SNAP food benefits help millions of families put food on the table. Benefits get paid via an EBT card, which can then be used like a debit card to buy certain groceries. The system isn’t perfect, but it is still a powerful part of the fight to combat hunger.
One of the big changes we’ve seen in recent years is that you can now use your EBT card to buy groceries online. Given that some lower-income families live in what’ve been dubbed “food deserts” because of the limited access to healthy foods, grocery delivery can make a big difference. For people whose mobility is limited or who don’t have access to transport, the impact can be even greater.
UberEats says it will start accepting food benefit payments this year. Read on to find out what apps already take online EBT card payments and how to make sure you’re getting a good deal.
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Instacart first started working with SNAP participants in 2020 and the service now works in all 50 U.S. states. Check the Instacart site to see which stores in your area will accept EBT payments. Be aware that you’ll also need to add a debit or credit card to your account to cover other costs like taxes, tips, and non-EBT items.
Right now, Instacart is offering new customers free delivery on their first three orders. It will also give EBT customers half-price membership on its premium Instacart+ service in the first year. That brings the price down to $49.50 a year. Membership gives free delivery on orders over $35 as well as lower service fees.
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DoorDash started accepting EBT payments last June with a number of its grocery partners. It offers SNAP participants two months of free membership on its premium DashPass membership. DashPass costs $9.99 a month or $96 a year, and gives free delivery on certain orders as well as access to special deals.
There are two sides to Amazon’s grocery delivery service: Amazon and Amazon Fresh. Both accept EBT cards for qualifying produce. Amazon launched a program called Amazon Access at the end of 2022, which gives half-price Prime membership to SNAP recipients. This means you can get the benefits of Prime for $6.99 a month, as well as find other discounts through the portal.
Using delivery services to make your SNAP dollars go further
Most of the grocery apps above work in a similar way. You’ll need to add your EBT SNAP information under account settings and you may need to upload a document to verify your status. Then you can look for products marked as SNAP- or EBT-eligible and put them in your basket. Make sure the app covers your location and won’t charge extra to deliver there.
Putting the practicalities aside, it’s important to make sure these apps don’t wind up costing you money. Here are some ways to get the best value out of delivery apps:
Look for hidden costs
Even with discounts on premium services, the fees on delivery apps can get expensive quickly. Watch out for markups on prices, too. I recently did a quick comparison of 10 common items on Target’s website and its Instacart store and found prices were about 20% more expensive.
The great thing about shopping online is that it is easy to compare prices. Check on other websites or use a price comparison tool to see if you can get a better deal on items you buy regularly.
Know what you can use your SNAP benefits for
You can use an EBT card to pay for most foods, including meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, and dairy. But SNAP won’t pay for hot food, alcohol, pet food, or cleaning supplies. You also can’t use food benefit money to pay extra app-related costs such as delivery charges, membership fees, or taxes, either.
You can still use coupons and cash back apps with some delivery apps. For example, Ibotta works with Instacart, Walmart Grocery, and other online grocery services.
Buy from the store’s own website
In many cases, you will find it is less costly to go directly to the store’s website rather than use a delivery app. ALDI, Walmart, Target, and Kroger all take EBT payments online and deliver.
Buy in bulk
Delivery services make it easier to access bulk buying savings. If you are worried about the upfront cost, or don’t think you’ll eat your bulk purchase before the sell-by date, see if you can split the costs with a neighbor or family member.
Delivery apps can be an easier way to do your grocery shopping, especially when time is limited. They can also give you access to lower-cost stores and a different range of products. But if you’re using your SNAP benefits to get food delivered, pay attention to any hidden costs that will impact your personal finances. The service fees and price markup can add up and quickly wipe out any savings you scored.
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