Does Costco Accept EBT Cards? What You Need to Know
If you have an EBT card, you know that it can be confusing to keep track of where you can and cannot use it.
Certain stores take EBT cards, and others don’t. On top of that, state laws determine what you can and cannot use these cards to buy.
Costco is a store where you can potentially save a lot of money by buying in bulk. But that brings us to the big question: can you use an EBT card to buy items from Costco?
To answer whether your card can function as a Costco EBT card, we put together this helpful guide. Keep reading to discover the answers you’ve been looking for!
What Are EBT Cards?
Our guide will help you learn whether Costco will accept your EBT card. First, though, we need to answer a much more basic question: what, exactly, are EBT cards?
Once you’re in the program, you will get money on that card every month. The purpose of this money is to help you buy food for yourself and your family.
How to Apply For an EBT Card
Are you interested in getting an EBT card? As we mentioned before, this card is available to those who are approved for the SNAP program.
It’s straightforward for you to go ahead and apply for SNAP benefits, but whether you are approved or not is determined by eligibility factors that vary from state to state.
The program is designed for families with low income, but the functional definition for “low income” will change from area to area. Therefore, once you apply, it is up to your relevant state agency to determine whether or not you qualify for SNAP benefits.
In addition to qualifying for an EBT card, successfully applying for SNAP will automatically qualify you for other benefits, such as the Emergency Broadband Benefit program.
The Pros of Using EBT Cards
In some cases, those who qualify for EBT cards are on the fence about whether to use those cards or not. If this sounds like you, it’s important to consider these cards’ different pros and cons.
The biggest benefit is that you get free money each month to use for food. You will never have to pay this money back.
Additionally, groceries you buy using an EBT card are not taxed. This means you can get that much food for your money every time you head to the store.
And, of course, having these benefits tied to a card means you don’t have to wait for vouchers or old-school food stamps to arrive in the mail. Instead of worrying about postal delays, your money is reloaded each month.
Are There Any Cons to EBT Cards?
As you can tell, there are plenty of benefits to using EBT cards each month. But are there any drawbacks to be aware of?
Arguably, the biggest drawback is that EBT cards are not accepted at all stores. That’s why you’re reading this, after all: to determine whether you can use this card at Costco or not. And on the way home from Costco, you should know EBT cards are not accepted at most fast-food establishments.
On top of store limitations, different states may restrict which type of food items you can and cannot use the card for on top of store limitations. So when you first begin using an EBT card, it may be a process of trial and error to determine what is and what is not covered.
On a related note, most of us end up buying a mixture of grocery and non-grocery items when we go to the store. If you’re using an EBT card, this may require you to make two separate transactions so you can pay for food with EBT and everything else with cash, debit, or credit card.
Can You Use An EBT Card at Costco?
Now that you know all about EBT cards, it’s time to answer the big question: can you use an EBT card at Costco?
The short answer to this question is “yes.” As a company policy, Costco accepts EBT cards at all of its warehouse locations.
However, your local Costco must still abide by certain state guidelines regulating the use of the EBT card. And company policy limits how and even where within Costco you can use this card’s benefits.
The Limitations of Your EBT Card at Costco
So you’re headed to Costco with your EBT card in hand. Before you shop, however, there are a few limitations you should be aware of before you start spending.
First, as we touched on above, Costco will abide by any national or state limitations on what you can buy with the EBT card. Items such as vitamins, for example, are not eligible for purchase with SNAP benefits. State limitations mean you could potentially use your EBT card at Costcos in different states and qualify to purchase very different things.
Second, you cannot use your EBT card to pay for food at the Costco food court. While this isn’t a major limitation, it can be frustrating, so it’s good to be aware of this fact before you shop.
Finally, there are some specific limitations regarding how you pay for your food and how you purchase food. We will review these limitations in further detail below.
Splitting Payments at Costo
One limitation of using your EBT card at Costo is something we touched briefly on before: if you buy both grocery and non-grocery items, it will make things a bit more complicated.
One way to do things is to perform two separate transactions. This allows you to pay for the food items with your EBT card and then pay for the non-food items using other means.
To do this, you can run your purchases as different transactions on your own.
Another approach is to ask the cashier to help you split payment types on a single transaction, allowing you to use different forms of payment for different items in your cart.
Depending on your eligibility and state laws, you may qualify for EBT food benefits and EBT cash benefits. Therefore, it is theoretically possible to pay for some or all of your items using the cash account and leave more money for food for your future purchases.
What About the EBT Card and Costco Online?
One option that became very popular during the COVID-19 pandemic is the ability to buy groceries online. This allows shoppers in qualifying areas to browse and purchase groceries online ahead of time and then walk into Costco and pick everything up.
While this option is very convenient, it brings us to a natural question: can you use EBT cards to purchase groceries online with Costco?
Sadly, the answer to this question is “no.” While certain retailers allow this, Costco currently does not.
It’s fine to explore other retailers to discover places where you can order groceries online and even have those groceries delivered right to your door. But be sure to check the “fine print:” this process may involve processing fees and delivery fees that are not covered by your EBT card.
The Role of the Costco Cashier
As we touched on before, your Costco cashier can help you more easily split payments when purchasing both grocery and non-grocery items from Costco.
If you would like more privacy for your transaction, or if you’re in a hurry, you may prefer to use the store’s self-checkout options (assuming such options are available). This allows you to scan and pay for all of your items without getting the cashier involved. This option is desirable if you pick a few things up from the store and don’t want to wait in a long line to be processed by a Costco cashier.
More Resources, More Savings
Now you know the limitations of your Costco EBT card and how to use it. But do you know how else to save money?
Check our list of recommended resources for more opportunities to make your dollar stretch further.
Save Money on your Wireless Phone Service
If you qualify for an EBT card, you may also qualify for free Lifeline phone service. Lifeline is a federal benefit program that makes it possible for low-income consumers to receive free or heavily discounted communication services. Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.