You use an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card to access benefits from your state welfare department, including the withdrawal of cash from an automated teller machine (ATM). The ATM process is like the one you would use to withdraw cash with a bank debit card, with some exceptions and restrictions based on your state’s rules. Although your EBT card is issued by the state where you live, you can use it in all 50 states as well as in the District of Columbia, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The ATM Process
The plastic EBT card issued by your state has a magnetic strip and/or an embedded chip that allows you to use it at an ATM. The card is encoded with your four-digit personal identification number (PIN) that helps ensure that only you can use it. To get cash from an ATM, put the card in the machine, enter your PIN, choose the “withdrawal-from-checking” option, and enter a dollar amount. The ATM will dispense your cash and print a receipt. Check the amount on the receipt to make sure it’s the same as the money you receive.
Restrictions on EBT Card Use at an ATM
If you qualify for benefits, your state will create an account for you, issue you an EBT card linked to the account and put money into the account monthly. The state sets the rules on how you can use your EBT card. For example, New York allows you to use your EBT card twice per month for free at ATMs that don’t charge a fee. You’ll have to pay a surcharge of at least 50 cents for every withdrawal after the two free ones. The fees and cash withdrawals are subtracted from your cash benefit account.
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Benefits Available with an EBT Card
Food stamps are one of the main benefits of the EBT program. The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) supports state food stamp benefits, and the average monthly benefit is about $126 per person. States also distribute cash through their own general assistance programs, as well as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and benefits for refugees. The money you withdraw from an ATM comes from your benefits account.
You can also use your EBT card at a grocery store checkout to pay for food that is eligible under SNAP. The checkout terminal reads your card as you enter your PIN and updates your account for the money you spend so that no cash needs to change hands. You can check your EBT card balance at an ATM, and the balance should also be printed on your EBT purchase receipts. States also have phone numbers you can call to get your EBT card balance.