Client Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is there a telephone number I can call if I have questions about, or problems with, my EBT card?
Yes. The customer service telephone number is (877) 328-9677, which is printed on the back of your EBT card. ***NOTE*** Questions regarding benefit eligibility and/or monthly benefit amount, or anything else having to do with benefit eligibility, such as what forms to submit and where to submit them, should be directed to your local county public assistance office.
2. Can I get help in other languages?
The Customer Service Center, (877) 328-9677, provides assistance in 11 languages: Cambodian (Khmer), Cantonese, Eastern Armenian, English, Farsi, Hmong, Lao, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese.
3. How do I change my personal identification number (PIN)?
If you forget your PIN to access your account, or if you want to change the PIN for other reasons, there are two ways this can be done. You can go to a designated local county public assistance office that has PIN selection equipment and select another PIN, or you can call the toll-free customer service telephone number at (877) 328-9677 to select another PIN over the telephone. Either way, you will need to provide identifying information. When your PIN is changed, you will continue using your current EBT card; a new card will not be provided unless specifically requested.
4. What happens if my EBT card is lost, stolen, or damaged?
You must report the lost, stolen, or damaged card as soon as the problem has been discovered. Call customer service right away at (877) 328-9677. You’ll be asked to enter your card number. Do not enter your card number or press any keys. You will be asked to enter your card number again. Again, do not enter your card number or press any keys. You will then be asked to press one to report your card as lost, stolen, or damaged. Press the one key. Once it is reported, the card will be deactivated so that the benefits cannot be used by anyone else. You should usually receive your new card within five days (excluding Sundays and holidays). It is important to keep your PIN secret so that nobody else can use your EBT card even if it is lost or stolen.
5. What do I do if I suspect someone has stolen benefits from my EBT account?
If your card is stolen or you think someone knows your PIN, you should immediately call customer service at (877) 328-9677 to have your EBT card canceled or to change your PIN. If you believe your benefits have been stolen, contact your caseworker or county office for assistance. You should also file a police report.
6. Will I have to pay to replace my EBT card if it is lost, stolen or damaged?
No. You will not be charged for a replacement card.
7. Can I have someone else help me shop using my EBT account?
Ask your county caseworker about setting up an Authorized Representative (AR), who will have access to your EBT food benefit and/or cash aid benefit account. The AR will have a separate card with his or her own account number and PIN. The EBT system is able to track which card is used to access your account.
8. Will the Authorized Representative (AR) be able to use all of my food benefits, or is it possible to limit him or her to just a part of my benefits?
The AR will have access to the entire benefit account. It is not possible to limit the AR's access to a lesser amount.
9. Will an Authorized Representative (AR) automatically have access to both my food and cash benefit accounts?
You may choose the account(s) to which the AR has access. If you don’t want him or her to have access to all your benefits, it is possible to limit the AR's access to either your food benefit account or your cash aid benefit account.
10. What if I already have my cash benefits deposited directly into my bank account? Do I have to use an EBT card to access those benefits?
No. If you already receive your cash aid benefits by direct deposit, you may continue to do so.
11. Will I be able to use my EBT card in other counties and other states?
Your EBT card will work at any store or ATM that displays the Quest® symbol in California and the other 49 states in the United States, as well as the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam. If you do not see the Quest® symbol, look for a sign that displays EBT, SNAP, or Food Stamps. If you are unsure, ask the store manager. Currently, California EBT cardholders cannot use their EBT cards in Puerto Rico.
12. Will the county make me explain why I used my EBT card in another state?
There are no rules against using your EBT card outside of California. However, you are required to report any address change to your local county public assistance office. You must live in California to be eligible to receive benefits from a California county.
13. What happens if the ATM does not give back my EBT card?
Occasionally, an ATM will not return your EBT card. In the banking industry this is called a “captured” card. In most cases, this occurs when you do not remove your card from the ATM within a certain period of time. Each bank has its own policy regarding captured cards. In some cases the bank will return your card if you present proper identification. However, in many cases, the bank will destroy the captured card, even if you request it be returned to you showing proper identification. You are treated as any other ATM user in the event of a captured card. If your card cannot be returned, you should request a new card by calling customer service at (877) 328-9677.
14. Does the government know what I bought with my EBT card?
No. There is no record kept of what you buy.
15. If I don’t use all of the benefits I received this month, will these benefits still be available to me next month?
Yes. Benefits that are not used in the month issued will stay in the EBT account, and you may use these benefits in the following months.
16. Can a retailer charge me a fee for making a purchase with my EBT food benefits?
No. Federal regulations prohibit any retailer from charging you a fee for using your food benefits.
17. I can’t get cash with my EBT card at an ATM and a store where I used to go. What happened?
In 2010, the Governor of California banned EBT card use at certain kinds of businesses in the state. EBT cardholders can no longer use their EBT cards at: adult entertainment businesses, such as adult stores, adult video and book stores, and adult theaters; gambling establishments, such as casinos, bingo halls, poker and card rooms, and horse race tracks; spas and massage parlors; cannabis dispensaries; smoke shops (tobacco, cigar, cigarette, and pipe); tattoo and piercing shops; bail bond agencies; and cruise ships. For locations where you can get cash with your EBT card, visit https://www.ebt.ca.gov/caebtclient/usebenefit.jsp.
18. What items am I allowed to purchase with my EBT card?
For information on items that you are allowed to purchase with EBT food benefits, visit http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/retailers/eligible.htm
. Cash aid may be used to purchase anything that can be legally purchased with currency (cash).
19. 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. The retailer may not include the sales tax in the purchase prices as a hidden cost.
20. 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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