What is the policy for getting EBT cash back? Can you get cash back from an EBT card?
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as SNAP, and the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children, often abbreviated as TAFDC, are two federal programs that can help individuals and families with financial struggles to meet their basic needs. Both of these programs use an Electronic Benefits Transfer card, or an EBT card, which functions like a debit card that can be swiped when making a purchase. If you’re a participant in either of these programs, you might be wondering: can you get cash back with an EBT card? We’ve got your covered. Read on for what you need to know about EBT cash back.
An Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card is a card issued by a state government to a citizen with little or no income in order to help that person purchase basic necessities. Although the EBT card itself is issued by a state government, the assistance provided through the card actually comes from two federal programs, known respectively as SNAP and TAFDC. Some people who receive an EBT card qualify for both programs, whereas as others qualify only for SNAP. Here’s a brief overview of these two programs and the differences between them:
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps): SNAP is a program created specifically to help people on a low income purchase food. Although monthly benefits are represented as a dollar amount, the SNAP portion of a person’s EBT card balance may only be used for food items. A SNAP balance is NOT the same as cash.
TAFDC (Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children, sometimes called welfare): The TAFDC program provides monetary benefits to families with little or no income (specific income limits vary by state; we’ll touch on this point again later). Participating families receive benefits as monthly additions to their EBT card balances. When a recipient of these benefits inserts their EBT card into a point-of-sale (POS) machine (such as the checkout register at a store), their current TAFDC balance is displayed under the heading “Cash.” This is because TAFDC is essentially cash assistance to families in need. TAFDC benefits can, therefore, be used to purchase a wide variety of items. However, it is illegal to use the TAFDC balance on an EBT card to pay for alcohol, tobacco products, firearms, ammunition, lottery tickets, jewelry, vacation expenses, or tattoos; to pay court-ordered fees and fines; or to purchase entertainment items at rent-to-own stores.
Since an EBT card may contain a TAFDC balance classified as cash, many people ask: can you get cash back when you make a purchase using an EBT card? This article answers that question in detail.
Can You Get Cash Back Using SNAP?
No, you cannot get cash back when making a purchase with SNAP. As explained above, SNAP benefits on an EBT card may be used ONLY to buy food. It is therefore not possible to receive cash back when you use SNAP benefits to make a food purchase.
Can You Get Cash Back When Using Your TAFDC (“Cash”) Balance?
Yes, you CAN get cash back if you have a “Cash” balance through TAFDC on your EBT card. When you make a purchase using your TAFDC balance at a point-of-sale (POS) machine at any store that accepts EBT cards, you will have the option of receiving cash back. Specific details and cash back limits may vary from state to state (see “Fees and Limits” and “Where to Find More Information” below), but the Federal Interoperability Rule dictates that a cash back option on TAFDC purchases must be available to EBT cardholders in all fifty states plus the District of Columbia.
It is important to note that individual stores also have the freedom to limit the amount of cash back that card users may receive, whether they are paying with EBT or a bank-issued debit card. In some cases, stores may set a specific limit for EBT card users, but more often, stores will have a cash back limit that applies to all transactions. You can learn more about store policies regarding cash back for debit card, credit card, or personal check transactions in our article about cash back limits at stores. Cash back limits at grocery stores, convenience stores, and department stores typically range between $40 – $100.
Can You Get a Cash Refund for an Item Purchased Using Your EBT Card?
If you made the purchase using TAFDC benefits: You may be able to receive a cash refund if you return the item. Remember, however, that individual store policies regarding refunds vary greatly. Some stores only grant refunds in the form of store credit; others have a policy stating that for items purchased using a card (credit, debit, or EBT), any refunds will be granted only as a credit back to that card. Therefore, although it is legal for a store to issue a cash refund for a purchase made using your TAFDC balance, the option may not be available at the specific stores where you shop. Ask the sales clerk at a local store about that location’s refund policies to find out more.
If you purchased a food item using SNAP benefits: No, you cannot receive a refund in cash if you return the item. You may either exchange the item for another product of equal value or receive the refund as a credit added back to your SNAP balance.
Can You Use an EBT Card to Withdraw Cash at an ATM?
Yes, you can get cash back at an ATM — as long as you have TAFDC benefits on the card. Cash withdrawals may be made at most ATMs nationwide. Restrictions and fees for cash withdrawals at an ATM may vary by state; for example, some states allow a limited number of free withdrawals per month, and begin charging a service fee (typically around $1) after the limit is reached. Some states also place limits on the total amount of cash that can be withdrawn in a day. The state websites we’ve provided below can help you find out the exact rules and regulations for ATM withdrawals in your area.
Fees and Limits for Cash Back and Withdrawals on TAFDC Benefits
Cash back: Cash back transactions for a TAFDC balance with an EBT card never incur any fees. This policy is part of the Federal Interoperability Rule, and therefore it holds nationwide. As noted above, individual stores may limit the amount of cash back you can receive on an EBT purchase. Some states also place per-purchase or daily limits on cash back transactions. (See “Where to Find More Information” below.)
ATM Withdrawals: Because there are no federally mandated rules regarding fees and limits for ATM withdrawals using an EBT card, these policies vary significantly from state to state. Several states specify a limit of 10 cash withdrawals per month before fees are incurred by the cardholder. Most commonly, a cardholder who exceeds this limit is charged a fee of $1 for each additional withdrawal made that month. Individual states also place limits on the amount of cash an EBT card user may withdraw per day.
Again, remember that you can withdraw money from an ATM with an EBT card if you have TAFDC benefits, but not if you only have SNAP. Most importantly, you should always look for a surcharge-free ATM to ensure that you will not be charged additional fees by the ATM itself. Information about surcharge-free ATMs will typically be provided on your state’s website (see below).
Where to Find More Information About Your State’s EBT Laws
As we’ve noted several times, specific policies regarding cash back and withdrawal transactions using an EBT card vary by state. Some states, including California, Minnesota, and Massachusetts, publish very clear information about all EBT card-related policies on state government web pages. Others are less forthcoming about specific policies, and provide only very general information on state websites. However, ALL states have a toll-free number you can call for further information on EBT card use. The following list of links will take you to the main EBT information page for each state, where you can find the phone number to call for any specific questions you may have about the regulations for EBT card use in your state.
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
- Washington, DC
Can you get cash back with an EBT card? Yes — but only if you have TAFDC (sometimes known as welfare). Those receiving SNAP benefits (also called food stamps), but not TAFDC, cannot get cash back from an EBT card. Specific fees, limits, and restrictions vary by state. Remember to keep your card in a secure place at all times. We hope that this guide has provided useful information so that you can make the most of your benefits and help you and your family get what you need.
Recommended next read: Can you get cash back at Walmart using an EBT card?