7 (Clearly Obvious) Things You Cannot Buy With Food Stamps


7 Things Can You Not Buy With An EBT Card

In this community resource guide, you will learn about 7 things you cannot buy with your EBT card.

Knowing what you can and cannot buy with food stamps is very important. Purchasing things that are restricted could result in your benefits being cut off. However, because these goods are so obviously in violation of the SNAP benefits regulations, it is difficult to buy any of these items. To be on the safe side, continue reading to see which items you cannot buy with your EBT card.

This List Includes Things You Cannot Buy With SNAP Benefits And TANF

The items in this article cannot be purchased whether you receive SNAP (food stamps) or TANF (EBT cash benefits). Those who qualify for either SNAP or TANF will receive an EBT card to make purchases of either food or basic needs items.

If you qualify for SNAP benefits you can only purchase foods with your EBT card.

The TANF program is a little more flexible with what you can spend your EBT cash benefits on. In this program, you can buy things like food, clothes, pay your rent, and buy other basic needs items. You can see a list of things you can buy with TANF in this list.

1.) Liquor Is Not Allowed To Be Purchased With SNAP

You cannot use your food stamps to buy liquor. This includes alcoholic beverages like beer, wine, malt liquor, vodka, or bourbon. You can buy water, juice, and even soda, but alcoholic drinks are not allowed to be purchased with your EBT card.

2.) Cigarettes Cannot Be Bought With Food Stamps

You cannot buy cigarettes or tobacco with your food stamp benefits. Cigarettes and tobacco products are not considered food and are therefore not eligible for purchase with an EBT card.

If you attempt to use your EBT card to buy cigarettes or tobacco, the transaction will be declined. This policy is in place because cigarettes and tobacco are harmful to your health and are not considered essential items.

3.) Vitamins, Medicine, Supplements

You cannot buy Vitamins, Medicine, or Supplements with your SNAP benefits. Although these things may be helpful to your overall health, they have not considered food items.

If you need help with things like medicine, you can either apply for government healthcare programs like Medicaid or find a federally qualified health center near you to get affordable medical care.

4.) Some Energy Drinks Are Not Allowed To Be Purchased With Your EBT Card

Some energy drinks cannot be purchased with your food stamps; specifically, 5-Hour Energy or any of the energy shot drinks.

can you buy 5 hour energy with food stamps
The “supplement facts” indicates that this is not a food item according to the USDA. You cannot purchase 5 Hour Energy with your EBT card.

These drinks are not considered “food items”, but rather “supplement items”. If you look on the back of a 5-Hour Energy drink label you see a section called “Supplement Facts”. This indicates that this is not a “food item”. Compare that to the label on the back of a Red Bull or Monster Energy drink and you will see a “nutrition facts” label.

5.) Live Animals Cannot Be Bought With Food Stamps

You cannot buy live animals with your Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, benefits. This means you cannot use your food stamps card to purchase chickens, rabbits, or any other live animal that you would need to care for as a pet or farm animal.

Although you would be buying these items to eat, the food stamps program does not allow you to buy a farm animal like a chicken or cow with your EBT card.

6.) Pet Food

If you have a pet, you may be wondering if you can use your food stamp benefits to purchase pet food. Unfortunately, the answer is no – you cannot buy pet food with your EBT card.

However, there are other ways to get assistance for your pet if you need it. The Meals on Wheels of America nonprofit has a program called Ani Meals. This program offers weekly meals for animals. If you need help with the cost of pet food, find your local Meals on Wheel provider and see if they offer the “AniMeals” program.

7.) Non-Food Items

You cannot buy non-food items with your food stamp benefits, this includes common items like cleaning supplies, hygiene products, cosmetics, paper products, pet food, vet care, and other household supplies.

You can only use your EBT card to purchase food items like meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, and grains.

If you want to purchase non-food items, you will need to use a different method of payment. One method could be EBT cash benefits if you qualify for TANF. Under this program, you can buy basic needs items like soap, toothpaste, diapers, and even pay your utility bills with your EBT cash benefits.

You Can Only Buy Fast Food In Certain States

With food stamps, you can buy fast food, but this benefit is limited to only a handful of states. Those states include:

The reason you can use food stamps to buy fast food in these states is they all participate in the Restaurant Meals Program.

In order for a fast food restaurant to accept EBT card payments, the state they operate in must participate in the Restaurant Meals Program. A McDonald’s in California does accept food stamps, but not a McDonald’s in Texas. Texas does not participate in the Restaurant Meals Program, while California does.

You can learn more about how to find a fast food restaurant that accepts SNAP benefits in this guide.

fast food restaurants that accept food stamps

What Happens If I Purchase A Restricted Item With My Food Stamps?

If you purchase a restricted item with your food stamps, your benefits may be cut off. That’s because food stamps are intended for use on food items only.

While every state has different restrictions, some commonly restricted items include alcohol, tobacco, and pet food.

So if you’re caught using your food stamps to purchase one of these items, you could lose your benefits entirely.

And that’s not all…

You may also be subject to criminal charges in some states. Misusing food stamps is a federal crime, so it’s definitely not worth the risk.

If you’re not sure whether an item is considered restricted, be sure to check with your state’s food stamp office before making your purchase. You can find your state’s food stamp department telephone number and website if you do have questions.

StateEBT Customer Service Number NumberPhone Number To Apply For Food StampsState Food Stamp Websites
Washington DC888-304-9167202-724-5506Website
New Hampshire888-997-9777603-271-9700Website
New Jersey800-997-3333800-687-9512Website
New Mexico800-843-8303800-283-4465Website
New York888-328-6399800-342-3009MyBenefits New York _Website
North Carolina888-622-7328800-662-7030Website
North Dakota800-630-4655800-755-2716Website
Puerto Rico877-467-4832787-289-7600WebWebsitesite
Rhode Island888-979-9939855-697-4347Website
South Carolina800-554-5268800-616-1309Website
South Dakota800-604-5099877-999-5612Website
Virgin Islands866-884-2868340-774-2399Website
West Virginia866-545-6502800-642-8589Website


There are a few things you cannot purchase with your food stamps, including alcohol, cigarettes, energy drinks, live animals, pet food, and non-food items. While you can use your EBT card to buy fast food in some states, this benefit is limited to only a handful of states that participate in the Restaurant Meals Program. It’s important to be aware of these restrictions so that you don’t run into any trouble when trying to make a purchase with your card.

If you have questions about what is and isn’t allowable for purchase with your food stamps, contact the SNAP hotline at 800.221.5689 for more information.

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