Food stamps, now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), is a government program designed to assist low-income individuals and families buy nutritious food for healthy living.
Data as of November 2022 shows that more than 41 million persons in the United States participate in the benefits program. That’s about 12% of the nation’s population receiving various monthly amounts, depending on the household size.
It is common for participants to worry about unused monthly benefits. What happens if you don’t use up your monthly benefits? Do food stamps expire? Does the electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card have an expiration date? Keep reading to discover answers to these and other SNAP-related concerns.
Do Food Stamps Expire?
Here’s a straightforward answer: Yes, food stamps do expire, but not in the month you receive them.
In other words, you don’t have to use up all the SNAP benefits you receive for the month. The benefits will not be expunged from your account or card just because you didn’t exhaust them within the month. All unused monthly benefits are rolled over into the next month, so you can still access and use them for eligible purchases.
However, food stamps or SNAP benefits don’t roll over indefinitely. You risk losing the benefits if you don’t use them at all for several months. The benefits will be permanently removed from your SNAP account on a month-to-month basis if you haven’t used them for nine months.
For example, if you received SNAP benefits in January 2021 and didn’t use them at all until August 2021, the benefits will be removed from your account in October 2021.
How Do I Know My Benefits Are About to Expire?
Your state’s SNAP office will notify you when your benefits are about to be removed from your account. Usually, the notification should reach you no later than 30 days before the removal date.
This means you don’t have to worry about remembering to use your benefits. However, ensure to update your mailing address with your local SNAP office so you won’t miss any important notifications.
How Long Do SNAP Benefits Last?
There is no fixed duration for when SNAP benefits can last. It all comes down to factors like age, employment status, health, and the number of people in the household. Depending on these factors, you can continue to receive SNAP assistance throughout your certification period, which can be up to three years for certain people.
Typically, eligible participants who apply for SNAP benefits and are successful will get an approval letter stating how long they can receive the assistance. Individuals and families have the option to renew their SNAP benefits at the end of the certification period.
The process requires filling and submitting an online recertification form or sending it through the mail. Your state’s SNAP office might ask for documents to verify your current status and determine whether you are still eligible for the benefits program.
Should You Report Changes in Your Income Status?
Resource and income limits are one of the requirements for receiving SNAP benefits. You should report any changes in your household income, whether it reduces or increases your benefits.
You risk being banned from the program if you don’t report changes in your income status, as this is considered welfare fraud. It is a crime to withhold information or lie about your status.
Notify your state’s SNAP office if the living situation in your household has changed (someone has moved out or in), your earnings have gone up (or down), or your marital status has changed.
Do SNAP EBT Cards Expire?
Depending on where you live, your EBT card may not have an expiration date. The US Department of Agriculture says each state can choose to implement an expiration date for SNAP EBT cards.
The surest way to find out if your EBT card has an expiry date is to get in touch with your state’s EBT office.
That said, your card may be taken offline (preventing you from accessing your benefits), even if the benefits are still on the card. Each month, your SNAP benefits are loaded onto your EBT card so you can conveniently make eligible purchases. Access to the card may be suspended if you don’t use it for an extended period.
Unlike SNAP benefits, your card has a shorter inactivity timeframe before it goes dormant. Depending on your state, the EBT card may become dormant if you haven’t done any transactions for 60 days. In some states, the inactivity period is about three months.
To ensure that access to your EBT card is not revoked, it is important to use it at least once every month. Although you can contact your local benefits agency to put your card back online after it is suspended, you risk permanently losing all benefits on the EBT card if you don’t use it for nine months.
What Happens if You Lose Your EBT Card?
EBT cards may look like regular bank cards, but no federal laws protect them against theft, loss, or fraudulent charges like they would an actual debit card. For this reason, it is crucial for SNAP participants to alert the state’s EBT customer service as quickly as possible if:
- Your card is stolen
- You can’t find the card
- You forget or lose your PIN
- You notice unauthorized charges on your EBT account
Depending on your state, you may have to pay a fee to replace your card. In any case, you can contact your state SNAP benefit office using the toll-free phone numbers on this USDA webpage.
Remember that you can’t use your card if it is stolen or lost. That means it will eventually be taken offline after a while, and all benefits will be permanently removed after nine months if you don’t report and rectify the issue.
Bottom line: Do food stamps expire? Yes, they do. But the benefits will automatically roll over to the next month if you don’t exhaust them in the current month. The benefits are only removed if you don’t use them for nine months.