Does your family receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits provided to you through an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card (also colloquially known as food stamps)?
SNAP benefits provide families with support specifically designed to go toward food and household necessities for your family.
When you’re not familiar with the program, you may find yourself unsure about what stores accept EBT cards and what you can buy with them.
We answer everything you need to know about whether Costco accepts EBT cards.
Does Costco Accept EBT?
Yes, all Costco warehouse locations accept EBT cards for items covered by the state’s program.
For a retailer to accept SNAP, it must register with the state.
All Costco warehouses are registered with each state they operate in.
You cannot use your EBT card to buy items through Costco.com.
What Are SNAP Benefits?
SNAP benefits refer to government-provided funds for food put on an EBT card.
About 11% of American citizens receive SNAP benefits, and it makes up roughly 1.3% of federal spending.
The government allocates a certain amount of money to each state, and the state manages distribution from there.
Qualifying households that get approved receive a specific amount of money every month on the card.
Once the funds are used up, the family must wait until the next month for additional funds.
The funds are added on a specified date every month.
These funds can only be used for certain food items.
Only one person per household can apply for benefits.
However, you can order multiple cards if two people want access to the benefits.
SNAP benefits do not qualify as taxable income.
The P-EBT card, also known as a Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer card, works similarly to a standard EBT card.
The P-EBT card became available to more families as part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and works exactly like a traditional EBT card.
Any retailer that accepts EBT also accepts P-EBT.
This program is specially designed for children who may miss meals at school.
In 2021, the government increased benefits by 15%, and the increase is approved through 2022.
Benefits after this point are yet to be determined.
History Of SNAP Benefits
FDR first introduced large-scale government assistance in 1939 in response to the Great Depression.
It was met with extreme approval from the starving American people.
It was adjusted into its modern form with the Food Stamp Reform Act of 1977.
What Can I Buy With My EBT Card?
You can’t go on a shopping spree for whatever you want with the funds on your EBT card.
It can only be used for preapproved items.
Items that you can buy with your EBT card include:
The idea is to give struggling families money to help them fill up the fridge and cabinets at home.
These items are categorized as EBT-approved items automatically.
There is no regulation as to how much of each approved item you can get.
If it’s approved, you can get it.
What Can I Not Buy With An EBT Card?
There are several things you won’t be able to buy using your EBT card, including:
- Hot food
- Pet food
- Cleaning supplies
- Paper products
- Health products
- Beauty products
- Live animals (unless killed and prepared before you leave)
Most states don’t allow EBT recipients to purchase food at restaurants, but there are exceptions.
Illinois, Arizona, and California allow EBT at some restaurants.
Florida and Rhode Island have similar pilot programs.
If you live in one of these states, research your state’s specific SNAP program details to learn more about which restaurants accept EBT and what items qualify.
Can I Take Out Cash With My EBT Card?
You can absolutely take out cash with your EBT card.
You can take out cash via an ATM, but you may be subject to fees.
You also won’t have access to your balance.
You can only take out cash via an ATM twice a month before incurring additional fees.
For a better solution, opt for cash back from an EBT-approved retailer.
Costco allows you to take out up to $60.
Who Qualifies For SNAP Benefits?
Generally, any household with a gross monthly income that falls below the poverty line qualifies for SNAP benefits.
Many states offer benefits to households that earn as much as 30% more than the poverty line maximum.
The household must also not have assets that exceed a certain amount of money.
As a state program, specific qualification requirements for SNAP benefits vary from state to state.
As an example, see the maximum income to qualify as impoverished in Washington D.C.:
- 1 person: $13,590
- 2 people: $18,310
- 3 people: $23,030
- 4 people: $27,750
- 5 people: $32,470
Who Is Not Eligible For SNAP Benefits?
Not everyone qualifies for benefits.
People who don’t qualify for benefits include:
- Workers on strike
- Undocumented immigrants
- Students attending university more than half the time
Unemployed citizens only qualify for benefits for up to three months.
Some states used to have a ban on SNAP benefits for felons.
However, that has largely been lifted.
How Much Will I Get Each Month?
The main factors that determine how much you can expect to receive include how many people live in the household (kids in particular) and the state you live in.
As a general guide, see the average benefit amounts per month:
- 1 person: $175 (max $250)
- 2 people: $334 (max $459)
- 3 people: $520 (max $658)
- 4 people: $638 (max $835)
- 5 people: $748 (max $992)
- 6 people: $869 (max $1,190)
- 7 people: $941 (max $1,316)
- 8 people: $1,137 (max $1,504)
How To Apply For SNAP Benefits
To apply for SNAP benefits, you can apply over the phone, at your local SNAP office, or online.
After you submit your application, you will be asked to come into your local SNAP office for an interview with a caseworker.
You may be able to have the interview over the phone if you have mobility issues.
The interview primarily examines documentation that verifies the information you provided in your application.
Documents you will need to provide include:
- Identification for all members of the household
- Proof of residence
- Proof of income
How Long Does The EBT Application Take?
Generally speaking, you can expect the application process to take 30 days, assuming you provided all the required documentation.
If you don’t provide the required documentation, it can take significantly longer.
Furthermore, the application can take longer thanks to the increase in applications after the recent pandemic.
How To Pay With EBT At Costco
Paying with your EBT card is almost as easy as paying with a standard card.
When you see your total at the register, you will swipe your card.
The terminal will ask you whether you want to pay using credit, debit, or EBT.
Select EBT or the card won’t go through.
The funds for all approved items will be taken from your EBT benefits.
You will then need to pay for all unqualified purchases with an alternative payment method.
How Do I Check My EBT Balance?
You can check your EBT balance online or by calling the number on the back of the card.
Always check how much money you have on your account so that you can budget properly.
You should also communicate effectively about who will spend how much throughout the month to ensure all members of the family are on the same page.
Paying For Qualifying And Nonqualifying Items
If your cart has both items that do and do not qualify under your SNAP benefits, it’s imperative to separate them and pay separately.
If you try to pay for unqualifying items with your EBT card, it can lead to consequences:
- First unapproved purchase: three-month ban
- Second unapproved purchase: one-year ban
- Third unapproved purchase: two-year ban
Information About Using Your EBT Card
There are some rules involved when using your EBT card that you should know about.
1. You Cannot Share Your Benefits
It is against the law to sell your EBT card for cash, although it is common practice.
If you do this, you face potential prosecution.
2. The IRS Will Cross Check Your Financial Information
If you earn more money, it may disqualify you for SNAP benefits.
The IRS will cross check the information you provided with the information on your latest tax return.
If you make too much money, the government may cancel your benefits.
3. Your Card Will Become Inactive After A Year
After a year of not using your card, it will become inactive.
You may want to hold off and save up your benefits, but waiting too long could mean that you need to request a new card.
4. Rights And Responsibilities
United States citizens have certain rights and responsibilities regarding SNAP benefits according to the government.
- “Receive an application, and have your application accepted on the same day that you go to the SNAP office;
- Have an adult who knows your situation apply for you if you cannot get to the SNAP office;
- Get your SNAP benefits within 30 days after you apply if you do qualify for them;
- Get SNAP benefits within 7 days if you are in immediate need and qualify for faster service;
- Not be discriminated against because you are elderly or because of sex, race, color, disability, religious creed, national origin, or political beliefs;
- Be told in advance if the SNAP office is going to reduce or end your benefits during your certification period because of a change in your situation that you did not report in writing;
- Look at your own case file and a copy of SNAP rules; and
- Have a fair hearing if you don’t think the rules were applied correctly in your case. At a fair hearing, you may explain to a hearing official why you don’t agree with what the SNAP office has done.”
- “When you apply for SNAP benefits, answer all questions completely and honestly. Sign your name to certify, under penalty of perjury, that all your answers are true.
- Provide proof that you are eligible.
- Promptly report changes in household circumstances to the SNAP office.
- Do not put your money or possessions in someone else’s name in order to be able to get SNAP benefits.
- Do not make changes on any SNAP cards or documents.
- Do not sell, trade, or give away your SNAP benefits, or any SNAP cards or documents.
- Use SNAP benefits only to buy eligible items.”
Anyone who does not adhere to the rules may have their benefits revoked. Serious instances of fraud may even lead to large fines or jail time.
How To Make The Most Of Your EBT Benefits At Costco
Costco provides households with food and goods in bulk, allowing families to save money.
However, you can still take certain actions to make the most of your SNAP benefits at Costco.
1. Buy In Bulk Mindfully
It’s generally a good idea to buy in bulk, since you pay less per item than you normally would buying each unit separately.
However, you only save money if you use the things you buy.
Buy bulk when buying dry foods.
Use critical thinking for produce.
You may get a great deal on lunch meat or bread, but that won’t help you if the food spoils before you use it.
Some great items to buy in bulk include:
- Peanut butter
- Canned goods
- Pasta sauce
- Frozen food
- Bottled Water
2. Search The Deals
Like any retailer, Costco often has deals on various products.
Pay attention to which items are on sale and take advantage.
Of course, this requires some flexibility on your shopping list.
3. Make A List
Many people spend far more than intended if they go into a store without a plan.
Start by setting a budget.
You probably don’t want to spend all of your benefits in one shot.
You may want to leave some for a different store or later in the month.
Create a grocery list of the things you want and need.
You can browse items online to see your options, or you can develop more and more specific lists as you get familiar with your local store.
After you create a list, stick to it.
However, leave a little bit of flexibility for extra items and great sales.
Where Else Can I Use My EBT Card?
Do you live in an area without a Costco or don’t like to buy in bulk?
You can use your EBT card at most grocery stores and gas stations.
Look for the EBT sticker in the window or ask an associate before shopping at a local grocery store or gas station.
Retailers that accept EBT at all locations include:
You can use your EBT card for qualifying purchases at Costco.
SNAP benefits provide money for food items for households that fall beneath the poverty line.
You can apply numerous ways and start getting benefits in about one month.
Costco is a great place to shop with your EBT card since you can find numerous deals.
Just remember what items qualify and which ones don’t.