EBT Merchant Services

Get started with EBT credit card processing with a Bankcard EBT merchant services account.

Join more than 50,000+ convenience stores and grocery stores that have made the switch to Bankcard and simplified their EBT acceptance. With a flat rate, unlimited transactions, and 24/7 support, processing EBT payments is a breeze.

EBT Merchant Account Overview

Across the country, individuals receiving public assistance receive their benefits via electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards. Even Social Security recipients can choose to have their benefits loaded on a debit card. If you’re not equipped to accept EBT payments, you might be turning customers away. Once you’re approved for a Food and Nutrition Service account, you need to secure an EBT merchant services account.

Many business owners understand that their profits can grow if they accept EBT cards. But there’s a lot to think about before announcing that you’re accepting EBT payments. You have to fill out an application, meet specific hardware requirements, such as having a compatible EBT machine, and fully comprehend how much making the switch might cost your business in the short term. 

You may have heard the Food and Nutrition Services application called by several names, such as:

  • SNAP Retailer Application
  • Food Stamp Retailer Application
  • FNS Retailer Application

Our EBT merchant services program is designed to make growing your business easier by opening your doors to customers paying with EBT cards.

Here’s why our customers love our EBT merchant services account:

  • Free EBT processing equipment
  • No interchange or per-transaction fees
  • Unlimited transactions
  • Easy access for tracking EBT transactions
  • 24/7 support team
  • Free EBT machine and pin-pad
  • Lifetime warranty
  • $75 flat monthly fee
  • No contract

Already have your own equipment? No problem. We’ll work with you to integrate EBT acceptance into your system.

Below, you’ll learn how to get started processing EBT payments with a Bankcard EBT merchant services account. But first, let’s learn a bit more about the EBT programs available and what they mean for your business.

EBT application

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ebt credit card processing merchant account

EBT Merchant Services: What EBT Programs Exist?

Electronic benefits transfer provides assistance recipients with a way to access their cash and food benefits without needing a bank account to cash paper checks. EBT programs exist in every U.S. state and U.S. territory, including Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. Each state or territory runs its own assistance program overseen by the federal government.

Some of the programs using EBT cards for disbursements include:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This program provides a monthly stipend for individuals and families that need help buying food. SNAP is spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) program.
  • Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program. Ths program provides a monthly allotment toward healthy foods for pregnant mothers, moms, and children up to the age of 5. While SNAP benefits are also for food purchases, WIC is a bit more strict in that there are specific stipulations on the types of food allowed, such as peanut butter, eggs, cheese, and cereal.
  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). This program provides federal funds to states for cash disbursement to income-disadvantaged families to attain self-sufficiency and financial independence. The program is designed to be a temporary helping hand, and recipients must meet low-income qualifications, work a specific number of hours per week, or be actively engaged in a job service program seeking gainful employment to qualify.

Originally, food stamps were actual paper stamps in the shape of dollar bills that recipients received in the mail each month. (WIC also historically came in the form of printed vouchers but is now distributed via an EBT card as well.) Today’s food stamps, known as SNAP benefits, are loaded onto an EBT card on the same day each month.

The recipient’s EBT card functions just like a debit card and can include cash assistance, SNAP benefits, or both loaded each month. While SNAP benefits can only be used for food items, cash benefits can be used just like cash to pay for rent or other household necessities. When a recipient swipes their EBT card at a store that has an EBT merchant services account, the amount of the sale is automatically debited from the SNAP or cash side of the card, depending on the items in the purchase, and added to the business account you registered with the USDA. You’ll typically see a day’s sales in your checking account within two business days.

Even though you can accept EBT cards with your EBT merchant services account, and customers can present their cards as payment for household needs, some recipients prefer to take the cash off the card. If you have an ATM in your store, it helps those customers who prefer to pay in cash. If you don’t have an ATM, you might consider getting one to grow your business.

The Role of EBT Acceptance in the Community

Residents in your town might wonder, “Where is EBT accepted?” As a store owner who accepts EBT payments, you can play a more inclusive role within your community while also boosting your sales.

Federally funded programs like SNAP empower the less fortunate with purchasing power for healthy eating. But at the same time, finding affordable and healthy food is difficult in low-income areas throughout the nation.

For instance, fresh fruits and vegetables are often much more expensive — if they’re available at all. Having an EBT merchant services account that allows you to accept EBT card payments is a godsend for many communities — especially in disadvantaged and rural areas where there’s often only one store within reasonable driving distance. Finding healthy food can be hard in bigger cities, too, where stores selling healthy, perishable foods are few and far between.

accept EBT payments

Benefits of EBT Merchant Services

Before the advent of electronic benefits transfer, assistance recipients relied on paper food stamps and vouchers for purchasing food. This was a nuisance — for recipients and businesses alike.

  • For businesses: Cash drawers only hold so much, and keeping paper stamps and vouchers separate from the actual cash was difficult. Employees required extensive training on paper food stamps and WIC voucher acceptance.
  • For recipients: Since the 1970s, there’s been a stigma attached to individuals receiving public assistance, and paper food stamps were a public “outing” of the individual receiving assistance. Purchasing staple foods with WIC vouchers meant dividing the order into several separate purchases, as each voucher had specific items that had to be purchased together or else were sacrificed, and each voucher could only be redeemed once.

These challenges often left recipients feeling ostracized and demeaned. In some communities, stores selling products solely to WIC participants emerged — many of which marked up prices exorbitantly on WIC-approved foods. The fear of shame and humiliation, in addition to overcharging, left many recipients feeling unable to use the assistance they’d been granted.

But today’s federal assistance programs use electronic benefits transfer — in partnership with companies offering EBT merchant services — to provide assistance on cards that function and look much like any other debit or credit card, alleviating the shame individuals down on their luck once felt. Many stores feel more at ease participating in SNAP sales and EBT payments thanks to many of today’s payment processing terminals having the functionality to accept EBT cards built in. Plus, since EBT cards are PIN-protected just like a debit card, there’s much less potential for fraudulent use, such as stolen paper stamps and vouchers. Staff training is also much less intensive, as it only requires learning a slightly different process for payment acceptance. EBT card payments are simply more secure — for the customer and your business.

Streamlined EBT Acceptance for Businesses

While these federally funded programs have always had the best intentions, they were tough to navigate decades ago, especially for merchants. The store clerk collected paper stamps and vouchers, which then had to be counted and reported using a state or federal system that had a learning curve of its own.

The good news is that today, business owners can easily obtain an EBT merchant services account and process EBT card payments from the same system used to process regular cash, debit, and credit purchases. In the not-too-distance past — even with EBT cards — businesses often needed a separate card reader and PIN pad for EBT cards, but today’s systems are integrated with the store’s current terminal, further reducing headaches for business owners and allowing recipients to shop in anonymity. If the terminal isn’t compatible, stores can upgrade to a terminal that processes both cash transactions and EBT card payments — while maintaining all transactions within the business’s accounting software.

When you partner with Bankcard for your EBT merchant services account, you can attract more customers and boost your revenue while helping build a stronger, healthier community.

EBT Payment Processing With a Bankcard EBT Merchant Services Account

Electronic benefits transfer card payments accounted for roughly 2.2 billion transactions in 2018 (most recent Federal Reserve report), for an incredible $60 billion in sales. The EBT system allows state welfare departments to issue benefits via a magnetically encoded payment card.

EBT cards are similar to debit cards in that they are assigned to a specific individual and require a PIN for access to funds. One key difference between EBT cards and debit cards is that individuals can add money to a debit card, either at their bank, via ACH payment, reloading options at participating stores, or online by transferring funds from one bank account into another.

On the other hand, only the benefit issuing agency has the authority to add funds to an EBT card. With an EBT merchant services account, processing an EBT card payment is the same as processing debit card payments. You ring up the sale (being careful that there are no disallowed items included for SNAP purchases), the EBT cardholder swipes the card, inputs their PIN, and the funds are taken from their card and put into a type of holding account for your business. Within a couple of business days, you receive the proceeds of that sale in your business’s bank account.

Opening your doors to accepting EBT payments allows you the opportunity to grow your business while providing EBT customers in your neighborhood access to your goods and services.

Regulatory Requirements for EBT Merchant Services 

Every government program requires a bit of hoop-jumping. Before you can begin taking EBT cards for purchases, you have to register your business with the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services program. Thankfully, registering your business and applying to accept EBT card payments is a relatively simple process. In fact, in most cases, you can submit the application and subsequent documentation entirely online.

What Does a Business Need to Qualify as a SNAP Retailer?

The USDA FNS application asks for information about your business. Approval of your SNAP retailer application requires your business to meet certain criteria. Your business must meet at least one of these two requirements:

  1. You must offer staple foods.
  2. Your gross revenue from the sale of staple foods must be at least 51% of your overall revenue.

Now, what’s meant by “staple foods”? And how is this qualification determined?

Staple foods comprise — or should comprise — the majority of an individual’s diet. These foods are often bought, taken home, and consumed as part of a well-rounded meal. In most cases, prepackaged foods (with the exception of items like cereal) aren’t included in the definition. Meals or items that have been prepared by someone else or already cooked, such as a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store deli counter, also don’t qualify in most cases.

To qualify under the first requirement, you must continuously stock at least three varieties of three different staple foods. Staple foods include:

  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Eggs, poultry, or fish
  • Breads and cereals
  • Dairy
  • Meats

Two of the categories must also offer one perishable type at minimum. So, for instance, suppose one of your two categories is dairy. Powdered milk would count as a non-perishable, while a gallon of whole milk would be considered perishable. A large grocery store would meet this requirement in most cases.

To qualify under the second requirement, more than 50% of your store’s gross sales must come from the sale of foods in the categories above. A butcher shop typically qualifies because more than 50% of sales are within a staple category. A bakery, on the other hand, may not be granted a SNAP permit because, while they’re in the business of selling food, bakery items don’t typically qualify as staple foods in most cases.

Now that you know some of the criteria for a Food and Nutrition Services qualification, it’s time to apply.

How Do I Apply for an FNS Number?

While getting your FNS number from the USDA’s FNS website is certainly worth it, it’s not quite as cut and dried as simply asking for one. There are some hoops to scale and an application to file with the USDA. While this may sound like a lengthy, drawn-out process, in reality, it’s really rather expedient.

To apply for your FNS number:

  1. Review program guidelines on the USDA’s FNS website at https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap.
  2. Register your business with the USDA. After registering, you’ll receive a link to activate your account.
  1. After activation, you’re free to begin filling out the application to accept SNAP (If you’re the owner of more than 10 store locations, review the information for multi-store owners — these applications can’t be completed online. You’ll get a dedicated FNS account manager assigned to your application who will work with you directly to help you through the application process.) You then have 30 days to finish the application and provide all your supporting documentation. The FNS number application only takes about 15 minutes to complete. Some questions are simple, while others might require a bit of research into your business to answer. For instance, some of the information and documents required include:
    • An up-to-date copy of your business license
    • Legal photo ID, such as a driver’s license or passport
    • Social Security Numbers (SSNs) for all controlling business personnel, including owners, business partners, company officers and shareholders, and spouses
    • Business bank account’s name and address
    • Information about your EBT merchant services account provider, including contact name, address, telephone number, and website address
4. Now you’re ready to submit your application. After you submit the application, you’ll receive instructions for submitting the required documentation to back up your application, such as business license(s) and proof of staple foods access and/or revenue numbers, for instance. You can upload your documentation online or print it out and mail it to the FNS processing center at:

Food and Nutrition Services

Braddock Metro Center II

1320 Braddock Place, Fifth Floor

Alexandria, VA 22314

From the date that the FNS receives your complete application and supporting documents, it can take as many as 45 days to receive your approval (or denial) letter. You can’t accept EBT card payments while you’re waiting for approval. The same applies if you’re awaiting FNS number renewal. You can’t accept EBT card payments outside the dates printed on your current SNAP permit. If you need help with your EBT merchant services account, reach out to Bankcard for assistance.

  1. Once you’ve submitted your application and all requested documents, you can check the real-time status of the application at any time. During processing, Food and Nutrition Services might reach out if they need clarification or further info. You can also call the hotline for SNAP retailers at 1.877.823.4369.

Once the USDA’s FNS approves your food stamp retailer application, all that’s left to do is acquire a POS system and PIN pad that works with EBT card acceptance.

Important Rules for SNAP Participating Retailers

There are several rules for EBT card and SNAP payment acceptance you must commit to memory. If you fail to comply with the rules of the program, there can be serious consequences. The most important rules include:

  • EBT card SNAP payments can only be used for food that’s been approved by the SNAP program.
  • You cannot issue any cash back to cardholders.
  • You can issue a refund, but all refunds must be initiated through the EBT system. You cannot issue a refund in cash money.
  • Card Not Present transactions are not allowed for EBT card purchases. The card must be physically swiped or — if the magstripe doesn’t work — handed to the cashier, who will then manually enter the card number, followed by the recipient entering their PIN on the keypad.

The only situation in which Card Not Present transactions are allowed for SNAP payments is through such online retailers as Amazon PantryWalmart, and, most recently, Target.

Costs of Processing EBT Card and SNAP Payments

Processing charges for EBT card payments are much less expensive than processing fees for traditional card transactions. This is because electronic benefits transfer programs are federally funded and not facilitated by private banks, credit unions, or credit card companies. In fact, EBT card payments aren’t charged an interchange or PIN debit fee.

But EBT merchant service account providers have the right to implement reasonable fees for providing payment processing services for your EBT transactions — and most do. This is one of the biggest reasons store owners look into switching merchant service account providers when they transition to accepting EBT card payments.

Bankcard EBT merchant services have no transactions fees. You’ll always only pay a flat fee of $75 per month, per EBT machine.

Traditional credit and debit card transactions must comply with PCI DSS requirements. That said, PCI DSS doesn’t apply to transactions with EBT cards. Now, this won’t matter for you if you already accept traditional cards — but if you’re a store that only accepts EBT card or SNAP payments, be wary of merchant services providers that bundle PCI DSS compliance fees into your monthly charges.

Finally, as you research EBT merchant services, you’ll find that not all merchant accounts support EBT card payments.

Should You Accept EBT Card Payments in Your Store?

Do you need EBT merchant services? If you operate a business that meets the basic criteria outlined above for accepting EBT card and SNAP payments, it’s really in your store’s best interests to do so. It doesn’t cost much to process these payments, and the majority of today’s businesses already have the necessary equipment to accept EBT cards. Registering for a SNAP merchant permit allows you to open your business to more customers. You’re also providing a service to your community by helping those who are less fortunate — those who rely on SNAP benefits to feed their families. It’s a smart business decision that you can also feel good about as an individual.

How to Accept EBT Payments

You must be eligible, approved, and authorized to accept EBT transactions before you can process these types of payments.

Fortunately, the requirements for approval are straightforward. Here’s how to accept EBT payments:

How do I know if my business meets the requirements for EBT card processing?

Stores must meet one of two requirements for staple foods (those that are most often prepared at home and account for a substantial portion of a person’s daily diet).

SNAP-eligible foods must account for more than 50 percent of your store’s retail sales. Or you must sell at least three varieties of qualifying food in each eligible food group, plus offer perishable foods in at least two qualifying groups:

  • Breads and cereals
  • Dairy
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meats (including poultry and fish)

What kind of equipment is needed to process EBT card payments?

EBT cards aren’t processed through the same network as other credit or debit cards and subsequently require a point-of-sale machine capable of accepting this form of payment, also known simply as an EBT machine. Your current terminal may be compatible, but it must be a terminal that’s set up for PIN debit payments with either a dedicated, stand-alone PIN pad or one that’s part of your terminal.

Once you have the right equipment, encryption keys from your merchant services provider must be programmed into it. When you obtain your EBT processing equipment from Bankcard, we program your terminal and other equipment for you, so all you have to do is set up and start taking payments. If you’re keeping your existing equipment and merging EBT acceptance capability, we can reprogram your current terminal. All we need to complete your EBT merchant account setup is the FNS number on your SNAP permit. Bankcard offers free EBT payment processing equipment. Get your EBT machine with Bankcard.

How to Choose the Right EBT Card Processing Equipment

If your current point-of-sale (POS) machine isn’t compatible with EBT card payments, you’ll need a new POS system. The most important items you should look at are:

  • Software costs
  • Price of terminal
  • Terminal features
  • EBT compatibility

Most POS terminals have free software built in, but the terminal itself may be expensive. Always confirm pricing before committing, and ensure the terminal offers the features you need for your specific business. A particular terminal might have several cool features — but if those features don’t serve a purpose for your store, it’s likely an added expense you can avoid.

What Are Some Other Benefits of EBT and SNAP?

By this point, you’ve probably decided that accepting EBT cards at your store with an EBT merchant services account would be a great way to support your local neighbors. But here are a few other benefits of EBT and its various programs:

  • EBT cards eliminate cumbersome processes, simplify accounting procedures, and reduce labor costs.
  • Electronic benefits transfer automates the entire accounting process.
  • EBT cards could reduce or even eliminate fraudulent use of food benefits.
  • EBT cards are both convenient and secure, can’t be used without the PIN, and can be canceled and replaced if the card is lost or stolen.
  • SNAP and TANF recipients don’t feel as singled out or stigmatized with EBT cards as earlier recipients did when receiving paper food stamps.

Register for SNAP

Complete the FNS application process to become a SNAP/EBT authorized retailer. You should receive an application notification within 45 days.

Apply on Our Website

Once you’re approved as a SNAP authorized retailer, you will be assigned an FNS number.

Apply online with our quick and easy application to start processing EBT payments.

Start Accepting Payments

Once you're approved for an account with us, your free EBT processing equipment will be shipped for next-day delivery.

With 24/7 support, we’ll help get your EBT processing up and running in no time.

Our EBT Merchant Account Features

Our program is designed to make running your business easier and open your doors to customers paying with EBT cards. Why do businesses choose us? It’s simple:

Free Equipment

Reduce your overhead expenses by eliminating the need to lease or purchase costly EBT equipment.

24/7 Support

Get the support you need to get up and running or troubleshoot along the way. We’re here to answer your questions and fix any problems that may arise.

Predictable Costs

With one flat monthly fee, you enjoy the convenience of knowing your costs. Budget more effectively and save time on bookkeeping.

Unlimited Transactions

No matter how much of your business comes from EBT transactions, there's no need to worry about limits-swipe away!

Simple Application

No one likes paperwork. We’ve streamlined the process with a quick and painless online application.

Online Reporting

Access all of your account information, transactions, and statements online. Submit support requests through our online portal in minutes.

EBT Credit Card Processing Fees

100% Transparent Pricing

$75/Machine

One Flat Monthly Fee

$0/Unlimited

NO Transaction Fee

$0.00

NO Batch/Settlement Fee

$0.00

NO Annual Fee

$0.00

NO Setup Fee

$0.00

NO Cancellation Fee

Whether you’re switching providers or just getting started, we can help grow your business with simplified EBT merchant services and payment processing.

When EBT, SNAP, WIC, and TANF recipients can come into your store, securely use their benefits, and enjoy a positive experience, the health and well-being of your entire community benefits. Bankcard can help you eliminate the barriers to EBT acceptance and build a brighter future for your area.

EBT Merchant Services With Bankcard

A retailer’s first step to accepting EBT and SNAP payments begins with authorization from the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services program. You can learn more about this designation at the Department of Agriculture website and submit an application at the FNS website. Once the FNS approves your store and provides you with a SNAP permit, get in touch with us to help get your POS ready for EBT payments.

Bankcard specializes in EBT merchant services accounts. You can begin accepting SNAP payments immediately with our EBT payment experts and start welcoming your entire community to shop locally at your store.

The Bankcard team is proud to be an EBT merchant services provider.

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