Replacing the previous “food stamps” process, EBT (Electronic Benefit Transfer) along with TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) and other federal and state programs enable customers to purchase food and other goods with a swipe card. A customer uses the EBT card at a Point of Sale (POS) device and then enters a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN). After the clerk enters the amount of the food purchase, the amount is deducted from the EBT SNAP account. Then, within two banking days, the retailer’s bank account is credited.
Groceries and Beyond
While SNAP benefits are exclusively used to purchase food, TANF funds and other assistance can be used similar to cash, allowing retailers that don’t sell groceries to broaden their customer base by accepting EBT payments. EBT payment processing is designed for approved retailers. When a business decides to accept EBT, they are joining more than two and a half billion EBT card transactions annually. Plus, EBT transactions cost less than traditional debit and credit cards.
Does Your Business Qualify?
Whether your business is a convenience store, a mini-mart, a market, a gas station, a bodega, a farmers’ market, a farm stand, or a grocery store, you may qualify to accept SNAP. If your small business meets one of the two following requirements, your business can register with the government for EBT payment processing:
- 50 percent of your store’s retail sales consist of SNAP-eligible foods (staple foods)
- OR your store offers at least three types of eligible foods in addition to at least two perishable eligible foods. The eligible or qualifying groups are bread and cereals, dairy, fruits and vegetables, and meats, including poultry and fish.
And if you own 10 or more qualified retail food stores, a US Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) representative will work with your business directly rather than require the application process.
Applying for EBT Payment Processing
To start the EBT Payment Processing steps, the USDA’s FNS requires you to verify your identity via the USDA eAuthentication account. Once this account is approved, your business has 30 days to complete and submit the application, including the following supporting documents:
- 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 EBT payment processing approval, you’ll need a terminal that accepts PIN debit cards, with or without a PIN pad. Either your merchant account provider can 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 payment processing.
Host Merchant Services
Host Merchant Services will provide your business preferential treatment if you need support in signing up for EBT payment processing. 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.