive any governmentally issued benefits at all, you’ll need an EBT account to receive and use your benefits. This is because electronic transfers have replaced old-fashioned paper coupons.
To use your EBT balance, you’ll receive a plastic payment card. You’ll swipe this card at the store checkout and enter a four-digit PIN, just as you would use a debit or credit card. This also allows you to shop online.
However, unlike a debit or credit card, you can’t overdraw on your EBT account. Once your benefits have run out, you’ll need to wait until next month’s benefits arrive. However, any benefits left over at the end of the month will roll onto next month’s benefits, so nothing is wasted.
EBT is most commonly used to receive SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. You can’t use your EBT card to withdraw cash, either at a store checkout or at an ATM. This is to reduce benefits fraud and to reduce the possibility of users accidentally buying unapproved items.
Since SNAP is designed to only pay for a household’s food, you are limited as to what you can and can’t buy. We’ll discuss this next.
What Can You Buy With EBT?
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)
EBT users have plenty of freedom when it comes to buying their groceries. The only criteria for suitable items are that they should be classed as food – there are no rules about the brand, price, or type of food.
This allows EBT users to buy “luxury” foods, like steak, seafood, snack foods, soda, and more.
What Can’t You Buy With EBT?
Of course, not everything is suitable for purchase with an EBT card. It’s fairly obvious that personal items won’t be covered by EBT. Unfortunately, these unsuitable items often include some essential household supplies.
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)
While it’s obvious that you shouldn’t use your food stamps to buy alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets, some of the other unapproved items on this list are still essential goods.
Unfortunately, SNAP benefits only cover food groceries. You’ll need to use your own money to pay for non-food groceries.
Why is it so important? Simply put, repeatedly trying to buy unapproved items can get your benefits suspended altogether. Your card may be declined at the checkout if your shopping includes an unapproved item.
How to Check Your EBT Balance in Nebraska
The simplest way to check your EBT balance is to review your latest receipt from an EBT purchase. Your closing balance should be listed on the receipt.
However, logging into your EBT account can be just as easy as fishing out an old receipt, and allows you to review other information besides your balance.
Here’s how to check your online EBT balance:
- Step One: Start by visiting this login page here. You’ll be prompted to enter your user ID and password, after which you can access your EBT account.
- Step Two: If you’re having difficulties, click the “trouble signing in” option below the login button. You’ll be provided with a few different options to select – for example, if you’ve forgotten your password, click the “forgot password” option and follow the instructions given onscreen.
- Step Three: If you’re still having difficulties, click the “trouble signing in FAQs” option in red. This will open a downloadable booklet that deals with frequently asked cardholder portal questions.
Frequently Asked EBT Questions
EBT users want to get the most out of their benefits – but without breaking the rules. So, let’s briefly discuss a few commonly asked questions about EBT in Nebraska.
- What’s the income limit for food stamps in Nebraska?
For a household of one, the income limit to still qualify for food stamps in Nebraska is $16 744 per year. For a household of four, the maximum yearly income level is $34 450.
- Are SNAP and EBT the same?
Simply put, if you receive SNAP, you’ll need an EBT account. However, you may have an EBT account and not receive SNAP.
The Bottom Line
Even if you’re not comfortable with using the internet, you can easily check your EBT balance by calling the customer service on the back of your EBT card and requesting to hear your updated balance.
Learning to use your new benefits can be a little tricky at first. However, these benefits can have a huge impact on your daily life and expenses – and, of course, on your grocery shopping!