Can You Buy Alcohol with Food Stamps? Find Out How

Can you purchase alcohol using food stamps?

This article explains why certain items are not allowed to be purchased with food stamps / EBT.

Also, we explain what can happen if alcohol or other EBT-ineligible items are purchased with food stamps.

Can You Buy Alcohol with Food Stamps? Find Out How 1

Continue reading and find out how some manage to purchase alcohol using the EBT / food stamps.

Can You Use Food Stamps to Buy Alcohol?

What’s the bottom line?

It’s not legal to buy alcohol with food stamps. Food stamps cannot be used to buy tobacco products, over-the-counter medicines, live animals, and prepared food.

Your EBT card can’t be used to withdraw money from ATMs in liquor stores, racetracks, and adult entertainment venues because these establishments sell alcohol as well as other prohibited products like tobacco and lottery tickets.

The cash that you withdraw at authorized locations may not be traceable to the actual purchase.

Once withdrawn, TANF – Temporary Assistance for Needy Families/cash can be used for any purchase, even if technically it’s not legal.

Can I Buy Beer Using Food Stamps / EBT?

Not directly but YES possible.

The system will cover all eligible food items if you take your SNAP card to the store and buy all the food and supplies.

The cashier will tell you that you have an outstanding balance for all other items. Beer, wine, and light bulbs, toilet paper, soap, dishwashing liquid, etc. you will still have it on you.

There is, however, a little bit of a “black market”. This is a flaw that’s known to the system and is very difficult to detect or police.

You might have heard about people who buy groceries using their EBT cards for others, and then the other person pays them cash in exchange for the groceries.

To answer the question again, you can use cash to purchase beer.

Nevertheless, think twice as paying the electric bills is more important.

The system could be better, but it has been a great help to many whom lost their job. It takes work to feed a family.

As you work toward a successful freelancing career, you sometimes need to stop to celebrate an important milestone with a wine bottle; just ensure you bought it yourself and NOT with food stamps / EBT.

What Can You Buy with EBT?

SNAP is a monthly benefit program that benefits low-income families in the United States. It is administered by each individual state and funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service.

SNAP has some restrictions on purchases, and the benefits are only available for certain items.

USDA states that EBT cards linked to SNAP can only be used in certain places to make purchases.

  • Bread and cereals
  • Dairy
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat and Fish
  • Plants and seeds that produce food to feed the family.
  • Snacks and non-alcoholic drinks
  • USDA states explicitly that SNAP benefits can’t be used for:
  • Cigarettes, beer, wine, or liquor
  • Hot foods at the point of sale
  • Live animals are not allowed (except for shellfish, fish that have been removed from the water, or animals that have been slaughtered before being picked up from the store).
  • Non-food products
  • Vitamins, medications, and other products that found with Supplement Facts labels

Why Can’t I Buy Alcohol with Food Stamps?

Since the establishment of the Food Stamp Program in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy, it has been prohibited to purchase alcohol with food stamps.

Some people view these restrictions in a paternalistic manner and as an insult to low-income families and individuals who are capable of making intelligent choices and deserve to enjoy themselves occasionally, just like everyone else.

For those who are addicted to alcohol, the withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous, even fatal.

It doesn’t matter which side of the argument you take; it is illegal to buy alcohol with food stamps.

Food stamps, or SNAP were designed to assist low-income families in obtaining nutritious food. The program was also designed to boost the agricultural industry.

What will Happen if You Buy Alcohol Using Food Stamps?

The electronic barcode readers in most stores like Walmart and Target will automatically separate items such as alcohol and other SNAP-ineligible products.

In such cases, the EBT card will simply decline any alcohol purchases.

In smaller stores like mom-and-pop grocery stores and bodegas, the clerk usually sorts SNAP-ineligible products manually.

Even though an electronic barcode scanner might not reject a transaction in this case, businesses can still face severe penalties if they allow customers to use SNAP for alcohol or other prohibited items.

They can lose their privilege to accept EBT or be fined. A small business can suffer a serious financial setback.

If the state agency that issues SNAP benefits becomes aware that you have used SNAP for alcohol purchases, your benefits could be revoked.

Can you buy alcohol using food stamps? The answer will not change. You will need to pay for your drinks if you are on food stamps.

Check out our article that will help you to reduce alcohol consumption on a budget.

Do Liquor Stores Accept SNAP Payment Using EBT?

There are no liquor shops that accept EBT. Alcohol stores are not allowed to accept EBT food stamps.

Location restrictions have been imposed to prevent purchases in adult entertainment establishments.

You can use your EBT at major supermarkets like Walmart and Target to purchase eligible food.

Some drugstores like Walgreens and CVS will accept EBT for eligible food items.

FAQs on Using Food Stamps to Buy Alcohol

Can I buy non-alcoholic drinks with EBT?


According to the USDA, non-alcoholic drinks can be purchased with EBT.

Is It Possible to Only Purchase Food Using EBT?

You can only purchase food with the EBT. EBT cards work like food stamps. Therefore, items that aren’t food do not qualify.

Final Say

Alcohol cannot be purchased with EBT / Food Stamps benefits. The food stamp may look like a debit card, but it has many restrictions. It can only be used for food purchases.

There are few options for people living on a limited income. This kind of access benefit for low-income individuals can increase one’s monthly allowance.

The card can be used to pay for certain items, but you will still have to pay the remainder.


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