Accept SNAP Cards or EBT Benefits at Your Store

If you have a store or farmer’s market, you can increase your revenue by accepting food stamps (EBT Card or SNAP Benefits Card). However, before you apply to accept Food Stamps, there are a few eligibility criteria you need to understand before you complete the application. Accepting food stamps can help boost your revenue, but there are many rules about what can be purchased and not purchased with food stamps. Be sure you are ready to enforce those rule and also have your employees do the same. Otherwise, you will be committing Food Stamps fraud – which could end you up in jail – or at minimum, revocation of your license.

"EBT Eligible Food List"

Eligibility Criteria to Accept SNAP Cards or Food Stamps

1. Store Eligibility
To be eligible to accept food stamp payments, your store(s) must meet one of the following two criteria:

a) Your store must get at least 50 percent of its sales (food, nonfood, gas and services) from food stamp eligible foods. Note that for this purposes, “services” include rental fees, games, dry cleaners, lottery)


b) Your store(s) must offer at least three different types of food in each of the four food-staple groups, and at least two of those categories must have perishable foods. Here are the four USDA Food Staple groups for the food stamps program:

  • meat, poultry or fish
  • bread or cereal
  • vegetables or fruits
  • dairy products

For more on this eligibility criteria, click here.

2. Product Eligibility

There are very strict rules about what can and CANNOT be purchased with an EBT/Food Stamps card. If you are approved to accept Food Stamps, you are responsible for enforcing these rules. Failure to do this can end you up in big trouble. That is why the USDA has taken the time to issue training guides for retailers that accept food stamps. The training materials are available in English, Korean, Arabic, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese – to help you train your employees about what products can be purchased with food stamps.

Below are the food you can buy with Food Stamps:

"what you can buy with food stamps"One of the biggest areas of confusion is regarding junk food. Here is the USDA clarification on that:

"what you cannot buy with food stamps"

It is clear that the goal of the program is to provide nutritious food to eligible low income persons and families. That is why the USDA emphasizes that foods purchased under the SNAP/Food Stamps program must be for home preparation and consumption. The politics of food stamps is charged and heated, so if you accept Food Stamps, the optics of your store is important. What you display is important. Just think about how you present your store to the general public and what a TV news reporter could say about your store if they show up with a camera. Therefore things like liquor store signs next to “We accept SNAP Cards” or a convenience store displaying “We Accept EBT Cards” next to cigarettes and alcohol present a bad image that could make your store a target for reporters (even if you have foods in your store that meet the USDA criteria for accepting food stamps).

SNAP Application for Stores

To accept the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) debit card (EBT Card or Food Stamps Card) at your store or Farmer’s Market, you must get a SNAP permit from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). To get a permit, you must file an application with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) – which is the government agency in charge of the Food Stamps program. The SNAP permit is free but you have to follow a three step application process. We recommended that you apply online since it’s easier. The entire online application process takes about 15 minutes. Here’s what to do:"Snap Store Application"

SNAP Application for Stores and Farmer’s Market

Step 1: Get a USDA Account 

The first step in the application process is to set up and activate a USDA eAuthentication account. You can do that by clicking here. You must have a valid email address as USDA will send you a confirmation email. Once you receive the email, it includes a hyperlink to activate your account. If you do not have internet access, you can apply by phone by calling 1-877-823-4369 (toll-free). However, it is recommended that you apply online since by applying online, you can also check the real-time status of your application online using your USDA account.

 Step 2: Complete an Application Online

The second step in the process is to complete the Store & Farmers’ Market Application, which is online. Click here to fill out the Online Application. You can start and stop the application process at any time and you are given up to 30 days to complete and submit the online application once you begin the process. That gives you plenty of time to gather documents you need to complete the application – just in case you start the application and realize you don’t have an information requested. You will need the following information to complete the application for your Store or Farmer’s Market:

  • Owner’s name
  • Home address
  • Social security number
  • Estimated sales

Once you complete the SNAP application for stores, you can click here to check the status.

Step 3: Submit Supporting Documentation to the FNS. 

The final step in the process is to submit the requested supporting documentation to the FNS. You can mail the supporting documentation (and your paper application – if you decided to complete a paper application instead of online application) to

SNAP Retailer Service Center
USDA Food and Nutrition Service
PO Box 14500, Washington DC 20044.

Please Note: UPS and FedEx will not deliver to a PO Box Address so you have to mail your application using the United States Post Office. Be sure to pay for tracking so that you are 100% sure your application was delivered and received by the USDA.

If during the entire application process, you have any question or concern, you can call the the SNAP Retailer Service Center at 1-877-823-4369 (toll free).

"We accept food Stamps sign"

 What Happens Next?

Once you have completed the 3 step application process and submitted all the requested supporting documentation, your application will now be reviewed by the FNS. It usually takes up to  45 days to process an application once it’s complete. The FNS will review your application for accuracy, conducts a background check for past SNAP history, and evaluates your store for eligibility. FNS personal may pay an onsite visit to your store or Farmer’s market during the application review process. To learn about what your store needs to be eligible, click here.

Once Approved

If you’ve been approved to accept the SNAP card, congratulations! This is a great opportunity for your store to generate additional income. With that opportunity comes some responsibilities that are required of you as the store owner. You are responsible for the actions of your store employees regarding the SNAP program. Therefore, you should make sure your employees are thoroughly trained on every aspect of accepting SNAP benefit cards. Click here for training videos for your employees.

If you want evidence of how much trouble Food Stamp fraud can land you in, see this stores below – almost all of these cases happening in September 2013 alone:

Quincy storeowner sentenced to 2-plus years prison for EBT fraud

Over $600,000 seized in Phoenix food-stamp fraud probe

Sentencing scheduled in $6 million food stamp fraud case

Providence merchants accused of stealing $3 million in food-stamp fraud

Dollar store owner admits to allowing more than $5 million in fraudulent food stamp purchases

If you don’t read anything else, watch the video. Law enforcement is serious about Food Stamp Fraud.