Using the Electronic Benefit Card (EBT) in California

A CalFresh EBT card, called the Golden State Advantage Card in California, is used by CalFresh beneficiaries to make purchases from stores and farmer’s markets that accept CalFresh benefits. There are restrictions regarding where food stamp beneficiaries may be used and which types of establishments accept them. Learn the functions of the California EBT Card and what to do when it is stolen or lost. If you have asked “How can I use EBT in California?” you will first need to understand the application process.

For more information on the California SNAP benefits card, please see the sections below:
•    How to get an EBT card in California
•    EBT card terms to know in California
•    How to use the EBT card to buy food in California
•    Care of EBT card in California
•    When CalFresh benefits are received in California
•    CalFresh EBT card — lost, stolen, or damaged


How to Get an EBT Card in California

Regarding how to get an EBT card in California, after the CalFresh petitioner submits his or her application to the California Health and Human Services Agency, they will receive a plastic Electronic Benefit Transfer card. Monetary benefits will be put on the card once the petitioner’s application is approved. The petitioner needs to sign the card as soon as they receive it.

EBT Card Terms to Know in California

Personal Identification Number (PIN):  After the CalFresh beneficiary receives his or her EBT card  California law requires that they set up a Personal Identification Number to use it. A PIN is a secret four-  number used to make sure nobody else can use it. 
Point-of-Sale (POS) machine:  A POS machine at a market or other place reads the CalFresh EBT card  and allows the beneficiary to purchase food with their food stamp benefits. 
Quest Mark:  The Quest Mark is the sign the CalFresh beneficiaries will see on store doors, check-out  lanes, and POS that tell them that their EBT card in California can be used at that store. The beneficiary    should look for the Quest sign at the store before they shop.

How to Use the EBT Card to Buy Food in California

To use the CalFresh EBT card to buy food, the following are the steps that need to be taken. Remember that these steps can vary for each type of POS machine used.
1) Know your available balance:  Whether you need to check your last CalFresh purchase receipt, call  Customer Service before shopping or check online, it is critical that the beneficiary knows his or her  balance before shopping.
2) Choose groceries and go to the checkout lane:  Depending on the store, the beneficiary may need to  separate his or her eligible food items from his or her non-eligible items.
3) Swipe card:  Swipe the EBT card California issued you through the POS terminal or hand the EBT card  to the clerk.
4) Enter PIN:  Enter the four-number PIN on the keypad.
5) Press the ENTER key
6) The clerk enters the food stamp benefit amount. If the amount is correct, press the OK or YES key.
7) Receipt:  The beneficiary will get a copy of the printed receipt showing: Store name and address, the amount of the purchase, and the California food stamps benefits account balance.
8) Keep the receipt 

Remember that the CalFresh benefits recipient cannot be charged a fee to use their food stamps benefits and they cannot get cash back from a food stamp benefit account. When the CalFresh EBT card is used, the County will not know what they purchased.

If the beneficiary wants to buy eligible food items and the POS machine is not working or there is not one at the store, the cashier will fill out a paper voucher. Some merchants like mobile vendors do not have POS machines. The cashier will write in the EBT card California number and the amount spent. The beneficiary should not give the cashier his or her PIN. The cashier will call to make sure there is enough in the account to purchase the food. If there is enough in the account, the beneficiary will be asked to sign the voucher and will be given a copy of it. They will need to keep this copy so that they can subtract it from the balance shown on their last EBT receipt. This will then give them their current amount in the EBT account.

Care of EBT Card in California

For the CalFresh EBT card, there are some handy tips to take good care of it:
•    Do not keep the card and the PIN together.
•    Do not cut or bend the card.
•    Do not write on or scratch the black stripe on the back of the card.
•    Do not get the card wet.
•    Do not leave the card in the sun. 
•    Do not throw the card away.

Maintaining the EBT card California issued to you will help you to avoid lapses in receiving benefits and eating meals at regular intervals. 

When CalFresh Benefits are Received in California

The day of the month the CalFresh beneficiary receives his or her California food stamps benefits is based on the last number of the assigned CalFresh case number. If the last number of the case number is 1, food stamp benefits will be available on the 1st day of the month; if the last number of their case number is 2, SNAP benefits in California will be available on the 2nd day of the month. This pattern continues, unless the last digit of a case number is 0, in which case, food stamps will be available on the 10th day of the month.

CalFresh EBT Card — Lost, Stolen, or Damaged

If the CalFresh beneficiary believes his or her CalFresh EBT card was lost, stolen, or damaged, or if it believed that cash benefits were removed from an account by an unauthorized withdrawal, he or she needs to call Customer Service immediately. The customer service representative will stop the use of the card and tell them how to obtain a new CalFresh benefits EBT card. Remember that if somebody else uses the EBT card and PIN to obtain benefits, these benefits will not be replaced. In these cases, call Customer Service, not a County office.

If the EBT card California issued to you is not working and the beneficiary believes there are still benefits available, the card may be damaged. In this case, request a replacement card as soon as possible by either calling Customer Service or their County office.

If a recipient believes SNAP food benefits in California dispensed to him or her were removed from an account, and they did not use their EBT card and PIN to withdraw the cash, electronic theft may have occurred. Electronic theft is considered any loss of cash benefits taken by an unauthorized withdrawal, or use of benefits that did not occur by the use of a physical EBT card issued to the recipient or authorized third party to directly access the benefits. In this scenario, the beneficiary needs to do the following:
1) Immediately call EBT Customer Service to speak to a Customer Service Representative.
2) File a police report.
3) Contact the County office or county caseworker to complete a form to report the electronic theft.