Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT)
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image of a  square resembling a bullet About EBT

Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) is a system for issuing SNAP benefits using debit card technology. After benefits are added to eligible household accounts, cardholders spend them by swiping their EBT card at the point of sale (POS) and then entering their PIN number. When retailers who do not have POS terminals, they must resort to paper vouchers.

Authorized EBT retailers will display either the Quest logo or a picture of the Virginia EBT Card.

Advantages of EBT:

  • Food can be bought using a simple, conventional plastic debit card
  • If the EBT card is lost or stolen, the cardholder can report it and that card is immediately deactivated
  • EBT transactions are faster for the retailers to process and receive their funds
  • There are better audit trails to detect fraud and misuse of benefits

image of a  square resembling a bullet Cardholder Information

About Your Card

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=02nPikBpxqk">Click to play video entitled "how to Use Your EBT Card"</a>
The EBT card has a 16 digit card number on the front. If the card was issued through the mail, the cardholder's name is printed on the front. If the card was issued at the local social service office, the cardholder's name is not printed on the front.

The back of the card has a place for the cardholder to sign under the black magnetic stripe. It also lists the toll free customer service number.

EBT cards must be cared for properly or the black magnetic stripe will not work. Keep the card in a safe place. Do not bend or fold the EBT card, do not scratch or write on the black magnetic stripe, and do not wash the card. Do not leave the card near magnets (like purse clasps or refrigerator magnets) or near electronic equipment. Do not leave the card in the sun or other hot places like the dashboard of a car.

To use the EBT card, the cardholder swipes the EBT card at the point of sale in a card reader, then enters his or her secret PIN. Some merchants, such as route vendors, farmer's markets or stores where the SNAP volume is low, will not have point of sale card readers - these merchants use a manual paper voucher to accept EBT cards. This voucher requires the retailer to enter information about the transaction, and then call the retailer hot line for authorization.

Keeping Track of Your Balance

Cardholders should know the balance in their EBT accounts before they shop. They can keep track of their balance by doing the following:

  • Cardholders can access their account balances and the past 3 months of EBT card transactions by visiting https://www.ebt.acs-inc.com and selecting Virginia from the dropdown box.
  • Every time a purchase is made with the EBT card, the receipt prints out the amount of the transaction and the remaining balance. By saving receipts, the cardholder can know the account balance.
  • Many stores have a Point-of-Sale device available where the cardholder can swipe the card, enter his or her PIN, and do a balance inquiry.
  • Cardholders can call the toll free customer service number 1-866-281-2448, enter the 16 digit number on the front of the card, and hear the balance inquiry.

Pin Numbers

Every cardholder must select a PIN (Personal Identification Number) before the card can be used. The cardholder must call the toll free customer service help desk at 1-866-281-2448, and follow the prompts to select a PIN.

The PIN is a four-digit number that the cardholder chooses when an EBT account is activated. It should be a number easy for the cardholder to remember but hard for someone else to guess.

When buying groceries, the cardholder swipes the EBT card in the card reader, and then enters his or her PIN on the keypad. Without a correct PIN, the EBT card cannot access the money in the account.

Cardholders must keep their PIN a secret. Their PIN should never be shared with anyone. The PIN should not be written on the EBT card or on any piece of paper that is kept in the same place as the card. If someone gets the EBT card and knows the PIN, that person can spend all the money in a person's SNAP account. If that happens, the money will not be replaced.

To protect EBT accounts, if a PIN is entered wrong five times in a row, the account cannot be used that day unless the cardholder chooses another PIN. The cardholder can change a PIN by calling the toll free customer service help desk at 1-866-281-2448 and following the prompts to select or change a PIN.

Carryover Balances

SNAP benefits that are not spent in the month they are issued remain in the account. Even if the cardholder's SNAP case closes, benefits remaining in the EBT account can continue to be spent. If the cardholder fails to make a purchase with benefits sitting in an account for 365 days, those benefits are removed and can no longer be activated.

Replacing EBT Cards

When an EBT card is lost, stolen, or damaged, the cardholder should call the toll free customer service help desk at 1-866-281-2448. The help desk is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The caller will hear a prompt for English or Spanish, then a prompt to enter the 16 digit card number. Stay on the line! If no card number is entered, the caller will hear a message that says if the card has been lost, stolen, or damaged, press 2.

After verifying the identity and address of the caller, the original card will be deactivated and a new one issued. If the cardholder's address has changed, the customer service representative will tell the cardholder to report the change to the local social service agency. The customer service representative cannot change the address in the EBT system; that change must be sent over by the local agency. Once the address has been updated, a new EBT card can be issued.

Settling Disputes with Retailers

On rare occasions, there may be a problem with such things as a being charged twice, or retailers processing a voucher twice. When disputes happen, the cardholder should speak with the store manager or assistant manager to resolve the issue. If the cardholder cannot work out a solution with the retailer, the cardholder may call the toll free customer service help desk at 1-866-281-2448 and file a claim. Claims take approximately 10 business days for resolution.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

image of a  square resembling a bullet Retailer Information

How to Become an Authorized Retailer

The Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) in the United States Department of Agriculture is the agency responsible for authorizing retailers to accept EBT benefits. To become an authorized retailer, visit their Web site for further information.

Retailers with existing debit or credit equipment must contact their Third Party Processor (TPP) to alert them of the store's intention to begin processing EBT transactions.

Authorized EBT retailers need to display either the Quest logo or a picture of the Virginia EBT card.

Questions About Equipment

Retailers with existing debit or credit equipment must contact their Third Party Processor (TPP) to alert them of the store's intention to begin processing EBT transactions.

If you have received equipment intended solely for processing EBT transactions, and have questions about its operation, call the retailer help desk at 1-866-281-2449.

Settling Disputes with Cardholders

When disputes occur, cardholders have been instructed to first speak a store's manager (or assistant manager) to try and resolve the issue. Then, if the issue cannot be resolved, the cardholder has then been instructed to call a toll free customer service help desk at 1-866-281-2448 to file a claim. Claims take approximately 10 business days to resolve.