33. What is a Photo EBT card and who needs to have one?

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Notas finales

Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

A small percentage of DTA cash assistance and SNAP households are issued EBT cards with a photo of the head of household. Most cash and SNAP households do not need to have a photo on their EBT card because they are “exempt” from the photo EBT rule.

Photo or no photo, all EBT cardholders and their household members have the same rights when using the EBT card to buy food. See additional information here: Masslegalservices.org/photoEBT


Photo EBT cards do not include the household’s address nor date of birth. The EBT photo card is not a substitute for a government issued ID card for any legal purposes such as boarding an airplane, entering state or federal buildings, purchasing cigarettes or alcohol, or getting medications that require a government issued ID.

There are generally two types of DTA EBT cards in Massachusetts:

Photo of a Mass DTA EBT card, showing a profile on the left side of the card.
Photo of a Mass DTA EBT card, showing a box on the left side which has a check mark and says "valid without photo"
Photo EBT Card for “mandatory” (non-exempt) recipients.“Valid-without-Photo” issued to exempt recipients.

The back of each DTA EBT card states: “This card may be used by any household member.” All household members are authorized to use the EBT card at the grocery store. The PIN is your electronic signature.

Here are your customer rights:

  • Stores must allow all household members to use the card, whether their name or picture is on the EBT card.
  • Stores may not set up “SNAP-only” checkout lines nor refuse to let you use self-checkout lines.
  • Store clerks must not treat SNAP recipients differently from other shoppers who use credit or debit cards.
  • Stores must not ask to see your photo EBT card unless it is the store policy to ask for ID of all debit or credit card customers.

Federal rules protect the right of all authorized members to use the EBT card and to not be discriminated against1,2,3.

Households exempt from photo EBT card

You do not need a photo EBT card if you are the head of household (the person whose name is on the card) and you are:

  • Age 60 or older
  • Disabled or blind
  • Under age 19
  • Homeless
  • A victim of domestic violence
  • A person with a sincerely held religious belief.

DTA also does not issue photo EBT cards for authorized representatives nor for adults applying on behalf of their eligible dependents but not applying for themselves, such as a non-citizen applying on behalf of eligible children.

If you have a photo EBT card but you later became exempt from the photo EBT rules (for example, you turn age 60 or become disabled), you can ask for a “Valid-without-photo” EBT card. DTA will issue you a new EBT card without a photo and not charge you any replacement fee.

DTA Online Guide

See Appendix G for links to the DTA’s BEACON 5 Online Guide that apply to this section.

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