If you’ve got EBT, there are five things you really need to be doing every single month… and if you’re not, it can leave your benefits at risk. Whether you’re a senior or just someone trying to stick to a budget, this video has five tips that can help you manage, maximize, and master your EBT like a pro!
In this article, we’re going to review five essential steps that all EBT users should take monthly to protect their benefits.
So, first, let’s talk about your paperwork. Small problems in your paperwork can add up to BIG problems later. Over the last 10 years, I’ve heard from so many people who have lost their benefits over the tiniest details, so this is something you really need to watch out for.
For most households, recertifications happen every 6-12 months. That’s when you basically have to re-verify all of your information for the food stamps office. In my experience, when people suddenly stop getting their EBT benefits, it’s because they missed a recertification deadline.
There are a lot of reasons why that might happen but it usually comes down to not knowing about it. If you haven’t been keeping tabs on when it’s going to happen and the SNAP office can’t reach you, then you could miss it entirely and your benefits could just suddenly stop.
That’s why every EBT user needs to check their paperwork every single month. Make sure that the food stamps office has your most up-to-date contact information so that you never miss those important letters or recertification requests. If you move or change your number, they need to know.
That’s not the only thing you have to update, either. Different states have their own rules, but you may need to update your information if:
- If you change your name or Social Security number,
- Someone moves in or out of your household,
- You get married or divorced,
- You get pregnant or your pregnancy ends,
- You start school or leave school,
- If your income changes beyond a certain threshold set by your state,
- If you hit the jackpot in the lottery,
- If you are an able-bodied adult without dependents and you are working less than 20 hours per week
If you don’t keep these things updated, it can cause some serious problems. Your benefits may suddenly stop, or you may be hit with an overpayment penalty. If you don’t update your information and it results in you getting more benefits than you should have, the state can make you pay those overages back. That can get overwhelming very quickly, so it’s important to make sure that you update your information regularly to avoid overpayments.
Protect Your Benefits
The next thing you need to do is protect your benefits. In 2022, the government saw a 4,000% increase in fraud claims. Many people around the country have woken up to discover their accounts drained as soon as the money was put in, and that’s disastrous when you rely on these benefits to eat.
Please don’t let that happen to you. Changing your PIN every month can help protect your benefits because it prevents someone who already stole your PIN from being able to use it again.
Another thing you can do every month is check your EBT transaction history. Make sure there were no unexpected or unauthorized transactions made. States have implemented a temporary system to replace stolen benefits, so you can get your money back if it was stolen BUT you have to file your claim in a timely manner. If you wait too long, you could miss out. The best way to make sure you can get those replacements is to check your transactions every month and file a claim immediately if you notice something suspicious.
While we’re on the subject of security, many states have rolled out apps with awesome new security features that let you lock internet or out-of-state transactions. By toggling those features on and off, you can make sure that you’re able to conduct valid purchases while also significantly reducing the risk of theft. It can take the state a while to replace those benefits, so it’s way better to prevent theft altogether than to count on getting those replacements.
Check Ibotta for 100% Cashback Offers
Now let’s talk about how you can get more food – and more money – by using your EBT benefits strategically. You may not know this, but you can get cash back on your EBT purchases when you redeem your receipts with Ibotta.
I never have time to manage coupons, so I count on the Ibotta app to help me save money at the store – and there are two places within the app that EBT users need to check every month.
First, there’s a neat little button that can show you all the 100% cashback offers in one place. 100% cash back means that if you buy that item, you could get ALL that money back when you redeem your receipt through Ibotta. That means it’s basically free!
These offers change all the time and there’s a lot of non-food offers in there, too. It takes a little bit of work to identify the offers that will work with your EBT benefits at the stores near you, but if you find eligible items that you’ll actually eat it’s a great way to get free food with your EBT benefits – and it basically transforms your food benefits into cash, too.
The second thing that you want to look for in the Ibotta app is the bonuses. Sometimes, the app will have great bonuses that can help you get extra cash back on your purchases. My favorite is when they offer cash back on any receipt from any store, because that’s an easy one to get. It only happens occasionally, so you need to keep tabs on the bonus page.
Anyway, before you spend your EBT benefits each month, check with Ibotta to see what you can get for free and what you can get extra cash back on. Sometimes, you’ll find that name brands are cheaper than store brands when you include the cashback you’ll get from Ibotta.
If this is something you’d like to try, download the Ibotta app now!
Get Free Food
Another great way to save money each month is to visit your local food bank, community garden and other free food resources before you spend your EBT benefits.
When my family relied on EBT to survive, I spent a lot of time visiting our local food bank. Getting as much free food as possible allowed me to fill in the gaps with my SNAP benefits, so that we could have a variety of tasty and nutritious meals without overspending.
If you go to your food bank first, then you can make meal plans based on what you find there and use your benefits to snap up the other ingredients. It sounds complicated, but I’m putting together a separate video with details on how to do this effectively so please make sure you’re subscribed to our channel so that you don’t miss that video when it rolls out.
Watch our Monthly EBT Updates
And that brings us to our final monthly food stamps tip: watch our monthly EBT updates. You seriously can’t afford to miss these videos!
Every single month, our team combs through all the EBT-related headlines from around the country to find all the things you need to know about new EBT discounts, COLA increases, scams to watch out for, and other tips that help you make the most of your benefits and keep them safe. We put a lot of time into those videos to make sure they are accurate and as helpful as possible every single month, so you really don’t want to miss those.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits are a great asset when you’re struggling to make ends meet. However, you need to make sure that you use them effectively to get the best value from these benefits. Keeping up on your paperwork, protecting them from theft, and strategizing so that you get the most for your money is all very helpful.