EBT Cards in California

You will receive a California EBT card (Electronic Benefits Transfer) if you have applied and been found eligible for certain state-run cash and food programs. Learning about CA EBT card information is important for program participants, as this card enables California county welfare departments to issue food stamp and financial benefits by means of this magnetically coded payment card. The EBT benefits card resembles a debit card, and can be used to buy certain food and products depending on the enrolled program. Beneficiaries will need to know how to check EBT card balance and past transactions for ease of use. Likewise, enrollees will need to know how to apply for EBT cards in the event that theirs becomes damaged or lost.

Receiving a California EBT Card

Once you have accepted into an EBT benefits program like CalFresh or CalWORKS, it can take up to 30 days for you to receive your card, which will arrive in the mail. Before you can use your California EBT card for the first time, you will need to activate it. You can activate your EBT card by calling the number on the back of the card. Simply follow the automated instructions and select the option to activate the card. You will need to enter the 16-digit number on the front of your card. You will then need to enter the last four digits of your Social Security Number and your zip code for confirmation. You will also need to select and enter a personal identification number (PIN). You must remember this number, as you will need it is how you check the EBT card balance with your remaining award amount.

By calling the toll-free number on the back of the EBT card, you can select and change your PIN over the phone at any time. When you change your PIN number, you can continue using the same card. Keep your PIN number secret at all times so that no one else can use your EBT benefits. On the back of the EBT card is the website where you may also activate your card online.

To learn more about how to apply for EBT programs for a successful application submission, download our comprehensive guide.

How to Use California EBT Benefits

Your California EBT card is easy and safe to use. When you are ready to use your EBT benefits, choose the food and items you wish to purchase and simply go to the checkout. You may use your Electronic Benefits Transaction card for food stamps and/or cash, but you will have to swipe your card for each different transaction. Swipe your EBT card through the Point-of-Sale terminal when the clerk has checked out your items in the same manner as using a debit card. Next, you will need to enter your four-digit PIN on the keypad. On the terminal screen, you will be asked whether you are using benefits for food stamps if you need to withdraw cash. If you want cash, tell the clerk how much you need. He or she will enter the amount and you will be required to press okay if the amount is correct. You will receive a printed receipt of the transaction at the conclusion.

Each month, your CA EBT card will have your allocated monthly benefit payment added to it electronically. Should you not use all of your EBT benefits during any given month, then the remainder will remain in your account for available use. Beneficiaries will need to know how to check EBT card balances so their purchases are not rejected. Enrollees cannot overspend their benefits, which is why the EBT card is more similar to a debit rather than a credit card. Participants can also check other EBT card information when they check their balances, such as past transactions.

What to Do If Your California EBT Card is Lost, Stolen or Damaged

If your EBT benefits card is stolen, lost or damaged, you should report that problem immediately. You will need to call the California EBT card customer service number to declare the problem and order a replacement. The CA EBT benefits automated system will prompt you to enter the number of your card, but if you do not press any keys, it will ask if your card is currently stolen, lost or damaged.

Once you press the appropriate key, your EBT card will be deactivated so that no one else is able to have access to your benefits. Typically, you will receive your new card within a few days. You will not have to pay for a new card and will not lose funds from your account. However, if you think someone has stolen benefits from your EBT card, notify customer service straight away.

Find out more about how to apply for EBT cards that were lost or damaged and what happens to benefits stolen from applicants in our in-depth guide here.

Can someone else shop for me using my California EBT benefits?

You can talk to your EBT benefits county caseworker about arranging an Authorized Representative (AR). This person will be permitted to access your EBT benefits account when he or she is acting on your behalf. An AR will receive their own EBT benefits card with his or her own account number and PIN. If you have an AR, you can learn how to check your EBT card balance and past transactions to verify purchases,


What Kind of Assistance Does the Department of Social Services Offer?

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) provides various types of assistance benefits to residents of the state. Through the CDSS, individuals and families can obtain temporary cash assistance, food assistance and more. Furthermore, applicants who are eligible for the benefits of one CDSS program will often qualify for the assistance benefits of another. Find out everything you need to know about the services and benefits provided by the Department of Social Services by downloading our helpful CDSS guide.


Who Can Benefit From California’s Department of Social Services?

To receive benefits from the CDSS, you and your family will need to meet certain eligibility criteria. The criteria used to determine an applicant’s eligibility typically include income, age, resources and citizenship, among other factors. Find out if you qualify for California DSS assistance benefits here.