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Does Starbucks Accept EBT?

Electronic Benefits Transfer or EBT can be an effective way of managing your savings through your monthly budget. However, like most other great things in life, EBT doesn't come easy. Knowing when and where EBT is applicable can be quite a hassle. If you're a coffee lover like most hard-working people these days, you may be wondering, does Starbucks accept EBT?

Generally, EBT and food stamps are government-issued programs that help people buy groceries or general food items. The benefits in your EBT card will therefore not be accepted in company-owned Starbucks stores. However, you can buy certain food items from Starbucks using your EBT card if that Starbucks is located in a grocery store such as Target, or Costco.

There are limits to what can be bought with an EBT card. Since these cards exist to help families and citizens reach the minimum nutrition intake, the benefits of EBT cards usually support buying groceries such as protein, vegetables, bread, milk, etc. However, certain loopholes can be utilized to use EBT for buying things such as coffee as well.

Does Starbucks Accept EBT?

Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT), previously known as Food Stamps, is a program run by the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This government-funded program aims to help underprivileged individuals and families meet the minimum required nutrition intake, by providing them with food or cash.

Since this benefit program aims to help those who are eligible for the SNAP program with reaching the minimum nutrition intake, the EBT card only allows people to buy nutritious food items. To make sure EBT cards are used properly, they can only be accepted if you buy things from a grocery or retail store.

Buying alcohol at a bar or coffee from a coffee shop are considered luxury splurges. Therefore, you will not be able to buy Coffee from a company-owned Starbucks coffee shop with your EBT card. However, if you are adamant about getting coffee or other food from Starbucks with your EBT card, there are certain ways of maneuvering around the system that allows you to do so.

You can use your EBT card at most grocery stores in America. Many large stores such as Target or Walmart have mini Starbucks branches inside their store. Since this Starbucks is owned by or located inside a grocery store, you can use your EBT card to buy certain Starbucks food or drinks items.

 However, before you make your purchase, let me address some other questions you may have regarding whether or not Starbucks accepts EBT.

Which Areas Permit The Use Of EBT Cards?

EBT and the entire SNAP system is a U.S. government-funded program. This program was instituted to ensure no American citizen suffers malnutrition or goes hungry. Therefore the EBT payment system is accepted throughout North America in all 50 states. There may be different laws regarding what can be bought with EBT in each state. However, this payment system is considered valid for most grocery items in each U.S. state.

Aside from the 50 U.S. states, EBT cards or food stamps are also accepted by the Virgin Islands, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. However, the places where you can use your EBT card in these areas may be limited. Check with the manager of the store you are buying from to ensure they accept payment through EBT cards.

Can P-EBT Be Used At Starbucks?

P-EBT stands for Pandemic-Electronic Benefit Transfer. The P-EBT was initiated by the federal government in 2020 during the covid-19 pandemic. This system is an updated version of EBT which prioritizes families in need and has a broader range for what can be purchased using P-EBT/ EBT.

The most significant change made in the formation of P-EBT is the inclusion of sanitation products in the benefits system. You can now buy sanitizers, napkins, and other toiletries using your P-EBT card. The P-EBT card also covers costs such as school lunches and basic study material and other school stationery.

The P-EBT card has mostly been focused on helping people with items necessary when dealing with a pandemic. As you can see, most of these supplies range within things that are essential such as food, hygiene, and school products. Coffee, Starbucks coffee, in particular, is considered a luxury purchase. Thus the rules for buying Starbucks with EBT/PEBT remain unaffected.

How To Use EBT At Starbucks?

Since Starbucks is considered a luxury product, you cannot use your EBT card in a company-owned Starbucks store. However, since most grocery stores accept EBT card payments in the U.S., you can purchase Starbucks items as long as the Starbucks is located inside a grocery store. There are two main ways you can get Starbucks products from a grocery store.

Buying From The Store

To buy from the store means to find a Starbucks located inside a grocery or retail store and buy your drinks or food from there. Standalone or company-owned Starbucks stores are considered luxury stores. Anything you buy from a standalone Starbucks is therefore also treated as a luxury item. This is not the case for grocery stores or licensed Starbucks stores.

When you buy products from a Starbucks located inside a grocery store, your items will also be treated as grocery items. Thus you can pay for them using your EBT card just as you would pay for regular groceries. However, please note that EBT is only applicable for certain Starbucks items. Additionally, not all grocery-owned Starbucks stores accept EBT payments. Make sure to call ahead to ask if Starbucks you are going to accept EBT payment, just to be sure.

Buying From The Aisle

If you are unable to use your EBT card to buy coffee from your grocery store's Starbucks, you may consider buying Starbucks items from the grocery store aisles. EBT prohibits buying hot meals or beverages from stores. Therefore, unless you were planning on buying iced coffee or room-temperature food, you would not be able to get what you wanted directly from Starbucks.

If you want hot Starbucks coffee, buying from the grocery store aisle is your best option. Starbucks has many bottled drinks, packages coffee beans, sweeteners, and more that are available for purchase from grocery stores. You may pick up these items from your local grocery store and pay for them the same way you would pay for regular grocery items. After this, you can just make coffee at home while still enjoying that classic Starbucks taste.

What Items At Starbucks Are Eligible For EBT?

The USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), has a very specific list of items that can be purchased using an EBT card. All of these items are essential food items that can boost a person's nutrition levels. Items applicable for purchase using an EBT card include the following.

Protein: Beef, chicken, fish, eggs, and any other types of meat

Dairy Products: Milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, cream, etc.

Fruits: Apples, oranges, bananas, strawberries, plums, avocados, etc.

Vegetables: Broccoli, carrots, peas, potatoes, sprouts, cabbage, etc.

Carbohydrates: Bread, rice, cakes, cereal, grain, wheat, etc.

Others: General snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, seeds to grow fruits or vegetables

As you can see from the list above, the USDA only permits the use of EBT cards to pay for items that have a strong nutritional value. Aside from this list of eligible items, there are also strict rules against buying alcoholic drinks or any hot meals or beverages with an EBT card. This rule prevents people from spending all of their benefits at restaurants instead of food with substantial nutritional value.

Due to this rule, there are limitations to what you may purchase from a Starbucks store. Many grocery stores, whether it be Starbucks or other products will have some sort of a sign that will tell you if an item is eligible for EBT. For instance, many food items have a symbol such as Quest® which signifies that the item can be bought using EBT.

Aside from this, many items will have the words EBT or SNAP somewhere in their packaging to signify that they are eligible for EBT. Since Starbucks lies in a grey area of the EBT eligibility rules, here is a simplified guide for what Starbucks items you may or may not buy with your EBT card.

  • Beverages

As already stated above, the USDA prohibits using EBT cards to purchase hot foods or beverages. Therefore, any beverage you purchase from Starbucks using your EBT card must be a cold beverage. Any beverage that is hot or above room temperature goes against the rules of eligibility for EBT food items.

Even when buying iced or cold drinks from Starbucks, try to go for drinks that have some sort of nutritional value. Coffee, in general, is viewed as a luxury item. Thus you may have an easier time purchasing teas or any drink with lots of milk or cream. Drinks are a bit more difficult to justify when paying with EBT. However, you may have an easier time with regular Starbucks food items.

  • Food Items

Starbucks is known for its coffee. However, many other food items are part of its menu. The USDA states that food or snacks can be bought using an EBT card as long as they are not hot. Since Starbucks is a coffee shop, not a restaurant, buying food that is not considered hot meals, is a lot simpler to do.

Any packaged food which can be justified as nutritious and is consumed at room temperature can be bought using an EBT card. For instance, prepackaged cakes, bread, biscuits, sandwiches, etc. can be bought using your EBT card. You can also buy fruits such as apples or bananas from a Starbucks using benefits from your EBT card.

  • Grocery Store Products

Aside from store-made food and beverages, Starbucks also has a line of different products. You can buy these products directly off a grocery store aisle. These products comprise various things, ranging from bottled drinks and sweeteners to prepackaged cakes or biscuits. Starbucks also has various blends of coffee beans which you can purchase from grocery stores all across North America.

Snack items, such as cakes, biscuits, or sandwiches fall within the USD's eligibility criteria. Bottled drinks are also eligible since they are beverages that do not consist of any alcohol. Thus there is no foreseeable issue in buying these items with an EBT card. However, coffee beans are considered a luxury product. Thus some grocery stores may raise questions if you try to buy coffee using your EBT card.

What Other Coffee Shops Use EBT?

All coffee shops across the US tend to follow the same rules as Starbucks regarding payment with EBT cards. Standalone stores will not accept EBT as a form of payment. However, if you can find a coffee shop inside a grocery or retail store, you can use your EBT there.

When deciding where to use your EBT, it is important to think of what it is you want to purchase. Hot items cannot be bought using EBT. So, if you want hot coffee, you may consider buying packaged or instant coffee. This is a much more affordable alternative to going to a coffee shop. Similarly, if you want to buy cakes or sandwiches, it may be better to visit a grocery store bakery, rather than a coffee shop.

Grocery stores have so many products at your disposal. Visit your local Target, Walmart, Costco, or Seven-Eleven. If you browse through the items there, you may find affordable alternatives to what you wanted to get at a coffee shop. Remember that EBT cards are there for your nutritional benefit. Thus before making purchases, always consider whether the item you are buying can help boost your nutrition.

EBTs are a great source of aid for families or individuals who struggle to make ends meet while maintaining their nutritional intake. I hope this article helped clarify the matter of does Starbucks accept EBT? Now that you are clear on the rules, I am sure you’ll make wise purchases using your EBT card.

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Author Ferdi
Written by Ferdi Vol
Ferdi Vol has been working for a grocery store for the last few years and he knows all the ins and outs of running a grocery store. He's also got great tips about what you need to know as a customer, from getting the most out of your money to knowing where everything is in the store! Ferdi loves sharing his passion with others via his blog on how to have an awesome shopping experience at your local grocery store.
About Ferdi Vol
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