44-300        H.  Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) System


Table of Contents

The Electronic Benefit Transfer System section includes the following information:




The EBT System

Cash Benefit Restrictions

Out-of-State Card Usage

Process Overview

Toll-Free Customer Service Number

Eligibility Staff Responsibility

Benefit Availability/Staggered Issuance

Primary Person

Card/PIN Issuance and Replacement Procedures

Replacing Lost/Stolen or Damaged Cards





San Diego County utilizes an on-line electronic benefit transfer (EBT) issuance system in which public assistance benefits are stored in a central computer database and can be electronically accessed by cardholders at a point-of-sale (POS) terminal, automated teller machine (ATM), and other electronic fund transfer devices utilizing a reusable plastic card.


Recipients of public assistance in California access their issued benefits with the “Golden State Advantage” EBT card which looks like a bank/ATM debit type card.  EBT is currently used in all states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and Guam.


When determined eligible the recipient's benefit information is electronically loaded each month into a central computer account during the certification period.


A magnetic-stripe on the plastic card is used to access the recipient's account in lieu of issuing cash warrants to purchase goods or services or in lieu of issuing CalFresh coupons to purchase food items at authorized food retailers. Cardholders shall use the same EBT card to access CalFresh and cash benefit accounts which include CalWORKs, Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) and General Relief (GR).



The EBT System

The EBT System performs the following services:


·         Distributes benefits to cardholders through point-of-service (POS) devices

·         Manages the EBT card information for the authorization of transactions and the status of cards

·         Maintains authorization files of cases, clients and benefits

·         Provides 24 hours a day, 7 days a week customer service support for cardholders and merchants

·         Provides on-line access to the authorization database and transaction history files

·         Reports on and reconciles all financial and maintenance activities including out-of-state card transactions

·         Pays transactions between the County and merchants for benefits they distribute

·         Provides merchant file management


For additional information about the California EBT Project clients, workers or retailers can visit www.ebtproject.ca.gov



Cash Benefit Restrictions

California law establishes CalWORKs as a welfare program which provides cash aid and services to eligible needy California families. The intent of the CalWORKs program is to assist in providing life sustaining necessities such as food, clothing and shelter.


California EBT cardholders cannot access cash benefits at ATMs and POS devices in liquor stores that are not federally authorized to accept CalFresh benefits due to the fact they do not sell food.  


Additionally, California EBT cardholders cannot access cash benefits at casinos, poker rooms, card rooms, adult entertainment businesses, bail bonds businesses, night clubs/saloons/taverns, bingo halls, race tracks, gun/ammunition stores, cruise ships, psychic readers, smoking shops, cannabis dispensaries, tattoo/piercing shops, and spa/massage salons.


California’s EBT vendor has also deactivated cash access to EBT cardholders at some out-of-state casinos, adult entertainment establishments, and cruise ships.


For a listing of Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) approved retailers click on the following link: www.snapretailerlocator.com



Out-of-State Card Usage

CalWORKs regulations allow for individuals to be out-of-state for up to 30 days. Past the 30 days workers are required to follow-up and inquire about the individual’s absence from the state.


All 58 California counties receive monthly reports that identify individuals who have performed their EBT transactions outside of California. This information is used by counties to investigate whether an individual is complying with eligibility requirements regarding residency in California.


Various other EBT reports are generated for counties that provide information to better assist in identifying potential cases of fraud (e.g. out-of-state usage, excessive card replacement, etc.)



Process Overview

·         The Human Services Specialist determines the client's eligibility for benefits.

·         The case and client are added to the EBT system database by using the EBT Administrative Terminal or batch maintenance process at application.

·         Cards are issued to the Primary Person or the Authorized Representative (AR for CalFresh) through the EBT Administrative Terminal. Cardholders will then select their Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) using a PIN selection device in the County office after the intake interview.

·         The County sends updated benefit authorizations to the EBT system for the case and client. A batch file, generated from the County's computer, is sent through a file transmission link.

·         Transactions are sent daily when cases are first granted and monthly for ongoing benefits.

·         Merchants review their EBT total receipts at the end of their business day. The EBT System's POS devices provide administrative transactions to report the merchants POS activity.

·         Cardholders can call an audio response unit (ARU) to check their benefit balance, review their last 10 transactions, or be transferred to a Customer Service representative to report their card lost, or stolen. Cardholders can call the toll-free ARU phone number 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Merchants can call an ARU to receive authorization for voucher transactions when the EBT system is down. This toll-free number is also available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

·         Cardholders can also visit the EBT Client Website to perform the activities listed above.

·         Caseworkers, other County personnel and merchants can call the Customer Service Desk (1-877-328-9677) at any time. To speak with a representative Merchants call the toll-free ARU POS Merchants Management Support Line (1-800-831-5235) and select the Help Desk option. The EBT vendor provides customer service support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to answer questions or address concerns.

·         Money is moved on a daily basis to networks, retailers, and third-party processors to pay transactions performed by cardholders against their EBT account.

·         The EBT System reports all daily activity to the County system. Reports of all maintenance and financial activity are created after the system cutoff time. A file of the daily financial activity is also provided to the County along with other reports.

·         The state transfers funds to its settlement account for EBT.



Toll-Free Customer Service Number

The 24 hours a day, 7 days a week EBT Customer Service (1-877-328-9677) capability includes:


·         Changing a card's status

·         Deactivating a client's/AR’s personal identification number (PIN)

·         Changing a PIN

·         Viewing client/cardholder account and card information

·         Viewing transaction history detail

·         Providing the client with a copy of their transaction history


The Telecommunications Relay Service for Hearing/Speech Impaired is: TTY: 1-800-735-2929


Click on the attached link for a brochure about the California Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Card which is available in multiple languages.



Eligibility Staff Responsibility

The primary role of the worker is to explain the EBT system, authorize cash aid benefits to eligible clients and to generate a request to clerical to issue/replace an EBT card and/or PIN.



Benefit Availability/
Staggered Issuance

Public Assistance benefits are issued on a staggered basis for both the CalWORKs and CalFresh programs based on the last number of the recipient’s case number.  For CalWORKs:


If the case number ends in:

Then the issuance date is the:

1, 2, or 3

1st day of the month

4, 5, 6, or 7

2nd day of the month

8, 9, or 0

3rd day of the month


Benefits are available on weekends and holidays.  The balance of benefits at the end of the month will automatically be added to the next month’s balance.



Primary Person

The “primary person” is the person who will be issued an EBT card, allowed to select a Personal Identification Number (PIN) and have access to the cash aid benefits. The majority of the time the primary person will be the case payee/head of household. However, in some situations (for instance husband and wife), the payee/Head of Household may not be the person who would normally pay for rent or shop for food.  If the worker is unsure the client will be asked to identify the person who will receive the EBT card. The primary person can be any CW Assistance Unit (AU) member.



Card/PIN Issuance and Replacement Procedures

Before a card can be issued, information on the primary person must be established in the Electronic Payment Processing and Information Control (EPPIC)/EBT system.


Prior to authorizing the issuance of the EBT card the worker will ensure that the primary person has signed the CSF 67 EBT Responsibility Statement. A new CSF 67 must be signed and maintained with each CalWORKs application. A copy of the primary person's valid picture identification will be document captured in the case file Document Retrieval System. The case file photo identification already in the case file will be compared to the client's verification along with comparing the client's signature to signatures in the case file.

Refer to How To # 315 – How To Issue an EBT Card to the Primary Payee/AR



Replacing Lost/Stolen or Damaged Cards

Lost/Stolen Cards


Primary persons are to report lost/stolen cards to the EBT Customer Service Desk at their toll free number (1-877-328-9677) and have the card deactivated. This will prevent anyone from using the card to obtain benefits. Once a card has been deactivated a new card must be issued. The client will be instructed by Customer Service to call his/her worker. The worker will make an appointment for the primary person/AR to come into the office to receive a replacement card and if necessary select a new PIN. When the client is in the office the worker will complete and send a screen print of the Maintain Card Requests screen in CalWIN authorizing clerical to issue a new card and if needed have the client select a new PIN.

It is important that the primary person understands the need to report a lost or stolen card to the EBT Customer Service Desk immediately. Any funds spent prior to a card being reported to the EBT Customer Service Desk will not be replaced.

Note: A new card cannot be issued unless the old card has been deactivated.  Workers shall provide a replacement EBT card to the cardholder within 3 business days following the cardholder’s request for a replacement card.

Refer to How To # 143 – How To Request a Replacement EBT Card

Damaged Cards


Primary persons who report that their card is damaged or not functioning properly are not to call the EBT Customer Service Desk. Since they have the card in their possession, their benefits are not at risk. The client must make an appointment with their worker to pick up a replacement card. When the recipient is in the office the worker will complete and send a screen print of the Maintain Card Requests screen in CalWIN instructing clerical to reissue a new card and if needed have the recipient select a PIN. Before a replacement card can be issued the status of the old card must be changed from "active" to "card damaged".


Forgotten or Compromised PINS


If the primary person/AR forgets his/her PIN or believes that someone else knows what it is they will be instructed to call the EBT Customer Service Desk (1-877-328-9677) to have a hold placed on the account.  The Customer Service Desk will help the client to change their PIN or they can go to their local Family Resource Center office. When the client is in the office the worker will complete the Maintain Card Requests screen and send a screen print to clerical instructing them to have the client select a new PIN.


Note:  The worker must document an EBT card/PIN issued or replaced in the case comments.