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Can You Buy Gift Cards With Ebt?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, provides crucial resources to families in need. With the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that SNAP participants receive, buying essential grocery items becomes more convenient.

This leads many to wonder – can you use SNAP benefits to buy gift cards for groceries or restaurants?

: If you’re short on time, here’s the quick answer: No, SNAP benefits cannot be used to purchase gift cards. However, there are some important exceptions and details to understand regarding this policy.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore whether and how EBT cards can be used for gift card purchases.

Key topics covered include an overview of SNAP and EBT cards; the rationale behind prohibiting gift card purchases; the types of gift cards you can and cannot buy with EBT; how to use SNAP benefits for food gifts; workarounds like grocery store vouchers; and policies on restaurant, Visa, and Amazon gift cards.

With over 40 million Americans relying on SNAP, it is essential for beneficiaries, retailers, and taxpayers alike to understand proper use cases for EBT.

What are SNAP and EBT Cards?

SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which is a federal assistance program in the United States that provides eligible low-income individuals and families with funds to purchase food. EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards are the method of delivery for SNAP benefits.

These cards are similar to debit cards and are used to access the funds allocated to recipients.

SNAP and EBT cards are issued to eligible individuals and families by the state’s Department of Social Services or equivalent agency. The amount of benefits received is determined by factors such as income, household size, and expenses.

How do SNAP and EBT Cards work?

Once a person is approved for SNAP benefits, they are issued an EBT card. The card is preloaded with the recipient’s monthly benefit amount, which can be used to purchase eligible food items at authorized retailers such as grocery stores, supermarkets, and farmers’ markets.

The cardholder can swipe the EBT card at the point of sale, and the funds are deducted from their account.

It’s important to note that SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy non-food items such as alcohol, tobacco, vitamins, pet food, and hot prepared meals. The program is designed to provide support for purchasing nutritious food items to meet the dietary needs of individuals and families.

Can you buy gift cards with EBT?

No, it is generally not allowed to use SNAP benefits or EBT cards to purchase gift cards. The program guidelines specify that SNAP benefits can only be used to purchase eligible food items for household consumption.

The goal of the program is to ensure that low-income individuals and families have access to nutritious food, and purchasing gift cards does not align with this objective.

It’s important for SNAP recipients to use their benefits responsibly and in accordance with the program rules. Violating the rules can result in penalties, including disqualification from the program and legal consequences.

If you have questions about the specific rules and regulations regarding SNAP benefits in your state, it is recommended to visit the official website of your state’s SNAP program or contact the appropriate state agency for more information.

Why Can’t SNAP Benefits Be Used for Gift Cards?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides assistance to low-income individuals and families to help them purchase nutritious food. However, SNAP benefits cannot be used to buy gift cards.

There are several reasons why this restriction is in place.

1. Ensuring Proper Use of Benefits

The primary reason why SNAP benefits cannot be used for gift cards is to ensure that the assistance is being used for its intended purpose: purchasing food. Gift cards can be used for a variety of purposes, including non-food items or even cash withdrawals.

By restricting the use of SNAP benefits to eligible food items, the program aims to ensure that individuals and families have access to the nutrition they need.

2. Preventing Fraud and Abuse

Allowing SNAP benefits to be used for gift cards could potentially open the door to fraud and abuse. Some individuals may try to exchange their benefits for cash by purchasing gift cards and then selling them at a discounted rate.

This could undermine the integrity of the SNAP program and divert resources away from those who truly need them.

3. Promoting Healthy Eating Habits

SNAP benefits are designed to promote healthy eating habits among low-income individuals and families. By limiting the use of benefits to eligible food items, the program encourages recipients to make nutritious choices and supports their overall well-being.

Allowing the use of benefits for gift cards could potentially lead to the purchase of unhealthy or non-nutritious items, counteracting the goals of the program.

It is important to note that while SNAP benefits cannot be used directly for gift cards, there are alternative ways to use them for non-food items. Some states allow the use of EBT cash benefits at approved retailers that sell household essentials, personal care products, and even certain types of clothing.

These options ensure that recipients can still meet their basic needs while adhering to the program’s guidelines.

For more information on SNAP benefits and eligible purchases, you can visit the official website of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service.

Buying food items

Exceptions: Gift Cards You Can Buy with EBT

When it comes to purchasing items with EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) cards, there are certain restrictions in place. Typically, EBT cards can only be used to buy food items that are considered essential for a healthy diet.

However, there are some exceptions when it comes to purchasing gift cards with EBT.

1. Restaurant Gift Cards

While most gift cards cannot be purchased with EBT, there is one exception: restaurant gift cards. In some states, individuals who receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits can use their EBT cards to buy restaurant gift cards.

This exception is intended to provide assistance to those who may not have access to a kitchen or who may be experiencing homelessness.

2. Farmers Market Gift Cards

Another exception to the rule is the ability to purchase gift cards specifically for use at farmers’ markets. These gift cards allow SNAP recipients to support local farmers while also having access to fresh, healthy produce.

Farmers market gift cards can often be purchased directly at the market or through participating organizations.

To find a farmers market near you that accepts EBT and offers gift cards, you can visit the official website of the Farmers Market Coalition.

3. Non-Profit Organizations

Some non-profit organizations offer gift card programs that allow individuals receiving government assistance, including EBT, to purchase gift cards for specific purposes. These programs are designed to provide additional support to those in need, whether it’s for clothing, school supplies, or other essential items.

If you’re interested in learning more about non-profit organizations that offer gift card programs, you can visit websites such as or

It’s important to note that these exceptions may vary from state to state, so it’s always a good idea to check with your local SNAP office or the official websites of the organizations mentioned above for the most up-to-date information.

Getting Groceries as Gifts for Others with SNAP

SNAP, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is a federal assistance program designed to help low-income individuals and families purchase nutritious food.

While the program primarily focuses on providing assistance for individuals to purchase groceries for themselves and their households, there are no restrictions on using SNAP benefits to buy groceries as gifts for others.

What can you buy with SNAP benefits?

SNAP benefits can be used to purchase a wide variety of food items, including fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, dairy products, and bread.

In general, any food item that is intended for human consumption and is not hot when purchased can be bought with SNAP benefits. This allows recipients to have access to a nutritious diet and maintain their health.

Can you buy gift cards with EBT?

While SNAP benefits can be used to purchase food items, they cannot be used to buy gift cards or other non-food items. This restriction is in place to ensure that SNAP benefits are used solely for their intended purpose of providing nutritious food for individuals and families in need.

However, it’s important to note that some states have implemented pilot programs that allow SNAP recipients to use their benefits to purchase groceries online, including the option to have groceries delivered to someone else as a gift.

Paying with EBT card

Alternative ways to give groceries as gifts

If you wish to give groceries as gifts to others, there are alternative ways to do so.

One option is to purchase the groceries yourself using your SNAP benefits and then give the items as a gift to the intended recipient.

Another option is to donate to local food banks or charities that provide food assistance to those in need. By donating to these organizations, you can help ensure that individuals and families have access to nutritious food during times of hardship.

Note: It’s always a good idea to check with your local SNAP office or refer to the official USDA website for the most up-to-date information regarding the use of SNAP benefits and any restrictions that may apply.

Workarounds: Grocery Vouchers and Food Delivery

While it is not possible to directly purchase gift cards with EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer), there are some workarounds that can help individuals make the most of their benefits.

Two popular options are grocery vouchers and food delivery services.

Grocery Vouchers

Grocery vouchers are a great alternative for those who want to have more control over their food purchases. These vouchers are typically provided by local organizations or government agencies and can be used at participating grocery stores.

They work similarly to gift cards, allowing individuals to buy groceries of their choice within a set budget.

One advantage of grocery vouchers is that they can be used to purchase a wide range of food items, including fresh produce, dairy products, meat, and pantry staples. This allows individuals to have a balanced and nutritious diet while still utilizing their EBT benefits.

It’s important to note that the availability of grocery vouchers may vary depending on your location. Contact your local social services agency or food banks to see if they offer such programs.

Food Delivery Services

Another option for individuals with EBT benefits is to consider using food delivery services. Many of these services now accept EBT as a form of payment, making it convenient for people to have groceries and meals delivered to their doorstep.

Food delivery services provide a wide variety of options, including fresh produce, pantry staples, and even prepared meals. This can be particularly beneficial for individuals with limited mobility or those who live in food deserts where access to healthy food options is limited.

It’s important to check with the specific food delivery service to confirm if they accept EBT as a form of payment. Some services may have specific requirements or restrictions regarding the use of EBT benefits.


While gift cards cannot be purchased directly with SNAP benefits, there are still ways to use EBT cards ethically to give food gifts or shop online.

The restrictions aim to ensure SNAP resources are used as intended – to provide nutrition for beneficiaries and their families.

With a deeper understanding of the policy and innovative solutions, EBT users can get the most out of their benefits.

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