If you currently have an EBT card or you want to apply for one in the near future, you may have asked yourself the following question: does McDonalds accept EBT? It’s a fair question. As one of the most popular and affordable fast-food chains on the planet, McDonalds provides food to millions of people every day. Consequently, many EBT cardholders want to know if they can use their funds to purchase food at McDonalds.
Before we answer this question, it’s important to know how EBT works. Additionally, it’s important to understand what kind of purchases you can make with an EBT card, as well as those that are forbidden. So, let’s take a closer look at EBT and how it can help you make ends meet.
What is EBT?
In essence, EBT (or “Electronic Benefit Transfer”) is the new and improved version of old state welfare and Food Stamp programs. Rather than using old-fashioned Food Stamp vouchers or coupons, you can now apply for welfare aid and receive these funds through an electronic account under your name. Once you’ve applied and been accepted to receive welfare, you will be sent an EBT card, which functions much like a standard debit card. However, the government puts certain limitations on what you can and cannot buy with an EBT card.
Generally speaking, there are two different forms of EBT that you can use: food or cash benefits. The former is distributed through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), while the latter is distributed through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The kind of funds that you receive will determine what kind of purchases you can make with your EBT account.
If you acquire cash benefits with TANF, you can use your debit card to make purchases at any participating retailer. Additionally, you can withdraw cash from ATMs. This means that you can use these funds to pay for a wide range of expenses — from clothing to rent.
Alternatively, funds acquired through SNAP are more limited. More specifically, you can only use SNAP funds to pay for food items authorized by the program. Generally, this includes all of the following items:
- Seeds or food-producing plants
These limitations are meant to ensure that families can access healthy foods. However, it also means that, with a few exceptions, SNAP funds cannot be used for the following items:
- Food designed for immediate consumption
- Household items
- Nonfood items
As you can see, your EBT card is pretty limited with just SNAP funds. The program is designed to encourage people to shop at grocery stores and prepare their own meals, as opposed to buying less healthy, ready-made food. For a complete list of SNAP-eligible and non-eligible items, check out the federal SNAP website.
Where Can I Use My EBT Card?
Now that you know what you can buy with an EBT card, it’s time to figure out where you can shop. Most major grocery stores and supermarkets accept EBT cards, though some do not. These organizations must meet certain requirements set out by the SNAP or TANF programs. So, if you’re unsure whether a business accepts EBT cards, you may need to ask an employee or manager when you arrive.
That said, there are plenty of large chains that accept EBT cards without any issues. Here are some of the largest grocery store chains and retailers that will accept your EBT card:
- BJ’s Wholesale Club
- City Market
- County Market
- Eastern Foods
- Family Foods
- Food 4 Less
- Food City
- Food Lion
- Friendly Foods
- Hometown Foods
- Jubilee Foods
- Market Basket
- Metal Supermarkets
- Neighborhood Market
- Piggly Wiggly
- Sam’s Club
- Save A Lot
- Schwan’s Fine Food
- Shop N Save
- Stop & Shop
- Trader Joe’s
- Whole Foods Market
It’s also important to note that depending on your location, you may be able to make food purchases online from large retailers like Walmart or Amazon.
Does McDonalds Accept EBT?
So, does McDonalds accept EBT? In general, the answer is no. However, there are some exceptions. Some states offer extensions to the federal SNAP program that allow certain individuals to use their EBT cards at qualifying restaurants — including McDonalds. Additionally, if you acquire cash benefits through the TANF program, you could withdraw cash from your account and use that cash at a McDonalds. That said, the vast majority of states do not allow EBT cardholders or SNAP beneficiaries to buy food from fast-food restaurants.
The exceptions to this rule apply in states that have implemented the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP). Currently, you can only take advantage of the full benefits of RMP in California and Arizona. Additionally, there are limited versions of the program available in Florida and Rhode Island. In any case, if you reside in a county or district in one of these states that participates in RMP, you may be able to use your EBT card at a nearby McDonalds.
However, there is a catch. RMP is designed to provide additional food assistance to those most in need of help. More specifically, you can only qualify for help through RMP if you are elderly, disabled, or homeless. If you do not meet any of these requirements, then you cannot qualify for RMP and you cannot use your SNAP funds to purchase food at McDonalds.
The Bottom Line
Does McDonalds accept EBT? As you can see, there’s no simple answer to this question. First, it will depend on the type of welfare you receive from the government. If you get cash benefits through TANF, then you could theoretically use those funds at McDonalds. However, if you are getting food assistance through SNAP, you are far more limited in what you can buy. Only select individuals in certain locations who qualify for RMP will be able to use their EBT card and SNAP funds to buy food at McDonalds. In short, for the vast majority of EBT cardholders, the answer to the question is no.