Guide Using your EBT Card

The Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card is how DTA delivers its core services: food and cash benefits. Once you qualify for food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and/or cash benefits through Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) or Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC), you can access them using an EBT card. It looks and works like a debit card. We keep your benefits in a special account for you until you want to use them. Your EBT card "talks" to the account to let you get and spend your benefit dollars in an easy, secure way. This guide tells you how.

Get a card

Most applicants get a card within 7-10 days of their interview.
by mail or at a DTA office

During the process of applying for SNAP benefits  or applying for cash benefits, you will be issued an EBT card as soon as you:

  1. Have an interview.
  2. Verify who you are. Generally, all you have to do is tell us your SSN, if you have one.  

You can receive your card in 2 different ways: 

in the mail:

Unless you have an interview in person, you will be sent a card in the mail.  A secret Personal Identification Number (PIN) will arrive separately from your card. It may take 7-10 business days for your EBT card and PIN to arrive. Call EBT Customer Service at 1-800-997-2555 if you want to change the PIN to one that you would  prefer. If you can't wait for a card to be sent in the mail, go to a DTA office to have one printed for you. 

in person:

You apply for cash benefits in person. That is also one of the ways you can apply for SNAP benefits. If you apply in person, you will get an EBT card and choose your PIN before you leave the office.

Find out if your card needs a photo

Massachusetts law requires the use of photo identification on the front of each EBT card. We will use the photo from your driver's license or other state-issued ID. If you don't have one, we will schedule a time for you to go to a DTA office to take a photo.  You can still get a card and benefits while waiting to take your picture.  You aren't subject to photo EBT requirements if you are:

  • 18 or under 
  • 60 or over
  • blind
  • disabled
  • homeless
  • a victim of domestic violence
  • prevented by your religious beliefs
  • getting benefits for someone else, but not yourself

Understand who can use your card

Even though your EBT card may have your photo on it, other household members who are receiving benefits as part of your case can use the card as long as they know your PIN.

If you want someone else to have an EBT card to use your benefits to shop for you, you may choose someone to be your authorized representative

Request an authorized representative

authorized representative for SNAP benefits

You designate this agency to have a person shop for you with your SNAP benefits.  An EBT card is issued in this person's name. 

authorized payee for cash assistance

You designate this person to use your cash benefits.  An EBT card is issued in this person's name. 

 

authorized representative agency for SNAP

You designate this person to shop for you with your SNAP benefits. An EBT card is issued in the name of the Agency s/he works for. 

Additional Resources

Know when your benefits are available

Benefits will load onto your EBT card on the same day(s) every month when your case is active based on the last number of your SSN: 

 
SSN ending in Cash/SNAP benefits Cash
0 1st 16th
1 2nd 17th
2 4th 19th
3 5th 20th
4 7th 22nd
5 8th 23rd
6 10th 25th
7 11th 26th
8 13th 28th
9 14th 29th

If you have a bank account, you may get your cash benefits by Direct Deposit on these dates and use your EBT card to get your SNAP benefits only.

Recognize where your card is accepted

SNAP and cash benefits

Anywhere that displays this Quest® logo: 

Quest symbol for food stamp and cash benefits

SNAP benefits only

Anywhere that displays this Quest® logo

Quest symbol for food stamp benefits only

cash benefits only

Anywhere that displays this Quest® logo:

Quest symbol for cash benefits only

Find out what you can buy

with SNAP benefits:

You can buy any food item except alcohol or prepared meals sold hot and ready to eat. You can even buy seeds or plants for growing food. Find out more about eligible food items.

with cash benefits:

Anything you need, except:

  • alcoholic beverages
  • court-ordered fees, fines, bail or bail bonds
  • firearms and ammunition
  • gambling
  • lottery tickets
  • jewelry
  • adult-oriented entertainment material

You can even pay your rent or utility bills, purchase money orders, and buy food. 

Pay in stores

Check-out takes minutes.
  1. Look for the Quest® mark on the door or the window of the store.
  2. At check-out, swipe your EBT card.
  3. Enter your secret PIN on the number pad, then press Enter.
  4. Tell the cashier how much money to enter or enter the purchase amount yourself. Remember, you can only buy eligible food items with your SNAP benefits.
  5. Check your receipt to make sure that the amount on the EBT receipt is the same as your grocery receipt.

Earn additional SNAP dollars

Households of 1-2 earn up to $40/month.

The Healthy Incentives Program (HIP) credits a dollar-for-dollar match back to your EBT card instantly when you use SNAP benefits to buy local fruits and vegetables at participating:

  • farmers markets
  • farm stands
  • mobile markets
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm share programs

You can earn up to the HIP monthly cap based on your household size.

Household Size  HIP Monthly Cap
1-2  $40
3-5  $60
6+ $80

 

 

 

Additional Resources

Food shop when the system is out of service

If a store displaying the Quest® logo does not have a working EBT machine:

  • the clerk will handwrite a voucher for SNAP purchases only.
  • the voucher will list:

                 - your card number; and 

                 - your purchase amount.

  • the clerk will call to see if you have enough benefits to buy the food.
  • check to make sure the amount on the voucher is correct. 
  • sign the voucher.
  • keep the voucher so you can subtract this amount from your balance. This will give you the correct amount in your account.
  • it may take a few days for the amount to be subtracted from your account.

Get cash

Withdraw cash from a store.

You can withdraw cash from stores displaying the Quest® decal with the dollar sign ($). There are no fees. You don't need to make a purchase. Simply: 

  1. Get your balance by looking at your receipt, or call 1-800-997-2555.
  2. Swipe your card.
  3. Enter your secret PIN on the number pad, then press Enter.
  4. Tell the clerk how much money to enter or enter the amount yourself.
  5. Check to make sure the amount on the receipt is the same as the amount of cash you received.

Withdraw cash from an ATM machine.

Find an ATM with the NYCE logo or Quest® logo with the dollar sign ($) but there may be fees. Simply: 

  1. Make sure it’s safe. Only use ATMs in clean, well-lit places.
  2. Know your balance.
  3. Follow the directions on the ATM screen.
  4. Insert your EBT card.
  5. Enter your secret PIN.
  6. Press Withdrawal.
  7. Press Checking.
  8. Enter the dollar amount you want.
  9. Watch for fees.
  10. Take your cash from the machine.
  11. Wait for your card and receipt.
  12. Check the receipt to make sure it is the same as the amount you got.
  13. Store your cash before you walk away from the machine.

Get cash back with a purchase.

Combine your purchase at a store with cashback service. There are no fees. Look for the Quest® decal with the dollar sign ($) and:

  1. At check-out, swipe your EBT card.
  2. Enter your secret PIN on the number pad, then press Enter.
  3. Tell the cashier how much money to enter for thepurchase and your cashback amount or enter the amounts yourself. 
  4. Check your receipt to make sure that the amount on the EBT receipt is the same as the receipt for your groceries and the amount or cash you received.

Avoid cash fees

Sign up for direct deposit.

If you have your cash benefits deposited automatically in a checking or savings account, you can use your ATM card like an EBT card and may not have to pay fees for ATM withdrawals at that bank or other banks within that ATM network. Complete a Direct Deposit form and send the form to DTA to request direct deposit.

Visit the BasicBanking.org website for information on no- and low-cost checking and savings accounts. 

 

 

Withdraw or use cashback service in a store.

  There is no fee when you use your EBT card in a store to:

  •  withdraw cash 
  •  get cashback with a purchase

Some stores will allow a cash withdrawal without a purchase. Some stores will let you get cash back above the cost of your purchase. Check with the store for the withdrawal rules and the maximum cashback amount. 

Use fee-free ATMs.

It costs you 75 cents each time you make 3 or more EBT cash withdrawals in a month from an ATM.  To save money, try to make only 2 withdrawals each month. Some banks charge another fee just for using their ATM. You will not pay the bank fee if you withdraw your cash benefits from an ATM owned by:

  • Bank of America 
  • Sovereign Bank
  • Citizens Bank 

Other ATM owners may also offer free EBT cash withdrawals. Always check the fee notices at the ATM before making a withdrawal.

No matter who operates the ATM, you will still pay the 75-cent fee if it is your third or more withdrawal in the month.

There are no fees for ATM balance inquiries. 

Additional Resources

Check your balance and transaction history

Keep track of the money left on your EBT card so you know the balance before you shop. Check your balance by:

  • Downloading and logging onto the DTA Connect app
  • Calling the EBT Customer Service number (1-800-997-2555) on the back of your card
  • Using an ATM or a machine used to process your payment at a store
  • Checking the EBT receipt of your last purchase

EBT cards create an electronic record of every purchase. If your balance is lower than you expected, you can call 1-800-997- 2555 to get the last 10 transactions to help you track your spending.

Care for your card

Your EBT card is good for as long as you get SNAP or cash benefits. You can use the same card for years even if your case closes and reopens. To care for it:

  • Keep it in a safe place (like your wallet or a card holder) when you’re not using it, instead of loose in your bag or pocket.
  • Never write your secret PIN on it.
  • Don’t bend it.
  • Don’t write on or scratch the black stripe on the back.
  • Don’t put your card near fridge magnets, TVs, stereos, VCRs, or even the magnetic clasp on a purse or wallet.

Replace your card

Report it lost, stolen or damaged.

If your card is lost, stolen or damaged call EBT Customer Service at 1-800-997-2555 right away.

DTA will mail you a replacement. The PIN for your replacement card does not have to be the same as your old one. If you want a new one, it’ll be sent in the mail separately to your card. Your replacement card and PIN will arrive within 7-10 business days.

If you need to get your replacement card sooner, stop by a DTA office to have one printed for you. 

We can replace your card, but not any benefits taken from it. If any benefits were left on your old card they will automatically transfer to your new replacement card.

Expect a fee.

It costs $5 to replace an EBT card. The $5 fee will be taken from your benefits. If you have no benefits available, DTA will take the fee from you later. There's no $5 fee if:

  • this is your first Photo EBT card
  • your card was defective
  • your card was lost in the mail
  • DTA is replacing an emergency EBT card
  • your case was closed for 30 days or more
  • DTA has agreed to issue you a replacement card to accommodate your disability or domestic violence situation
  • you changed your name
  • you changed your Social Security number

Learn additional rules.

If you get 4 or more replacement EBT cards within 12 months you must talk with DTA before getting a new card. Based on this discussion, DTA may investigate to ensure that there is no fraud. Selling your card or your benefits is illegal and can result in disqualifying you from benefits.

Protect your PIN

Call to change your PIN anytime. 1-800-997-2555

PIN stands for Personal Identification Number. To use your EBT card, you must enter your 4 number secret PIN into the machine. It is the key that unlocks your benefit accounts. For this reason: 

  • Keep your PIN a secret
  • Never write your secret PIN on your card.
  • Never let anyone see you enter your secret PIN at a machine, even a store clerk.
  • Never give anyone your card or secret PIN. If a person has your card and knows your secret PIN, they can use ALL of your benefits.
  • If someone else uses your secret PIN and card, YOUR BENEFITS WILL NOT BE REPLACED.

Note what you can't do with your card

You can't use SNAP benefits to pay for:

  • non-food items
  • cooked food 
  • restaurant food
  • pet food
  • beer 
  • wine 
  • liquor 

You can't use cash benefits to pay for:

  • alcoholic beverages
  • court-ordered fees, fines, bail or bail bonds
  • firearms and ammunition
  • gambling
  • lottery tickets
  • jewelry
  • adult-oriented entertainment material or performances
  • tattoos or body piercings 
  • tobacco products 
  • TVs, stereos, video games, or consoles at rent-to-own stores
  • vacation services

You can't shop with cash benefits at:

  • adult bookstores
  • ammunition or firearm dealers 
  • casinos
  • cruise ships 
  • jewelry stores 
  • liquor stores 
  • nail shops 
  • tattoo parlors 
  • agencies that transfer money to foreign countries

Additional Resources

Learn the penalties for buying restricted items with cash benefits

First time

 You must pay DTA back the amount of the items or services.

Second time

You must pay DTA back the amount of the items or services AND you will lose your cash assistance for two months.

Third time

You must pay DTA back the amount of the items or services AND you will lose cash assistance permanently. 

Get discounts at museums and cultural centers

125 places

The EBT Card to Culture program provides discounted admissions to various museums and other educational and cultural institutions.  As an EBT cardholder, you can get reduced or free admission by showing your card at any of the participating organizations.

Additional Resources

Request to restore expired benefits

When do benefits expire?

If you don't use your cash benefits for 90 days, they expire. 

If you don't use your SNAP benefits for:

  • 6 months or more, they are taken off of your card until you contact DTA.
  • 365 days, they expire.

Request to restore expired cash benefits.

In certain circumstances expired cash benefits can be replaced if you request a restoration within 6 months of the date the cash benefits expired. 6 months after the expiration date, the cash benefits are permanently unavailable and cannot be restored.

Call your case manager or go to a DTA office to request to restore your expired cash benefits.

Request to restore expired SNAP benefits.

While you always have the right to request restoration of expired SNAP benefits, expired SNAP benefits cannot be restored unless they expired in error (e.g., prior to 365 days).

Call 1-877-382-2363 or got to a DTA office to request to restore your expired SNAP benefits.

Call customer service

Reach customer service 24/7 1-800-997-2555

Call EBT Customer Service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-997-2555 if: 

  • your card is lost, stolen or damaged.
  • you want to change your PIN.
  • you want to find out how much you have left in your account. 
  • you have been charged for something you didn't buy. 
  • you have other questions or problems.

This is a free call. 

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