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An EBT Card is a means for individuals, that can’t afford to buy food for themselves, the help they need to pay for food for themselves and their family members. There are a few requirements in order to be eligible for an EBT Card. Below are the basic requirements that an individual will need to meet in order to qualify for an EBT card and/or food stamps.

Income Requirement:

The most important requirement that must be met is an income requirement. Households may have $2,000 in liquid funds such as cash, a checking account, stocks, bonds, etc. If at least one person lives with you that is older than 60 or is disabled the income allowance is $3,250. It is important to know that you can own a home and still be eligible for food stamps. Certain resources are not counted as part of your income such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and most retirement (pension) plans. For more information on if you meet the income requirements visit their site.

Employment Requirement:

Those individuals between 18 and 50 who do not have dependent children can only get food stamps for 3 months if they are not working or in some type of workfare or training program.

Able-bodied adults between 16 and 60 must register for work, accept suitable employment, and take part in an employment and training program as instructed by a local office. There are some exceptions to individuals that are in this situation.

Possible Amount to be Received

For those who are possibly eligible the monthly allotment on an EBT Card is dependent on the number of people in your household. For a chart on what benefits your household would receive visit their site.

Deductions Allowed

To help make the income requirement there are certain deductions you can make. The allowable deductions include:

  • A standard deduction for all households
  • A 20% earned income deduction
  • A deduction for dependent care costs when necessary for work, training or education
  • A deduction for legally owed child support payments
  • A deduction for medical costs for elderly and disabled people
  • An excess shelter cost deduction

For more information of the allowed deductions visit their site.

Immigrant Eligibility Requirements

If you are a legal immigrant you must meet a few other requirements before you are able to see if you meet all the previous requirements listed above. You must meet one of the additional requirements for immigrants listed below:

  • Have lived in the country for 5 years; or
  • Are receiving disability-related assistance or benefits; or
  • Children under 18

There may be some additional requirements for an EBT Card based on the state you are living in and for that you must do some specialized research to see if you meet all of the state requirements as well.        

The System is Streamlined

EBT cards used for food stamps are part of a newer, more streamlined government assistance program. The electronic balance transfers cut down on time, wasted paperwork, and general aggravation for both government officials and food stamp recipients.

Another way in which the EBT system is streamlined is that your EBT card can be used for multiple purposes. For instance, it can be connected to both your food stamp and welfare account. In other words, if you are eligible, you can make cash withdrawals from an ATM or get cash back in certain stores by using your EBT card.

EBT Cards Offer a Sense of Normalcy

Another huge benefit of having an EBT card is that it can give you a sense that you are normal. A lot of people are reluctant to apply for food stamps because they are embarrassed. The old paper food stamps were easy for other people to see. However, EBT cards used for food stamps look just like other people’s debit and credit cards. So, you don’t need to feel embarrassed or ashamed every time you go to the store.

Of course, EBT cards aren’t perfect. The new system does have a couple of cons.


Obviously, EBT cards used for food stamps rely on technology. Without electricity and phone lines, transactions can’t be processed, at least not easily. For example, people used to be able to use paper food stamps to make food purchases at farm stands. Now, the farm stand in question has to have access to electricity, or they have to have another system in place. For instance, some farm stands use a cell phone to withdraw a predetermined amount from a person’s account. Then they give the person paper vouchers or other tokens that must be used that day at the farm stand.

If the power happens to go out in a regular store, backup generators will usually kick in, allowing transactions to continue. However, sometimes the systems go down for maintenance or experience other glitches. So, on very rare occasions, you might find yourself unable to use your EBT card when you want to.

Where can I use my EBT Card?

Receiving your EBT card brings with it many questions, regulations, and responsibilities for use. There are rules governing the use of the card, for example what may be purchased and what may be excluded. Using a card fraudulently can result in severe penalties, so it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the regulations and policies surrounding EBT card use.

What can I use my EBT card on?

Most state issued EBT cards can be used for food items, including seeds for growing food. There are exclusions on non-essential food items. Each state lists what they are.Keep in mind EBT Cards were made as a way to issue food stamps.

Does the government know what I bought with my EBT card?

To date the official policy is that they do not monitor what you purchase. However, there is a record that is stored so that if there is any question about misuse, they can review the data.

Will I be able to use my EBT card in other countries and other states?

The short answer is: YES. Anywhere that you could use an ATM debit/credit card will accept the EBT Food Stamp card. Look for the ATM machines or merchants who display the Quest® or EBT symbol. To date, the card is accepted in all of the 50 states in the US and in several countries outside of the US, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam.

At what types of stores can I use my EBT card?

Most stores in the US will accept the EBT card. Many stores will treat the card as they would a regular debit/credit card, and in many instances will allow you to get cash back on your transactions. This is why it is imperative to guard your PIN number at all times.

Can I have someone else help me shop using my EBT account?

If you are disabled and require assistance to purchase food or other services using your EBT card, consult with the case worker assigned by the state. There are forms that allow you to specify a designated user other than yourself, so that someone can assist you in obtaining food and other benefits. If eligible, the additional person will have their own card issued with their own PIN number. The EBT system will keep track of purchases so that at any time you, as the primary card holder, can see if the additional card is being used wisely and appropriately on your behalf.

Will the Authorized Representative (AR) be able to use all of my food benefits or is it possible to limit them?

Once you designate someone as an official additional user they have complete access to your account, benefits, and money. Choose wisely and monitor the account often.

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