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How do I use SNAP benefits?

Produced by Patricia Baker and Victoria Negus
Reviewed January 2018

SNAP benefits are kept in an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) account for you to use at any grocery or convenience store that is a USDA-approved EBT vendor. 106 C.M.R. §§ 364.900, 364.910.

How do I get an EBT card and PIN? ​

Unless you apply in person, the EBT card is usually mailed to you. There will not be any benefits on your EBT card until your case is approved. DTA should make sure you have an EBT card in hand by the day your case is approved – either by 7 days from the date of you application, if you are eligible for expedited SNAP, or by 30 days from the date of your application. Contact Legal Services if DTA does not issue you an EBT card in time for you to use your SNAP when it is approved.

You will get two envelopes – one with the EBT card and another with the PIN. DTA will automatically assign you a PIN. You can change your PIN any time by calling the Massachusetts EBT Customer Service number: 1-800-997-2555.

Important tips: Choose a PIN that is easy for you to remember but hard for other people to guess. Keep your PIN a secret. Never write your PIN on your card.

You do have the option to pick up the EBT card at your local DTA office, but DTA cannot require you to come in person. Going to the local DTA office can sometimes be the fastest way to get the EBT card, especially if you may qualify for expedited benefits and need the benefits sooner. If you are required to have an EBT photo card, see What is a Photo EBT card and who needs to have one?.

How do I use my EBT card?

  • Look for the Quest mark on the door or window of the store, or a sign that says the store accepts EBT.

                                                       Quest symbol for food stamp benefits only

  • Before you shop, check your last receipt to find out how much SNAP benefits are in your account, or call Massachusetts EBT Customer Service at 800-997-2555 for your balance.
  • At check-out, swipe your card and enter your secret PIN on the number pad and then press enter. The cashier should NOT ask to inspect your card or look at your name or any photo on the card. The PIN is your electronic signature. See What is a Photo EBT card and who needs to have one?.
  • Tell the clerk how much SNAP you want to use to pay for your food or enter the amount yourself. If there is not enough EBT on your card for your food purchases, the clerk should tell you how much additional cash you need to pay.
  • Always check your receipt to be sure that the amount on the EBT receipt is the same as the grocery receipt.

Keep your EBT card even if your SNAP cases closes

  • Your EBT card does not expire, even if your SNAP case closes because you are no longer eligible. You can still use any SNAP benefits you were eligible to receive before your case closed for up to 365 days.
  • Keep your EBT card. If your SNAP case closes but you reapply at another time, DTA will put your benefits on the same EBT card. If you reapply and don’t have your card any more, or your card is defective (for example, the magnetic strip does not work) DTA should issue you a new EBT card. It will not charge you a fee if you have been off of benefits for over a year or you meet other rules. See What if I do not receive an EBT card or my card is lost or stolen?

Who do I call for questions about using my EBT card?

Call Massachusetts EBT customer service at 1-800-997-2555 when:

  • you have questions or problems using your card or secret PIN.
  • your card is lost or stolen or does not work. Report this right away. DTA will replace the card.
  • you want to find out your SNAP account balance.
  • yoy want to find out where you can use your card.

There is no limit on the number of times per month you can use your EBT card to buy food as long as you have benefits on the card. There is no charge or fee when you use your EBT card to buy food.  If you lose your card, see What if I do not receive an EBT card or my card is lost or stolen?.

DTA Policy Guidance:

Online Guide Sections: SNAP > Application Processing > SNAP Application Processing > Issuing An EBT Card

Show DTA Policy Guidance

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