What’s the difference between SNAP, WIC, and EBT?

What’s the difference between SNAP, WIC, and EBT? Here’s a picture that shows the relationship between the three:

SNAP and WIC use EBT to buy food

SNAP and WIC use EBT to buy food.

SNAP and WIC are both government assistance programs. SNAP offers nutrition assistance to eligible low-income individuals and families, while WIC is a supplemental nutrition program only available to women, infants, and children.

EBT, or Electronic Benefits Transfer, is an electronic system for buying food, specifically referring to the magnetic-stripe card technology that lets users redeem benefits at point of sale. Commonly, programs that use the word “EBT” are talking about the card itself.

There is, however, some confusion over the usage of the words SNAP and EBT. In many states, the words EBT and SNAP are interchangeable as both refer to program benefits. This is because EBT technology came to SNAP programs back in 1994, almost 15 years before it debuted in WIC. For the states that don’t have electronic WIC yet, the word “EBT” continues to refer only to SNAP.

The trend, however, is changing rapidly. Now that 13 of the 90 WIC agencies have rolled out EBT, the word often applies to WIC as well. Soon, all states will offer both SNAP EBT and WIC EBT.

If you want to know more about these programs, ask us in the comments!


Stay healthy!

Maxwell Thayer


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