Certain rules of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) tend to vary between states, so it is common for participants to wonder if they can use their Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards in another state.
Your SNAP benefits can be suspended or terminated if you violate SNAP rules regarding out-of-state EBT usage. It is not uncommon for states to assume that recipients have abandoned their residency or are trying to get benefits or public assistance from more than one state.
To avoid running afoul of the rules, here is everything you need to know about accessing your SNAP EBT account when you travel out of your state.
Can You Use EBT Out of State?
Here’s the short answer: Yes!
SNAP is a federal program available in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The benefits program is also accessible to residents of some US territories like Guam and the Virgin Islands. In other words, you can use your EBT benefit card anywhere in the United States and US territories to access cash balances or pay for eligible food items, provided EBT cards are accepted at such locations.
SNAP EBT cards are interoperable and portable nationwide. This means that state agencies use uniform standards to ensure participants can redeem SNAP benefits in any state as well as pay for eligible purchases in any retail store across the nation that accepts EBT.
All you need to do is look out for ATMs and stores with the SNAP, EBT, or Food Stamps signs. Keep an eye out for the Quest symbol, too, as this indicates that EBT cards are accepted at such locations. If you are unsure, you can ask the store before you shop.
Keep in mind that EBT cardholders in some states, like California and Pennsylvania, cannot use their SNAP ETB balances to make purchases in Puerto Rico. This is mostly because SNAP in other states is not equivalent to Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP).
How Long Can You Use EBT Out of State?
Although the interoperability of EBT allows SNAP recipients to use benefits between states, most states have varying rules for the length of time participants can use their EBT cards or Food Stamps in another state.
In most cases, you can use your SNAP benefits outside your state of residence (your applied-in state) for no more than 30 days. Using EBT out of state for prolonged periods can raise suspicions. If this happens, your applied-in state might request you to reprove your residency.
You don’t have to worry about your state suspending or permanently removing your SNAP benefits if you are on a temporary visit to another state. However, it is best to contact your state’s EBT office for guidance on what to do if you plan to move out of your state.
Reporting your residency change on time means you won’t be suspected of fraud and saves you a lot of headaches.
What if You Live in a Border Town?
You can consistently use your EBT cards for eligible purchases in another state if you are a SNAP recipient living in a border town like Buffalo, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. Often, shopping in border town grocery stores is cheaper, and, in any case, these locations are closer, so it makes sense to shop there.
Also, you can use your EBT card in either state if you live in a border town. For example, if you live in St. Vincent, Minnesota, and work in Pembina, North Dakota, you can pay for food items with your card in both states without violating any SNAP rules.
However, to consistently use your EBT card in another state, you must:
- Continue to maintain residency in your applied-in state.
- Remain eligible for the benefits program (report any status change in your household and income).
In other words, those living in border towns can continue to shop in either state without worrying about losing their SNAP benefits, provided they stick to the program’s requirements. They should also be able to prove that they still reside in the state where they receive the benefits.
Can You Use Your EBT Card Outside the United States?
You cannot use your EBT card, food stamp benefits, or SNAP benefits when you travel out of the United States. As a federal program, SNAP is designed to work only in the US and its territories, so you can’t access your SNAP account from another country.
Bottom line: Can you use EBT out of state? Yes, you can. You will not lose your SNAP benefits solely for temporarily shopping in another state or any territory of the United States.