Low-income families all over the country benefit from EBT. Designed to supplement a household’s food budget, EBT provides money for households to buy food and free up other income for rent, bills, and other crucial payments.
If you’re thinking about applying for EBT or you’ve just been accepted for EBT, you may well have questions. What is EBT, and who is eligible? How do you use your EBT card? What happens if you buy an unapproved item – and what is unapproved?
Read on to find out more information about what EBT is and how you can get the best out of your benefits.
Table Of Contents:
- What Is EBT?
- How to Check Your EBT Balance In Wisconsin
- Frequently Asked EBT Questions
- The Bottom Line
What Is EBT?
EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, is an umbrella term for all electronically issued benefits. This most commonly includes SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
Using your EBT cash benefits is very straightforward. You’ll receive a plastic payment card, which you can use just like you would a debit or credit card – swipe the card at the store checkout and enter a PIN.
However, you can’t use your EBT card to withdraw cash – all payments must be electronic. This is to prevent deliberate and accidental EBT fraud.
What Can You Buy With EBT?
If an item is classed as a food item, it’s covered by your EBT card. This means that most items in stores, wholesalers, and markets are covered by 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)
As you can see, EBT users have plenty of choices over what they can buy with their EBT card. There are no restrictions on price, brand, or type of food. Even “luxury” foods, like prime cuts of meat, seafood, snacks, soda, coffee beans, and more are all covered by EBT benefits.
Of course, you might prefer to use your benefits more wisely, and buy reasonably-priced, nutritious food to feed yourself and your household. Still, it’s nice to know that you have the option to buy the occasional treat.
What Can’t You Buy With EBT?
No doubt you already know that certain items won’t be covered by your EBT benefits. While most of these items are self-explanatory, some essential goods are also not covered by your 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)
As you can see, some unapproved items are still clearly essential goods. Hygiene products, paper goods, cleaning supplies, and medicines are not covered by EBT as they aren’t food items. You will unfortunately need to use your own money to purchase these items.
How To Check Your EBT Balance In Wisconsin
The simplest way to check your EBT balance is to review the receipt for your latest EBT purchase. Your closing account balance should be listed on the receipt. You could also call the customer service number on the back of your EBT card and ask for an update.
However, logging onto your online account is quick and easy, and may actually be more convenient for a person on the go.
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
Any EBT user wants to get the best out of their benefits – without breaking the rules. Here are a few commonly asked questions by EBT users in Wisconsin.
Yes, you can. EBT cards are suitable for online purchases, presuming those purchases are approved items (ie food items only). You may need another method of payment attached to cover delivery fees, tips, and other charges.
- Are SNAP and EBT the same?
No. EBT provides an electronic account for cash benefits to be paid into, and SNAP is one of those benefits. It’s possible for someone to hold an EBT account but not to receive any SNAP benefits, but to receive SNAP benefits, you must have an EBT account.
The Bottom Line
EBT is designed to be user-friendly and intuitive. If you find that you’re struggling with logging into your online account, why not try a few practice runs, entering your user ID and password and accessing your account, then logging out again? Remember, practice makes perfect!