SNAP, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide low-income individuals and families with food. Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards, which were once known as food stamps, are used to buy food at grocery stores and are now available at some select fast food locations. Keep reading to learn about all the fast food places that accept EBT cards as payment.

In This Article

How Does the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Work?

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal program providing assistance to individuals and families that can’t afford to buy food. Heard of the Farm Bill, but don’t know exactly what it is? SNAP is Chapter 51 of the Farm Bill, and the largest part of the bill in terms of the amount of money spent. At the federal level, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) oversees SNAP and sets guidelines and rules as required by federal law.

Each state is required to administer the program through its appropriate state agency. At the state level, you’ll see SNAP operating with a variety of different names. In California, its CalFresh, in Wisconsin, its Food Share. But, they’re all part of the same program, all follow the same guidelines, and all distribute benefits through the same EBT cards (as explained in the next section). The USDA maintains a helpful list of state SNAP websites, in case you’re looking for yours.

Federal law requires that SNAP benefits be interoperable – an EBT card issued by one state must work in another state’s EBT approved restaurants too. So, if you’ve got an EBT card from Minnesota, but are visiting family in Florida, you’ll be able to use your EBT card there as well.

What Is an EBT Card?

Electronic Benefit Transfer cards, also known as EBT cards, are the way that state agencies distribute the money that the SNAP program provides to individuals and families. EBT cards look and act much like a debit card, except there is no link to your bank account. EBT cards are connected to your SNAP benefits account, so when you swipe your EBT card at the grocery store to pay for your food, the funds from your SNAP benefits go into the store’s bank. EBT cards can only be used to buy food from approved retailers.

EBT cards are issued in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and DC, and have been since 2004. If you’re interested in the legalese behind the EBT card, take a look at 7 U.S. Code section 2016, the section of the Farm Bill covering the issuance and use of SNAP benefits via EBT cards.

The USDA maintains a list of all the retailers that accept EBT cards in each state on its website (but note that this resource doesn’t work on all web browsers). Scroll down past the map to download the list for your state.

What Food Can You Buy with Your EBT Card?

The Farm Bill defines what food is eligible for SNAP and can be bought with EBT cards. People can use their EBT cards “to purchase food from retail food stores which have been approved for participation in the supplemental nutrition assistance program.” (see sub (b)). Food is limited to “any food or food product for home consumption except alcoholic beverages, tobacco, hot foods or hot food products ready for immediate consumption.” (see sub(k)).

Online, the US Department of Agriculture, which oversees SNAP, puts this into regular english, you can use your EBT card to buy:

  • Foods for the household to eat, such as: breads and cereals; fruits and vegetables; meats, fish and poultry; and dairy products.
  • Seeds and plants which produce food for the household to eat.

They also explain more about what’s excluded:

  • Beer, wine, liquor, cigarettes or tobacco
  • Any nonfood items, such as: pet foods, soaps, paper products, household supplies
  • Vitamins and medicines
  • Food that will be eaten in the store
  • Hot foods

This means that hot meals at restaurants are generally excluded from SNAP.

What Fast Food Can You Buy with Your EBT Card?

So what food can you buy from a fast food restaurant with your EBT card? In most states, only food that is meant to be taken home and cooked at or prepared at home. The most common example of a fast food restaurant where you can use your EBT card because the food is for preparing at home is Papa Murphy’s. In most states, you’ll find Papa Murphy’s approved to accept EBT cards for their “take n’ bake” pizzas because the pizza are meant to be prepared at home.

But, as with most laws, there is an exception. Federal law permits states to extend the SNAP to allow people who are elderly, disabled, or homeless to use their EBT cards to buy hot meals in approved restaurants. These approved restaurants must sell foods at “concessionary prices,” but the term isn’t defined by law. Usually, fast food restaurants participate.

This exception takes into consideration that many people who qualify for EBT don’t have the means to take food home and cook it, so being able to buy only cold, unprepared food per usual program guidelines isn’t that helpful. Very few states have extended their programs to allow people to buy food at restaurants with EBT cards. In those that have, the extension is often called a “Restaurant Meal Program” or RMP for short.

How Do Restaurant Meals Programs Work?

A few states have extended SNAP to also allow certain recipients to buy meals in participating restaurants. In areas with active Restaurant Meals Programs (RMPs), there are many fast food restaurants that accept EBT. RMPs are meant to accommodate EBT recipients who don’t have the means to go home and cook their food. Restaurant meals may be available only for the homeless, disabled, and elderly.

Note that the USDA’s list of retailers that accept EBT cards usually doesn’t include the restaurants that accept EBT cards as part of a RMP. You’ll have to use the state’s website to search for restaurants. Many states don’t post participating restaurants, and you may need to contact your local state benefits office.

Restaurant Meal Programs are well developed in California, Arizona, and Florida. Hawaii, Michigan, and Rhode Island all have references to the program, but provide limited information. Here are the basics of each state’s program:

1. Arizona

2. California

3. Florida

4. Hawaii

5. Michigan

6. Rhode Island

Fast Food Restaurants That Accept EBT

It’s worth noting that franchised locations are able to set their own policies on what payment types they’ll accept. That means that if the corporate office sets a policy to accept or not accept EBT in the corporate owned stores, the franchise won’t necessarily follow that policy.

If you visit one of these restaurants in a state with a RMP and receive RMP benefits to your EBT card, you’ll probably be able to hot food off the menu. If you are visiting a restaurant in a state without a RMP, or the location happens to not participates in the state’s RMP program, you either won’t be able to use your EBT card at all, or will be limited to cold items that count as for home preparation only. We’ve noted which items might count as cold, home prep items for each state, for those looking for restaurant food in non-RMP states.

1. Arby’s

  • Possible cold food for home prep: Salads, milkshakes, applesauce, milk, desserts, and soft drinks
  • Additional information: Some people have purchased the roast beef sandwiches and other “hot food” sides using EBT cards, but that will depend on each franchise’s policies.
  • States with locations that accept EBT: Unconfirmed
  • Find an Arby’s

2. Burger King

  • Possible cold food for home prep: Salads, milkshakes, applesauce, milk, desserts, and soft drinks
  • Additional information: Participates in California’s RMP
  • States with locations accepting EBT: California
  • Find a Burger King

3. Carl’s Jr.

  • Possible cold food for home prep: None reported
  • Additional information: We found no reports of locations accepting EBT outside CA
  • States with locations accepting EBT: California
  • Find a Carl’s Jr.

4. Church’s Chicken

  • Possible cold food for home prep: Coleslaw, desserts, and soft drinks
  • Additional information: Many people report purchasing their chicken using EBT cards. Check with each franchise before purchasing.
  • States with locations accepting EBT: Unconfirmed
  • Find a Church’s Chicken

5. Cici’s Pizza

  • Possible cold food for home prep: None
  • Additional information: None
  • States with locations accepting EBT: Arizona
  • Find a Cici’s Pizza

6. Dairy Queen

  • Possible cold food for home prep: Ice cream, cakes, and drinks
  • Additional information: None
  • States with locations accepting EBT: Arizona
  • Find a Dairy Queen

7. Denny’s

  • Possible cold food for home prep: None
  • Additional information: None
  • States with locations accepting EBT: Arizona, California
  • Find a Denny’s

8. Domino’s

  • Possible cold food for home prep: Salads, subs, desserts, and soft drinks
  • Additional information: Take advantage of their daily deals to get better prices.
  • States with locations accepting EBT: Arizona, California
  • Find a Domino’s

9. El Pollo Loco

10. Jack in the Box

  • Possible cold food for home prep: None
  • Additional information: None
  • States with locations accepting EBT: Arizona, California
  • Find a Jack in the Box

11. Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC)

  • Possible cold food for home prep: Coleslaw, desserts, and soft drinks
  • Additional information: Some KFC restaurants reportedly allow for chicken and sandwiches to be purchased using EBT cards, but check with your local franchise.
  • States with locations accepting EBT: Arizona, California
  • Find a KFC

12. McDonald’s

  • Possible cold food for home prep: Salads, milkshakes, cold coffee drinks, and soft drinks
  • Additional information: None
  • States with locations accepting EBT: Non confirmed, but reported use in Tennessee
  • Find a McDonald’s

13. Papa John’s Pizza

  • Possible cold food for home prep: None
  • Additional information: None
  • States with locations accepting EBT: Arizona
  • Find a Papa John’s Pizza

14. Papa Murphy’s

  • Possible cold food for home prep: Take and bake pizzas, salads, sides, and drinks
  • Additional information: Since all of their pizza is “take and bake,” it doesn’t fall under the restriction of “hot foods.” Sign up for extra offers on their website.
  • States with locations accepting EBT: Almost all states
  • Find a Papa Murphy’s

15. Pizza Hut

  • Possible cold food for home prep: None
  • Additional information: None
  • States with locations accepting EBT: California
  • Find a Pizza Hut

16. Popeye’s

  • Possible cold food for home prep: None
  • Additional information: None
  • States with locations accepting EBT: California
  • Find a Popeye’s

17. Quiznos

  • Possible cold food for home prep: None
  • Additional information: None
  • States with locations accepting EBT: California
  • Find a Quiznos

18. Rally’s Hamburgers

  • Possible cold food for home prep: Desserts, milkshakes, and soft drinks
  • Additional information: None
  • States with locations accepting EBT: California
  • Find a Rally’s Hamburgers

19. Subway

  • Possible cold food for home prep: Cold subs, chips, and soft drinks may count as cold food
  • Additional information: EBT cards cannot be used on Subway’s app for ordering ahead, read more about Subway and EBT cards.
  • States with locations accepting EBT: Arizona, California, Rhode Island
  • Find a Subway

20. Taco Bell

  • Possible cold food for home prep: Chips, desserts, specialty cold drinks, and soft drinks
  • Additional information: None
  • States with locations accepting EBT: Arizona, California
  • Find a Taco Bell

21. Wendy’s

  • Possible cold food for home prep: Salads, desserts, specialty drinks, and soft drinks
  • Additional information: None
  • States with locations accepting EBT: California
  • Find a Wendy’s

22. White Castle

  • Possible cold food for home prep: Oatmeal, desserts, specialty drinks, and soft drinks
  • Additional information: Some people report purchasing hamburgers and other main menu items using EBT cards, but it depends on each franchise. White Castle products are also available in retail stores to purchase using EBT cards.
  • States with locations accepting EBT: Unconfirmed
  • Find a White Castle

23. Wing Stop

  • Possible cold food for home prep: None
  • Additional information: None
  • States with locations accepting EBT: California
  • Find a Wing Stop

Fast Food Restaurants That Don’t Accept EBT

And, here are the fast food restaurants that, as far as we could find, don’t accept EBT at any locations:

  • Chick-fil-A
  • Chipotle Mexican Grill
  • Culver’s
  • Del Taco
  • Einstein Bros. Bagels
  • Five Guys Burgers & Fries
  • Hardee’s
  • Dunkin Donuts
  • In-N-Out Burger
  • Jimmy John’s
  • Little Caesars
  • Panda Express
  • Panera Bread
  • Qdoba Mexican Grill
  • Sonic Drive-In
  • Starbucks
  • Whataburger
  • Zaxby’s

In Summary

There are actually a lot of fast food restaurants that accept EBT cards — but only in states with Restaurant Meal Programs, and only for people who are EBT recipients and disabled, elderly, or homeless. If you aren’t in an RMP or don’t qualify for the program, don’t expect to be able to purchase food at fast food restaurants with your EBT. If you’re extremely lucky, you might stumble upon the rare fast food restaurant that is approved to accept EBT for food items intended for home preparation. But, most traditional fast food restaurants don’t have food that qualifies for EBT.