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What do I need to know about the photo EBT card?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed May 2023

Why are there photos on some EBT cards?

Under a Massachusetts law passed in 2013, some SNAP households are issued an EBT card with a photo on it. But most households are exempt from the photo EBT law and get EBT cards without photos. 

You don’t need a photo on your EBT card if you are age 60 or older, under age 19, a person with disabilities, homeless, a survivor of domestic violence, a caregiver for a child or other person who receives SNAP, or you have religious objections to photos. DTA should issue you an EBT card that says “Valid without Photo.” 

Can I use the EBT card even if it doesn’t have my name or picture?

Yes! Every household member has the right to use your EBT card as long as they know the PIN for the card. The PIN is your electronic signature, just like a debit card. The PIN is what keeps your benefits safe.

Stores must let anyone in your SNAP household use the EBT card. This includes your spouse, roommate or older children. You do not have to be head of the SNAP household to use the benefits. If you allow a caregiver to shop for you, they can also use the EBT card.

What will my EBT card look like?

If you get a new EBT card with a photo, it will look like this:

Card that reads "Mass DTA, Commonwealth of Massachusetts" next to a blue filled-in shape of Massachusetts. Below on the left, there is a placeholder image of a photo with a number, 600875. On the right, black text reads "John Cardholder" and at the bottom right there is a light blue seal of Massachusetts. The background of the card is a white and blue gradient.

If you get a new EBT card without a photo, it will look like this:

Card that looks the same as the photo EBT card, except in the space on the left, there is a white rectangle with a checkbox inside and text inside that reads in all caps, "Valid without photo."

Stores must accept all kinds of EBT cards, including EBT cards from out of state.


The photo EBT card is not a State ID. You cannot use it to open a bank account, get on an airplane, buy any controlled substances (alcohol, cigarettes, etc). The photo EBT card does not have your date of birth or address. It is not the same as a State ID or Driver's License. It is just a picture on an EBT card. 

What if a store is treating me differently from other customers?

You have the right to be treated like any other shopper in the store. A store cannot ask to see your photo EBT card unless they ask everyone to show a photo ID anytime they use a credit or debit card. A store cannot set up “SNAP-only” checkout lines. They cannot discriminate in any other way against SNAP or cash benefit households. 

You also have the right to shop online with your EBT card. See information about SNAP online purchasing.

If you had any trouble using your EBT card in a store, or you have been treated differently from other shoppers, contact the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute, i[email protected].

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