How to Use EBT Food Stamps on Vacation

By Michelle Dwyer

Updated September 26, 2017

Food stamp recipients can use their state issued electronic benefit transfer card, or EBT card, in any other state. The only caveat is that the retailer must accept food stamps as payment. With a few exceptions, the same laws apply in all states in reference to what items you can and cannot purchase on an EBT card.

Traveling With Your EBT Card

The electronic benefits transfer system is effective nationwide. All purchases made with your EBT card get recorded, much like what occurs if you travel using your debit card in different states. All purchases show up on your EBT record.

Any retailer across the country who accepts food stamps should display a sign. The sign may indicate the store accepts EBT cards, or it might display the card of that particular state. Some states have EBT websites that alert participants to stores that accept the card. The Department of Agriculture provides a retailer locator for easy reference.


  • Check your balance before travel. Call the number on your EBT card or enter your card number in the FIS database to check your account to avoid unpleasant surprises on the road. 

State Guidelines

Some areas in the United States allow food stamp recipients to purchase prepared hot foods at grocery stores and restaurants. This service is intended to help disabled recipients and those who don't have access to cooking resources. Such laws vary by county. Some fast food restaurants such as Subway and Kentucky Fried Chicken also accept the EBT card in certain parts of the country.

Saving On Food

Food costs usually increase while traveling. The following tips can help make effective use of your EBT care and cut down on your food expense while traveling.

  • Rent a motel room that has a kitchen and cook items purchased from a store. If there's no kitchen, bring a crock pot and cook in your room.
  • Consider checking into a hotel that offers free breakfasts to spare some of your food stamp dollars.
  • Use cash to purchase lunch meals, as they typically cost less than dinner. Use your food stamp dollars to purchase items such as sandwich fixings for dinner to eat in the hotel.

Allowable food stamp purchases include fresh fruits, vegetables, breads, cereals and other dry food goods that can serve you well if you find yourself without a way to cook. For more information on SNAP, visit the Department of Agriculture's website.