In 1939, the first Food Stamp Program began, and the first recipient was Mabel McFiggin, a Rochester resident. Since then, a lot of changes have been made. For instance, the Food Stamp Program is now known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP.) Additionally, instead of carrying around colored foot stamps to facilitate the purchase of food, SNAP beneficiaries only need an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card. Other modifications have been made due to the impact of COVID-19. Since CVS is one of the largest retailers, EBT cardholders might wonder “Does CVS accept EBT payments?” Here is everything you need to know.
Yes, But Not in All Stores
According to Query Sprout, CVS accepts EBT cards in over 6,900 stores; the rest do not. In 2009, only 5,000 of the then 7000 stores allowed EBT payments. Now, there are nearly 10,000 CVS stores nationwide, hence the number accepting the card has grown. It is best to call ahead and ask if the store you plan on visiting accepts the card to avoid inconveniences. However, even in the stores that accept the cards, only certain items can be paid for using an EBT card. While CVS sells a variety of products, you are only allowed to pay for fish, poultry, dairy products, cereal/bread, vegetables, and fruits, among others listed by Don’t Worry Make Money. The site also lists the products you cannot pay for using the EBT cards. Such items include beer, cigarettes, pet food, and medicine. Therefore, even if you find a store accepting EBT payments, always carry an alternative method of payment in case you need something that does not qualify.
How to Use Your EBT Card to Shop at CVS
If you plan on paying for products using your EBT card, it is important to check your balance by checking your last receipt. If you cannot find it, you can call the customer service toll-free number assigned to your state. Checking the balance ensures you still have enough to spend because, like a credit card, an EBT card has a limit. Once you have confirmed you have some balance, visit your nearest CVS store that accepts the EBT card and buy your items. You might be asked to separate the eligible items from non-eligible items at the checkout lane. You will then swipe it at the card reader or hand it over to the store clerk to swipe it for you. You should then enter your four-digit PIN, which is private thus only reads as ****. Once you have entered the PIN, press “ENTER” so that the clerk can enter the purchase amount of your EBT eligible items only. Confirm the transaction by pressing the “OK” or “YES” key, and then collect the receipt. The receipt shows the store name and address, purchase amount, and the new balance. You should keep the receipt safe for the next time you want to confirm your balance before heading out to shop. It is also important to keep the EBT card safe and if stolen or lost, report immediately by calling the customer service toll-free line. Failure to report a stolen or lost card could do you a lot of harm if the person uses your card to buy items resulting in your benefit being depleted. If you find your stolen card and discover that your balance has gone down due to someone else spending your benefits, the balance cannot be replaced if you did not report the theft. According to CDSS, you should contact the customer service toll-free number if you have been charged for an item that you did not receive. Also, when you want to replace your PIN, the card is not working, or for assistance with other issues relating to the EBT card.
How Do Stores Qualify to Accept EBT Cards?
For a store to qualify to accept EBT, at least half of its total gross sales must be from staple foods. Consequently, prepared food, soft drinks, and candy should comprise less than 50% of the sales. Alternatively, the retailer must sell at least three varieties of foods in the following categories: fruits and vegetables, fish, meat or poultry, dairy products, and cereals/bread. Additionally, two or more of the categories sold in the store must include perishable foods. In some special circumstances, even stores that do not fall in any of the two criteria can still be considered. According to Food and Nutrition Service, FNS will consider your store if SNAP clients have limited access to food. Restaurants do not generally qualify since they serve prepared foods. However, sometimes FNS will allow a restaurant to have clients redeem benefits if over 50% of the total gross sales are from cold or hot prepared foods, safe for immediate consumption. Lastly, when many firms within an area fulfill specific requirements, FNS could consider them a single firm eligible for SNAP authorization.
The Benefits of EBT
Still, even if a store is eligible to accept EBT cards, it should consider it would be in its best interest to do so, based on revenue projection. A store that is yet to start selling perishables would have to buy refrigerators actions that may require significant cash outlays. All the same, the application process entails careful inspection of stores to ensure it is compliant. Therefore, for CVS to accept EBT payments in all stores, it has to apply, and the application must be approved. Fortunately, as JP Morgan explains, once your store is approved, it is easy to add EBT as one of your store’s payment options because you do not need special equipment. Before EBT cards were used, retailers had to have a secondary system to process the paper vouchers. Apart from the benefit of lack of setup cost, a store that accepts EBT payments enjoys a wider customer base. It is, therefore, no wonder that Family Dollar once cited EBT as one of the reasons it did so well during the 2008 financial crisis, making other retailers follow suit and extend acceptance of EBT cards in their other stores.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson