Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT)

EBT Small Logo

What Is EBT?

Small EBT CardElectronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) is part of the 1996 federal welfare reform entitled Personal Responsibility Work Reconciliation Act. The act identified food stamp coupons as too expensive to manufacture, distribute, and destroy. They also believed moving to an electronic system would reduce fraud. All states were required to implement and be operational with EBT by October 2002.

EBT is the automated system that allows CalFresh, CalWorks, and other cash benefit recipients to use a card, much like a debit card, to access their food and cash benefits. The EBT card stores data on a magnetic strip along the back of the card and is swiped through a card reader just as you would a debit or credit card. Modern day credit and debit cards come with small "chips" affixed to the lower right corner of the card. These type of cards are often referred to as EuroPay MasterCard Visa as their development was a joint venture first used in Europe. This feature is purported to be more secure than magnetic strip cards however "chip cards" are relatively new to the United States. Once the chip cards are stable and more fully implemented in the United States, implementation in to EBT will begin. There is no anticipated date for implementing that feature.

EBT in California is run by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) with technical support through the Office of System Integration (OSI). CDSS contracts with private vendors to run the technical operations of the program.

Each county determines benefit eligibility for applicants. Once determined, the county sends the eligibility information to the state EBT vendor where it is process and ultimately disbursed to recipients EBT accounts.

There are a number of useful resources for learning more about EBT in California. They can be found in the links to the right and below.

For more information please visit The EBT Project.