7 Ways to Save With Your ACCESS Card
If you have an ACCESS card, you’re definitely aware of the primary benefits associated with it – whether that’s healthcare or food stamps or income for foster care families.
But you might not know that there are a myriad of other savings your ACCESS card can unlock. We’re talking reduced Amazon Prime memberships, free groceries, and super cheap admission into museums – just to name a few.
Today, we’ll cover seven different programs you’ll want to enroll in ASAP. They could save you hundreds, or even north of $1,500 every year.
What Is an ACCESS Card?
If you have to ask what an ACCESS card is, you probably don’t have one.
ACCESS cards are usually issued by the state when you qualify for a state-run program like Medicaid or SNAP. This card is in addition to the EBT card you’d receive with SNAP or cash benefits, or in addition to the insurance card you receive through Medicaid.
Not every state issues an extra ACCESS card, and even states that do might not call it an “ACCESS card.” But it is the moniker issued by the largest number of states.
So as we talk about ACCESS cards today, bear in mind that the term can be interchangeable with simply having access to any number of state benefits.
7 Ways to Save With an ACCESS Card
Once you have your ACCESS card in hand, it can open up even more savings for you throughout your community. Here are seven different programs you’ll want to look for.
1. Reduced-Price Amazon Prime Membership
Your ACCESS card is associated with one of any number of state benefit programs. Once you have one, you can use it to get a discounted Prime membership. And the discount is absolutely worth writing home about.
Normally, a Prime membership costs $14.99/month. But if you’re enrolled in any of the following programs, you’ll pay just $6.99/month:
- SNAP (food stamps)
- Direct Express Prepaid Debit Card
- TANF or TTANF (cash benefits)
- National School Lunch Program
That’s a 53% discount, which can add up to savings of up to $96 a year. You’re going to have to upload documentation to claim the discount — it’s not automatic. But it’s worth engaging in the five-minute-or-less process.
If you have this discounted Prime membership, you’ll also qualify for free delivery from Amazon Fresh if it’s available in your area.
2. Free Entry to National Parks
Depending on why you have an ACCESS card, you might be eligible for a free, lifetime pass for entry into all national parks. If you have a disability and have been given an ACCESS card for your state-sponsored insurance, you qualify. You do not have to be 100% disabled, but the disability does have to be permanent.
Serendipitously enough, this pass is also known as the Access Pass. It doesn’t cost any money, but if you order online you will have to pay shipment and processing fees. You will also have to submit one of the following:
- Statement of disability from a licensed physician.
- Document issued from a government organization notating your disability. Think the VA or Social Security Administration.
- Document issued by a state agency.
It’s much easier to apply for your Access Pass in person once you arrive at a national park. You’ll only have to do this once, and doing it in person eliminates all fees.
Technically, documentation rules are the same in person as they are online. But practically speaking, park workers tend to accept your state’s ACCESS card as a ‘document issued by a state agency’ when accompanied by personal testimony of your disability.
It’s better to come prepared with paperwork, though. Depending on how crowded the park is that day, application tends to be an extremely quick process and you can walk out with your Access Pass for national parks in-hand.
If you qualify for an ACCESS card, you might also qualify for an ABLE account.
3. Reduced Admission to Museums & Cultural Attractions
I have never been to a large metro area in the U.S. that doesn’t offer some type of discount at museums and cultural attractions when you flash your ACCESS card.
Sometimes admission can be free. In most cases, it’s knocked down to somewhere between $1-$4 per person. There’s usually a maximum number of people you can get the discount for, so if you have multiple ACCESS cards in your household you might want to split up your party at the door.
For example, if you’ve got a family of six, but the ACCESS card only gives you discounted admission for four people, you might want to use one ACCESS card for three people in your party and another ACCESS card for the other three.
While this is a benefit that’s available across the nation, you might want to do a hyper local Google search to find the museums and cultural attractions near you. Another resource is the Museums for All website, which isn’t comprehensive but does show you some of the participating museums in every state.
If your museum doesn’t advertise a discount for ACCESS card holders, ask at the ticketing desk or call them up to inquire about it before your visit. More often than not, there will be some type of reduced admission.
4. Waiver of Medical Marijuana Certification Fees
Marijuana is now legal in about 37 states. That number can jump up to 47 depending on how you interpret state law. While some states allow for recreational use, the majority of states have medical marijuana programs.
These programs sometimes come with annual renewal fees to get your state-licensed weed card. In a subset of states with such policies, you can get this fee waived if you’re enrolled in a program that merited the issuance of an ACCESS card.
For example, in Pennsylvania the state filing fee is $50 a year for medical marijuana patients. But if you’re on any of these programs, you can get that fee completely removed:
- PACE or PACENET
Eventually, this program — known in the state as MMAP — will issue monthly allotments for qualified participants to pay for their medical marijuana needs. For now it’s just the fee waiver, though.
When you’re renewing your medical marijuana card with your state, be sure to ask if they run a similar program. That one question could help you keep money in your pocket.
5. Automatic Qualification to Get $30-$75 Off Your Internet Bill
The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) can help you knock $30 off your monthly internet bill (or $75 if you live on tribal lands.) Normally, there are income restrictions, but you can automatically qualify if you’re already enrolled in any of the following programs:
- Free or Reduced-Price School Lunch
- Pell grants
- Federal Public Housing Assistance
- Veterans Pension and Survivor Benefits
- Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance
- Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
- Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
This is important because you might be on some of these programs even if you’re above the 200% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) limit for income. For example, your disabled child might be on Medicaid with a waiver despite your income, or you might be receiving a Pell grant even if you consider your income fully middle-class.
When you’re on one of these programs, the application process for the ACP takes less than five minutes. After you’ve filed the appropriate paperwork with your cable company, you might see the credit reflected on your internet bill in as little as two days.
6. Half-Off Fruits and Vegetables
Qualify for an ACCESS card because you’re on SNAP? In 29 states, you can enroll in the Double Up Food Bucks program to get your fruits and vegetables 50% off.
Here’s how it works: When you make eligible produce purchases with your EBT card, Double Up will match your spend. So if you spent $2 on bananas, you’d get $2 in Double Up Bucks – which you could then spend on more bananas or whatever other produce you wanted. So you get double the fruits and veggies for your spend, or 50% off.
Double Up is currently available in the following states:
- Indiana (only at select locations)
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey (only at select locations)
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
You can enroll and learn more about your specific state’s program here.
7. Discounts on Public Transit
Some cities offer discounts on public transit for ACCESS card holders. For example, in Los Angeles, you don’t necessarily need to have an ACCESS card to qualify for reduced-fare (and sometimes even free) public transit through Metro, but you’re guaranteed to qualify if you’re already participating in certain state benefit programs.
The maximum income limits for this program stretch up to $69,100 depending on your household size, so it’s definitely worth checking out even if you don’t have an ACCESS card.
It’s not just public transit, either. Be sure to check out discounts at all types of transit companies in your city – especially bike share services. If you’re in New York, Citi Bike gives you a reduced-fare membership of just $5/month if you’re on SNAP or receive assistance from the NYC Housing Authority.
Pittsburgh-based writer Brynne Conroy is the founder of the Femme Frugality blog and the author of “The Feminist Financial Handbook.” She is a regular contributor to The Penny Hoarder.