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An EBT account is accessed using your EBT card. EBT is the acronym for Electronic Balance Transfer. The EBT card is used to access three separate but connected programs: medical assistance, cash assistance and the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) once commonly called food stamps. The EBT card is part of a national assistance program although it is administered by individual states.
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On the Card
Retailers often hear customers ask “how do I check my EBT account balance?” at the check-out counter. This is easy, and is the first method created out of the three available. When you purchase items you can determine your balance using either the keypad at the register or looking at the receipt. Let’s overview both.
Using the keypad to check your balance can be done during the transaction. After you slide the card you enter your PIN numbers. This brings up a screen with two options – EBT Food and EBT Cash. Make your choice and the amount should show up at the register. Ask the clerk if you don’t see it. An alternative option in some states allows you to check the balance at local ATM machines like a debit card.
Using the receipt to check your balance was the original method and is often mentioned in service videos from the assistance office in your county. These are the videos you watch to understand how to use your card. After your transaction is complete, the clerk hands you a printout of your purchase. At the bottom of the receipt is the total remaining on your EBT card. Both the cash and food accounts are listed on the receipt.
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You can check your EBT balance online. The online option was set up by each of the vendor/administrators of the program. There are four vendors administering the card program via contracts with individual states: JP Morgan Chase, ACS, EBTEdge and Quest. The USDA Online State Websites page lists the link for direct access to your state's account page.
You log into the system via user name and password or account number and PIN (personal identification number). Both methods are available for each state. Once logged in you can check the balance of either your cash account or your SNAP account. You can also look at a list of your last transactions.
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What if I don’t have computer access? How do I check my EBT balance? On the back of your card there is a phone number. Look on the back of the card below the strip. You will hear a recorded menu with options. One of the first options is to choose between English or Spanish. You must choose one of these languages to proceed. There will be a long recording about fraud, lost cards, giving out information and reporting fraud. After listening to the recording you will be prompted to enter your account number. This is the number on the front of your card. Enter this number carefully because the computer on the other end will only allow two attempts before ending the call. Once you enter the correct numbers, you will hear a listing of your cash and food stamp balances. You also have the option of hearing your last ten purchases with dates. This is the easiest method for detailed information because it updates frequently.
To find the local contact numbers for your state you can use the USDA Hotline Number List. This page lists every state’s number to access your EBT account. If you require customer service you can use the USDA EBT Customer Service List by locating your state and reading across the line.
You are expected to always know what your balance is. The reasoning behind this was first stated when receipts first printed the balances at the bottom. It was, and still is, expected that you keep the latest receipt as proof of your balances. If you are unsure when your scheduled monthly balance update occurs you can use the USDA Monthly Issuance Schedule which lists each state on an interactive map.
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- United States Department of Agriculture http://www.usda.gov/wps/portal/usda/usdahome
- JP Morgan Chase https://www.ebtaccount.jpmorgan.com/JPM_EFS/
- EBTEdge http://www.ebtedge.com/gov/portal/PortalHome.do
- Snap Logo: via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain