If you or someone you know is struggling with food insecurity, several government programs can help. We recently featured six hacks to help you with your  ago, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) application. These are also known as food stamps, and can provide beneficiaries up to $1,000 for food each month. Eligible recipients will get monthly funds on an Electronics Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that will function like a debit card. Here is a guide to help you understand how to use your card. 

A New York EBT card. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado 

What is an EBT card?

Each month, funds are automatically deposited onto your EBT card. You can use your card to make eligible purchases if you have sufficient funds. 

Any household member can use your EBT card as long as you feel comfortable enough to share your PIN. Treat your EBT card as you would a debit card, and be careful who you share your PIN with — it keeps your SNAP benefits secure and proves the card belongs to you. 

SNAP benefits don’t expire and any remaining funds will roll over into the next month. However, you must use your funds within nine months or your benefits will be revoked.

NOTE: Unlike a debit card, you cannot get cash back from your EBT card, you can only purchase eligible food items.

Information on SNAP benefits can be found online.

Information on SNAP benefits can be found online. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado

How to check your EBT card balance:

  • Use the ConnectEBT mobile app. This app will allow you to check your balance, view transaction activity and change your PIN. 
  • Check your online SNAP account. Once you receive your benefits card, you can make an account. With your online account, you can access your balance, view transactions, change your PIN, request monthly statements and report lost, stolen or damaged cards. With this guide, you can learn how to set up your account and do any of the above actions. 
  • Call the EBT customer service number: 1-888-328-6399. Or the toll-free number on the back of your EBT card. 
  • Check your recent grocery store receipt

Where can you use your EBT card?

New York SNAP beneficiaries can use their benefits at participating EBT locations anywhere in New York State. 

  • The majority of grocery stores, super markets and bodegas accept SNAP benefits. Use the SNAP Retailer Locator to find a participating grocery store near you. Simply enter your address and you’ll find locations closest to you. 
  • Some farmers markets also accept SNAP benefits. Find out which ones do here. You must buy tokens at the farmers market to purchase items. Find out what to do here
  • In New York City, some online retailers also accept SNAP payments:

NOTE: SNAP benefits cannot be used to pay delivery fees. Make sure to confirm an online store delivers to your home address.

The EBT card can be used at participating grocery stores. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado

There are certain businesses where you will not be allowed to use your EBT card: liquor stores, wine stores, beer/beverage centers, racetracks, casinos or video lottery facilities, among others.

What can you buy with your EBT card?

Now that you know where you can use your EBT card, it’s essential to know what you can buy with it. These are eligible food items:

  • Staple foods. This encompasses most commonly purchased items at supermarkets. They include:
    • Fruits and vegetables (fresh, frozen or canned)
    • Meat, poultry and fish (fresh, frozen or canned)
    • Dairy (fresh or shelf-stable)
    • Bread and cereal

NOTE: These four categories are very flexible. For example, nut, soy and oat milks are acceptable dairy alternatives. Items such as gluten-free pasta can be considered bread and cereal. If you buy 100% apple sauce, it’s considered fruit, and canned ravioli with tomato sauce can be vegetables. Be sure to double-check with the staff at the grocery store if you have questions

  • Accessory foods. These foods are items you can use to prepare and consume your food. Eligible items include:
    • Spices and seasonings (powdered, dried or extracted)
    • Honey, maple syrup, cane sugar or other natural or artificial sweeteners
    • Ketchup, mustard and other condiments
    • Potato chips, pretzels, popcorn and other snacks
    • Baked goods, cake and brownie mixes
    • Ice cream
  • Seeds and plants. If you want to start a home garden, you can purchase seeds and plants with your SNAP benefits. This doesn’t apply to just any kind of seeds and plants, they must produce edible foods.

Want some meal inspo? This website features recipes you can try using SNAP-eligible items.

SNAP benefits can be used to purchase fruits and vegetables. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado

While there are a lot of eligible items to purchase with your EBT card, there are also things you are not allowed to buy. These include:

  • Beer, wine and liquor
  • Pet food
  • Cigarettes
  • Pharmacy items (over-the-counter drugs, vitamins or supplements)
  • Personal care items (soap, deodorant, household cleaners, diapers etc.)
SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy pet food. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado 

EBT card perks:

Did you know you could qualify for certain perks if you are a SNAP benefits recipient? Here are three perks to get if you are an EBT cardholder:

With your EBT card you can sign up for the Amazon Prime EBT discount, which gets you all of the benefits of Prime for $5.99 instead of $12.99.  

The Lifeline Program is a federal program that lowers the monthly cost of a phone or internet service. If you are a SNAP benefits recipient and your income is below a certain level, you can qualify for a free or reduced price cell phone service. Find out more here

  • Discounted museum admission

You also get discounted free access to museums and other family-friendly places. To get access at a museum or family-friendly facility all you need is your EBT card and a valid form of identification. Here is a list of participating locations across the state. 

EBT card holders get free admission to places like the Intrepid Museum in Manhattan. Photo: Andrea Pineda-Salgado

What to do if you lose your EBT card?

If  your EBT card gets lost, damaged or e stolen, there are multiple ways to get a replacement. The first step is to submit a replacement card request. You can pick up a temporary replacement card in person here. Be sure to bring a valid photo ID to receive a same-day temporary replacement card. You can submit a replacement card request in the following ways:

  • Online via the ConnectEBT website
  • By phone. Contact the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) customer service division at (888) 328-6399.
  • In-person. Go to an HRA Center, the same place you can get a temporary replacement card. 

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