The Federal Food Stamp Program (also called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP) has rolled out cards instead of issuing paper food stamp coupons. SNAP recipients now get what’s known as a EBT (electronic benefit transfer) card that they can use at approved stores. It makes it much easier now as you just use the EBT card much like you would a debit or a credit card. All you do is swipe your card in a card reader, enter your PIN number and away you go.
How to Use the SNAP Card
In case you forget (or you’re new to these benefits), here are some tips and reminders when using your food stamp benefits:
- You can see how much money you have left on your card after every purchase transaction
- You should know if a store participates in the SNAP program from the signs they display, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
- Most foods are eligible for the SNAP program, including many items you can find in a grocery store (like meat, dairy, produce and certain processed foods)
You can use your EBT card in all 50 states except for Puerto Rico.
Do Food Stamps Roll Over?
Yes. If you don’t use all of your balance one month, it does carry over to the next. You can then use that amount to purchase other qualifying items. That means you don’t have to worry about using up the entire amount if you find yourself not needing to.
However, if you don’t use your card for more than 365 days in a row, then your SNAP benefits may expire. The DTA (Department of Transitional Assistance) will contact you if you haven’t used then in 90 days. They will usually send a letter. If they intend on taking action (such as taking away your benefits), then they will let you know via writing before anything is done. If you don’t respond or if you don’t use your benefits beyond 365 days then the DTA will take them away.
Keep in mind too that if you have a fairly high balance on your card, DTA might contact you. It’s just a safety precaution and if you did nothing wrong, you have nothing to worry about.
What You Can Do if You Can’t Use Your Food Stamps Benefits
Look, it’s understandable if you have health issues or something similar that you can’t get to the grocery store often. If that’s the case, you can ask a family member or trusted friend to help purchase food for you using your EBT card. This person would be what’s considered an authorized representative and will have access to all your SNAP benefits, hence the need to hand that responsibility to a trusted person.
You don’t have to give that person you card, the DBT will issue you two cards if you choose. Once that’s all arranged,you can figure out how to work it out between the two of you – whether it’s a regular or occasional occurrence.
Making sure that you understand your food stamps benefits isn’t that hard. As long as you ensure that you keep using your benefits on a regular basis, there shouldn’t be any major issues.