Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) is the system used to distribute government benefits, including SNAP and TANF (Temporary Aid for Needy Families), the latter of which is delivered via EBT Cash. The Forage API can be embedded into your site and be used to accept EBT cards online.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal program helping more than 42 million Americans access to put food on the table. It is the largest program working to fight hunger in America.
EBT Cash benefits are disbursed through programs like Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF). Unlike SNAP funds (which can only be spent on grocery items), EBT Cash funds can be withdrawn as Cash at an ATM or used in stores like a debit card. The funds are often used for living expenses like rent, and can be used to purchase a wider range of products than SNAP (with some limitations, such as alcoholic beverages). TANF is distributed through the same EBT system as SNAP, and Forage can help you accept EBT Cash using the same API. A key difference between SNAP and EBT Cash is that EBT Cash eligibility rules are set on a state-by-state basis. Some states do not support EBT Cash benefits, whereas SNAP rules are the same nationwide.
The USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) oversees SNAP and authorizes all merchants that transact SNAP benefits, both in brick-and-mortar stores and online. In order to accept SNAP and/or EBT Cash benefits as a form of payment, merchants must become FNS certified and obtain an FNS number. If you are not currently authorized as an online SNAP retailer, follow this link for more information.
In addition to FNS certification (see question above), your website will need to be certified by Forage before you can go live with our API, in accordance with federal requirements governing certified Third-party Payment Processors (TPP).
The steps required to being granted Forage certification are as follows:
- Have your BRD accepted by the FNS and successfully complete FNS certification tests.
- Ensuring that your site properly handles SNAP customers as described in the BRD.
- Proper handling of payments through Forage.
- Proper handling of refunds through Forage.
- Integration with Forage’s reconciliation process.
If you are interested in certification, please fill out our Contact Us form and/or reach out directly to BD@joinforage.com.
As a general rule of thumb, if a fee is listed on a receipt and is not a federal or state imposed fee, SNAP cannot be used to pay for it.
Fees that cannot be paid for with SNAP;
- Delivery fees
- Service fees
- Pick-Up fees
- Bag fees
- Any non-federal or non-state imposed tax
- Sweetened beverage surcharges can’t be applied to an item purchased with SNAP
Fees that can be paid for with SNAP:
- Bottle deposit fees imposed by state governments
Information that a merchant must display after an online purchase or refund (bolded items are not provided by Forage server):
- Merchant name
- Merchant contact information (physical address optional if not currently provided for other customers)
- Date of transaction
- Time of transaction if included for other customers
- Transaction Type
- Truncated Account Number
- Transaction Amount
- Remaining Snap Balance
- Remaining Cash Balance
- For purchases receipts only:
- Delivery/pickup/shipping address
- Actual or estimated delivery/pickup time if appropriate
- Itemized fees for delivery/pickup/shipping, ordering, convenience, handling or other fees or charges
- Itemized fees for bags or other delivery/pickup/shipping containers
SNAP customers must be issued an electronic notification including all of the above information within 24 hours of transaction completion or the merchant must securely retain the customer's order history online so that they can easily retrieve the above info.
The FNS stipulates that no sales tax be applied to SNAP purchases. Therefore, if a customer pays for the full price of their cart with SNAP, no sales taxes can be charged on the items bought. However, if a customer would like to checkout with a split-tender transaction, sales tax is applied to the portion of the transaction bought with credit/debit. For example, let's assume a customer is checking out with $100 worth of products, and plans on paying for $25 with SNAP and $75 with credit. The sales tax applied in this scenario would be $75 x tax rate. If the example were changed to be $25 with credit and $75 with SNAP, the sales tax applied would be $25 x tax rate.
If a customer checks out with a manufacturer coupon or other discount coupons, sales tax can be charged on the portion of the total paid for with the coupon.
Customers cannot receive cash refunds or store credit for items purchased with SNAP. They must have their SNAP EBT account refunded. This protects against a customer potentially buying an item with SNAP and then returning the item for cash and defrauding the US Government. It is also important to note that merchants must provide the receipt information described above for all refunds.