Can I Access Cash Benefits? EBT Questions Answered

The information in this post is accurate as of October 20, 2021.

If you have or are considering acquiring an EBT card, you might be wondering, “Can I access cash benefits?”

In most situations, cash benefits can only be accessed when you are underemployed or unemployed but actively taking steps to become fully employed, if you qualify as low-income, or if you are pregnant, have a child who is 18 or younger, or if you yourself are 18 or younger. In addition, you or your head of household must be a qualified alien, resident alien, or U.S. citizen.

Read on to learn more about EBT cash benefits.

What Is the Difference Between Cash Benefits EBT and SNAP?

This is one of the most common questions asked about EBT benefits. This is because SNAP benefits, or food stamps, are among the most common means by which EBT cards are distributed. This program is designed to help low-income families and individuals meet their basic needs in terms of food.

For the most part, SNAP can only be used for purchasing healthy foods from supermarkets and grocery stores. 

Cash benefits, on the other hand, are separate from the funds you would get through SNAP. For this reason, these benefits are also referred to as “temporary” or “emergency” cash assistance.

How Do EBT Cash Benefits Work?

EBT cash benefits are provided by the TANF program, short for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This program is funded by the federal government, which distributes funds to individual states that administer their own programs.

Depending on the state, accessing benefits might get you financial help related explicitly to work preparation, childcare, or other types of assistance related to work. 

Additionally, you can get an EBT card, which makes it easy to access your cash benefits just like you might with a debit card (for example, taking the money out from an ATM).

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, you must meet specific requirements to access EBT cash benefits. Therefore, TANF is explicitly designed for those who need financial assistance the most.

Therefore, you’ll have to demonstrate that you’re experiencing financial issues and that you have or will have dependents under your care. How do you do this? We’ll answer that in the next question.

How Can I Get EBT Cash Benefits?

Because the TANF funds are provided to you not by the federal government directly, but by your state, the process for getting EBT cash benefits and the EBT card will vary depending on where you’re located. Usually, you can apply over the phone or online.

Get started by finding the TANF program within your state that’s closest to you. But, first, use this interactive map provided by the Office of Family Assistance.

Once you’ve selected your state on the map, you’ll get the information you need about how to contact or visit the location nearest you and what information you will need to provide on your application. 

Generally speaking, you’ll need to provide proof of identification along with information about your number of dependents, income, employment, and housing. It may be helpful to gather resources such as pay stubs and other documentation before beginning the application process.

With this information, you can complete your application. If you meet the requirements we covered at the beginning of this article, you’ll likely be able to get EBT cash benefits. However, your state might have specific requirements you need to meet.

For this reason, you may want to ask the TANF office in your state about what these specific requirements might be before applying.

How Much Am I Likely to Receive?

Because EBT cash benefits are provided through individual states, the amount you get will depend on which state you’re located in and your individual circumstances. Elements such as your employment status, family size, and current income will impact how much you receive.

For example, let’s say you live in Washington state and there are three people in your family. In this case, you’d have a maximum grant amount you could get per month of $569 (this is a maximum amount from 2020). 

Note that if your situation changes, the number of cash benefits you receive will also change. For example, if you get a job, you might have some of your EBT cash benefits deducted.

Additionally, if your income exceeds certain levels, you could ultimately lose your TANF eligibility. 

Another thing to be aware of is a limit to how long you can receive your TANF funds. This limit is five years.

Even though you might still be able to receive your SNAP benefits, at this point, you won’t have access to your TANF funds anymore.

How Will I Get My EBT Card?

If you have already completed the hard work of completing your application and getting approved, you may be wondering what else you need to do to receive your EBT card. To find out this answer, it’s best to contact your state’s TANF program, as this can vary.

In Arkansas, for example, you’ll receive your EBT card in the mail. Additionally, they have a number available to call if you lost the one you already have and need to replace your card (800-997-9999).

Sometimes, you might receive your card after your initial interview, during which you’ve been deemed eligible to receive a TANF grant.

However, it won’t be until you’ve received the money that it will be present in your account.

Where Can I Use My EBT Card?

The places where you can use your EBT card will also vary from state to state.

When it comes to making ATM transactions, some banks will have a logo on them (such as the NYCE logo in Massachusetts), demonstrating that you can withdraw your money there.

Some banks will charge you for transactions, while others will not charge you for the first two and then after.

Considering how much this can vary, it’s a bright idea to speak with your local TANF representative to find out where it makes sense to withdraw cash from.

Note that there will be certain limitations in most states on what types of stores you can use your card at.

For example, you cannot use your card at nail salons, jewelry stores, casinos, or liquor stores.

Can I Return Items I’ve Bought With My EBT Card?

Again, this will vary from state to state. In Arkansas, for example, you’ll have the amount of money refunded to your account if you’re returning an item bought through the SNAP program. However, if you bought another time with cash benefits, you’ll be refunded the cash.

How Do I Use the EBT Card at an ATM?

This process can also vary. However, generally speaking, you’ll have to insert your card into the ATM, following the directions that appear on the screen. Then, you’ll enter your PIN.

In Arkansas, your PIN will be one that you create and set up by calling the EBT Help Desk.

Once you’ve entered your PIN, you’ll press several buttons—first, the withdrawal button, then the checking button.

After this, you’ll select the amount you want to take out. Then, finally, you’ll press enter and receive that amount. 

After you’ve taken your money out, look at the receipt given to you by the ATM. This way, you can ensure the amount you’ve withdrawn is correct.

How Do I Use the EBT Card at a POS Machine?

This process can also vary. You might, for example, follow the instructions given to you by the POS machine to use your EBT card, or if the clerk is around, you can let them know that you’re planning on using your EBT card. 

Then, you’ll slide your card. When this happens, you’ll have the option of selecting either Cash or Food. Depending on your purchase, select the option most appropriate for this. 

Then, input your PIN using the POS machine’s keypad. Finally, if the amount shown is the right amount, select “OK.”

Do I Need a Savings or Checking Account to Have My EBT Card?

This answer can also vary depending on where you’re based. In many states, a Direct Express card will allow benefit recipients to access benefits without a checking or savings account.

In this case, you have to use the EBT card if you want to access these benefits.

Getting Cash Benefits EBT

Now that we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about cash benefits EBT, you know whether or not you qualify. You also know the difference between TANF and SNAP, how to apply for cash benefits, and how the federal government works with individual states to distribute benefits.

Additionally, you have all the information you need to use your EBT card.

Save Money on Your Wireless Phone Service

If you qualify for TANF, SNAP, or both, you also qualify for Lifeline service. Lifeline is a federal benefit program that makes it possible for low-income consumers to receive access to free or heavily discounted communication services. Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.

Enjoy Recommended Resources and Amazon Deals

If you’re looking for more ways to save, check out our Recommended Resources page, where you can learn how to save 50% on Amazon Prime membership and use your EBT card on Amazon.