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How To Use EBT Cash Benefits

How To Use EBT Cash Benefits

If you are using EBT cash benefits for the first time, or you’re interested in learning more about how to use EBT cash benefits, you’ve come to the right place!

This article covers the basics about EBT cash benefits, what you can use them for, what they don’t cover, and offers some tips on how to make the most of your cash benefits. 

As you read this article, it’s important to note that almost everything about EBT cash benefits can vary by state. If you have specific questions about EBT cash benefits or SNAP administration in your home state, you can use this interactive map to find the contact information for your local benefits office. 

What are EBT cash benefits?

EBT cash benefits is another name for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), a government program that provides supplemental assistance for parents with children under the age of 18, pregnant women, and children 18 and under who serve as heads of household. You might have also heard this program referred to as “welfare”. Recipients of EBT cash benefits have a low or very low income, and are typically required to be engaged in work or work-related activities in order to receive cash benefits. Check out our comprehensive TANF guide for more information on eligibility requirements.

The amount of EBT cash benefits you are eligible to receive will vary based on a number of factors. These include the state you live in, the state you work in, your income level, and the size of your family. Our guide on how to get EBT cash benefits includes more information on how much cash assistance you can expect to receive. 

While EBT cash benefits are typically added to the same purchasing cards as SNAP and WIC benefits, they are not the same thing. SNAP and WIC can only be used to purchase approved food and grocery items, while EBT cash benefits can be used for almost anything.  

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What can EBT cash benefits be used for?

The great thing about EBT cash benefits is that they can be used to purchase almost anything. Many individuals and families use EBT cash benefits to help pay for:

  • Rent or housing
  • Utilities (gas, lights, internet, etc.)
  • Childcare
  • Medical supplies and medicine
  • Clothing and shoes
  • Laundry
  • Transportation (gas, car repairs, bus fare, etc.)
  • Household necessities
  • Food not covered by SNAP
  • Recreational and enrichment activities for children (music lessons, sports, etc.)

EBT cash benefits are loaded onto your EBT card. You can use the card like a debit card, or to withdraw cash from participating ATMs. Once you have cash on hand, it can be used to purchase anything you want or need. 

Bonus tip: Check out our article on some lesser known things your EBT card can do for you! 

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What can EBT cash benefits NOT be used for?

While restrictions may vary by state, it is prohibited to use EBT cash benefits to purchase any of the following goods or services: 

  • Cigarettes and other tobacco products
  • Alcohol and imitation alcohol
  • Lottery tickets
  • Vacations, cruises, and travel services 
  • Tattoos, piercings, manicures, and pedicures 
  • Firearms, ammunition, and other gun paraphernalia 
  • Pornography and adult entertainment of any kind
  • Psychics
  • Tickets to concerts, sporting events, and amusement parks
  • Bail
  • Charitable donations

While it is difficult to trace purchases made with cash, ATMs located on the premises of casinos and gaming establishments, race tracks, liquor stores, smoke shops, and other off-limits businesses do not dispense cash to EBT cash recipients. 

The National Conference of State Legislators has assembled a full list of prohibited goods and services by state. 

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How to use EBT cash benefits card

In most cases, your EBT cash benefit card will operate much like any ATM or debit card. We’ve compiled a full list of instructions from every state in the U.S. (and Washington, DC) on how to use your EBT cash benefit card. Keep in mind that in most cases, your EBT card will hold both your SNAP and cash benefits. In some states, you can have your cash benefits deposited directly into your bank account. This can help you save on ATM fees and offer a more convenient way to pay your bills electronically.

We hope this information is helpful in learning how to use EBT cash benefits where you live. Leave your tips and tricks for making the most of your cash benefits in the comments!

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Catherine Hall, LMSW is a therapist at a small group practice in New York City. She earned her master of social work degree at New York University.

Sarah Woerner

Sunday 24th of July 2022

Trying to use my ebt cash to pay a bill online

Catherine Marucci

Tuesday 26th of July 2022

Hi Sarah. You may have to take the money out and deposit it into a regular bank account or prepaid card in order to pay a bill online.