Using your EBT card

The Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card is how DTA delivers its core services: food and economic assistance. Once you qualify for food benefits through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and/or economic assistance 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.

Table of Contents

EBT Brochures

Visit the page below to access our multilingual EBT brochures. These outreach materials can be used to help explain what an EBT card is and how to use it.

Get a new card

Most applicants get a card within 3-5 days of their application.

During the process of applying for SNAP benefits or economic assistance, you will be issued an EBT card as soon as you verify who you are. Generally, all you have to do is tell us your Social Security number, if you have one.

You will receive your card in the mail. It may take 3-5 business days for your EBT card to arrive. You can track the delivery date on or the DTA Connect mobile appYou can visit one of our local offices to receive an EBT card if you need one more quickly. If you cannot visit an office, talk to our staff about other options.

NOTE: We will give you a card before we decide whether you qualify for benefits, but we will not add benefits to it until you have qualified.

PIN Your Card

PIN stands for Personal Identification Number. To use your EBT card, you must enter your 4 number secret PIN into the machine. Your PIN will arrive in the mail separately from your card. It may take 5-10 business days to arrive.

Call EBT Customer Service at (800) 997-2555 (the number on the back of your card) if you forgot your PIN or you want to change it to one that you would prefer. Steps on how to change your PIN.

Request a replacement card

Most cards are delivered within 3-5 days.

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

You can also request a replacement EBT card via the mail by using:

  • or the DTA Connect mobile app. Under 'My Info', click on Request an EBT Card. You can also track the card in the mail on DTA Connect.
  • Automated prompts on the DTA Assistance Line (877) 382-2363.

You can also visit one of our local offices to receive an EBT card if you need one more quickly. If you cannot visit an office, talk to our staff about other options.

When you request a new EBT card, it deactivates your old card. DTA cannot reactive an EBT card.

The PIN for your replacement card does not have to be the same as your old one but it will be the same unless you tell us you want a new PIN assigned to you. If you request a new PIN, it will be sent in the mail in a separate envelope from your replacement card. Your replacement card and PIN will arrive within 5-10 business days.

We can replace your card, but cannot replace any benefits taken from it. If 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 a case manager or investigator 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.

Key Actions for Request a replacement card

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

Authorized payee for economic assistance

You designate this person to get cash or shop for you with your economic assistance benefits.  An EBT card is issued in this person's name. 


Authorized representative agency for SNAP

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

Additional Resources for Request an authorized representative

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 Social Security number (SSN): 

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.

Key Actions for Know when your benefits are available

Recognize where your card is accepted

​​​​​​​SNAP and cash benefits

Anywhere that displays this Quest® logo:

Quest logo is displayed where SNAP and cash benefits can be accessed.

SNAP benefits only

Anywhere that displays this Quest® logo:

Quest logo is displayed where SNAP benefits can be accessed.

Cash benefits only

Anywhere that displays this NYCE® logo:

NYCE logo is displayed where cash benefits can be accessed.

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
  • Recreational marijuana

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.

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
    • 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.

    NOTE: You cannot redeem SNAP benefits for cash.

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 the purchase 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  TAFDC or EAEDC benefits directly deposited into a checking or savings account, you can use your ATM card like an EBT card. You 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 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 4 or more EBT cash withdrawals in a month from an ATM. To save money, try to make only 3 withdrawals each month.

Most 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 that offers 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 fourth or more withdrawal in the month.

There are no fees for ATM balance inquiries. 

Additional Resources for Avoid cash fees

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:

EBT cards create an electronic record of every purchase. If your balance is lower than you expected, you can call (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

Protect your PIN

Call to change your PIN anytime. (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

EBT Card Skimming

Skimming is a type of theft. Thieves put an overlay on a store’s card-swiping machine to copy EBT, credit and debit card information. The information is then used to make fake EBT, debit or credit cards. The fake cards are called clones. Cloned cards are used to steal money from real accounts.

Skimming can happen anywhere you swipe your EBT, credit or debit card. Most of the time, that means EBT or Credit Card machines and ATMs.

Key Actions for EBT Card Skimming

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 
  • Recreational marijuana

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
  • Recreational marijuana

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
  • Recreational marijuana stores

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 other cultural organizations

200+ 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.

Key Actions for Get discounts at museums and other cultural organizations

Request to restore expired benefits

When do benefits expire?

DTA benefits roll over month to month.

  • Cash benefits not used for 90 days or more expire and are removed from your EBT card. 
  • SNAP benefits will not be removed from your card if you use your benefits any time within 274 days.
    • If you don't use any SNAP benefits for 274 days, benefits that are 274 days old or older will be removed from your EBT card.
    • DTA will send you a notice 30 days before any benefits may be expunged from your card. 

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. Six months after the expiration date, the cash benefits are permanently unavailable and cannot be restored.

Call your case manager 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 274 days).

Call (877382-2363 to request to restore your expired SNAP benefits.

Call customer service

Reach customer service 24/7 (800) 997-2555

Call EBT Customer Service 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (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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