Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT)

Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) are government benefit cards issued by each state under the federal SNAP program (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program aka food stamps) or state WIC program (Women, Infants & Children). These cards enable cardholders to purchase qualifying products from approved retailers. Retailers must register for a FNS Number (Food & Nutrition Service) with the state or USDA.

When someone qualifies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program, or cash benefits (Temporary Assistance), he or she receives an EBT card in order to access benefits. Typically, these benefits fall into two categories: food and cash. Food benefits, however, are restricted to purchases of food and non-alcoholic beverages. Although it looks like a regular debit card, the EBT card enables the cardholder to purchase groceries and other items at participating stores.

Also known as a Common Benefit Identification Card (CBIC), the EBT card is used as identification for Medicaid and other benefits. Essentially, EBT is a way in which recipients of government benefits can authorize transfers from a federal account to a retailer account to purchase products. Accepted in all states since June of 2004, the EBT card is also used in the District of Colombia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam.