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If you’ve just had your account loaded with EBT cash funds, you’ve probably got one question on your mind: what can you buy with EBT cash benefits? It’s a fair question, as most government welfare programs put pretty strict limitations on what you can and cannot do. Fortunately, EBT cash benefits offer you a lot more freedom than most other programs.
So, what are EBT cash benefits? How do they differ from food stamps? Most importantly, what can you buy with EBT cash benefits? In today’s post, we will answer all of these questions and more, so read on to find out everything you need to know about EBT cash benefits!
What are EBT cash benefits?
EBT cash benefits are direct transfers made to your Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) account from one of several federal or state-run programs. Generally speaking, there are three primary types of programs that participate:
- State General Assistance
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Refugee Cash Assistance
If you receive EBT cash benefits from a state program, the rules governing how much you receive and what you can buy will vary by state. Refugee Cash Assistance is less common and can be issued by the state or federal government, which means that the rules can also vary by location. Therefore, you will need to check with the state that issued the funds to learn more.
Finally, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is one of the largest and most commonly-used programs to fall under the umbrella of EBT cash benefits. Though the program is managed at the federal level, it gives power to states to distribute and regulate the funds. In general, TANF is designed to help low-income families meet their basic needs with monthly cash stipends.
TANF vs. SNAP
Many people confuse TANF and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as both provide direct monthly payments to your EBT card. However, the requirements to qualify, the amounts you receive, and the kinds of things you can buy differ between both programs. Compared to TANF, SNAP is very limiting.
In fact, you can only purchase food items and ingredients from participating grocery stores with SNAP. In the vast majority of cases, SNAP does not allow you to purchase food at restaurants or even buy ready-made food from supermarkets or grocery stores. Consequently, SNAP is not considered a part of the EBT cash benefits family, as it does not provide cash resources for more general purchases.
What can you buy with EBT cash benefits?
As previously stated, every state institutes its own rules regarding the specific use of EBT cash benefits. That said, most states adhere to the same principle that cash benefits are designed to help low-income families meet their basic needs.
In most states, you can buy anything that could qualify as standard “living expenses,” including:
- Home maintenance
- Personal hygiene
- Employment expenses
As you can see, EBT cash benefits give you a lot more freedom to buy things than food-specific programs like SNAP. Additionally, one of the biggest advantages of EBT cash benefits is the ability to withdraw cash from ATMs. Though this list is subject to change, all of the following banking institutions and ATM services currently allow you to withdraw EBT cash without paying any fees:
- Actors Credit Union
- Alameda County Social Services
- Alaska USA Credit Union
- Alta One Credit Union (NEA-WEA)
- Bank of California
- Bank of America
- Bank of Rio Vista
- Bank of the Sierra
- Bank of the West
- Bank of the West – Walgreens
- Bay Federal Credit Union
- Caltech Employees Federal Credit Union
- Capital One – Target Stores
- Capital One (Café 360)
- Cardtronics – Safeway/Vons
- Chase Bank
- Chetco Credit Union
- Comerica Bank
- Corporate America Family
- CU Exchange Bank
- Financial Center Credit Union
- First Republic Bank
- First Tech Credit Union
- Flagstar Bank
- Fremont Bank
- Northrop Grumman
- Credit Union Partners Credit Union
- Plumas Bank
- Priority One Credit Union
- Redding Bank of Commerce
- Redwood Credit Union
- Sacramento Credit Union
- San Diego County Credit Union
- Schools 1st Credit Union
- Sun Community Credit Union
- Torrey Pines Bank Umpqua Bank
- Unify Credit Union
- United Security Bank
- Universal City Studios Credit Union
- Wells Fargo Bank
- Xceed Financial Credit Union
Since you can use cash to purchase virtually anything, this means that you could theoretically withdraw EBT cash from an ATM and purchase whatever you like. Nonetheless, most states still put limitations on what you can buy directly with your EBT cash benefits — even though they have little control over what you do once you withdraw cash from an ATM.
Though the rules vary from state to state, you are not allowed to use EBT cash benefits for the following types of purchases under most state programs:
- Gambling, including lottery tickets, punch boards, bingo, horse racing, casino games, scratch cards, or any games of chance
- Services in tattoo or body piercing shops
- Alcohol or tobacco
- Goods or services in bars, taverns, nightclubs, or adult entertainment venues
- Bail bond agency services
- Any goods or services that cannot be purchased by someone under the age of 18
Additionally, it’s important to note that you’re not allowed to do any of the following with your EBT card:
- Attempt to sell your EBT card
- Exchange your benefits for something else (other than legal purchases)
- Give your benefits to someone outside of your household
Some states even limit the use of EBT cash benefits to in-state purchases only. For example, if you receive your EBT cash benefits in Florida, you are only allowed to use them for purchases within the state of Florida. However, this does not apply to every state, nor does it apply to non-cash benefits programs like SNAP.
The Bottom Line
So, what can you buy with EBT cash benefits? The answer is that you can buy just about anything that could apply to your living expenses — from food and clothing to rent and utilities. Additionally, you can use your EBT card (loaded with EBT cash benefits) to withdraw funds from thousands of ATMs around the country, giving you even more freedom to use the funds as you see fit! Just remember that every state has its own specific rules about how you can use your EBT cash benefits, so if you’re not sure, simply check with the Department of Health & Human Services (or the equivalent agency) in your location!