Using SNAP Benefits

Monthly Benefits Issuance Schedule

Benefits are generally made available over the first nine to 14 days of every month, based on the last digit of the client’s case number. For all counties, except the five boroughs of NYC:

Case Number Ends In:

Benefits Available On:

0 or 1

1st of the month
2nd of the month
3rd of the month
4th of the month
5th of the month
6th of the month
7th of the month
8th of the month
9th of the month

View the NYC schedule

For NYC cases, benefit postings are spread out over 10 different days that are not Sundays or holidays, during the first two weeks of the month. The actual dates change from one month to the next, so NYC publishes a six-month schedule with the exact availability dates.

The NYC schedule above is based on the last digit of the case number, called the toe digit. To use, find the toe digit in the first column of the schedule. On the top row of the schedule find each month listed with an A and B column underneath. Column A is the date of the SNAP benefit deposit for that toe digit, for each month listed.

The EBT Card

How to Use the EBT Card

New York State uses an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system to issue SNAP benefits, TANF benefits, and Medicaid health insurance. SNAP participants use their EBT cards in machines at checkout counters, just like debit and credit cards.

To use the SNAP benefits on the EBT card, SNAP recipients:

  • Shop and take their purchases to the cash register
  • Swipe the card through the machine, and
  • Enter their Personal Identification Number (PIN)

The system will take the amount spent on food purchases out of the SNAP account.

Paying a Portion of the Bill From the SNAP Account

It is possible to pay only a portion of the bill from the SNAP account and pay the remainder with another form of payment. The machine will ask how much the participant wants to pay from their EBT SNAP account, and the participant can enter any amount up to the amount of benefits available in their account. The grocery store receipt will tell them how much is left.

Purchases Above the Available Benefit Amount

If the amount entered for the EBT payment is more than the amount available, the machine will reject the entire transaction. In that case, the participant should check the balance, which can be done right at the cash register. Once the customer knows how much is available and enters that amount, the machine will accept the transaction, even if it is less than the amount of the purchase. The customer can then pay the balance with another form of payment.

Non-SNAP Purchases

Any non-SNAP-eligible purchases can be paid for with another form of payment. If the participant has a cash assistance account, the non-food purchases can be paid directly from the cash account by swiping the card again. Food and non-food purchases do not have to be separated at the checkout counter.

Requesting a Second EBT Card

Reference Documents

Certain SNAP households are allowed to have two EBT cards to use at grocery stores and EBT vendors.

Households that include two parents/guardians are eligible to request a second EBT card if they meet the following criteria:

  • Are both on the SNAP case,
  • Live in the household full-time, and
  • Are over the age of 18, or
  • Regardless of age, are the parent/guardian of a minor child.

To receive an additional EBT card, the SNAP head of household must submit a written request using the LDSS-4217 ID Card Update Form. The procedure to obtain a second EBT will follow the same procedure as  obtaining an authorized representative card. In this situation, the second EBT card will contain the payee/head of household name and the name of the second parent/guardian in the household. Each card will have its own card number. The second parent/guardian is not considered an authorized representative and does not have the same permissions and responsibilities to act on behalf of the head of household.

Once the household submits the LDSS-4217, the SNAP office has 30 calendar days to review and process the request. The SNAP head of household can request to deactivate the second card at any time without the consent of the second card holder by filling out the LDSS-4217.

SNAP households are permitted to have a maximum of two active EBT cards. If a two parent/guardian household already has an authorized representative card issued, they cannot request an additional card for the second parent/guardian. Similarly, if the two parents/guardians receive a second EBT card, they cannot request an additional card for an authorized representative.

Reference Documents

Repeated EBT Card Requests

Reference Documents

SNAP recipients who have requested and used more than four EBT cards in a 12-month period will receive a letter from NYS, mandated by USDA, warning cardholders that misuse of EBT cards and SNAP benefits will result in a program violation that is subject to various penalties and sanctions. The letter also states that if the recipient continues to request new EBT cards, they can be referred to the local SNAP Program Integrity Unit for possible investigation.

Under this policy, OTDA will continue to monitor EBT card requests of current SNAP recipients and their benefit redemption history.

Reference Documents

Eligible Food Items

SNAP benefits can be used to buy almost all foods, as well as seeds and plants that produce food. Households cannot buy the following items with SNAP benefits:

  • Beer, wine, or liquor
  • Cigarettes or tobacco
  • Non-food items like toiletries, pet foods, or household supplies
  • Vitamins and medicines
  • Ready-to-eat hot foods
  • Prepared cold foods that will be eaten in the store (prepared cold foods to be eaten at home are allowed)

Visit USDA/FNS for a complete list of SNAP-eligible food items.

SNAP Benefits Are Used for Food Only

SNAP households can never get cash, as their SNAP benefits are only to be spent on food items at approved retailers.

Some stores will give TANF recipients cash back from the cash account. TANF participants can also use their EBT card to get cash from Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).

Using SNAP to Purchase Food Online

Reference Documents

Approved SNAP retailers allow SNAP participants to purchase food through their websites using online transactions with their EBT cards. Much like using an EBT card in the grocery store, the websites will only deduct SNAP-eligible items from purchases. Other costs, including delivery fees, can not be paid using SNAP benefits.

Learn information and see a list participating retailers in NYS.

Appointing an Authorized Representative

Individuals who have difficulty accessing their EBT benefits, such as the homebound, can choose someone to be their authorized representative. This should be a person whom the household trusts, such as a home attendant or family member. Once appointed by the household, the authorized representative can use the original EBT card and PIN or get a separate EBT card and PIN, and use those when grocery shopping for the SNAP household.

Read more about appointing an authorized representative in The SNAP Interview.

Reference Documents

Unspent SNAP Balances

The 2008 Farm Bill required states to shorten the timeframe that unspent SNAP balances stay on the EBT card from 365 days to 274 days. 

Unspent SNAP balances stay in the account for 274 days. The only exception: certain cases when a new NYSNIP participant has not accessed any SNAP benefits within the first 90 days of case opening. In those cases, the benefits are expunged after the first 90 days

SNAP participants can check their account balance at any time by calling the customer service number at 1-888-328-6399 (listed on the back of the EBT card) or by visiting and logging into their account. Many larger stores also have machines available at the customer service desk where participants can check their balance before shopping.