Merchant Questions and Answers

  • I would like to accept EBT at my store. What do I need to do?

Businesses interested in accepting EBT CalFresh/SNAP (formerly food stamp) benefits should call the USDA Food and Nutrition Service at 877.823.4369 or visit www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers/application-process.htm to apply for the necessary federal authorization. For more information see www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers/merchants.htm.

 

For businesses that do not qualify to or do not choose to accept CalFresh/SNAP benefits, the following explains the process to add the ability to accept Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cash payments to the equipment you use to accept debit and credit transactions:

  • Contact your debit transaction processor (third-party processor) and ask to have the California EBT IIN (Issuer Identification Number: 507719) added to the debit card transaction set of your point-of-sale (POS) equipment. Sometimes, a processor will tell a retailer that a special number from the federal or state government is required. The number to which the processor is referring is the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) number, which is only needed by those retailers processing EBT food benefit transactions (SNAP/CalFresh). To process only EBT cash transactions, this FNS number is not required. Tell your processor to fill the FNS number field in your transaction set with seven zeros.
  • Your POS equipment must have a personal identification number (PIN) pad.
  • You must make sure you and your processor are compliant with the Quest® Operating Rules.

 

IMPORTANT: Redemption of EBT cash benefits is not permitted at the following businesses:

-     Liquor stores that do not accept SNAP/CalFresh benefits
-     Casinos
-     Poker rooms
-     Card rooms
-     Adult entertainment businesses
-     Bail bonds
-     Night clubs/saloons/taverns
-     Bingo halls
-     Race tracks
-     Gun/ammunition stores
-     Cruise ships
-     Psychic readers
-     Smoking shops
-     Cannabis shops
-     Tattoo/piercing shops
-     Spa/massage salons

  • I’m purchasing a store that currently accepts EBT food benefits and would like to continue to be able to accept EBT. Can I use the existing permit or get it transferred to me?

When a business changes ownership, the new owner must apply for a new permit. Call the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) at (877) 823-4369 to request an application or apply online at www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers/register.htm.

  • Do I have to buy special equipment to be able to participate in EBT?

In most cases, retailers must pay for their own equipment to process EBT transactions. Federal regulations only permit the state to provide free equipment to FNS-authorized farmers’ markets, direct-marketing farmers, military commissaries, non-profit cooperatives or organizations, group living arrangements, treatment centers, and prepared-meal services. Existing debit/credit point-of-sale (POS) equipment can be used to process EBT transactions as long as it has a PIN pad. Contact the company that provides your POS equipment for more information.

  • Can a retailer charge a fee or require a minimum purchase to customers for EBT food benefit transactions?

No. Federal regulations prohibit any SNAP retailer from charging a fee or requiring a minimum purchase amount for the redemption of EBT food benefits. Surcharges are allowed for EBT cash transactions. If you surcharge, you should treat your EBT customers the same as your debit card customers. Many retailers choose not to surcharge EBT customers.

  • What if I have problems processing an EBT transaction on my commercial POS equipment?

Contact your third-party processor or equipment provider.

  • I run a farmers’ market and would like to accept EBT cards. What do I do?

Call the California Department of Social Services at (916) 654-1396.

  • Must an EBT card be present for an EBT transaction?

Yes, the EBT card must be present for all EBT transactions. It is required that the food merchant request service for any malfunctioning equipment through the retailer’s commercial service provider. Likewise, EBT cardholders need to obtain replacement cards when their EBT cards are not useable.

  • Can a retailer charge sales tax on items purchased with EBT food benefits?

No, a retailer cannot charge state or local sales taxes on eligible items purchased with EBT food benefits.

  • Can bottle deposits (CRV) be paid with EBT food benefits?

In California, EBT food benefits can be used to pay a bottle or can deposit, but only up to the state-approved CRV amount. This is true even if the deposit is not included in the shelf price. Some retailers have reported seeing EBT customers who have purchased milk in a high-deposit bottle simply pour out the milk and return to collect the deposit in cash. This is not permitted. Large bottle deposit amounts cannot be paid with EBT food benefits. This is considered a type of trafficking by the USDA Food and Nutrition Service.

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