If I forget to use my EBT card, does my case close or will I lose benefits?

You do not need to use your SNAP benefits every month to qualify. Your SNAP benefits do not expire at the end of each month.  If your SNAP case is closed for some reason, you still have the right to use any remaining benefits in your EBT account before the case closed.

DTA will contact you if your SNAP balance seems too high or you have not used your EBT card for a long time.  DTA does track SNAP cases where the EBT benefits have not been used.  Some households, especially those who get the $16 minimum benefit, often save up SNAP for a big shop. That’s okay! Sometimes the SNAP EBT balances are high if DTA made an error and issued you a retroactive payment or you won an appeal.

However, DTA will remove EBT benefits (“expunge”) from your account if you have not used your benefits for 365 consecutive days. 106 C.M.R. § 364.900(E).  DTA must send you a letter before they take any action to remove benefits. Once expunged, you cannot get those benefits back.

What if I have trouble using my EBT card or food shopping?

If the reason you have not used your EBT card is because you lost your EBT card or forgot your PIN, you can get a new card or PIN. See What if I do not receive an EBT card or my card is lost or stolen?. A high EBT balance or idle EBT account is not a sign of fraud!

If you need a ride to the grocery store, your local Councils on Aging may be able to arrange a ride. If you need someone to help food shop for you, you can appoint a trusted neighbor, family member or friend to become an “authorized representative” to get a second EBT card. See Can someone else apply for me?.

Advocacy Reminders:

  • If you have problems with accessing your SNAP benefits—for example, if the store’s machine tells you the wrong amount of benefits available—call EBT Customer Service at 1-800-997-2555. Contact an advocate if your problems are not fixed.
  • You can use your EBT card at stores in most other states, if you are visiting out of state or if you move out of MA and there are benefits left in the EBT account. See Can I use my EBT benefits out of state? But you cannot get benefits in two states at once.

DTA Policy Guidance:

Additional Guidance
  • DTA will contact SNAP households with a high SNAP balance by phone to determine if the client is aware of the balance, has access barriers or has had a change in circumstances affecting eligibility. Ops Memo 2014-8 (Feb 6, 2014)
  • DTA procedures for replacing a card within 5 days of request, or re-pinning an EBT card by mail. Ops Memo 2011-09 (Feb. 25, 2011)
  • USDA Guidance that states may not terminate benefits just because an EBT account is inactive for 90 days. State must allow household to continue through certification period, household entitled to benefits for up to a year (9 months in some states). http://www.fns.usda.gov/sites/default/files/082207.pdf 

Hide Additional Policy Guidance

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Last Updated January 2017

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Ask a Law Librarian

If it's
Monday-Friday
between
9am and 4pm