Can You Buy Alcohol With EBT? (2024)

Imagine standing in the checkout line of your local grocery store in a sweltering summer. You have got all that you need; your cart is filled with fresh produce, dairy products, and cereal. Now you wonder if you should add alcohol and complete your purchase with your EBT card. You must have had that thought before, too, right?

You might have heard of people using their EBT cards to make alcohol purchases. However, were these rumors spread because a few people just got lucky, or is this true? Let us find out!

But before we move on, let us familiarize ourselves with what EBT is.

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What is EBT?

Can You Buy Alcohol With EBT? (1)

EBT, short for Electronic Benefits Transfer, is a US government program that provides eligible individuals and families with funds to buy essential items, such as groceries. Instead of paper vouchers or checks, EBT utilizes a card, just like you would use a regular debit or credit card, to provide access to funds. These funds typically aim to provide financial assistance to low-income individuals and families in the hope of helping them meet their basic needs and improve their lifestyle.

But is there any truth to the claims that EBT cards can be used to snag a bottle of your favorite spirit? Let us restate the rumors and shed light on this curious subject.

What are EBT Eligible Items?

The specific eligibility of items can vary slightly depending on the program and state regulations. However, here are some general categories of EBT-eligible items.


These include various food items, including fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy products, meat, poultry, fish, and seafood. But that is not all; you can also buy fresh, frozen, canned, and packaged foods with your EBT card!

Bread and Cereal Products

These include bread, cereals, pasta, rice, and other grain-based products.

Snacks and Beverages

Many snacks, such as chips, cookies, and granola bars, are eligible for purchase with EBT. However, it is essential to note that snack items should meet the specific nutritional requirements. Non-alcoholic beverages, including juices, coffee, tea, and soft drinks, are also typically eligible.

Seeds and Plants

In some states, EBT funds can be used to buy plants and seeds that produce food for personal consumption. This encourages people to grow their own fruits and vegetables.

Baby Food and Formula

EBT benefits often cover baby food, infant formula, and other items essential for infants and youngsters.

EBT Regulations and State Variations

While EBT guidelines are set at the federal level, individual states can determine the specific regulations governing eligible items. This means that rules regarding alcohol purchases with EBT funds can vary from state to state.

The Prohibited Purchase List on EBT

This list outlines items that cannot be purchased with EBT funds. And to much dismay, alcohol is included in this list. However, this list may not be exhaustive, and there may be exceptions and nuances that warrant further exploration.


Purchasing any alcoholic beverage, including beer, wine, and spirits, is generally prohibited with EBT funds. This is to ensure that government benefits are used for items required by the underprivileged on a daily basis rather than non-essential or potentially harmful substances.

Tobacco Products

EBT funds cannot be used to buy cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco, or other related products, as these are non-nutritional items and potentially detrimental to health.

Vitamins and Supplements

Since vitamins are not essential grocery items that meet everyday nutritional needs, you cannot purchase dietary supplements, herbal remedies, or similar products.

Hot Prepared Food

Readymade hot food items sold at grocery stores, cafes, or restaurants are typically prohibited. EBT funds are intended to purchase raw food ingredients that can be prepared at home.

Non-Food Items

EBT funds are primarily intended for food items. Therefore, non-food items like cleaning supplies, toiletries, cosmetics, pet food, and household goods are usually not eligible for purchase with EBT funds.

Cash Withdrawals and Cash-Back

EBT funds are not meant to be withdrawn as cash or used for cash-back transactions at retailers. While purchasing alcoholic beverages with EBT funds is generally prohibited, it is essential to note that non-alcoholic alternatives often fall into a gray area.

For example, some non-alcoholic beverages, such as cooking wines or alcohol-free beers, may be allowed for purchase. Hence, it is ideal to be careful and check the state-specific guidelines before making any rash decision or risky purchase.

Will I get into trouble for Buying Alcohol with EBT?

Suppose you attempt to buy alcohol with EBT funds. The outcome will depend on the specific set of regulations set forth by your state’s EBT program. Generally, purchasing alcohol with EBT funds is prohibited. Here is what typically happens if you try to buy alcohol with EBT.

Transaction Declined

When you attempt to purchase alcohol at a retailer, the EBT system will typically recognize the prohibited item and decline the transaction. The cashier or the point-of-sale system will inform you that your EBT card cannot be used to purchase alcohol.

Non-Compliant Retailers

Retailers authorized to accept EBT are required to adhere to the guidelines and restrictions stated by the program. Suppose a retailer knowingly or inadvertently allows an EBT transaction for alcohol. This could be in violation of program rules, leading to penalties or loss of their authorization to accept EBT.

Legal Consequences

Using EBT funds to buy alcohol is considered a misuse of government benefits and may have legal implications. Depending on the severity of the offense and the applicable laws, consequences can range from penalties to fines or even criminal charges.


Ensure compliance and avoid potential issues by using EBT funds for eligible items as per state regulations. Start by familiarizing yourself with the prohibited purchase list so you know which items you can buy from your EBT card and the retail services available.

Remember, EBT primarily intends to assist with essential items, and the boundaries surrounding alcohol purchases are carefully defined. So if you planned on making an alcohol purchase on your EBT funds, you should reconsider!

Can You Buy Alcohol With EBT? (2)

Mark Simons

I am a passionate beer connoisseur with a deep appreciation for the art and science of brewing. With years of experience tasting and evaluating various beers, I love to share my opinions and insights with others and I am always eager to engage in lively discussions about my favorite beverage.

Can You Buy Alcohol With EBT? (2024)


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