SNAP Benefits: How To Use Them for Purchases

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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often referred to as SNAP or food stamps, is a federally funded, state-administered program available for low-income individuals and families to help pay for nutritious food and beverages, ingredients and seeds that can grow food.

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SNAP benefits have been issued in the form of debit cards since 2004, according to These cards are called Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards.

To use your SNAP benefits, simply make a purchase at a store or farmer’s market that accepts SNAP and use your EBT card the way you would any debit card at the point-of-sale, using your PIN (Personal Identification Number). If you received your EBT card in the mail, you will receive your PIN separately in the mail a few days later.

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Keep your PIN safe and do not give that number to anyone. The only way someone can access your SNAP benefits is using your EBT card with your PIN.

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The way that SNAP EBT works is that when your card is used for a purchase at any authorized retailer, the funds on your card are debited to reimburse the store for what you’ve purchased. According to the Food and Nutrition Service’s website, EBT is used in all 50 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam. EBT has also been the sole method SNAP has been issued since June 2004.

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About the Author

Dawn Allcot is a full-time freelance writer and content marketing specialist who geeks out about finance, e-commerce, technology, and real estate. Her lengthy list of publishing credits include Bankrate, Lending Tree, and Chase Bank. She is the founder and owner of, a travel, technology, and entertainment website. She lives on Long Island, New York, with a veritable menagerie that includes 2 cats, a rambunctious kitten, and three lizards of varying sizes and personalities – plus her two kids and husband. Find her on Twitter, @DawnAllcot.
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