How Can My Business Accept EBT?

Posted: November 29, 2019 | Updated: June 21, 2020

EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) card payments enable SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) recipients to purchase food and other goods. Replacing the previous “food stamp” system, EBT allows recipients to use a card similar to a debit card to make purchases. The government pre-loads the EBT card with funds, which the recipient can use to purchase SNAP-approved food items.

With more than two and a half billion EBT card transactions annually, accepting EBT payment is a step toward expanding your business. In addition to growing your customer base, EBT transactions also cost your business less than traditional debit and credit cards.

Requirements for EBT Registration

Because EBT cards only work with approved retailers, your business must register with the government before you can accept EBT cards. Your store must meet one of two requirements regarding staple foods: 50 percent of your store’s retail sales must consist of SNAP eligible foods (staple foods) OR your store must offer at least three types of eligible foods in addition to at least two perishable eligible foods. The eligible or qualifying groups are breads and cereals, dairy, fruits and vegetables, and meats, including poultry and fish. 

In addition to the traditional brick and mortar stores, qualified farm stands and farmers’ markets can also apply for a SNAP permit. And if you own 10 or more qualified retail food stores, an FNS representative will work with your business directly in lieu of the online application.

How to Apply for EBT Payments

The US Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers the SNAP program and distributes permits to merchants that qualify for EBT cards. If your business qualifies, you’ll first verify your identity by way of a USDA eAuthentication  account. 

After you activate your USDA account, then you can apply online to accept SNAP benefits. While the application only takes as little as 15 minutes, you may need to research your records for some of the answers. You’ll also need copies of the following supporting documentation, which you can upload online or print and mail to FNS:

  • Photo identification, e.g. driver’s license, passport
  • Social Security cards, copies for all owners, partners, officers, shareholders, and spouses
  • Business license
  • Your bank’s name and address
  • Merchant account provider’s name, phone number, address, and website

Payment Terminal for SNAP Benefits

Once your business obtains a SNAP permit, you’ll need a terminal that accepts PIN debit cards, complete with a PIN pad. Your merchant account provider can either provide the required equipment or can program your existing equipment with encryption keys. You will need to provide your merchant account provider your seven-digit FNS Account Number to set up EBT merchant services.

Host Merchant Services

If your business needs support in signing up for EBT Merchant Services, Host Merchant Services will provide your business preferential treatment. Our service team is four times larger than our sales team! We know it’s better to keep our customers happy than it is to find new customers. HMS provides US-based support 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

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