Want to Check Your Food Stamp Balance in Seconds? You Need This App

FreshEBT app pictured on a mobile phone
Need to check your EBT balance in a hurry? This free app tracks it for you and so much more. Photo courtesy of FreshEBT.

If, before going to the grocery store, your first step isn’t to create a list…

If it isn’t to make sure you have all your coupons

If, instead, it’s to call the digits on the back of your EBT card, then punch in your membership number to see how much food you can afford, you need to listen up.

Because an innovative free app called Fresh EBT allows you to check your food stamp balance with a single click.

How Fresh EBT Brings Food Stamps Into the Modern Age

Nearly 43 million Americans are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps.If you’re not enrolled, click here to learn if you’re eligible.)

Each month, SNAP benefits are loaded onto an electronics benefits transfer card, which is like a debit card the government refills. But unlike a regular debit card, discovering how much money you have left to spend each month isn’t always easy.

Jimmy Chen, an ex-product manager at Facebook, didn’t think that was right.

“If people with credit cards or debit cards can check their balance, you should be able to do the same with an EBT card,” explains Chen.

So, in a small team, he “took the things that Facebook did very well — make software that’s easy to use — and used that to build Fresh EBT.”

The resulting app provides a smooth, bank-like experience to SNAP recipients. It’s available for free in every state for Android and iOS.

If you’re enrolled in SNAP, you can download the app and create an account with your EBT number.

From then on, your food stamp balance will update automatically. To check the balance, all you have to do is open the app.

screenshot of the balance screen from the FreshEBT app

Users can check their balance at-a-glance with Fresh EBT.

“This is a better way to manage your benefits,” says Chen. “It’s a replacement for calling the number on the back of your card or saving your grocery receipts.”

The app, which launched in January 2016, has 900,000 users who check it at least once a month.

It has a 4.6 rating on the Google Play store, with more than 8,000 five-star reviews, and is among the 10 most popular free finance apps — putting it alongside giants like Venmo, Capital One and Bank of America. In the App Store, it has a four-star rating. Negative reviews centered around connectivity or access issues.

How Fresh EBT Helps You Save Money

In addition to providing an easy way to check your food stamp balance, Fresh EBT has a few other features that could help you save money:

  • Map of nearby vendors: Pull up the app to easily see which grocery stores and farmers markets accept EBT in your neighborhood.
screenshot of map feature from FreshEBT app

The Map function in the Fresh EBT app displays grocery stores near you.
  • Discounts at grocery stores: Depending on where you live, the app could save money on your grocery bill. In New York City, for example, you’ll get $5 off for every $75 you spend at Food Town. You can even check how much you’ve spent at each store to help determine where you’re getting the best deals.

screenshot of spending log on FreshEBT app

  • Partnerships with other organizations: EARN Starter, for example, gives you $10 for every $20 you save.
  • Local resources: The app lists places where you can seek further assistance, like non-profit organizations and food pantries.

As you can see, this free app helps with much more than just your SNAP balance.

“Our goal with Fresh EBT is really to help users improve their overall financial health,” says Chen.

Looks like they’re well on their way.

Susan Shain is a freelance writer and digital nomad. She covers travel, food and personal finance (basically, how to save money so you can travel more and eat more). Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.

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