If you’re not sure you have enough money left on your electronic benefits transfer, or EBT card, or you want to see how much spending money you’ve been provided, you can check your account balance using several different methods. Keeping track of your EBT balance will help you plan ahead, bring enough cash to the store or replan your shopping list ahead of time instead of being stuck at the checkout register or point-of-sale device without enough funds.
What Are Food Stamps?
The phrase “food stamps” referred to a book of stamps people received years ago, which they could redeem for food and beverage purchases at farmers' markets, grocery stores and retailers if they qualified for government assistance. This program is now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
It is worth noting that SNAP is intended to only be a supplement to your food budget, and EBT cardholders aren’t able to live on only their SNAP allowance. In addition, the more income you earn, the less you get in SNAP money. Some people only qualify for a handful of dollars each month. Some earn enough money to pay for all of their monthly food needs if they know how to shop and cook wisely.
You can also add to your food pantry by visiting food banks or getting free meals from local shelters and soup kitchens. You can stretch your SNAP EBT funds and increase your spending or purchasing power by visiting sites like FoodStampChallenge.com.
Also, you may be able to take advantage of P-EBT benefits, which were set up to help children during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, you could get cash benefits via the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program via your EBT cash card, which you can withdraw from an ATM.
How Do EBT Cards Work?
Instead of using paper vouchers to pay for food with SNAP funds, you receive a plastic card that looks like a credit or debit card that you would use in an ATM machine. However, although SNAP is a federal program managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, EBT cards are issued by the state in which you live. Some of the requirements and conditions for use may vary depending on your location.
Along with your card, you will be issued a personal identification number (PIN) to use during transactions so you can protect your funds if your card is lost or stolen. The PIN shouldn’t be shared with other people. You must have the PIN before you can use your EBT card.
Typically, your benefit amount will be deposited to your SNAP account and added to your card balance each month automatically once you’ve qualified and have been approved for SNAP benefits. You don’t need to request your monthly funds; they’ll appear in your account automatically.
Checking Your Account Balance
You can check your EBT card balance by visiting the website of the state agency that provides your benefits, by accessing ebtEDGE.com or by calling your state agency. You’ll need to provide your account number and possibly other personal information, such as the EBT card number (depending on which website you use) to log in and check your account balance. You can also keep track of your EBT transactions.
If you haven’t set up your online account, you’ll need to do so. It should just take a few minutes. You’ll then have immediate access to your account information. In addition to the ebtEDGE website, you can use the ebtEDGE mobile app, which you can download from the Apple Store or Google Play.
Your account number is usually on the front of your EBT card. Ensure that you keep your PIN safe and separate in case you lose your card. In addition, an EBT customer service phone number that you can call to check your balance should be on the back of your card. You can also look at the bottom of your latest receipt, which will show you your current balance.
Steve Milano has written more than 1,000 pieces of personal finance and frugal living articles for dozens of websites, including Motley Fool, Zacks, Bankrate, Quickbooks, SmartyCents, Knew Money, Don't Waste Your Money and Credit Card Ideas, as well as his own websites.