Until a few years ago, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC or Women, Infants and Children’s) delivered their benefits only through coupons or checks. In some cases – when the families were located in areas very far from the stores affiliated with the program – a WIC representative brought them a basket with groceries and foods rich in vitamins and minerals that would serve to strengthen the nutritional status of both mother and child. However, with the appearance of the SNAP EBT card, WIC was encouraged to follow in his footsteps; so much so that it is presumed that before the end of 2020 all beneficiaries will obtain a WIC or eWIC card to be able to buy their food with the help transferred by the agency. Of course, this leaves us with an unknown: how to use the WIC card?
What is the WIC card?
The WIC card is similar to a prepaid debit or credit card with chip, but with some differences. Like the SNAP EBT card, the eWIC card has limited use:
- First, the money available through the card can only be transferred by your state WIC agency.. This means that you will not be able to recharge it on your own, for example, as you could with a standard prepaid card or with the card linked to your checking account.
- Second, its use is limited and only happens in certain stores and businesses. The WIC agency will give you a list of stores affiliated with the program so you can visit them and make your purchases. This list is also available via on-line and you can view it by logging in to the webpage listed on the back of the card or through the WIC mobile app –as WICShopper– to use your state.
- Third, you will not be able to buy what you want. WIC limits the products and brands that can be purchased with the card. Even if you get a cheaper formula than what’s on the allowed food list, you won’t be able to buy it with your eWIC card.
- Fourth, the benefits are not cumulative. In fact, they are only available for one calendar month. If you don’t use them during that time, you will lose them completely. That makes checking your WIC card balance an essential practice.
How to use the WIC card?
Before you shop for the first time with your eWIC card, you’ll need to activate it. To do so, simply visit the website or call the phone number on the back of the card. Please note that you will need to create a four-digit PIN code to complete the procedure. This number will serve as your password to make your purchases at affiliated businesses.
Tip: Don’t forget to ask the WIC representative if your state or locality supports a mobile app. If so, download it to your smartphone and register to have more control over your benefits. With the WIC app you can scan the barcodes of the products you are interested in to find out if they are included in your list of benefits or not. In addition, it will allow you to know the balance of your card, keep a record of your purchases and access recipes and tips for healthy eating.
Note. If you forget your WIC card PIN, call the customer service number on the back of the card and follow the system prompts.
After you have activated your WIC card, It’s time to buy what you need! To do it properly, follow our tips!
#1 Check the list of businesses and stores affiliated with WIC
You can do this in three ways. The first, by reading the list of affiliated stores and businesses that the clinic, or the agency where you processed your WIC benefits, gave you when the program started. The second is by contacting a WIC agent, and the third, which is the easiest, is through the Internet. Sign in on the page on the back of the card or on your mobile app and so you will know which are the stores closest to your home.
#2 Prepare your shopping list according to the approved benefits
WIC does not allow recipients to purchase any items. For example, items like cookies, cakes and soft drinks are banned by the agency because they contain empty calories and few nutrients. Use WIC nutrition resources to build a healthy shopping list. Designing a menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner with these tips will help you do it in no time.
After checking your balance -and with your shopping list in hand- make sure you identify the items you can purchase with your eWIC card. In the food brochure – or on the apps mobile – you can see the brands, sizes and quantities allowed. For example, if you have four people in your household and each is approved for 36 ounces of cereal for breakfast, you can purchase a maximum of 144 ounces of cereal. In the case of vegetables, you may not find quantities but an approved amount of money. For example $20 VALUE for fruits and vegetables.
#3 Make your purchases, pay and save your invoice
Paying with WIC is as simple as using a debit card. The eWIC card is accepted at affiliated stores or merchants. Remember that, before paying, you must separate the products that you will buy with your benefits from the other items that make up your purchases, since with the card you can only pay for WIC-approved products. Additionally, you need to tell the cashier that you will be paying with a WIC card before beginning the transaction.
After you enter your PIN at the POS, the cashier will give you a purchase receipt. At the end of the receipt you will be able to see a summary of your benefits where the remaining balance of your card is included. Save it, as this can be a great way to find out how much is left on your WIC card without using the internet.
What foods can I buy with my WIC card?
Among the foods approved by WIC, we find the following:
- Cereals. Especially for breakfast. WIC chooses whole grain cereals because they are healthier. In the brochure or app you will notice that certain cereals have a star or asterisk. These are usually the most nutritious. Guide yourself by this symbol to prepare better meals for the family. Remember that the purchase of cereals is limited to a specific number of ounces per month per member. Therefore, you should buy all the cereal for the month on the same day.
- Dairy products. Milk, cheese and yogurt are also included in the list of allowed foods due to their high level of protein, vitamins and minerals. In the application or in the brochure you will see the size of the container, the brand and the type of milk that you can buy. Compare several similar products and choose the cheapest. In the case of yogurt, you will have more freedom of choice, since WIC does not limit it as much. WIC recommends whole milk yogurt for children up to one year of age and the low-fat version for women and children over two years of age.
- Whole grains and beans. This includes bread, pasta and wheat tortillas, for example. As usual, WIC will show you the presentations available and the most you can buy. As for beans, it is allowed to buy them in bags or in cans, as you prefer.
Within other WIC supported products you will find baby food 6 and 12 months, fish (light tuna, mackerel and pink salmon), eggs, peanut butter, juices, fruit Y vegetables. Remember that it is not allowed to select products that contain syrup, oils, fats or added sweeteners.
Tip: If for any reason you are unable to purchase a selected WIC-approved item, contact the agency immediately or request a review of your case by filling out your state’s form.