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Getting the Most Out of Food Stamps Benefits
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, allows its recipients to purchase food items approved by the USDA with the use of an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card. However, learning how to make the most of your funds can be challenging.
You need to make sure you provide your household with enough healthy, nutritious food for the month with the funds you receive through SNAP. An EBT card can help you receive your SNAP benefits faster.
Benefits Of An EBT Card
SNAP benefits are provided via your EBT card, which works similar to a typical bank debit card or credit card. EBT cards are accepted in all 50 states as well as in the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. …Keep reading
After determining your account ID and password, you can review your last 10 transactions, request a printed two-month statement of your account history and file a claim if you suspect fraudulent activity or a transaction error has occurred.
Each month, regardless of weekends or holidays, your designated benefits will be loaded onto your EBT card. This process is safer and more efficient compared to dated methods that involved the issuance of physical food stamps.
With an EBT card, you must also set up a Personal Identification Number (PIN) to keep your benefits secure. Your PIN is essentially your electronic signature and is made up of a four-digit combination. When using the card at an eligible retailer, you will enter your PIN in the machine at the checkout line as you would with a debit card. Your EBT card will not work without the proper PIN.
Once the purchase is complete, be sure to review and record your receipt. Understand that if you enter the PIN incorrectly four times in a row, your account will be locked until the following day, even if you create a new PIN.
A 24/7 toll-free customer service helpline will be available so you can check your SNAP benefits account while on the go. With this service, you will be able check your balance, review your last 10 transactions, change a PIN, report damaged, lost or stolen cards and request a replacement card to be mailed to your address. The hotline service is available in Arabic, Chinese, English, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Korean, Russian and Spanish.
In some instances, an EBT system error might occur during a transaction. This can include being incorrectly charged twice or some other system error. When this occurs, EBT customer service representatives will provide you with a claim number that you can use to review the status of your claim.
Typically, SNAP account claims are resolved within a 15-day period. You have up to 90 days from the date of the suspected error to file your claim.
Keep in mind, however, while the claim is processing with your local agency or assistance center, it cannot replace the amount you are disputing. Benefits that have been used by an unauthorized person will not be replaced either. A separate EBT card can be distributed for you to share with an authorized representative you have selected.
All SNAP benefit transactions are free and do not include a limit to the number of times you can use your card. Before shopping, you can refer to your latest receipt to find out your balance amount, or you can call the customer service hotline or go online. Remember that you cannot receive cash back or use ATMs with your EBT card. In the instance you do not use your SNAP benefits for a period of 365 consecutive days, any remaining benefits will be removed from your account. Any expunged SNAP benefits cannot then be reinstated.
Quick Tips For Shopping On Food Stamps
Making smart purchases and learning as much as you can about how to buy and prepare new foods can help you make your SNAP funds last longer each month. Food-Stamps.org has compiled three quick tips for shopping efficiently with food stamps. Apply these to your grocery shopping each month to maximize your benefits and to provide healthy, nutritious meals for your household.
If you plan your meals every week, you will know exactly what you need and how much it will cost. This not only prevents you from wasting food, but it will also help you learn how to shop for the USDA’s approved SNAP items while remaining within your budget. Plan ahead with these easy steps: …Keep reading
- Make a grocery list. Making a list of items you actually need will help you to stick to a budget when you get to the store. Do not buy what is not on the list.
- Eat before you shop. Going to the grocery store hungry can result in unnecessary impulse purchases. If you eat before you go grocery shopping, you will find it easier to stick to your grocery list and not be swayed to buy snack items because you are hungry.
- Meal plan for the week. Making a plan of all your household meals for the week can help you in many ways. First, you can purchase only what you need by planning ahead and checking what you already have at home. Second, you can save yourself time throughout the week by cooking in batches and making sure everyone gets the healthy, nutritious meals they need without rushing around at the last minute.
- Cook in batches. Making much larger portions than you actually need at the time will enable you to freeze the leftovers for a quick and easy meal at a later date. Cooking in batches also ensures that any fresh meat or produce you buy does not go bad before you are able to use it. Purchase according to your meal planning and then cook large batches to use in next week’s meal plan, too.
- Know your EBT balance. Make sure you know your balance before heading to the grocery store so that you know the exact amount of funds available. You can find your balance at the bottom of your last receipt or by calling or checking online.
- Know where to shop. You can find all the retailers near you who accept EBT payments. Make sure you shop around to find the best prices for your most commonly purchased items so you can stretch your funds even further.
Know What You Can Buy With Your SNAP Benefits
Foods approved by SNAP include breads, cereals, fruits and vegetables, meat products and dairy products. You will not be able to purchase hot foods, vitamins, liquor or any non-food items. Take time to learn what is and is not approved, so you can plan better. Once you have a plan for what you want to cook each week, you can purchase the eligible ingredients using your EBT card at a qualifying retailer. …Keep reading
Be sure to check the expiration dates on items you purchase. Items towards the rear of the rack tend to have longer expiration dates, since grocery stores tend to stock items that are soon to expire near the front of the rack.
When you look at purchasing those eligible items, make sure you check the prices and find the best price for each item. That could mean shopping at different retailers for different purchases, or it could just mean buying store brand items instead of brand names. You can save on each purchase by buying the store brand, so make sure you compare costs before you buy
Look at the unit price in addition to the retail price on the sticker. The retail price is what you pay for that item while the unit price will help you compare by quantity or weight. Do the calculations to make sure you get the best deal for each item.
Buy Long-Lasting Items
Stocking up on dry food and canned food will help prevent your purchases from going to waste. These include rice, beans and canned vegetables. If you buy bigger cans and larger bags of dry food, you will be able to make them stretch across many more meals. Dry beans will be much more cost-effective than canned beans, so be sure to check those prices and learn how to use dry beans and other ingredients you might be unfamiliar with through the USDA’s SNAP-ED program, where you can access recipes and meal plans. Your local SNAP employee should be able to help you in-person at your local office so you can access those insights and even attend cooking classes. …Keep reading
Building up your nonperishable pantry can help you to save even more each month since you will not have to purchase these bulk items every time you go to the grocery store. Buying a large bag of dry beans or a large bag of rice or potatoes can last your household much longer, so try to look at bulk prices early on and buy fewer but larger items until you build up your pantry. Then, you can create your meal plans based off of what you already have to save even more on your monthly spending.
Keep in mind that protein sources like canned fish or dry beans can last a long time, so you can buy in bulk for those types of items. If you want to purchase the value pack or family size package to save money on any fresh meat, make sure you freeze what you do not use right away so nothing goes to waste. The same goes for vegetables or fruits. Purchase canned items that can last a long time or make sure you freeze fresh produce to avoid any waste.