Does Costco take EBT? Yes, but…

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Costco is a popular chain that has a variety of products, from groceries to electronics and has attracted millions of fans around the world. Shopping at Costco warehouses could be a viable option for those who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. It’s important to note that SNAP recipients can use their EBT cards to pay for SNAP-approved items at Costco warehouses, but it’s not possible to use an EBT card online, in food courts, or at Costco gas stations.

Before paying the annual Costco membership fee, it’s important to determine whether it’ll save you money in the long run. While Costco is known for its low prices, free samples, and affordable food court, it may not be the best choice for everyone. Depending on your shopping needs, you may find better deals at stores that don’t charge a membership fee.

If you’re a SNAP recipient, you can use your EBT card to pay for SNAP-approved items at Costco warehouses. However, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before committing to a Costco membership, as it may not be cost-effective for every family.

What is an EBT card, and who can use it?

The Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, is an electronic payment system that allows eligible individuals to access government benefits, which are deposited in a federal account, and use them to purchase essential items such as groceries. The system operates like a regular debit or credit card, with a unique card issued by state welfare departments to eligible users. The funds on the card can be used to purchase eligible items at authorized retailers.

The eligibility criteria for an EBT card vary from state to state because the program is federally funded but managed by individual state governments. Generally, the eligibility requirements include meeting specific income and resource criteria, which may differ from state to state. You can check the exact criteria for your state on the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) official website.

It is important to note that EBT benefits are designed to help individuals and families facing financial hardship to purchase essential items. Therefore, EBT cards are limited to eligible food items and other approved products. It is essential to familiarize yourself with the list of eligible items in your state to ensure you use your benefits appropriately.

Using your EBT card at Costco

If you receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, you can use them to purchase groceries at many stores, including Costco. To do so, your benefits will be loaded onto an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card, which functions like a debit card. However, there are some restrictions you should be aware of. Firstly, your EBT card can only be used in Costco warehouses, not online at or in the food court or Costco gas stations.

Additionally, you can only use your EBT card to purchase SNAP-approved items, whether at Costco or any other store. If you purchase a mix of items, you won’t need to separate them before you checkout. However, keep in mind that you cannot use your EBT card to pay for non-SNAP approved items.

If you want to save even more money at Costco, you can also use cash-back apps with your EBT card. By scanning your receipts after you’ve been to the store, several cash back apps will pay rewards on your Costco spending. So, if you’re a SNAP recipient and enjoy shopping at Costco, remember these details to make the most of your benefits.

Can you use EBT at self-checkout in Costco?

If you are an EBT cardholder and a Costco member, you may wonder if using your EBT card at the self-checkout at Costco is possible. The answer is yes, but it depends on the store. If your local Costco has a self-checkout counter, you can use your EBT card to pay for your eligible purchases.

However, please note that not all stores allow EBT cards at the self-checkout, which may vary depending on your state. Therefore, it is always a good idea to check with your local store before using your EBT card at the self-checkout. This will help ensure that you have a smooth and hassle-free shopping experience while also staying within the guidelines of your state’s EBT program.

What can you buy (and not buy) at Costco with food stamps?

Costco accepts EBT cards for certain purchases, but there are restrictions set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Here’s what you can buy at Costco with your EBT card:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Meat, poultry, and fish
  • Dairy products
  • Bread and cereals
  • Snack foods and nonalcoholic beverages
  • Seeds and plants that produce food

However, there are items you cannot buy with food stamps at Costco:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Tobacco
  • Hot foods ready to eat
  • Nonfood items like pet foods, cleaning supplies, and household items
  • Vitamins and medicines
  • Food intended to be eaten in the store
  • Live animals (except fish, shellfish, and animals slaughtered before pickup from the store)

Should you use your SNAP benefits at Costco?

When using your SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits at Costco, there are a few important things to consider. The most significant consideration is the annual membership fee, which is $60. If you’re a frequent shopper, you may want to consider upgrading to the executive membership, which costs $120 a year.

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With the executive membership, you’ll earn 2% back on your purchases, which could help offset the membership fee cost. However, it’s important to note that the maximum monthly SNAP benefit for a family of four is $939. This means that a family would need to spend around $500 a month at Costco to cover the cost of the $120 executive membership fee, which is more than half of their monthly benefits.

If you cannot afford the membership fee, it’s still possible to shop at Costco without being a member. For example, you could ask someone who is a member to take you along with them. However, they’ll need to show their membership card upon entry, and you’ll need to pay using your EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card.

It’s essential to keep in mind that other methods of getting around the annual membership fee, such as using or purchasing with gift cards, won’t work if you’re paying with an EBT card.

Below are additional factors to take into account.

1. Emergency benefits won’t last forever

It is important to note that if you reside in a state providing emergency SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) allotments, the additional financial assistance for groceries will eventually end. States are only authorized to provide the extra food benefits while the national public health emergency declaration is in effect.

Once the emergency declaration is lifted, states will no longer be able to provide the extra SNAP benefits, meaning you will receive the standard amount of SNAP benefits you are eligible for. Therefore, it is important to plan and budget accordingly to ensure you have enough resources to meet your basic food needs.

2. Costco isn’t always the lowest cost option

When shopping, Costco can be a great choice for value and convenience. However, it’s not always the most affordable option. While it offers bulk items at discounted prices, other low-cost grocery stores may have even better deals without requiring a membership fee. It’s always a good idea to compare prices and see which option works best for you and your budget.

Additionally, if you’re looking to save on fresh produce, you may want to check if your state has a double-up food bucks program. This program allows you to get two-for-one on all your fruit and vegetable spending at participating stores and farmer’s markets. This could save you a significant amount of money on your grocery bill. Remember that not all stores and markets participate in this program, so be sure to check which ones in your area do.

3. Bulk buying isn’t for everybody

Bulk buying is a popular way to save money on groceries, household items, and other essentials. It involves purchasing a large quantity of a product at once, typically at a discounted price, with the intention of using it over an extended period of time. While bulk buying can effectively stretch your budget, it may not be suitable for everyone.

For instance, bulk buying may not be practical if you have a small family or limited storage space. Similarly, if you live on a tight budget, the upfront cost of bulk purchases might be too high. For example, buying six pounds of ground meat at once might be a great deal, but it could be a challenge for some families to afford.

One way to make bulk buying more feasible is to team up with a neighbor or family member. This approach has several benefits. It lets you split the cost of the annual membership fee, which can be a significant expense for some warehouse clubs. It also allows you to share the bulk purchases, so you don’t have to worry about using up all the products before they expire.

How to save more money when using your EBT card at Costco

When shopping at Costco, whether you are using an EBT card or not, you can still take advantage of the same savings opportunities. If you want to maximize your savings, here are some tips to follow.

Firstly, it is recommended that you always shop with a list. This is a great way to avoid impulsive buying, stick to your budget, and ensure that you don’t forget any essentials. A well-organized list can save you both time and money in the long run.

Secondly, buying in bulk is a popular strategy at Costco. The store is known for selling items in large quantities, leading to significant cost savings over time, especially for nonperishable items that can be frozen for later use. So, before purchasing, consider whether buying in bulk would be more economical for you.

Thirdly, Costco offers seasonal sales on various items throughout the year. By keeping an eye out for these sales, you can save a lot of money and stock up on items you need. Be sure to check the store’s website or social media pages for upcoming sales.

Lastly, consider Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand. This is the store’s brand, and it often offers products that are cheaper than their name-brand counterparts but of equal quality. Before buying a product, check if Costco offers a Kirkland Signature alternative. By switching to these products, you can save much money without compromising on quality.

The bottom line

It’s important to keep in mind that every family has unique needs and circumstances, so it’s up to you to determine whether using your SNAP benefits at Costco is the most cost-effective option for you. While Costco is known for its bulk purchases and discounted prices, it may not necessarily be the most affordable choice for your specific situation. This is especially true if you have to pay for a yearly membership, which costs around $60.

Before committing to a Costco membership, it’s worth taking the time to do some research and compare prices at other grocery stores in your area. This way, you can ensure that you’re getting the best value for your money and that your SNAP benefits are stretched as far as possible.