Thousands of low-income American families benefit from EBT benefits each month. Designed to supplement a household’s nutritional needs, EBT provides extra cash benefits for eligible households.
If you’re reading this article, then chances are that you or a loved one have begun using EBT – or are about to start using it. Like any other governmentally issued benefit, EBT comes with guidelines, and no doubt you have a lot of questions.
For example, what is EBT? How does it work, and what can you buy with EBT? More importantly, what can’t you buy?
Let’s find out.
Table of Contents:
What Is EBT?
EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, is an umbrella term for all electronically issued benefits. It’s most commonly used to receive SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which has replaced the old-fashioned paper food stamps.
Your benefits will be paid monthly into your EBT account. To use your benefits, you’ll be given a plastic payment card, like a credit or debit card.
Just like any other payment card, you can swipe your card at a store checkout and enter a PIN. You can also use your EBT card to pay for items online. However, you may need to have another method of payment attached for an online account, as EBT cards won’t cover delivery fees, tips, and other charges.
You can’t use your EBT card to withdraw cash, either from an ATM or from a checkout. This is to cut down on EBT fraud and to make it harder for users to buy unapproved items, whether intentionally or otherwise.
As you can imagine, there are plenty of rules and regulations attached to using your EBT account. Let’s discuss those next.
What Can You Buy With EBT?
EBT and SNAP benefits are designed to supplement a household’s nutritional needs. This means that your EBT card should only be used to buy food items. This still leaves you with plenty of choices when it comes to your weekly shop.
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, EBT and SNAP users have plenty of choices when it comes to spending their benefits. Even “luxury” items, like snacks, soda, and seafood are included. Essentially, so long as an item is a “food” item, it’s covered by your EBT. The choice is yours!
What Can’t You Buy With EBT?
While it’s clear that alcohol and tobacco products aren’t suitable to buy with your EBT card, there are other unapproved items that aren’t covered by EBT.
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 important not to buy unapproved items with your EBT card – you’ll have to pay the money back later.
Of course, it’s easy to make a mistake, and accidentally add an unapproved item to your shopping cart. However, persistently trying to buy unapproved items with your EBT card could lead to your account being suspended and your benefits stopped.
How to Check Your EBT Balance In Texas
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
As an EBT user, you likely have a lot of questions. Let’s briefly discuss two frequently asked questions about EBT.
- Are SNAP and EBT the same?
- Can I use my EBT card in Texas?
Yes. EBT is a nationwide program. You can use your EBT account all over America.
The Bottom Line
Using your EBT account doesn’t need to be difficult. The premise is fairly straightforward, and you have a customer service number on the back of your card to call if you have any questions.
EBT cards are accepted all over America, in most mainstream stores. However, if you’re not sure whether a store accepts EBT, ask a member of staff before you start shopping. You can also use your EBT card to shop online, however, you may need to have another method of payment attached, for delivery fees, tips, and other charges.