Difference between SNAP and EBT | 4 Basic Facts

Difference between SNAP and EBT

SNAP and EBT are two correlated services in the USA. The difference between SNAP and EBT lies in the roles they play in accomplishing a common purpose. 

SNAP was a program introduced in 1939 to help the poor and low-income households affected by the great depression. That was a period when the entire economy of the US was facing a downturn, and it needed to be recovered soon. 

The basic challenge was to alleviate hunger and provide low-income and unemployed citizens proper nutrition. Hence, a federal program known as the food stamp program(currently known as SNAP) came into existence to help people pay for healthy foods.

So, basically, SNAP is a program helping low-income households to ensure healthy food and proper nutrition. On the other hand, EBT is a card or an electronic transfer system for purchasing foods via welfare benefits.

Comparison chart

Full formSupplemental Nutrition Assistance ProgramElectronic Benefits Transfer
TypeProgramAn electronic Method
Year of introduction1939The late 1990s
significanceA program that works to improve the nutrition of low-income householdsA method to buy stuff via welfare benefits

What is SNAP?

SNAP or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a program under USDA-FNS, is the most extensive federal program to fight hunger and provide economically insolvent population food security in the USA.  


Currently, there are 9.5 million low-income families across the United States participating in the program. SNAP aims to provide funds to needy families so that they can afford healthy food in order to get proper nutrition. 

SNAP was formerly known as Food Stamp Program (FSP). This program’s initial purpose was to strengthen the USA’s agricultural economy and provide proper nutrition among low-income households.

When did the SNAP program begin?

SNAP (formerly known as FSP) was first introduced in 1939 by the former secretary of agriculture Henry Wallace and some other persons right after the great depression. A program under the USDA. 

The great depression pushed 15 million Americans to unemployment and put a large number of US citizens in limbo. Hence, to ensure food, economic and agricultural security, SNAP’s idea came into existence. 

Initially, the objective of the program was to encourage household consumption of surplus food as a source of unemployment alleviation. The facility was provided through two categories of food stamps: an orange stamp worth $1 and a blue stamp worth 50 cents. 

However, the program was terminated by 1943 due to world war and reduced domestic surpluses’ availability.

Later in the 1960’s the Food stamp program was reintroduced under the Great Society program by President Lyndon Johnson. Finally, the Food stamp Act was passed on 1964.

SNAP benefits

SNAP is currently the most effective and crucial anti-hunger program in the USA. This program has already become a primary source of nutrition assistance for many needy citizens of the country. 

SNAP supports its participants by ensuring food security, even during the national economic downturn; this program has proven itself to be a great supportive tool. According to statistics, SNAP provided 42 million needy Americans a nutritious diet in a typical month of 2017.

SNAP benefits provide assistance to elderly low-income citizens, children, women, working-age adults, and other needy groups. This program especially takes care of the disabled and pregnant members of a family. Not only in the food and health sector, but SNAP also helps the entire national economy, agriculture, and many socio-economic sectors to grow forward.

Snap benefits

  • helps Improving food security, ensures low-income family’s’ access to healthy diets.
  • SNAP benefits reduce health care costs. A study shows that low-income SNAP participants’ medical care expenditure is 25% lesser than the low-income SNAP non-participants’ medical care expenditure.
  • A USDA economic report shows that every 1 billion dollars of SNAP benefits create nearly 18000 full-time job opportunities.
  • SNAP is the most effective program that provides support during an economic recession.
  • This program helps American workers by ensuring their food security to make them more productive.
  • SNAP is admired for its efficiency in emergency responses. The D-SNAP provides aids and essential foods to vulnerable people affected by disasters.

What is EBT?

EBT or Electronic Benefits Transfer is an electronic card similar to the debit card that lets its holders access food stamps benefits and purchase food. The official name of this card is Golden State Advantage Card. However, most people prefer to call it the EBT card in a simple way. 


This electronic system allows SNAP participants to buy foods from SNAP authorized stores using snap benefits.  SNAP distributes its funds for buying foods via EBT cards. So basically, the difference between SNAP and EBT is in the type of role they play to fight hunger. Currently, EBT is used in all states in the USA.

When did the EBT begin?

EBT cards were first introduced in the late 1990s. This electronic system was considered one of the significant changes in the SNAP program. It changed the way of distributing SNAP benefits and eased the SNAP participants to get benefits.

In the early 2000s, some changes in the SNAP regulations increased the number of participants dramatically. The eligibility to apply for SNAP was extended to under-aged children and qualified immigrants. This is the period when EBT replaced the stamps system.

EBT benefits

The participants of SNAP can receive snap benefits and buy foods from SNAP authorized stores via EBT card. This card works similarly to a debit card.  

The participants can buy almost any food for the household, such as fruits, vegetables, dairy products, bread, cereals, etc.

EBT can be used to buy seeds and plants that produce foods.

However, there are restrictions. Households cannot buy stuff like alcohol, tobacco products, medicines, vitamin supplements, hot foods, pet foods, live animals, or non-food items using SNAP benefits via EBT cards.


P-EBT or pandemic EBT is an updated program that started during the covid-19 pandemic. This program ensures free or reduced meals to the children who lost access to schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The key differences between SNAP and EBT

  1. The full form of SNAP is Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. On the other hand, the full form of EBT is Electronic Benefits Transfer.
  2. SNAP is the name of the program, while EBT is a card for buying food products via SNAP benefits.
  3. The SNAP program was first introduced in 1939. The EBT program was introduced in the late 1990s.
  4. SNAP is a specific program that allows its participants to purchase food only. EBT is a method that can be used to receive welfare cash benefits for various purposes.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs):

Can you use EBT food stamps at Starbucks?

EBT food stamps can be used to buy muffins and Starbuck coffee.

Is EBT the same as P EBT?

EBT and P-EBT work the same way, but these two cards do not look the same.

Does McDonald’s accept EBT cards?

Now, especially the older people can buy fast foods via EBT. However, in most states, Mcdonald’s does not accept EBT cards.

Do P EBT cards expire?

Yes, they do expire after a year of issuing.

Is SNAP and EBT the same thing?

SNAP is a program to improve low-income and needy households’ nutrition by providing benefits. EBT is an electronic method for purchasing foods via SNAP benefits.


There are many programs to alleviate hunger across the world. SNAP is the leading anti-hunger program in the USA that helps low- and No-income citizens to ensure healthy food and get proper nutrition. On the other hand, EBT is a method that eases access to SNAP benefits. 

We can feel the efficacy and importance of such initiatives during any economic downturn or crisis like the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. 

Here in this article, we have discussed the difference between SNAP and EBT: two initiatives that work simultaneously.

4 thoughts on “Difference between SNAP and EBT | 4 Basic Facts”

  1. Thank you for explaining the difference between Snap and EBT . . Also for the service of food you supply to me being I’m on disability. How may I return the favor . I’d greatly like to physically volunteer but I’m a severe diabetic with neuurothopy . please tell me what I can do elsewise.Thank you . Greatly Blessed. Willy..

    1. Thanks for reading the article. I am sorry to inform you that this is not an official site for Snap and EBT services, We’d request you to contact the official site of snap if you need any further query. Thank you.

  2. My sister is on dialysis, Hypertensive and requires kidney transplant. She lives alone and on fixed income. Losing vision can’t drive so uses lyft or uber or hire someone to drive. Unfortunately she was denied EBt benefits. Can you suggest any help? I live 35 miles away from her. Am the older sister. Thanks.

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