EBT 101: What to Know

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The last few years have been financially difficult for many American families. Household expenses such as rent, groceries, and gas went up at record rates. Food prices are expected to rise at a slower rate in 2023 compared to 2022. However, that fact makes little difference in the lives of millions of Americans already struggling to afford groceries. If you’re having a hard time managing the growing cost of groceries, you’re going to need a solution! Federal nutrition programs can provide you with the answer you’ve been looking for. Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards are one way for qualifying households to take advantage of nutrition support!

What You Need to Know About EBT Cards

Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards allow users to purchase food similar to the way you would use a debit card for a purchase, you would simply swipe. The government gives out these cards to recipients of support opportunities such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Food assistance programs, like SNAP, make it easier for low-income households to maintain a healthy diet and meet their basic needs. EBT cards are simply part of a computer payment system that makes using nutrition assistance more convenient. There are more nutrition programs that use EBT. However, SNAP is the sole nutrition program we will talk about in this article.

How Much Assistance Is Possible with SNAP?

You might be wondering how much you can benefit from monthly food assistance. Well, if you’re struggling with the cost of groceries, SNAP can provide a significant cushion in your budget! With that being said, how much you can qualify for depends on your situation–benefits are awarded based on need. Regardless, the program provides general benefit guidelines based on household size. These guidelines can give you an idea of what might be expected. The following list is the maximum amount of benefits an approved household can get. These values are applicable for October 1, 2022, through September 30, 2023:

  • 1 person household can get at most $281
  • 2 person household can get at most $516
  • 3 person household can get at most $740
  • 4 person household can get at most $939
  • 5 person household can get at most $1,116
  • 6 person household can get at most $1,339
  • 7 person household can get at most $1,480
  • 8 person household can get at most $1,691
  • Households that have more than 8 people can get an additional $211 per person

How to Apply for SNAP Benefits

To receive an EBT card, you must apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). First, this process involves submitting an application with personal information and details about your financial situation to determine eligibility. Second, if approved, recipients are notified and issued an EBT card loaded with monthly benefits. The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funds SNAP. State agencies are in charge of administering the program. For that reason, exact eligibility criteria depends on which state you’re applying in. Therefore, applications don’t go through the federal government. Instead, applicants need to go through their state SNAP office

Eligibility Requirements for SNAP

Just like any other government program, there are certain qualifications that determine eligibility. In order to have a chance to receive SNAP benefits, the following criteria need to be met:

  • Live in the state where they are applying as their primary residence
  • Meet specific income requirements based on household size
  • Have limited resources such as cash or bank account balances
  • Obey certain work requirements if physically able

Please note that some groups of people may have additional eligibility criteria, such as seniors or disabled individuals. Again, the exact criteria depend on your state’s guidelines!

Using Your EBT Card at Retailers

Once you apply and are approved to begin receiving benefits with SNAP, you are issued your own EBT card. After everything is activated and funds are loaded, it can be used at qualifying retailers across the country. However, there are specific rules regarding which items can be purchased using these funds–only certain food items qualify as eligible purchases under this program.

Types of Food Items Allowed and Disallowed Under SNAP Guidelines

SNAP allows recipients to purchase various types of food items with their benefits. Here are some items that are allowed and disallowed items:

  • Allowed:
    • Fruits and vegetables
    • Bread and cereals
    • Dairy products
    • Poultry, fish, meat
    • Seeds and plants intended for growing food
  • Disallowed:
    • Alcoholic beverages
    • Tobacco products
    • Pet food
    • Hot foods and prepared meals

EBT cards are restricted to food purchases only. If you want more information on eligible items, visit the official SNAP website.

When shopping with an EBT card, it is important to understand the guidelines and regulations of SNAP in order to maximize benefits. In the event that an application for aid is not approved, there is a way to challenge this decision through a fair hearing process.

Requesting a Fair Hearing

If your application for SNAP benefits is denied or you disagree with any decision made regarding your benefits, you aren’t out of luck! You may request a fair hearing within 90 days of being notified. A fair hearing allows applicants to present evidence supporting their claim before a judge who will review their case thoroughly.


Understanding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can be a valuable resource for low-income individuals who need help purchasing food. SNAP benefits are distributed through EBT cards, which provide a convenient way to access benefits at participating retailers.

To get SNAP aid, it's essential to understand what type of criteria is required to benefit. Not only that, the only true way to know if you are eligible for SNAP is to complete an application. Although a federal agency is credited for creating and funding the program, state agencies are in charge of delivering benefits. Therefore, the best first step is to reach out to your local SNAP agency for the best information. Applications are accepted online and in person.

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