EBT restrictions for retailers

Everything you need to know about the EBT restrictions affecting your business, all in one place.

Chapter 18 of Massachusetts law sets restrictions for retailers, statewide, regarding accepting direct cash assistance funds in electronic benefit transfer (EBT) transactions. Direct cash assistance includes Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC).
 

Restricted services and products

Chapter 18, Section 5I makes it unlawful to accept DTA cash assistance funds held on Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards or devices to sell the following services or products at all establishments, unless otherwise specified:

  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Tobacco products
  • Lottery tickets
  • Gambling
  • Firearms and ammunition
  • Vacation services
  • Tattoos or body piercings
  • Jewelry
  • Court-ordered fees, fines, bail or bail bonds 
  • Adult-oriented entertainment material or performances
  • Televisions, stereos, video games or consoles at rent-to-own stores

Posters and flyers

Section 5N of Chapter 18 law also requires businesses that accept EBT cards to post a sign with DTA’s fraud hotline in a conspicuous area and to maintain a list of categories of prohibited products at each cash register. Downloadable posters and register-friendly flyers about EBT card restrictions are available below. 

 

EBT card restrictions Posters Flyers
 What You Can't Buy    English,Spanish

 EnglishSpanish   

Where You Can't Buy  English,Spanish  EnglishSpanish  

 

Additional Resources for Posters and flyers

Restricted establishments

Per Chapter 18, Section 5J, the following establishments cannot accept DTA cash assistance as payment:

  • Ammunitions dealers
  • Casinos, gambling casinos or gaming establishments
  • Cruise ships
  • Firearms dealers
  • Jewelry stores
  • Liquor stores
  • Manicure shops or aesthetic shops
  • Cash transmittal agencies to foreign countries
  • Tattoo parlors
  • Adult book stores and adult paraphernalia establishments

POS and ATM blocking

DTA has procedures to block the use of EBT cards in prohibited Point-of-Sale (POS) transactions and at ATMs in prohibited establishments.

If you are a retailer wishing to expedite POS and ATM blocking  you should: 

  1. contact your third party processor
  2. request removal of the 6-digit BIN for Massachusetts EBT from POS devices and/or ATM(s)
  3. call 617-348-5601 if you have any questions

If you believe your establishment was blocked in error, request a review of DTA's decision. Simply:

  1. complete EBT Blocking Request for Review Form
  2. mail or fax it to: 

                                         Department of Transitional Assistance

                                                  Attention: Legal Division

                                               600 Washington Street, 5th floor

                                                       Boston, MA 02111

                                                        Fax: 617-348-8575

Additional Resources for POS and ATM blocking

Penalties

Retailers must comply with the law.

All store owners:

A store owner who knowingly violates the law shall be subject to fines of $500 for a first offense, $500 to $2500 for second offenses, and $2500 or more for third or subsequent offenses.

 

Alcoholic beverage license or permit holders:

A store owner who knowingly violates Chapter 18, Section 5J and possesses a license to sell alcoholic beverages shall be referred to the appropriate licensing authority for possible disciplinary action pursuant to Section 64 of Chapter 138.  A store owner possessing a license to sell alcoholic beverages pursuant to Section 12 of Chapter 138 who knowingly violates this section a second or subsequent time shall have its license suspended for not less than 30 days and shall be referred to the appropriate licensing authority for possible further disciplinary action pursuant to Section 64 of Chapter 138.

 

 Lottery license holders:

A store owner who knowingly violates this Section 5J of Chapter 18 and who possesses a license to sell lottery tickets under Sections 26 and 27 of Chapter 10 shall be referred to the director of the state lottery commission for possible disciplinary action.  A store owner possessing a license to sell lottery tickets pursuant to Section 26 or 27 of said Chapter 10  who knowingly violates this section a second or subsequent time shall have such license suspended for not less than 30 days and shall be referred to the director of the state lottery commission for possible further disciplinary action

Report fraud

To report a violation of the law call 1-800-FRAUD-99 (1-800-372-8399)

Questions

If you have questions regarding the legislation requiring these restrictions, please call DTA legal department at 617-349-8520.

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