Most states offer recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program the ability to check the balances of their accounts online through portals established by the state. To access the card balance, the recipient must first register for an account. The list of states offering online account access is available through the official website for the United States Department of Agriculture.
Formerly known as the Food Stamp program, recipients of benefits received coupons that could be used at participating retailers. The program started in May 1939. In the 1990s, most states opted to switch to the more cost-effective method of electronically transferring benefits to recipients. Recipients received a card similar to a debit or credit card that is accepted by most retailers that participated in the Food Stamp program. Some states also chose to make cash assistance also available through the card to qualified individuals who had applied for aid.
In 2008, the Food Stamp program was renamed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Legislators felt the name change might help to remove some of the stigmas associated with receiving government assistance. By doing this, legislators hoped that more people in need of assistance would be willing to apply for SNAP benefits.