Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Using Food Stamps

Last Modified: 02/27/2014

You will receive an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card when you are certified to receive SNAP benefits. The SNAP office will explain how to use it, and will supply you a personal identification number (PIN). Keep this number safe, so that no one else can use your SNAP benefits. (In some areas, States are still using paper coupons, but they are being phased out.) Take your EBT card to the grocery store where you want to shop, select the food items you want to buy with it, and take them to the checkout counter.

SNAP benefits can only be used for food and for plants and seeds to grow food for your household to eat. SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy:

  • Any nonfood item, such as pet foods; soaps, paper products, and household supplies; grooming items, toothpaste, and cosmetics

  • Alcoholic beverages and tobacco

  • Vitamins and medicines

  • Any food that will be eaten in the store

  • Hot foods

Once your eligible food items have been totaled at the cash register, you will pass your EBT card through a point-of-sale (POS) terminal in the check out line. In most cases, the POS terminal connects with a computer where your SNAP benefits are stored. In some States, the benefits are actually stored on the card. The cost of the SNAP items you purchase will be subtracted from the amount in your SNAP EBT account, up to the balance remaining in your SNAP EBT account. Once your SNAP EBT transaction is complete, you will receive a receipt that shows the amount of your SNAP purchase and the amount of SNAP benefits remaining in your EBT account. You should keep these receipts so you know how much of the SNAP benefits remain in your EBT account each time you go to the store. You should also keep these receipts as your record of SNAP purchases in case there are problems with your account.