How to Use EBT Cards at the Grocery Store

Electronic Benefit Transfer cards are debit cards that contain state funds for supplemental nutrition assistance and family cash benefits for families that qualify. Any funds that you qualify for based on your income and family size are deposited onto the card once a month and available for immediate use. EBT cards can be treated similar to a traditional credit or debit card with slight variations in the menu selections after swiping them.

Select your groceries within the guidelines for your EBT program. EBT programs commonly allow fresh produce, meats and uncooked packaged foods. Most programs also allow the purchase of baby formula, infant foods and plants that produce foods, such as herbs and fruit trees.

Provide your purchases to the cashier as you normally would. Wait for the cashier to provide a total cost.

Slide your EBT card through the card-processing machine. Select “EBT” when the machine requests the payment type. Press “Food” to pay with food-only benefits or “Cash” to pay with EBT cash benefits, if you have them.

Input your card PIN when prompted by the card machine. Press “OK.” Verify the purchase total and click “OK.” Provide an alternative payment for any products that your EBT funds did not cover.


  • Most food-only EBT programs prohibit pet foods, paper goods and pre-cooked, ready-to-eat foods. Cash programs have different guidelines, allowing you to purchase some paper products and other household goods. Check the guidelines for your state if you are unsure of your available benefits.