What Is EBT for SNAP?

EBT is an acronym for Electronic Benefits Transfer, and is the system used to remit government funds in the SNAP program. SNAP is an acronym for Supplementary Nutritional Assistance Program and is the government food-stamp program. An EBT card functions similarly to a debit card at eligible retailers, and is used to purchase SNAP-eligible food items.

EBT is used in all states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The card may be used to purchase food, as well as plants and seeds for growing food. Live animals for consumption purposes are not covered by SNAP, with the exception of live seafood sold at a butcher or seafood counter for immediate consumption. Alcohol, hot food, supplements and non-food products are not covered by SNAP and cannot be purchased with an EBT card.

In addition to traditional grocery stores and convenience stores, licensed farmers' markets are able to accept SNAP. Farmers' markets apply for government licensing just as stores do and, upon acceptance, are eligible to receive point-of-sale EBT readers. This equipment is free for markets that do $100 or more of SNAP business per month. Farmers' markets that do not have this equipment or that only accept cash can use manual vouchers. For manual vouchers, the market calls the state's EBT processor to place a hold on the funds in the customer's EBT account.