What is The Difference Between SNAP and EBT

Dive into our in-depth exploration, “The Difference Between SNAP and EBT,” and grasp the unique roles these programs play in combating hunger in the US. Through this article, we unveil the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), its history, purpose, and benefits. We also demystify the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), the electronic system that has modernized how SNAP benefits are distributed. Uncover the key differences, learn their distinct functionalities, and appreciate the transformative impact they’ve had on low-income households. This guide, peppered with a comparison chart and rich insights, elucidates these vital programs in an informative, yet easy-to-understand manner.

Difference Between SNAP and EBT

Take a deep dive with us into the distinctive elements that set SNAP and EBT apart. While both serve as instrumental components in the fight against hunger, their roles, implementation, and functions vary.

  1. At their core, SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and EBT, Electronic Benefits Transfer, are distinctly different. SNAP is a program, while EBT is a method of delivering the program’s benefits.
  2. SNAP, introduced in 1939, was designed as a program to allow its participants to purchase food, providing nutrition assistance to those in need. In contrast, EBT came into the picture much later, in the late 1990s, serving as a delivery mechanism for SNAP benefits.
  3. EBT is an electronic system that replaces the old-fashioned way of distributing benefits. It’s a card, similar to a debit card, used by SNAP participants to purchase food products. It also allows users to receive welfare cash benefits for various purposes.

Comparison chart

Full FormSupplemental Nutrition Assistance ProgramElectronic Benefits Transfer
TypeProgramElectronic Method
Year of Introduction1939Late 1990s
Primary FunctionTo improve the nutrition of low-income householdsTo provide an electronic method for using welfare benefits
Delivery SystemDelivers benefits via EBTIs the card system used to deliver SNAP benefits
Usage RestrictionsCan only be used to purchase eligible food itemsUsed to purchase eligible food items and also to access other welfare benefits
ApplicationApplied to by individuals/households in needIssued to individuals/households approved for benefits
RecipientsLow-income individuals and familiesRecipients of SNAP and other approved state welfare programs

What is SNAP

Dive into the world of SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a lifeline for nearly 9.5 million struggling American families. This program, under the USDA-FNS, is America’s largest safety net against hunger, ensuring that even those facing financial hardships have access to healthy, nutritious food. Originally known as the Food Stamp Program, SNAP was designed not just to uplift the health and wellbeing of low-income households, but also to bolster the USA’s agricultural economy. Today, SNAP continues to evolve, serving as a crucial instrument in maintaining food security across the nation. Join us as we delve deeper into the significance of SNAP, its origins, its impact, and its role in today’s society. Discover the true essence of SNAP with us today!

Eligibility Criteria for SNAP

  1. Income: Households must meet income standards unless all members are receiving TANF, SSI, or in some places, general assistance. The gross monthly income typically needs to be at or below 130% of the U.S. poverty line, and the net income at or below 100% of the poverty line after deductions.
  2. Resources: Countable resources, or the things you own, must total $2,250 or less. However, for households with a person who is disabled or 60 years old and above, the limit is $3,500.
  3. Work Requirements: Most able-bodied adults between 16 and 59 years must comply with work requirements to receive SNAP benefits. These requirements can range from registering for work, not voluntarily quitting a job, accepting a job if offered, and participating in employment and training programs if assigned by the state.
  4. Citizenship Status: U.S. citizens and certain lawfully-present non-citizens are eligible for SNAP. Certain non-citizens, such as those admitted for humanitarian reasons and permanent residents, may also qualify.
  5. Social Security Numbers: All members of the household must have and provide their Social Security numbers or apply for them.
  6. Re-certification: Households must periodically reapply and be reevaluated for eligibility.
  7. Special Rules for Elderly or Disabled: Different, usually more lenient, rules may apply for the elderly or disabled individuals regarding income, resources, and deductions.

Benefits Of SNAP

  • SNAP ensures food security, granting low-income families access to healthy diets.
  • Health care costs are significantly reduced, with studies showing that SNAP participants’ medical expenses are 25% lower than non-participants.
  • According to a USDA report, every billion dollars of SNAP benefits leads to nearly 18,000 full-time job opportunities.
  • SNAP is the most effective program offering support during economic recessions, safeguarding American workers’ productivity by ensuring their food security.
  • Applauded for its efficiency, SNAP’s Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP) quickly provides aid and essential food items to those affected by disasters.

What is EBT

Embark on a fascinating exploration of the EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, a system that revolutionized the distribution of food stamp benefits. Commonly referred to as the EBT card, this instrument, officially known as the Golden State Advantage Card, functions similarly to a debit card, enabling holders to purchase food from SNAP-authorized stores.

While SNAP is the provider of funds, the EBT card is the bridge that connects these funds to those in need, thereby playing a vital role in the fight against hunger. This system, introduced in the late 1990s, was hailed as one of the most significant advancements in the SNAP program, forever changing the way benefits are distributed and providing an unprecedented level of convenience for SNAP participants.

The early 2000s saw further progress, with changes in SNAP regulations resulting in a dramatic increase in participation. Eligibility was expanded to include underage children and qualified immigrants, further cementing the EBT card’s integral role. This era marked the transition from the traditional stamps system to the more streamlined EBT system.

EBT Benefits

Discover the empowering benefits of EBT, a tool that makes accessing SNAP benefits as simple as a swipe of a card. Much like a debit card, the EBT card allows SNAP participants to purchase a broad range of household foods from authorized stores. From the essentials like fruits, vegetables, dairy, bread, and cereals, to even seeds and plants that yield food, the EBT card covers it all.

However, it’s essential to note the restrictions. The EBT card can’t be used for products like alcohol, tobacco, medicines, vitamin supplements, hot foods, pet food, live animals, or non-food items.


What types of food can I purchase with my SNAP benefits?

You can use your SNAP benefits to purchase any food for the household, such as fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, and bread and cereals. You can also use SNAP benefits to buy seeds and plants that produce food.

Can EBT benefits be used to withdraw cash?

While SNAP benefits on an EBT card cannot be withdrawn as cash, certain types of state assistance benefits loaded onto EBT cards can be. This varies depending on the specific benefits and the state’s policies.

Are there specific stores where I can use my EBT card?

Yes, you can use your EBT card to buy foods from authorized retailers, which typically include most grocery stores, some farmer’s markets, and certain online vendors.

What is the process to apply for SNAP benefits?

To apply for SNAP benefits, you’ll need to fill out a state-specific application and submit it to your local SNAP office. Each state has a different application, which can usually be found online.

How often are SNAP benefits loaded onto the EBT card?

Benefits are loaded onto the EBT card once a month, on a date determined by the recipient’s case number or date of birth.

Can anyone in my household use our EBT card?

Yes, anyone in your SNAP household can use your EBT card, but they’ll need to know the Personal Identification Number (PIN) you set for the card.