Do you enjoy the savings you get from shopping for the family in bulk at Sam’s Club, especially after a rough couple of economic years?
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could apply your SNAP benefits (or “food stamps”) to the inevitably large total after a grocery trip to Sam’s Club?
Well, maybe you can.
Regardless of the membership fee, Sam’s Club makes it easy for families to eat comfortably while on a budget by offering grocery staples, such as canned goods, pasta, snacks, and produce, in bulk at a discounted price rather than buying the items individually during separate trips to your regular grocery store.
Budget-conscious shoppers may want to make the most of the savings they get at Sam’s Club by letting the government pick up the tab by paying with their EBT card.
We answer all the questions you might have about whether Sam’s Club accepts EBT cards and what you can buy at Sam’s Club with your EBT card.
Does Sam’s Club Take EBT?
Yes, Sam’s Club members can use EBT cards at the registers in all store locations.
You can use your EBT card to pay for your order of eligible grocery products (and only grocery products).
Keep in mind that you can’t use your EBT card for all Sam’s Club products.
You cannot use SNAP benefits to pay for items from the Sam’s Club food court.
You cannot pay for items from Sam’s Club website with your EBT card.
For online orders, you must use a debit card, credit card, or gift card.
Does Sam’s Club Accept WIC cards?
Sam’s Club does not accept WIC cards in its stores or online.
What Are SNAP Benefits?
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a government-funded program that provides needy and borderline families with funds for food.
The card that SNAP recipients receive to access the benefits is known as the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card.
It looks and works much like a credit card, but it only works at authorized retailers (including Sam’s Club) for authorized grocery products.
Most standard grocery products fall within SNAP guidelines.
However, the benefits only cover food items—not inedible items (even if they are related to food, like napkins).
The federal government funds the program.
However, it distributes funds proportionately to each state, which then makes final decisions about the details of the program and distributes the funds.
Recipients get funds loaded onto their EBT card on the same day every month (providing one business day leeway for holidays and weekends).
Leftover funds from the past month roll over to the next month for up to 12 months before they expire.
The amount of funding a household receives varies based on several different variables, including:
- Number of people in the household
- Ability to work
Apply for your benefits today to get the best idea of how much you can expect to receive every month.
Who Qualifies For SNAP Benefits?
American citizens who provide for a household with limited income (up to 30% above the state poverty line) and minimal to no assets generally qualify for SNAP benefits.
Notable exceptions include employees on strike and full-time students (SNAP would have helped quite a bit when I moved into my first apartment in college).
Many immigrants can’t receive SNAP benefits, especially if they’re currently undocumented, unless they have an American sponsor who has agreed to cover the cost.
Prisoners and residents of facilities that provide three square meals a day, such as a long-term psychiatric treatment center or a nursing home, don’t qualify for benefits in most states, either.
After the recent pandemic, more people qualify for SNAP benefits to provide support for people who lost work or became unhealthy.
Check your state’s laws to learn if you should apply, even if your income is above the poverty line.
One person, usually the head of household, applies for the SNAP benefits and acts as the official recipient of the benefits.
However, the funds are meant to provide food for the entire household, not just the person who applied for the benefits.
Two people in the same household cannot both get SNAP benefits.
Many families share the one household EBT card, passing it to whoever gets to do the grocery shopping that week.
However, that sometimes leads to missed connections where one person has the card when someone else needs it.
The main account holder can add an “authorized representative” to the account to get that person their own card.
If the authorized representative makes unapproved purchases, the main account holder will be responsible for those purchases since they decided to add the person to the account and give them a card.
Can I Take Out Cash From My SNAP Funds?
You can take cash from your SNAP benefits.
You may use the EBT card to withdraw funds at some ATMs in the case of an emergency up to twice a month but beware of the ATM fees and try to use the funds more wisely when possible.
Many users request cashback while paying for their items at the register of an approved retailer, such as Sam’s Club, to avoid the fees.
Why Does The Government Provide SNAP Benefits?
The government provides SNAP benefits to qualified citizens with long-term goals in mind.
Sure, the recipients feel full immediately.
However, the energy and nutrients the SNAP recipients receive from the food powers their bodies and brains to support productivity and financial progress until they no longer need the benefits and pay taxes to support the program instead.
Hungry citizens can’t properly focus on work or school.
Fueling people allows them to become productive members of society.
Are SNAP And WIC The Same Thing?
While both benefits relate to health and nutrition, SNAP and WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) are two completely different programs.
SNAP is open to many more people than WIC since WIC is specifically designed for pregnant and postpartum women, breastfeeding women, and young children.
WIC also provides much more specific services, providing food that caters to the unique nutritional needs of mothers and young children.
However, WIC recipients don’t get funds regularly added to their accounts every month and don’t have as much variety as SNAP recipients.
Instead of just providing funds for food, WIC also offers recipients healthcare assistance and social services, such as therapy and childcare assistance.
What Products Can’t You Pay For Using SNAP?
SNAP covers most grocery items, including spices and condiments.
In most states, this does not include hot, prepared food (such as a hot dog from the food court at Sam’s Club).
You can also use SNAP to buy seeds and plants that allow you to grow herbs, fruits, and vegetables at home (flowers not eligible).
Additionally, you can even purchase fresh fish and seafood (including lobster) as long as they’re killed and sold as food.
Craving steak and lobster for a big night?
While you may want to reconsider, you have the right to spend the benefits as you see fit.
The government doesn’t place restrictions on items for being “luxury” items.
Some items can be sold as both food and something else completely.
For example, you can buy squash sold specifically as food and squash sold for holiday decorations.
You can usually determine the product’s classification based on its placement in the store and the advertising around it.
For example, was it sold in the produce section next to other vegetables or in the holiday section next to a cornucopia?
Now we get to the household essentials not covered by SNAP benefits, including:
- Alcohol and tobacco
- Paper products (paper towels, paper plates, napkins, etc.)
- Sanitary products (toilet paper, tampons, baby wipes, etc.)
- Health products (medicine, supplements, band-aids, etc.)
- Beauty products (makeup, skincare, healthcare, etc.)
- Cleaning products (sponges, cleansers, plungers, etc.)
- Pet food
Many people want to purchase bulk paper plates and groceries in one stop at Sam’s Club.
However, SNAP doesn’t cover necessities.
It only covers grocery items.
SNAP also doesn’t cover dishes, grilling utensils, home decor, clothing, auto parts, electronics, tools, appliances, electronics, toys, and numerous other products in non-food-related departments.
How Did Sam’s Club Start Accepting EBT?
How does a retailer like Sam’s Club start the process of accepting EBT?
While relatively simple, there are a couple of steps to the setup process.
1. Qualifying Product Sales
To qualify as an EBT retailer, a business must meet one of the two following criteria that verifies the business focuses on either variety or specialty food items:
- You may qualify if you sell a variety of perishable foods in at least two of the following four categories
- Fruits and vegetables
- Meat and seafood
- 50% of sales come from staple food sales
A grocery store will easily meet both criteria.
Superstores, such as Sam’s Club and Target, qualify thanks to the first criteria of variety, even if they make more money from their electronics and home goods departments than their grocery department.
A small business that only sells beekeeping supplies and honey may also qualify if they make most of their money from honey sales.
However, if beekeeping book sales surpass honey sales, this puts the small business out of contention.
2. Apply For SNAP Permit
If you believe you qualify to accept EBT payments, you will need to apply for a merchant SNAP permit with the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS).
Most people apply online through the website, but you also have the option to apply via a paper application.
Along with the application, you will need to submit your business license and identification paperwork for all owners, partners, and shareholders.
You will get a response within 45 days.
If denied, you must wait six months before applying again.
Believe it or not, you do not have to pay to submit your application for a SNAP permit.
3. Connect POS System To EBT System
Most modern POS systems can accept EBT cards already if they can accept debit cards and credit cards.
Your payment processor can help you activate the EBT option on your credit card terminals.
At this point, your system will give customers the option to select EBT along with credit card and debit card, but the payment won’t go through yet.
Once accessible, an FNS associate will permit your payment processor to connect to their system.
At this point, you are ready to accept EBT payments.
When a cashier rings up an item, the software now activated on your POS system will read each item to determine if it’s an eligible product or not.
Every item you sell falls under a certain category within your POS system.
All items under the grocery category will ring up appropriately.
Did Sam’s Club Benefit From Accepting EBT Cards?
Why would Sam’s Club go through the process to accept EBT cards?
Well, retailers get something out of the upgrade to their POS system, too.
Here are just some of the reasons Sam’s Club and similar-minded retailers made the right call when they decided to accept EBT payments.
1. Broaden Consumer Base
Roughly 40 million Americans receive SNAP benefits.
Many of those recipients don’t have any other option to pay for food.
By not accepting EBT cards, a retailer prevents a significant portion of the population from spending their benefits at their establishment.
Allowing EBT payments opens up the doors to more customers.
2. Guaranteed Funds
With hacking on the rise, it can ease a retailer’s mind to know that the funds to cover a specific purchase are coming from the state’s bank account.
Unfortunately, retailers end up with the short end of the stick in many fraud cases.
However, it can be difficult to prevent fraud and theft until after it happens.
When an EBT transaction goes through, the retailer can rest assured that the government will provide the funds as expected.
3. Keep Up With Competition
Costco accepts EBT payments.
It’s hard to know which retailer upgraded its systems to take EBT payments first, but it almost doesn’t matter.
As soon as one retailer made its EBT systems public, the other immediately followed to stay competitive.
It could hurt business if customers couldn’t pay using their preferred payment method at one store but could with the competition.
4. Offer Support To Customers In Need
The whole idea behind SNAP benefits is to help people.
The program hopes to help impoverished and borderline households with funds for food.
Sam’s Club takes its role in the community very seriously, and it embraces the idea of giving those in need access to grocery products in the most cost-effective way possible.
Why shouldn’t it make the service available to its customers?
Sam’s Club members can pay for their grocery items using their EBT card when paying in the store.
SNAP benefits cannot pay for non-grocery items, alcohol, or tobacco.
They also can’t cover the cost of Sam’s Club food court purchases or purchases made on the Sam’s Club website.
Outside of those limitations, Sam’s Club offers grocery items at great prices, ensuring EBT recipients get the most out of their assistance.