Even though EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) is currently accepted by 248,000 vendors across the country, as many people who benefit from EBT know, this form of payment is not accepted at all stores.
This makes it difficult to know ahead of time whether or not you can afford your purchases.
Oftentimes, there doesn’t seem to be much rhyme or reason to who accepts or doesn’t accept SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) EBT, making whether or not you can afford Starbucks a possibly confusing consideration.
Does Starbucks Take EBT?
Yes, but not all of them.
Company-owned Starbucks stores still do NOT accept EBT.
However, some licensed stores will accept EBT.
Licensed stores are typically located inside grocery stores or other retail stores, such as Target, Safeway, and Kroger.
EBT may also be accepted in some licensed stores located in hotel lobbies.
There are currently 6,300 licensed Starbucks locations in the United States.
If using an EBT card at these locations, there are some stipulations to the allowed purchases.
What Can You Buy With An EBT Card At Licensed Starbucks?
The restrictions around what you can and cannot buy at a licensed Starbucks with an EBT card are extremely specific.
Even though you can use your EBT card at some licensed Starbucks around the country, you cannot use it to purchase hot beverages or hot freshly made food items.
You can, however, use EBT to buy cold beverages and prepackaged cold food items, such as muffins or bread.
Cold sandwiches, soft drinks, bottled water, energy drinks, cold snacks, and other cold baked goods can also usually be paid for with EBT.
Other Starbucks’ goods you can usually purchase with EBT include instant coffee, ground or whole bean packaged coffee, and creamer.
How Do You Use EBT To Pay At Starbucks?
It’s important to call ahead to make sure your Starbucks accepts EBT.
Once again, most licensed stores do, but not all, and no company-based Starbucks accepts EBT.
Before making your purchases, check your balance, either online in your state’s SNAP portal or by calling the number on your EBT card.
This way you’ll know exactly how much you have to spend and how to assess your priorities.
After ensuring EBT is accepted at your Starbucks, make your qualifying purchases at the cash register and then select EBT or SNAP as your payment method or tell the cashier if asked.
Then, just insert your EBT card, follow the instructions, and input your pin code.
If you want to purchase both SNAP-approved items and non-SNAP-approved items, you must pay twice – first with your EBT card and then using another payment method for the non-approved items.
What Or Who Decides If An Item Is EBT eligible?
Corporate-based Starbucks locations consider their products luxury and are therefore not necessary products for healthy nutrition.
Licensed Starbucks tend to follow the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines for EBT use.
For Starbucks’ items to be eligible for EBT at specific licensed locations, the item must not be intended for immediate consumption and cannot be hot at the point of sale.
This may be a little confusing but the purpose is to provide nutrition for the whole family at home.
A good rule of thumb is if the food or drink item has a nutritional label, it can usually be bought using EBT.
The USDA does have SNAP Restaurant Meals Program (RMP), in which eligible participants, such as the homeless, elderly, and disabled, can purchase hot food at qualifying restaurants.
However, this program is only currently available in seven states, including Arizona, California, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Virginia.
RMP is a state-run program, and for a restaurant to participate in the program, it must offer meals at a lowered price.
Starbucks does not participate in the program, however, even in qualifying RMP states.
What Other Items Can Be Bought With An EBT Card?
The USDA lists several items that can be bought with an EBT card.
These items include fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, dairy products, breads and cereals, snack foods, non-alcoholic beverages, and food-producing seeds and plants.
Products ineligible for EBT purchase are alcohol, including beer, wine, and liquor, cigarettes and other forms of tobacco, vitamins, medicines, live animals (except edible seafood or livestock slaughtered before customer pick-up), hot foods, spices, and supplements.
Supplements are considered to be so if they include a Supplement Facts label.
Also, nonfood items, such as pet foods, cleaning supplies, paper products, other household supplies, hygiene products, and cosmetics, are not eligible for EBT purchase.
What Are The Advantages Of Using An EBT card?
Since an EBT card is provided for those qualifying for the SNAP program, an EBT card is government supported.
This means you do not pay into the card or have to pay any kind of interest when using it.
A certain allotted amount of money is put on the card after qualifying candidates meet the requirements.
Having an EBT card eliminates some stress from low-income families, as children in these families are less likely to go hungry.
Often there is shame wrapped up in having to rely on government assistance, but that’s why it’s there, to help those that need it.
Less stress on parents can mean more attention and energy given to their children who need it the most.
EBT is another way to make the stress of poverty a little less taxing.
RMP is another great service because it gives those who are physically unable to cook for themselves an opportunity to get fed.
By helping the elderly, disabled, and homeless, RMP contributes to a healthier, happier population.
By removing the fear of food scarcity, these programs free up adults to concentrate on their jobs and other priorities.
How Do Stores Qualify For EBT?
For stores to qualify for participation in the EBT program, they must adhere to Criterion A (staple food stock) or Criterion B (staple food sales) staple food requirements according to the USDA.
The USDA states:
“Staple foods are the basic food items that make up a significant portion of an individual’s diet and are usually prepared at home and consumed as a major component of a meal… Staple foods do not include accessory foods, heated foods, or prepared foods.”
The four staple food groups are fruits or vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish, dairy products, and breads or cereals.
If a store qualifies under Criterion A, it must offer at least three staple food varieties in each of the four staple food categories continuously.
They must also have a minimum stock depth of three items per staple food variety.
In addition, qualifying stores must offer at least three stocking units of at least one perishable staple variety in at least two staple food categories.
This brings the total stocked staple food items to 36.
If stores do not qualify under Criterion A, they must adhere to Criterion B, which states:
“Stores must have more than 50% of their total gross retail sales from items in one or more of the four staple food categories… Total gross retail sales mean all of a store’s retail sales, including food and non-food merchandise, as well as services, such as rental fees and professional fees.”
Does Starbucks Accept EBT Online?
Starbucks does not accept EBT for online purchases.
The same EBT policy Starbucks uses for their corporate stores also applies to their online store.
For an online retailer to be eligible, they must meet online purchasing requirements.
These requirements include already being a qualified SNAP retailer, having an established e-commerce presence, and having a website capable of updating and maintaining its qualifying content.
The company must also send in a letter of intent.
Current online retailers that are SNAP approved include Amazon, Dash’s Market, Fresh Direct, Hy-Vee, Inc., Safeway, ShopRite, Walmart Stores Inc., and Wright’s Markets.
Even though you can use your EBT to purchase food items from these online sources, you must pay separately for delivery and shipping fees.
Are There Any Coffee Shops Or Fast Food Restaurants That Accept EBT?
It’s difficult to find coffee shops that accept EBT, but each state has different qualifications for using its SNAP benefits.
It’s best to find your local SNAP government website to see what restaurants and shops do or do not accept EBT.
Your best bet for using EBT to get coffee is to buy the grounds or beans at a grocery store and make the coffee at home yourself.
In states that participate in the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP), you can find popular fast food and restaurant chains that take EBT, such as Burger King, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway, Taco Bell, KFC, Domino’s Pizza, Jack in the Box, Rally’s, Denny’s, Popeye’s, Pizza Hut, Papa Murphy’s Pizza, El Pollo Loco, Carl’s Jr., Blimpie, Dairy Queen, and even Jamba Juice.
New restaurants are joining all the time.
Oftentimes, stores post an EBT logo on their front doors.
If you don’t see one or need help finding a qualifying location, contact your state’s department of health and human services.
To find accepting vendors outside of the seven RMP states, you can also search for locations via the USDA’s SNAP Retailor Locator.
Just insert your zip code and find the qualifying locations near you.
Are There Any Tricks To Using EBT At Starbucks?
Starbucks’ policy states that it does not accept EBT at any of its corporate stores, but there are ways to get around this policy.
There are also thoughtful ways to get around the item purchase restrictions at licensed Starbucks.
The most obvious way to get around the item restrictions is to purchase a grocery store gift card with your EBT card, and then use that gift card to pay for your Starbucks coffee.
However, not all grocery stores allow you to purchase store gift cards with an EBT card, and some licensed Starbucks locations will not accept grocery store gift cards for Starbucks purchases.
You may also be able to purchase Starbucks gift cards using EBT and then use the gift card at a Starbucks instead of the EBT card.
It’s best to call ahead and know what policies your specific grocery store has and what policies the licensed Starbucks inside that grocery store has.
You may not be able to use this trick at corporate Starbucks, but it may work in certain licensed Starbucks locations inside grocery stores.
Another possibility is by applying to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families government program.
This program is set up to assist state-run programs that provide cash assistance to low-income families.
Each state runs this program under a different name and with different policies.
Some states allow the purchase of Starbucks gift cards using their cash assistance.
Check with your local state TANF program to check their policies and regulations.
These programs usually also partner with local food banks, emergency food assistance programs, and food commodity programs.
However, some people find using TANF in this way unethical, as the program is intended to aid needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes or the homes of relatives.
It’s also intended to end the dependence on government benefits by promoting job preparation, work, and marriage and prevent and reduce the incidence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies, as well as encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.
Can You Return Items Purchased With EBT?
Yes, according to the official USDA government website, you can return or refund purchases made with an EBT card if returns are allowed within the store policy.
The same return policy should stand true whether the item was bought with EBT or not.
The USDA demands that SNAP customers be treated with the same respect as any other customer.
The refund for the item will go back to the EBT card.
You cannot receive any type of cash refund from returned EBT purchases.