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Being able to accept EBT and SNAP payments allows food retailers a greater flexibility in helping their customers. Acceptance of these forms of payment methods relies upon credit card processing systems and providers of dedicated merchant accounts that are able to verify that the customer has funds available for the purchase. This guide to accepting EBT and SNAP payments offers helpful advice to retailers seeking to expand their horizons and services to customers.

USDA Authorization for EBT and SNAP Payments
In order to accept EBT and SNAP payments, a retailer must be authorized as a vendor through the USDA. Once the retailer has the authorization, after filling out the application, the equipment for processing the transactions may be installed or reconfigured to accept these forms of payment for the purchase of qualified foods.

Equipment for Accepting EBT and SNAP Payments
The USDA no longer provides new retailers with complimentary equipment with which to process EBT and SNAP payments. Starting on September 21, 2014, retailers must make their own arrangements to purchase or lease the equipment. Because this equipment can be pricey to purchase, one way that retailers can accept these payment methods is to go through a third party credit card processing service. Setting up retailer merchant accounts for EBT and SNAP payment processing allows the retailer to have access to the electronic card swiping machines without having to make the investment in the equipment or to pay a hefty leasing fee. The account merchant provides the machines, set-up and customer support for the equipment.

Processing SNAP and EBT Transactions at the Retail Level
The process for accepting SNAP and EBT payments for a transaction is simple for retailers who are set up with credit card processing services through their online merchant accounts. During the transaction, the customer swipes his or her card at the point of service machine. The customer then enters his or her personal identification number. The cashier enters the transaction amount. The terminal sends the information to the merchant account processor for funds and account verification. Information about the transaction location, date, time, amount and items purchased is made available electronically to the USDA. The merchant receives credit within two business days of processing the transaction. If the account has insufficient funds, this information will be made available at the time of the transaction. Most equipment has the ability to show the customer and the retailer the current account balance.