Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards, traditionally used to purchase food from grocery stores, can now be used at select fast-food locations. So does McDonald’s accept EBT? Currently, you cannot use EBT to purchase food at McDonald’s. Though if you’re willing to grab food from a similar restaurant using an EBT card, keep reading.
What Exactly Is an EBT Card?
The program formerly known as food stamps is now referred to as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). The millions of Americans who access this assistance do so via Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards. EBT cards look and work like debit cards. The difference is that there is no link to your bank account. Instead, EBT cards are connected to your SNAP benefits account. When you swipe your EBT card at the grocery store or restaurant, the funds from your SNAP benefits are transferred to the store’s bank.
What Food Can You Purchase with an EBT Card?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulates what can be purchased with SNAP benefits. Most notably, EBT cards cannot be used to purchase hot foods or food that will be eaten in-store. SNAP benefits are meant to buy food for home preparation. See more in our dedicated article.
Federal law gives states the options to create exceptions to this no hot food rule for people who are homeless, disabled, or elderly — those who can’t or would have a hard time, preparing food at home. A handful of states have implemented Restaurant Meals Programs based on this exception. Restaurant Meals Programs are widely available in California and Arizona. Hawaii and Rhode Island have limited programs. Restaurant Meals Programs authorize eligible EBT recipients to use their EBT cards at authorized restaurants. Authorized restaurants must sell food at “concessionary prices” so they are generally fast food restaurants.
If you qualify for this program, and your area offers the service, you can access this option automatically from your EBT card. (You do not have to sign up separately.)
Fast-Food Restaurants That Accept EBT
As mentioned above, McDonald’s does not accept EBT cards. If you’re not in a state with a restaurant meals program, you’ll be hard pressed to even find a restaurant that will take your EBT card, and if you do, it will be for unprepared, cold food only. For example, Papa Murphy’s usually accepts EBT for the purchase of their “take ‘n bake” pizzas.
If there is a Restaurant Meals Program in your state and you are eligible, you’ll be able to use your EBT card at a handful of fast food restaurants. For a list, see our article What Fast Food Places Take EBT/Food Stamps/SNAP? Here’s the List. If your state’s doesn’t have a Restaurant Meals Program or your not eligible, take a look at our article Grocery Stores That Accept EBT/Food Stamps/SNAP: Local + Online to find out more about which stores will take your EBT card, and what you can buy.
Though you can’t purchase food from McDonald’s using EBT, there are alternatives. We hope this article helped you find a restaurant that accepts EBT or, at the very least, gave you more insight into the rules and regulations of purchasing food with EBT cards. If you’re aware of any other restaurants that have accepted EBT as payment, let us know in the comments below so we can include it on our list.