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How Your Business Can Accept EBT Cards

How Your Business Can Accept EBT Cards Image

Learn if your business can accept EBT cards, how to do it, and what your staff needs to know about them.

The numbers don’t lie: according to the World Population Review, over 45 million people in the United States have benefited from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly food stamps.

That’s roughly 15% of the population of the entire country using this program to make food purchases. Not only that, but the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam all use this program. In 2020, nearly $120 billion was spent via the program.

So how can your business benefit from participating in this program? What do you have to do to qualify? And how can you accept EBT card payment? 

PPS is here to answer your questions and show you how to do it.

What is an EBT card and how do they work?

In 2004, food stamps were replaced with SNAP. Since then, physical stamps are no longer sent to households. 

Instead, the SNAP program offers a better way to distribute government benefits to those that qualify: an Electronic Benefits Transfer card, or EBT card. 

This card works similarly to a debit card: participants in the SNAP program receive this EBT card to purchase items at a business that accepts EBT. When they check out, their SNAP EBT account is debited to reimburse that business for the food that was purchased.

So it’s not much different than any other transaction for the customer and the store–the funds in the transaction simply come from the SNAP program.

What businesses can accept EBT cards?

Sure, an EBT card works like a debit card–as long as the transaction meets the qualifications.

In order for a business to be approved by the US Government to accept EBT, they need to meet at least one of these two requirements:

1. They must stock and sell at least two of these perishable food categories: 

  • Meat, fish, and poultry
  • Dairy products
  • Cereals, bread, and grains
  • Fruits and vegetables. Or;

2. 50% or more of their revenue must be from at least one of the above food categories

And just because a business sells perishable foods doesn’t mean they automatically qualify. Rather, what they sell needs to specifically be from these categories of foods. So if a business sells coffee, tea, or snack foods, they will need to make inventory changes in order to accept EBT cards.

How a business can accept EBT cards

If you have gotten this far, then you likely meet the above qualifications to accept EBT payments. 

Now you’ll need to take three steps to start accepting EBT cards:

  1. Fill out an application to get approval from the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) office, who works under the USDA. 
  1. At the end of the application, you will also need to send documents the FNS needs. This may include a copy of the license for your business, health department permits, state sales tax licenses, and anything else requested by the FNS office.

NOTE: If you own 10 or more stores, you can use a simplified SNAP application process to accept EBT cards. More information on that can be found here.

  1. Make sure to let your payment processor know that you now accept EBT payments. This will ensure a number of things take place:
  • Your point-of-sale (POS) is programed to accept EBT cards
  • Your business is properly credited from the EBT transactions

NOTE: Progressive Payment Solutions has US-based customer service that’s ready to help you start accepting EBT cards.

EBT card best practices

Finally, it’s time to start training your employees with these best practices for accepting EBT cards:

  • Teach them to separate allowable items from items not allowed for purchase with an EBT card. 

Remember, you can only purchase these items with EBT cards:
1. Meat, fish, and poultry

2. Dairy products

3. Cereals, bread, and grains

4. Fruits and vegetables

  • Make sure they can guide a customer through using their EBT card. 

They may need to provide assistance to the customer with swiping their card or entering their pin. The employee will also need to be ready to enter the SNAP purchase amount to complete the transaction. 

  • Ensure the employees know how best to respond to potential issues. These may include disputes with the customer over EBT accounts, what items qualify, and any other potential issues. 

It’s a wise choice to have a laminated list on hand that shows what categories of items are allowed to be purchased with EBT cards for quick reference. This card can also be shared with the customer to help settle any disputes.

NOTE: The USDA provides a 20-page EBT card training guide and training videos for free in both here. They are available in both English and Spanish.


With tens of millions of people using EBT cards in the United States, it’s crucial your qualifying business accepts them to not miss out on a major market. 

Especially since it’s a simple process: apply online, share the required documents, and contact your processor to authorize your POS and make sure EBT payments are accepted.

Ready to start accepting EBT payments? Then contact Progressive Payment Solutions today. We’ll provide you with the POS systems you need, along with decades of industry experience to make payment processing a breeze.

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