For many low-income American families, EBT cash benefits are a crucial part of their budget.
However, using EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer, commonly used for FA and SNAP benefits) isn’t as simple as you might think.
Just like any other governmentally supplied benefit, EBT comes with a list of rules and regulations. So, how can you know if you’re eligible for EBT – what’s the income limit? How can you check your balance, and what happens if you overspend?
Let’s find out.
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What Is EBT?
EBT is an umbrella term for all electronically issued benefits. SNAP benefits (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and FA benefits (Family Assistance) are distributed through EBT.
To use your benefits, you’ll be given your own EBT account. You’ll create a user ID and password, which you will need to log onto your online account and carry out any queries over the phone.
To pay for your groceries, you’ll be given a plastic card, like a debit or credit card. You can’t use your EBT card to get cash, either through an ATM machine or via cashback. You can only use your card in-store or online for approved items.
This leads us nicely to the next question – what’s classed as an approved item? What can you buy with EBT – and more importantly, what can’t you buy?
EBT and SNAP benefits are designed to provide extra nutrition to low-income families, and they can only be used for food groceries.
Here’s what you can buy with EBT:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Meat and poultry
- Fish and seafood
- Dairy products (like cheese, yogurt, and milk)
- Beans, nuts, and legumes
- Seeds, for growing plants to eat at home
- Snack foods
- Some energy and nutrition drinks (such as nutrition shakes and energy drinks)
- Non-alcoholic beverages
Most whole foods or baking ingredients are included in EBT. Any unspent benefits at the end of the month will roll onto the next month.
You can’t overspend on your EBT card, since once your money runs out you won’t be able to buy anything else. An EBT card doesn’t function like a debit or credit card – you can only spend what’s in your account.
Here’s what you can’t buy with EBT:
- Alcoholic beverages
- Tobacco products
- Gambling/lottery tickets
- Vitamins, medicines, or supplements
- Furniture, clothes, cosmetics, or other personal items
- Household supplies (like paper goods or cleaning supplies)
- Hygiene and grooming items (like sanitary pads, soaps, and shampoo)
- Hot, pre-prepared food (like rotisserie chickens)
- Restaurant food and fast food
- Energy drinks or smoothies (if the item has a “supplement facts” label, it’s classed as a supplement, which isn’t covered by EBT
As you can see, some non-food groceries are essential, yet still aren’t covered by EBT. Most stores will allow you to make multiple payments on one load of shopping, so you can use your own money to buy non-food groceries, and your EBT balance to pay for food groceries.
Frequently Asked EBT Questions
EBT rules can vary from state to state. So, what should you know about EBT in South Carolina? Let’s discuss a few frequently asked questions.
- Is South Carolina giving extra EBT?
Extra payments are being added onto existing SNAP benefits in South Carolina or handed out to eligible children and students. This extra EBT, known as P EBT, is an extra benefit designed to replace free or reduced-price school meals that some children are no longer receiving due to pandemic school closures.
- What is the monthly income limit for food stamps in South Carolina?
How To Check Your South Carolina EBT Balance
While you can’t overspend on your EBT account, it is good to keep an eye on your balance. The easiest way to check your EBT balance is to review your latest receipt, which should have your closing balance.
Alternatively, you can call the customer service number on the back of your EBT card.
However, most users prefer to check their EBT balance online. So, here’s what you’ll need to do to log onto your EBT account in South Carolina.
- Step One: Start by visiting this site. This will take you directly to the EBT login page for South Carolina. Then you’ll be prompted to enter your user ID and password. Once you’ve entered your details, you can view your EBT account and check your balance.
- Step Two: If you’ve forgotten your user ID, click the “Forgotten User ID” option below the login box. Then you’ll be prompted to enter some details, like a few digits from your social security number, your date of birth, and your EBT card number. If you’re still having difficulty logging in, call the customer service number listed on the back of your card.
- Step Three: If you’ve forgotten your password (it happens to us all!) click the “Forgotten Password” option below the login box. You’ll be prompted to enter some details, such as your date of birth, EBT card number, and a few digits of your social security number. Then you’ll be able to reset your old password and enter a new one.
- Step Four: If you need to set up a new account from scratch, click the “Create New Account” option on the login screen. You’ll be prompted to enter details such as your card number, user ID, a few digits of your social security number, and your date of birth. Then you can create a new password, and you’re ready to go!
The Bottom Line
For many low-income American families, SNAP benefits and EBT are absolutely essential. EBT allows families to eat well without overstretching their income.
EBT is also flexible, allowing users to buy more or less what they like, within reason. It’s up to you how you spend your EBT benefits. With the handy online account, you can also check your balance and view your recent transactions wherever and whenever you like.
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