If you’re reading this article, then chances are that you or a loved one are now receiving EBT – or you’re about to receive it.
You probably have a lot of questions. Governmentally issued benefits often come with rules and regulations and may be difficult to use.
So, how easy is it to use your EBT benefits? Can you use your EBT card all over America? What happens if you buy an unapproved item?
Let’s find out.
Table Of Contents:
- What Is EBT?
- How to Check Your EBT Balance In Washington
- Frequently Asked EBT Questions
- The Bottom Line
What Is EBT?
EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, refers to all electronically issued benefits. It’s most commonly used to receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), which are also known more simply as food stamps.
To use your EBT balance, you’ll be given a plastic payment card. This card is easy to use, and it’s very similar to a debit or credit card. You’ll swipe your card at a store checkout, enter a pin, and the purchase will be made electronically.
However, there are some crucial differences. For one, you can’t use your EBT card to withdraw cash. All transactions must be made electronically, as this helps to reduce the cases of accidental or deliberate benefits fraud.
You also can’t overdraw on your EBT account, quite literally. Once you’ve run out of money, you’ll need to wait until your next lot of monthly benefits before you can make any more purchases. Leftover benefits will roll onto the next month, so nothing is wasted.
What Can You Buy With EBT?
Food stamps are designed to pay for – well, food. This means that virtually all items classed as food are covered by your EBT card, with a few notable exceptions that we’ll discuss later.
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 of choice when it comes to buying groceries. As long as an item is classed as food, it’s covered by EBT. You don’t need to worry about brand, price, or type of food when shopping with EBT.
Even “luxury” foods like snacks, soda, steak, seafood, coffee beans, and more are all covered by your EBT.
What Can’t You Buy With EBT?
It stands to reason that you can’t use your food stamps to buy personal items. However, some unapproved items may surprise you.
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)
Unfortunately, essential goods like hygiene products, cleaning supplies, and medicines must be purchased with your own money. Trying to buy an unapproved item will lead to your card being declined. Repeated attempts to buy unapproved items could lead to your account being suspended altogether.
How To Check Your EBT Balance In Washington
Every EBT purchase should come with a receipt, and that receipt will list your closing account balance. However, if you need to check your EBT balance some other way, you might want to consider logging into your online account. It’s quick and easy and allows you to view other information besides your balance.
Here’s how to check your EBT balance online:
- Step One: Start by visiting this site. This will take you to the EBT governmental cardholder page. To access your EBT card balance, click on “cardholder login” on the far left of the page.
- Step Two: Next, you’ll be presented with a login box. You’ll be prompted to enter your user ID and password. Once you’ve done that, you can access your account and view your balance, as well as other information.
- Step Three: If you’re having difficulty signing in, click on the “trouble signing in” option below the login button. You’ll be presented with several options to choose from. For example, if this is your first time using your EBT card, you’ll need to unlock your user ID. If you’ve forgotten your password, click the “forgot password” option and follow the instructions given onscreen. Then you should be able to reset your password and create a new one.
- Step Four: If you’re still struggling with logging into your EBT account, click on the “trouble signing in FAQs” option in red at the bottom of the page. This will open a downloadable booklet explaining how to log onto your account and other frequently asked questions.
Frequently Asked EBT Questions
It’s not unusual for new and existing EBT users to have plenty of questions. So, here are a few commonly asked questions for EBT users in Washington.
- Are food stamps going up?
- Can I use my EBT card in Washington?
Yes, you can use your EBT card in Washington. In fact, you can use your EBT card all over America. EBT is a nationwide program, and while some states have slightly different rules, the basics usually stay the same.
The Bottom Line
You’ll quickly get the hang of using your new EBT card. These benefits are designed to help households eat well, without needing to neglect any bills. You can even buy some treat foods or supplement your weekly shopping with your own money.
Whichever way you decide to use your EBT, checking in on your online account is definitely a good idea. Remember to keep an eye on your account as the month goes on – once you’ve run out of money, you’ll need to wait until next month for your next lot of benefits.