How to apply to accept food stamps at your store

Do you have a store and want to start accepting food stamps? Well, here we will show you how those stores that have signs in their windows with the message “We accept Food Stamps” do it.

Becoming an Electric Benefits Transfer (EBT) retailer can boost your business and help you reach a whole new segment of customers. In this article you will discover how to apply to accept food stamps at your store.

When you apply to be able to accept EBT cards you can differentiate yourself from competitors who do not offer the same benefits. However, many businesses aren’t sure how to start accepting SNAP benefits or become an EBT retailer.

SNAP and EBT Benefits

When people got SNAP benefits, they used paper coupons to make purchases. Now, most states use a EBT card plastic that works like a debit card.

An EBT card usually includes SNAP benefits and cash benefits such as unemployment assistance and housing. Every time someone uses an EBT card for food, the amount they spend is automatically subtracted from their EBT account and goes into your bank account. You should have the money available within two business days. This benefits your store and also provides a more discreet payment option for those using SNAP benefits.

Keep reading: How to activate the PIN number for food stamps

EBT Accepting Stores

The difference between EBT and SNAP

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal nutrition program that helps eligible people buy healthy food. The program used to be called food stamps. SNAP benefits can be used to make purchases at grocery stores, convenience stores, and at some farmers’ markets and cooperative programs. Since SNAP is a federal program overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), anyone who is deemed eligible can receive benefits. It is not a cash assistance program and people do not take benefits away from other people who apply. EBT is the format in which the government awards SNAP benefits. People eligible for SNAP get a plastic card called an EBT card that looks like a debit card. SNAP benefits are loaded onto this card.

Keep reading: Income limits for food stamps

What are the benefits of EBT and SNAP?

EBT and SNAP offer benefits for both consumers and businesses. Consumers using SNAP benefits can supplement their monthly food budgets with benefits. They can also Buy food higher quality healthy.

Your business also benefits as an EBT retailer. Accepting EBT increases your chances of receiving new customers and reaching a broader range of consumers. As this happens your profits increase as well.

Keep reading: How to activate my EBT card? 2 ways to do it

How to apply to accept food stamps at your store (requirements)

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To accept SNAP food stamps at your store, you must obtain a SNAP permit. To do this, you must apply with the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS). FNS is the government agency in charge of SNAP food stamps.

The SNAP permit is free and you must have one for each store, it must be in your name and you cannot use someone else’s. To obtain a permit it is necessary to sell certain types of food.

Store Eligibility Requirements

SNAP authorized stores must meet one of two basic food requirements:

  • Criterion A: staple food inventory; or
  • Criterion B: staple food sales

NOTE: Staple foods make up an important part of a person’s diet. They are usually prepared at home. They do not include coffee, tea, candy, soft drinks, snacks or other ready-to-eat foods.

Staple food categories:

  1. vegetables or fruits
  2. Dairy products
  3. Meat, chicken or fish
  4. Breads or cereals

Criterion A:

A store must have 3 units of 3 different varieties in stock for each staple food category on an ongoing basis. For 2 staple food categories, there must be at least 1 perishable variety. Most stores are licensed under Criterion A.

Criterion B:

More than 50 percent of total gross sales must be staple foods. Specialty stores, such as butcher shops, are typically licensed under Criterion B.

How to Apply to Accept Food Stamps at Your Store (Permit Application)

Accept EBT card at your store

To apply for a SNAP permit, you must apply to the Food and Nutrition Service:

  • Use the FNS online form: Online store request
  • If you need help or have questions, you should talk to an EBT specialist at 888-902-6202

Documents you must include:

You must include copies of various documents. The FNS office may also call you for more information or may send someone to visit your store. You must include:

  • A copy of a current license for your business (for example, a sales tax permit or a health permit).
  • A copy of your driver’s license (front and back), passport, or other photo ID.
  • A copy of Social Security cards for all business owners, partners, officers, and shareholders, and their spouses.

How to apply:

  • If you apply online, you can send it and check its status here. After completing it, you must send copies of your documents to the FNS address that appears on the form.
  • If you apply on paper, sign it and send it with the copies of your documents to the address on the form.

If you have any questions, call 888-902-6202. The FNS office has 45 days to approve or deny your application. If your application is not complete, it may take longer. If your application is denied because your store does not meet the eligibility requirements, you must wait six months before you can apply again. You are not allowed to accept SNAP food stamps at your store until you have been approved.

Keep reading: How to apply for the P-EBT card (Pandemic EBT Program)

How to apply to accept food stamps at your store (Rules to follow)

Your FNS office will explain the rules you must follow for the SNAP Food Stamp Program. They will also explain the penalties for not following the rules.

Some of the most important rules are:

  • You can only accept SNAP food stamps for eligible foods.
  • You cannot collect sales tax on any items purchased with SNAP food stamps.
  • You cannot accept SNAP food stamps as payment on credit accounts. Your food stamp customers must pay for their purchases at the time of sale. You can’t give credit and get your SNAP food stamp money back at a later date.
  • You cannot exchange cash for SNAP food stamps.
  • You cannot give cash change for SNAP purchases. The amount charged to the client’s EBT account must be the exact amount of the food purchase.
  • You cannot give cash refunds for food purchased with SNAP food stamps. Refunds must go to the customer’s EBT account.
  • You cannot process a SNAP purchase unless the customer has the EBT card and PIN.
  • You must treat SNAP food stamp customers and other customers the same way. For example, you can’t have a special line for SNAP food stamp customers, charge them higher prices, or require a minimum purchase. If you accept coupons from other customers, you must accept coupons from SNAP customers.

You must follow all the rules and regulations of the SNAP Food Stamp Program. If you don’t follow the rules, you can lose your permit. You may also have to pay a fine. You or your customers can report SNAP food stamp fraud or abuse if someone doesn’t follow the rules. The SNAP Fraud Hotline is 1-800-424-9121.

Keep reading: EBT Puerto Rico: What is it and how to request it

Can farm stands, farmers markets, and CSAs accept SNAP food stamps?

Farm Stands, Farmers Markets and CSAs (Consumer Supported Agriculture) they can become authorized SNAP providers.

  • Farm stalls apply as individual retailers.
  • Farmers’ markets typically require a single central SNAP retailer license that can be used by all individual market vendors. (Individual providers can also apply on their own.) Farmers’ markets with a central license can use tokens, paper vouchers, or a receipt system to allow SNAP customers to purchase food from individual vendors in exchange for a one-time SNAP/EBT payment.
  • CSAs apply as individual retailers, but cannot charge SNAP customers in advance for CSA shares the same way they charge non-SNAP customers.
  • For-profit CSAs must provide SNAP clients with their shared produce when they pay.
  • Nonprofit CSAs can collect EBT/SNAP payments up to 14 days before SNAP clients get their produce.

Farm stands, farmers markets, and CSAs that have electricity and a phone line can use an EBT-only machine provided by FNS, or a standard debit and credit card machine connected to the EBT system. Manual vouchers are another option. For more information, see: Becoming an Authorized SNAP Retailer – Guide to CISA Farm and CSA Positions.

You know how to apply to accept food stamps at your store, now request your permission so that you can differentiate yourself from your competitors. Luck!

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