70. How will I get my benefits - direct deposit or Electronic Benefits Transfer?
Your EAEDC benefits will be deposited directly to your bank account if you
have an account. Otherwise your EAEDC benefits will be paid through electronic benefits transfer (EBT). 106 C.M.R. § 706.400-706.420. You can no longer be paid by check except in special circumstances.
If you have a bank account, DTA generally requires you to receive your benefits by direct deposit except in certain situations. See DTA Field Operations Memo 2002-23 (September 30, 2002). Exceptions to this rule are allowed if the EAEDC recipient does not have access to public transportation to get to the bank; if the EAEDC recipient is disabled and use of direct deposit will create a hardship, or if the EAEDC recipient is a victim of battering and the abuser is a co-holder of the bank account. 106 C.M.R. § 706.410.
How to get and use your EBT card:
If you do not have a bank account, DTA will issue you an EBT card to withdraw money from your EBT cash benefits account and to access your SNAP (food stamp) benefits. 106 C.M.R. § 706.420 and 106 C.M.R. § 706.450.
- Photo EBT: A state law passed in 2013 requires some SNAP and cash recipients to have their photos on the EBT card. Most EAEDC recipients are exempt from this rule - because there are exemptions if you are age 60+, disabled, a victim of violence or meet other criteria. Also exempt are group homes and other third parties who help manage EAEDC are exempt. If you need a photo on your card for some reason, DTA will use your photo from Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles if you have a state ID or driver license.. Otherwise, you may be asked to go to the local DTA office to have your photo taken. Massachusetts General Laws c. 18, § 2(B)(k); DTA Operations Memo 2014-28 (June 11, 2014).
- Using your card: You can use your EBT card to get your cash benefits wherever you see the NYCE logo (at bank ATMs). You can also use the card to get your cash benefits and to make your purchases wherever you see the QUEST logo. State law bars certain establishments from accepting EBT cards. This includes liquor stores, casinos, jewelry stores, manicure shops, and others. 106 C.M.R. § 701.225; DTA Operations Memo 2012-49 (Oct. 11, 2012). Some stores allow cash back with your EBT purchases. There is no EBT or ATM fee for cash back.
- The PIN: To use your card, you need to have a personal identification number (PIN). The PIN is the key that unlocks your account. DTA will assign you a PIN at the local office or by mail or by calling customer service at 1-800-997-2555. Choose a PIN that is easy for you to remember but hard for other people to guess. Keep your PIN a secret. Never write your PIN on your card.
- Out-of-state or border state purchases: You can use your EBT card at an out-of-state ATM that displays the NYCE logo. However, since not all states have NYCE, it is best to access your EBT cash assistance in Massachusetts.
- Withdrawals: You can make up to two ATM withdrawals a month from your EBT cash benefits account without being charged a fee. After that, the fee is 75 cents for each withdrawal. You can make as many ATM balance inquiries as you want without paying a fee.
- Bank Fees: Some banks charge another fee just for using their ATM. If you withdraw cash from an ATM owned by Bank of America, Citizens Bank or Sovereign Bank, you will not be charged a bank fee. Other ATM owners also offer free EBT cash withdrawals. Always check the fee notices at the ATM before making a withdrawal.
■ Customer Service Needs: Call customer service at 1-800-997-2555:
- If you have questions or problems using your EBT card or secret PIN; or to find out where you can use your card.
- To change your PIN (you can also change your PIN at the local DTA office or to report a lost or stolen EBT card;
- To find out our cash or SNAP (food stamp) account balance;
- Authorized Representatives: If you wish, you can pick some you trust to make withdrawals from your EBT account or buy food for you with your EBT card, either on a regular basis or in an emergency. This is called an "authorized representative." If you want, you can ask DTA to issue two EBT cards – one for you and one for your authorized representative. An authorized representative has access to all your money and SNAP (food stamps), so be sure you trust the person you pick. 106 C.M.R. § 701.370.
- Unused or idle benefits: If you leave any of your benefits in your EBT account for more than a month, your worker may call you in for an eligibility review because DTA suspects you do not really need the money. If you want to prevent this from happening, you should regularly withdraw enough money from your account so that the balance will be less than your monthly grant, or you can switch to direct deposit. Even if you switch to direct deposit, keep in mind that cash balances count towards the asset limit for EAEDC eligibility ($250 for individuals and $500 for couples or families). DTA Operations Memo 2014-8 (Feb. 6, 2014).
If you do not withdraw money from your EBT account for 90 days, DTA will put a stop on your card. You have six months to get the stop lifted and get your benefits back. You will have to explain why you did not withdraw benefits for 90 days. 106 C.M.R. § 706.420(D); DTA Operations Memo 2014-8 (Feb. 6, 2014).
If you have a bank account, your cash benefits will be deposited directly to your bank account. You will still need to use your EBT card to get your SNAP (food stamp) benefits. If you do not want to have your cash benefits deposited to your bank account, you can get your cash benefits through EBT if you lack transportation to the bank or the co-owner of the account has abused you. Or, you can close your bank account and switch to getting your cash benefits through EBT.
Account fees and service charges depend on the bank. Most Massachusetts banks have a basic banking service account with no fees or low fees. See www.basicbanking.org. DTA gets information on bank balances and will cut off your benefits if you exceed the asset limit but will not review your bank balance to see if you are using your benefits and will not expunge unused benefits.
DTA Policy Guidance:
- In limited circumstances where you are temporarily absent from Massachusetts the local DTA office director can authorize sending a check to you. 106 C.M.R. § 706.400(C).
- If you have problems with your EBT card, for example if the machine tells you the wrong amount of your benefits, call EBT Customer Service at 800-997-2555. Contact an advocate if your problems are not fixed.
- Most EAEDC applicants and recipients are exempt from the photo EBT rules. Contact an advocate if the DTA office insists on having a photo on your EBT card and you think you meet an exception.