Eat Better Tomorrow with an Electronic Benefit Card (EBT)



FNS/SNAP benefits (previously food stamps) are now distributed on an EBT card – long gone are the books of food stamps!  This card is used at the checkout counter just like a debit card – you swipe it and enter a 4-digit code to authorize your grocery purchase.

What are the benefits to you?

  •  DEPENDABLE.  Every month (on a specific day of the month, based on the last digit of your Social Security number) your card will be automatically reloaded with the benefits that you have qualified for.
  • LOOKS LIKE A DEBIT CARD.  At the checkout, your EBT card looks like any other debit or credit card, so you blend in with all of the other shoppers.  If your grocery store has self-checkout lanes, your card can be used to checkout your purchases.
  • NO SALES TAX.  No tax is charged on SNAP-eligible items purchased using an EBT card.  In North Carolina (NC), the tax on groceries is 2%.
  • SECURE.  Your card is more secure than coupons used to be.  No late benefits due to mail delivery, no missing benefits due to theft, and no unauthorized use by others.  Getting your benefits loaded electronically and having a 4-digit code helps protect you.

How do I know how much is remaining on my EBT card?

There are three ways that you can check your balance.  1) After making a purchase using your EBT card, the store receipt will show your remaining balance. 2) You can call a toll free number to check on your balance.  Or, 3) You can access an online website to check on your balance.

What day of the month will my card be loaded with benefits?

In NC, benefits are loaded based on the last digit of your Social Security Number (SSN).   The NC Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) website shows the exact dates that benefits are posted to EBT cards.

What if I can’t figure out how to use my card?

Your county’s Department of Social Services (DSS), that qualified you for FNS/SNAP benefits, is also responsible for instructing you on how to use your EBT card – if  you ask!  Your EBT card will be mailed to you once you’re approved for benefits, and it comes with a letter of explanation.  But, if you need additional assistance, contact your DSS office.

What you can I buy with my EBT card, my FNS/SNAP benefits?

You CAN buy …

  •  Foods intended to be eaten in the home – foods that are in the main food groups – protein, vegetables, fruits, grains, and dairy – as well as non-alcoholic beverages, snack foods, soft drinks, candy, and ice.
  • Seeds and plants intended to grow food for human consumption

You CANNOT buy …

  •  Beer, wine, liquor, tobacco, or cigarettes
  • Food that are hot at the point of sale
  • Food to be eaten in the store
  • Vitamins or medicines
  • Pet foods
  • Non-food items such as paper products, soaps, cosmetics, or other household goods

For a full list of eligible and non-eligible items, check the USDA website