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How do EBT cards work and how do I use them for food stamp SNAP benefits?

Beginning in the 1990s the government started switching from paper food stamps to Electronic Benefits Transfer cards.

This made it so low income households were better able to access fresh food with the assistance they needed.

SNAP benefits, short for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is the biggest program run by the government to provide assistance with food to low income households across the nation.

The money is closely monitored and disbursed so it’s spent the correct way.

Related: Which states are expanding food stamp SNAP benefits for December?


The Electronic Benefit Transfer system has made it much easier for the Dept. of Agriculture to keep an eye on how it’s spent.

These special debit cards are used in every state and some U.S. territories.

The cards can be used in approved grocery or retail stores that sell products eligible for purchase using SNAP benefits.

EBT explained

Those receiving SNAP benefits are given an EBT card, which works similarly to a debit card.

Related: Here are a few ways to save cash for Christmas if you’re on food stamp SNAP benefits


In 2004 EBT cards fully replaced paper food stamps, making it so anyone on them could only use EBT cards.

The pandemic created something called P-EBT, which stands for Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer.

This gave families money in place of kids free or discounted school lunches when they weren’t in school.

The EBT cards are being tested for the WIC program, TANF program, and other financial assistance programs throughout the country.

Related: SNAP food stamp increase for seniors and disabled


To use the card, you don’t need to do anything once you’re approved for food stamps, they’ll be automatically added to your card.

The app ConnectEBT allows you to check your balance and transaction history from your smart phone.

Setting it up is easy through ConnectEBT.com. You just need to register your card and choose a user ID.



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