Food stamps, or SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits, help millions of Americans who earn lower incomes or face economic hardship feed their families. In one recent year, 12% of all Americans accessed this benefit.
In the not too distant past, however, SNAP benefits weren’t always the most convenient way to go food shopping. A person had to go to the store and pay for their groceries with the program’s EBT card. Today, however, as so much of life is going digital, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) offers an online purchasing program to make food stamps more convenient for residents of every state. It’s becoming easier to use SNAP benefits online.
Here, you’ll learn more about how, where, and when you can use these benefits to grocery-shop online.
What Are Food Stamps?
“Food stamps” is an older, but still commonly used term to describe SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
SNAP is designed to provide nutritional assistance to low-income families, as well as the elderly, disabled, and people who have filed for unemployment. SNAP is a federal program administered by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, which has a network of local offices.
While SNAP doesn’t cover all the items you might pick up at the supermarket, it can significantly cut your grocery bill.
• You can use food stamps to purchase meat, poultry, and fish; vegetables and fruit; bread and cereal; dairy products; snack food; and seeds and plants that produce food.
• However, you can’t use them to purchase tobacco, wine, beer, liquor, vitamins, prepared food, and nonfood items like cosmetics, hygiene items, and cleaning supplies.
Everyone on food stamps has a bank card called an EBT card, backed by the government. The program allows for customers to pay in-store and increasingly online, using their EBT just like a debit or credit card.
The maximum monthly food-stamp assistance you can get varies by where you live and how many people are in your household. A family of four living in the U.S. can now receive around $939 a month.
Who Qualifies for Food Stamps?
A household is eligible for Food Stamps, or SNAP, when it meets specific criteria. Each state has an income limit that SNAP households must stay under. Additionally, they may factor in your finances and savings to determine your eligibility.
To apply for food stamp benefits or to get information about the SNAP program in your area, you can contact your local SNAP office. You can find local offices and each State’s application on the USDA national map .
Each state has its own application form. If your state’s form is not on the web yet, you can contact your local SNAP office to request a paper form.
Recommended: Average Grocery Budget for a Family of 5
Can You Use Food Stamps Online?
Yes, food stamps can be used online. Thanks to the expedited expansion of an online purchasing pilot program run by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, households receiving SNAP benefits in any of the 50 participating states (along with the District of Columbia) can now use EBT to pay for groceries online from select retailers.
If a retailer is enrolled in SNAP’s online program, people on food stamps can select foods eligible for EBT benefits online and then arrange for in-store or curbside pickup. In some cases, it may be possible to have your groceries delivered. If the retailer charges a delivery fee, however, you cannot use your benefits to cover that fee.
What Stores Accept Food Stamps Online?
You now know the answer to “Can food stamps be used online?” The next question is probably, “Where exactly can I use food stamps online?”
Fortunately, many stores now accept food stamps online. While Amazon and Walmart are among the best known retailers for online EBT shopping, the number of stores accepting EBT card payment online is continuing to expand.
• FreshDirect, an online grocery delivery service, now delivers for free to SNAP participants in some zip codes in the New York metropolitan area.
• Instacart, a grocery delivery service, is currently partnering with many local stores in the U.S. to offer SNAP EBT benefits. The latest version of the Instacart app should display whether your local store offers EBT SNAP.
Which retailers (and which specific locations) participate in the online SNAP program will vary from one state to another, so it’s a wise idea to check which options are available in your area.
Here are some of the retailers that are now accepting food stamps for online shopping (for either delivery or pickup):
• Food Lion
• BJ’S Wholesale Club
• Fred Meyer
5 Ways to Use Food Stamps to Buy Groceries Online
The rules for using food stamps online will vary by retailer. Here are some ways this transaction might work.
1. Use Food Stamps on Amazon
For example, when shopping on Amazon, you can add your SNAP EBT card, shop for groceries, and when you check out, you enter your EBT PIN to pay for eligible purchases.
2. Order Groceries With Food Stamps at Walmart
For Walmart, you can order groceries online or through the store’s grocery mobile app. You first need to sign into your Pickup & Delivery account and then select Payment Methods.
3. Use Food Stamps Online at a Local Store
If your local store accepts EBT Online, you’ll see an option to add your EBT card to your account and can then add your card. During checkout, you select EBT as your payment method. You can then enter your PIN and complete your order.
For instance, at ShopRite, you can order groceries online at Shoprite.com or via the store’s mobile app. During checkout, you can select Pay Online and then click the Place Order button. You can then choose the EBT Snap Card as the payment method to complete checkout. That’s another way to use food stamps online.
4. Know Which Are Non-SNAP Items
At some retailers, you can also include non-SNAP items in the same order, but you’d need to pay for them separately with a debit or credit card. If the store charges a delivery fee, that charge would also need to be paid via a separate payment card since service fees are not included in SNAP benefits.
5. Continue to Check As Options Expand
If you don’t find EBT SNAP as a payment option when attempting to order from your preferred grocery store, you may want to keep checking back — the coverage areas and list of participating stores continue to expand.
Recommended: Average Grocery Budget for a Family of 3
Other Ways to Save on Groceries
If you don’t qualify for SNAP benefits or are looking for additional ways to trim your grocery budget, try these tips. They can help you save, regardless of how much you usually spend on food per month.
Plan Your Meals
By planning your meals ahead and buying in bulk, you can save money on food. Say you decide in advance that you’ll buy chicken that’s on sale and make a stir-fry one day, a sheet pan dinner the next, and will grill it as well. You might even double up on your cooking and freeze leftovers for the following week.
Shop Solo and Stick to Your List
Impulse buys have a way of wrecking your food budget, and if you have your family with you at the supermarket, it can be more likely that they will spot enticing and expensive items. It can be more economical to hit the grocery store on your own and stay laser-focused on your list.
Whether you choose to clip the old-school paper coupons or use some of the digital couponing options, those deals can help you stay on your budget. You may even be able to use coupons in a way that doubles their saving power for even lower prices.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — better known as food stamps — provides assistance to low-income people in the form of an EBT card that can be used to purchase certain types of food.
Many national retailers and supermarket chains now allow SNAP recipients to order eligible groceries online and then go into the store to pick them up, either in-store or curbside, or have them delivered.
Looking to keep better tabs on your grocery (and other) spending? Finding the right banking partner could help.
Can you use EBT anywhere in the US?
Yes, if you qualify for EBT, you can use your benefits anywhere in the U.S.
Can EBT be used on DoorDash?
Yes, it can: DoorDash is partnering with Safeway and Albertson to enable shoppers to use EBT as payment in the app.
How much do you get for one person on SNAP?
In 2023, the average benefit for SNAP for a single person is $195 per month, though the benefit could be as high as $281.
Photo credit: iStock/Yana Tatevosian
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