Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT)
Frequently Asked Questions
What is EBT?
EBT stands for Electronic Benefits Transfer. It is a way of delivering Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits without paper coupons. Using a plastic card that works like a debit card, recipients may access their benefits at retail Point-of-Sale (POS) devices.
Why is it necessary?
Federal welfare reform legislation requires states to implement an electronic benefits transfer system that will allow recipients to use plastic cards to purchase food using their SNAP benefits. Under the old process, paper coupons were distributed monthly to recipients by mail, private vendors, or in person at centralized locations. The EBT card will provide recipient benefits electronically, thus eliminating paper coupons. The EBT card will reduce the risk of SNAP benefits loss, theft, and fraud.
Is this new technology?
EBT systems, using magnetic strip technology for on-line authorizations, use the same electronic funds transfer technology that many grocery stores use for their "debit card" payment systems. EBT is a special application of electronic funds transfer (EFT) technology, which takes money directly from one account and transfers it to another. (Credit cards, by comparison, simply record a sale for payment later.) EFT became familiar to most people in the early 1980's when banks began using Automatic Teller Machines (ATM). Since then, EFT has found increasing use in the private sector.
How do I get my benefits with the EBT card?
Each month you are eligible for benefits, your benefits will be added to your EBT card account automatically. The exact date on which you'll receive your SNAP benefits is based on the last two digits of your case number. Your monthly SNAP benefits will be available the same day of each month, regardless of weekends or holidays. As your monthly benefits are added to your EBT card, the balance on your card will go up. As you use your benefits, the balance goes down.
How will EBT work?
Authorized clients will receive a plastic debit card and select a secret Personal Identification Number (PIN) to use.
The EBT card may be used at any participating retailer displaying a Quest® sign such as the one below. You must complete training or you will not receive your EBT card and will not be able to access your benefits.
What does my EBT card look like?
The EBT card is a plastic card and looks similar to a credit card or ATM card. It has your card number and name on the front, and a place for you to sign on the back.
What is a PIN?
PIN stands for Personal Identification Number. A PIN is the four-number "secret" code you choose when you get your EBT card. The PIN is how the computer knows you. Both the card and the PIN must be used when making purchases or receiving TANF funds through an ATM. The PIN is very important and should be memorized or kept in a safe place. The PIN should never be shared, written on the card or with your EBT card.
How do I remember my PIN?
Choose four numbers that are easy for you to remember, but hard for someone else to figure out. Keep your PIN secret. Don't write your PIN on your card or keep the PIN with your EBT card. Never share your PIN. Don't keep your PIN in your wallet or purse. Again, the PIN is very important and should be memorized or kept in a safe place.
What if I forget my PIN?
If you are in the grocery store and enter an incorrect PIN, you have three more chances that day to enter the right PIN. If you don't enter the correct PIN by the fourth try, your card will be "locked" and you will not be able to use the card until the next day. If you can't remember your PIN or want to change your PIN, call the Cardholder Service Help Desk at 1-800-512-5087. You also need to choose a new PIN if you think someone else knows your PIN. You should always know your PIN before you go to the grocery store.
How do I use the EBT card?
At the checkout lane, tell the clerk that you're using your EBT card. Once your card has been swiped through the POS terminal (either by you or the clerk), you enter the PIN. The PIN allows you to use the card. Remember: No one but yourself should ever enter your PIN number.
Where can I use the Mississippi EBT card?
You will be able to use your EBT card at all authorized SNAP benefit stores. Stores will display the EBT Quest® sign to let you know the EBT card is accepted there.
How do I take care of my EBT card?
- Keep your EBT card safe.
- Keep your EBT card clean.
- Don't bend or twist the card.
- Only use the card to get your groceries or when you retrieve your TANF benefits. Don't use it to scrape windshields, open door locks, etc.
- Keep the magnetic stripe clean and free from scratches. Store the EBT card in a wallet or purse.
- Keep the card away from magnets (i.e., handbags, clasps, TV's, etc.)
- NEVER tell your PIN to anyone, including the grocery clerk.
What if I forget my card when I go to the grocery store?
You cannot use your SNAP benefits to buy food without your EBT card and your PIN.
What if I lose my EBT card?
If your EBT card is lost, stolen or damaged, call Cardholder Service at 1-866-512-5087, to report it. A new card will be mailed directly to you via the US Mail. It should arrive to you in 5 working days. No one will be able to use your card once you report it missing or damaged. The old card will be deactivated and a new card will be mailed to you.
How long will it take to get a new EBT card?
Once you report your card as lost, stolen or damaged, a new card will be mailed to you on the next business day and should arrive in 5 working days.
How will I know the balance of my EBT card account?
There are two easy ways to check:
- Keep your receipts, they show your balance.
- If you lose the last receipt, call Cardholder Service at 1-866-512-5087.
Always know your balance before you shop.
Where can I shop with my EBT card?
Probably where you shop now. All stores that take the Mississippi EBT card should have a "Quest®" sign on the door.
Can someone else shop for me like they do now?
Yes. You may contact your worker and designate a "benefit representative" who will then be given a card and PIN of their own for your case.
What if my card won't work?
If your card does not work, keep the receipt, call Cardholder Service at 1-866-512-5087 and ask for help. Use this same procedure if you get an error message you don't understand.
What if I don't want to use all of my benefits in one month?
The benefits you do not use stay in your EBT account until you use them. If your benefits are not used in 365 days, the benefits will be removed and you will lose them.
How do I take something back to the store?
Take the item, receipt and your card back to the store. The store will issue a credit to your SNAP account, which will be available to you immediately. YOU WILL NOT GET CASH BACK.
What if I plan to move or change my address?
Call your worker to report address changes.
What are the consequences for misusing my EBT card?
Intentional misuse of the EBT card is a crime. You may be disqualified from the SNAP program and may be prosecuted if you use your card for illegal purposes, which include selling your card and PIN for cash, drugs, other items or exchanging SNAP benefits for cash at a retailer.
What if I have questions about my EBT card?
The EBT system has a 24 hours-a-day, 7 days-a-week, toll-free Cardholder Service. The telephone number is 1-866-512-5087. You may call in to find out the balance on your SNAP account. You can also report lost or stolen cards, get your transaction history or discuss any problems you are having with your EBT card. Do not call this number to discuss your eligibility, call your worker at the local DHS office.
When should I call Cardholder service?
- Call right away if your EBT card is lost or stolen. Always call the minute you find that your card is gone.
- Call if your EBT card is damaged.
- Call when you need your EBT card balance.
- Call if you have questions or need help with your EBT card.
- Call if you want to change your PIN.
Mississippi Department of Human Services
Cardholder Assistance: 1-866-512-5087
Retailer Assistance: 1-866-598-1772