What Kinds of Products Cannot Be Purchased With SNAP Benefits?

Eligibility Team
Researcher & Writer
January 27, 2016

There are approved and unapproved products for SNAP. As the name would suggest, the benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are intended to be spent on food. Most foods and beverages are on the approved list. Benefits can be used to purchase bread, cereals, fruits and vegetables, meats, dairy products and more.

You cannot use your benefits to pay for any type of alcohol, so you cannot use your SNAP benefits to buy beer, wine, or malt beverages at grocery stores, gas stations, or anywhere else that accepts the EBT card. You cannot use the EBT card in liquor stores, wineries, or other places that specialize in alcohol sales.

Benefits cannot be used to buy any sort of tobacco products either. This includes cigarettes, cigars, chewing tobacco, loose tobacco, e-cigs, e-cig refills, or anything else involving tobacco or tobacco products. This is true even if you are shopping at a store or gas station that accepts the EBT card.

Benefits also cannot be used to pay for vitamins or over-the-counter medicines. Depending on your eligibility, you may be able to get vitamins and over-the-counter medicines covered through other aid programs. Many states include certain vitamins and medicines under their Medicaid coverage plans.

However, if your Medicaid program does not cover vitamin or over-the-counter medicines, you will have to pay for those out-of-pocket. There aren’t a lot of programs that would cover those kinds of expenses. Many national chain pharmacies do accept the EBT card, but only for food purchases.

SNAP benefits will not cover hot foods and foods that can be eaten in the store. Many grocery stores now include sandwich shops, pizza shops, or food counters. The SNAP card will not work at these places. This may also cover pre-prepared food even if it is not hot. For example, some grocery stores have cold deli sandwiches made up ahead of time and sitting in a cooler.

Your EBT card will also not work at coffee shops, fast food establishments, or restaurants. Anywhere the food is cooked and prepared for you prior to being purchased; your EBT card will not be accepted. SNAP benefits are strictly for foods you buy to prepare and eat at home.

It does cover groceries that can be eaten without further preparation like fresh fruits, cheese sticks, or snacks. SNAP benefits will cover junk food like potato chips, pretzels, and ice cream. The EBT card will be accepted at a broad range of businesses including pharmacies, grocery stores, gas stations, and other small chains like convenient stores.

If you try to buy something that is not approved, your purchase will be declined. However, many EBT-approved places understand the rules regarding benefits and will advise you if you are trying to buy items that will be denied.

Eligibility Team
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