Can You Sell Food Stamps For Cash?

Can You Sell Food Stamps For Cash?

Sometimes called Food Stamps, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a program intended to assist those who need help in buying groceries. Something commonly asked about SNAP is whether you can sell these “food stamps” for cash. 

To be clear, SNAP benefits come preloaded on a debit card that can only be unlocked using a secret PIN. Not only is selling this card not allowed, it can result in some serious consequences. 

Looking to learn more about the SNAP program? Read on where we will cover some of the basics of this aid program, along with some of its rules, and what might happen if someone is caught trying to sell their SNAP card.

Table of Contents

The SNAP Program

Individuals can access food stamps through what is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, otherwise referred to as SNAP. This system was formerly known as the Food Stamps program. SNAP is a food assistance program created for low-income families and individuals intended to aid in providing nutritious and high-quality food items.

These benefits can be used to purchase food and other products intended for home consumption with some exceptions. Food stamps can not be used to purchase prepared meals, hot foods, alcoholic drinks, tobacco, or bulk items sold by weight. 

Snap benefits are determined by the household size, wages, and average expenses. While a member of the program you will be mailed an Electronic Benefits Transfer card once per month. This card functions much in the same way as any other bank or credit card, except it will only work for purchasing items included in the SNAP benefits program. 

What Can I Buy With Food Stamps?

SNAP allows you to exchange credits for specific types of food. But what types of foods are allowed, and how are they determined? To come up with a method for classifying foods available through SNAP, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) came to define certain foods as “Staple Foods.”

Staple foods are defined as the basic foods that commonly make up a significant portion of a person’s healthy diet. These foods are commonly prepared at home and eaten as a part of a meal. Staple foods do not include pre-prepared foods, heated foods, or tobacco, among a few other limitations. 

Staple foods are divided into 4 subcategories. In order for a store to remain SNAP authorized, they must have a variety of each of these four staple food categories available: 

  • Fruits & vegetables 
  • Dairy products (Milk, Cheese, Cream)
  • Meat, fish, poultry 
  • Breads & cereals 

What Can’t I Buy With Food Stamps?

SNAP benefits cannot be used to purchase alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, or any medicines/ vitamins. SNAP benefits are also not redeemable for foods that can be eaten in-store, or any hot/prepared foods

The USDA also does not allow any nonfood items to be purchased with food stamps, this includes pet food, cleaning supplies and other household supplies, cosmetics, and hygiene items. SNAP recipients are also unable to purchase live animals with their benefits, with the exception of shellfish or fish removed from water. 

Is Selling Food Stamps For Cash Illegal?

With the way that SNAP works today, if an individual wanted to sell their SNAP credits, they would need to do so by selling their card and PIN number to another person. This is not allowed and can result in some serious consequences like being cut off from your benefits. In addition to that if you do get cut off, you won’t ever be able to get back on the program. 

Depending on the monetary value of the cards sold, punishment for selling food stamps can include legal consequences like fines or even up to one year in jail time. Generally, if the sum of the benefits sold is over $100, it is considered a felony.

The sale of EBT cards for cash is often referred to as SNAP trafficking. Trafficking SNAP cards does still occur, but it is becoming harder to get away with. Government programs regularly conduct undercover investigations, perform audits, and collect data in order to find and identify potential exchanges. 

Food Stamp Fraud

SNAP trafficking is considered a form of SNAP fraud. SNAP Fraud is when an individual provides false or misleading information regarding their household size, income, or a variety of other things when applying for their benefits. The most common form of SNAP fraud tends to be lying during the application, but other forms of SNAP fraud exist like: 

  • SNAP trafficking 
  • Reporting false earnings 
  • Buying items not allowed on benefits 
  • SNAP retailer fraud 

SNAP retailer fraud is another form of fraud that you may not be familiar with. SNAP retailer fraud, also called indirect trafficking, is when you buy groceries for another person who in exchange pays for the service in cash. This is also considered a form of trafficking and is illegal. 

Where Can I Use Food Stamps?

SNAP benefits can be redeemed only in stores that are authorized by the program. Not every store is authorized, so it is important to check before you go out with plans for picking up groceries. Most SNAP retailers are larger businesses that should be available in most places around the country. 

If you are looking to find a store that supports SNAP, the USDA has created a SNAP Retailer Locator to help! Use it to narrow down your search and find a store near you! 


SNAP is a national program available to all US citizens in need of help by providing an easy way to pay for essential groceries. SNAP is only usable to buy a select variety of products and does not include home goods, sanitary products, cosmetics, and certain types of food like hot meals, or dishes prepared outside of the home. 

Unfortunately, some people may try to take advantage of the SNAP program through various means, like misrepresenting personal information during the application, selling their groceries, or even selling their EBT card for cash. Now we know that doing so is illegal and that those who do it can be charged with a crime. 

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