According to Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) data, 13.9% of households are either food insecure or struggle to afford a nutritionally adequate diet. To bridge the “nutrition gap,” the federal government, through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), runs the nation’s anti-hunger program—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
SNAP is meant to alleviate hunger in the US by supplementing the food budget of low-income families and other disadvantaged groups, like the homeless, the elderly, and people with disabilities. For easier administration and a broader reach, SNAP is administered at the state level.
Today, SNAP agencies in almost all states use electronic accounts to distribute benefits and other forms of government aid, like TANF. Once you qualify to receive government aid, you’re issued an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that you use to access and spend your food stamp benefits.
The problem is recipients cannot use their SNAP funds on everything. The USDA has a set of restrictions on what you can and can’t redeem food stamps on. It ensures that recipients don’t use their EBT cards to splurge on non-essential luxuries. For instance, SNAP rules prohibit recipients from using their EBT card to purchase hot prepared food at the point of sale. Mostly, that’s what fast-food restaurants like McDonald’s sell —hot and prepared food.
That said, SNAP allows recipients to buy cold food items like take-and-bake pizza, chicken products, bread, sandwiches, snacks, salads, and soft drink beverages that can be carried and prepared at home. In addition, you can find a few SNAP-eligible items at fast food places like Jack In The Box, Wendy’s, Starbucks or Subway.
Famous for its hamburgers, McDonald’s is the largest restaurant chain by revenue. It has nearly 38,000 fast-food outlets in over 100 countries, of which over 14,000 are in the United States. Their famous $1, $2, $3 Dollar Menu features burgers, french fries, soft beverages, wraps, cheeseburgers, milkshakes, fish, salads, sandwiches, desserts, wraps, smoothies, and fruits.
What a great place to eat! According to CBSNEWS, Americans are within 115 miles of a McDonald’s. With over 14,000 locations in the US, you’re pretty sure to find a McDonald’s within a driving distance and buy a value meal. After all, it takes energy to build a seven-figure nest egg. Plus, you can’t save a $10,000 emergency fund on an empty stomach.
McDonald’s is also among the 24-hour restaurant locations you can visit anytime if you get caught in a jam-packed schedule and can’t cook at night.
For the more than 38 million SNAP recipients in the country, finding a McDonald’s that takes food stamps is a blessing. It’s especially true for the elderly, the disabled, and the homeless who can’t cook or don’t have the means to carry and prepare food at home.
Can you use an EBT card at McDonald’s?
Short Answer: You can use an EBT card at McDonald’s if you live in a state that participates in the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP). That’s because McDonald’s only accepts EBT in select states that extend SNAP through the RMP. It allows disadvantaged SNAP recipients to purchase hot and prepared foods. Unfortunately, only a few states participate in the RMP, including California, Arizona, Michigan, Maryland, Rhode Island, and Illinois. Specifically, McDonald’s only takes EBT cards at select locations in California and Arizona.
Even in the states that participate in the restaurant meals program, you’ll only find a few SNAP-approved McDonald’s restaurants that take EBT cards. For instance, McDonald’s doesn’t take EBT cards in Rhode Island, Illinois, Michigan, and Maryland. Even in California and Arizona, the two states with the most elaborate RMPs, not all McDonald’s locations take EBT cards. So even if you and your state participate in the RMP, you won’t be able to use your card at McDonald’s unless you find an RMP-approved fast food restaurant.
That’s because it’s usually at the discretion of SNAP agencies in every state to decide which restaurants or retailers should be approved for the RMP. Thus, the problem isn’t McDonald’s, but your state’s RMP regulations. If your state allows it, McDonald’s will happily process your food stamps and give you the hamburger.
That said, RMP-approved McDonald’s locations in Arizona and California only take EBT cards for in-store purchases. You cannot use EBT payments for McDonald’s online or the mobile app to order food delivery or pickup via UberEats, DoorDash, or Just Eats. For example, to order a hamburger online, you’ll have to use another payment method like a debit/credit card with a chip.
Frugal Reality Takeaway: McDonald’s doesn’t accept EBT cards in most states. Only select McDonald’s restaurants in California and Arizona take EBT cards. In addition, you can only use your EBT benefits if you live in a state that participates in the RMP-approved fast food restaurant.
Does McDonald’s Take EBT?
Generally, McDonald’s doesn’t take EBT cards in most states. Only a few McDonald’s locations in California and Arizona take EBT as a payment method for in-store purchases.
Usually, SNAP rules don’t allow recipients to use their SNAP funds on hot, prepared food at the checkout. Instead, you can only use SNAP benefits on staple foods and grocery items that you can carry and prepare at home.
You can also purchase healthy foods like seafood, discount meat, and cold foods like meal delivery kits and non-alcoholic beverages that you can quickly warm or prepare at home. The rules are meant to discourage SNAP recipients from splurging their food stamps on expensive, non-essential luxuries.
It creates problems for the elderly, the homeless, and people with disabilities that can’t cook or don’t have the means to carry and prepare meals at home. That’s why the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) was created. The RMP allows disadvantaged SNAP recipients who are homeless, too old, or disabled to eat out at restaurants.
While federal laws allow it, SNAP leaves it upon individual states to decide who qualifies for the program and what restaurants to approve. The downside is, only a few states participate in the RMP, and even the ones that do, not all fast-food restaurants are approved SNAP retailers.
Before a restaurant can start accepting food stamps, it must meet set criteria per SNAP agencies. Unfortunately, food sold at fast food restaurants is mostly labeled “unhealthy,” and RMP participating states only approve a few restaurants to participate in the program.
Thus, the minimum requirement is that you and your state must participate in the RMP to use your EBT card at an RMP-approved fast-food restaurant.
Most of its fast food meals aren’t RMP-approved for McDonald’s, except for a few in Arizona and California. That’s why you’ll only find a few McDonalds that take EBT in those two states, and unless you live there, you won’t be able to use your EBT at McDonald’s.
What McDonald’s That Accept EBT Near Me?
Nearby McDonalds that accept EBT depends on whether you live in a state with or without a restaurant meals program. Most fast food restaurants that accept EBT are concentrated in states with the Restaurant Meals Program.
You’ll find McDonald’s restaurants that take EBT if you live in Arizona or California. But, first, you must qualify for the RMP to purchase hot or prepared food at a McDonald’s.
McDonald’s that Take EBT near me in Arizona
Arizona has an elaborate RMP program, and McDonald’s is one of the fast-food restaurants approved to take EBT at many locations throughout the state. In total, there are over 80 McDonald’s that take EBT in Arizona.
Here’s a list of McDonald’s that accept EBT near me in Arizona:
- Bullhead City
- Cave Creek
- El Mirage
- Fort Mohave
- Lake Havasu
- Show Low
- Tuba City
- Window Rock
See all Arizona’s participating restaurants and retailers, including their locations, addresses, and contact information.
McDonald’s That Accept EBT near me in California
California has many McDonald’s fast food restaurants that take EBT SNAP. It’s one of the states with an elaborate Restaurant Meals Program, and many approved McDonald’s.
Here’s a list of California counties that participate in the CalFresh RMP:
- Los Angeles
- San Diego
- Santa Cruz
- San Luis Obispo
- Santa Clara
- Santa Cruz
To find specific McDonald’s locations that accept EBT in the California counties, visit the California EBT cardholder Portal. Then, select your county and insert the keyword “McDonald’s” into the “retailer/bank name” field.
What Food Can You Buy at McDonald’s with Food Stamps?
The foods you can buy at McDonald’s with food stamps are based on where you live in a state that participates in the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP). Even so, the RMP program is meant for the elderly, the homeless, and people with disabilities who can’t cook at home. Thus, you must also qualify for the RMP per your state’s requirement to buy food at McDonald’s with food stamps.
In the case of McDonald’s, only select locations in Arizona and California participate in the RMP. So if you live in any of the above counties, you can buy almost any foods sold at RMP-approved McDonald fast food restaurants in your state. Simply walk in and order anything on the menu. No questions will be asked if you have a sufficient SNAP balance.
If you don’t qualify for the restaurant meal program in your state, but there’s a SNAP-approved McDonald’s location nearby, you can only purchase cold food items that you can carry and prepare at home. It’s rare, but there’s no harm in trying.
Here’s a list of SNAP-eligible cold foods that you can buy at McDonald’s with food stamps:
- Bread and cereals
- Snack crackers and chips
- Dairy products like milk, yogurt, cheese
- Fruits and vegetables
- Cold sandwiches and salads
- Dessert items like ice cream, cookies, brownies
- Soft drinks, energy drinks, and beverages like Sprite, Red Bull, and Pepsi
- Protein shakes, crushed ice, and filtered water.
If you live in a state that doesn’t take SNAP through the RMP, your case is closed —you can’t buy any food at McDonald’s with food stamps. The only way around it is to receive other forms of government aid like the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
In that case, you can withdraw your cash benefits at Quest ATMs that dispense $10 and use it to buy hot food at McDonald’s. You can also get cash back on your TANF benefits at places like Walgreens, CVS, Safeway, and other stores that give the most cash back on debit card purchases.
Otherwise, consider using a different payment method for the hamburger. Instead, save your SNAP funds to buy staple food items from SNAP-approved retailers for home preparation.
See our guide on grocery stores that accept EBT for home delivery or pickup.
What Food Can’t You Buy at McDonald’s with Food Stamps?
You won’t be able to splurge your SNAP funds on non-essential luxuries anywhere, including McDonald’s or pizza places that accept EBT.
- Selling alcoholic beverages like wine, liquor, beer, and spirits
- Tobacco products like cigarettes
- Vitamins and medicine
- feminine products
- Cleaning supplies
- Pet food
- Household products
Also, SNAP benefits cannot be redeemed on vacations or travel services like booking hotels that accept cash payments or other non-food items like lottery tickets, tattoos, and bail payments.
Can you use EBT on DoorDash Fast Food Delivery?
No, you can’t use EBT for DoorDash fast food delivery. Since DoorDash delivers for McDonald’s and other fast-food restaurants, many people wonder whether they can use EBT on DoorDash fast food delivery.
Unfortunately, DoorDash doesn’t accept EBT payments for food delivery or pickup orders. It’s because the app deals with hot, prepared foods which aren’t eligible for EBT payments in most states. Thus, they don’t qualify to participate in the USDA pilot program.
That said, you can order McDonald’s delivery on McDonald’s app, DoorDash, Just Eats, and Uber Eats with McDelivery. In addition, you can pay for your food with other accepted payment methods like an unexpired credit card, money on your Reliacard, or using a debit card without a PIN.
Recommended read: Fast-food Restaurants that Accept EBT for Delivery.
What Forms of Payment Does McDonald’s Take?
The majority of McDonald’s don’t accept EBT. Thus, it’s good to carry an alternative payment method before you grab the keys to drive to your favorite fast food restaurant or order McDonald’s food delivery or pickup from the comfort of your house.
However, McDonald’s doesn’t accept PayPal. The only way you can pay with PayPal is by linking your PayPal account to your Android Pay or Apple Pay wallet and then pay with your mobile device at the restaurant.
Does McDonald’s Accept TANF Benefits?
If you cannot use your EBT card or SNAP benefits at McDonald’s, it’s okay. You might still be able to use your TANF benefits. TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and you can purchase meals at McDonald’s even if your EBT card is not accepted.
To be eligible for TANF, there are some qualifications that you need to have. You must be a sole resident of the state you apply in and be a US citizen. You can also be a legal or qualified alien.
Your employment status should be unemployed or underemployed, and your income levels should be low or very low. Besides these, you also need to have qualifications like having a child 18 years old or younger, being pregnant, or being the head of the household at 18 years of age or younger.
If you’re eligible under these conditions, you can apply for TANF benefits in your state and obtain aid from the government.
What are the Benefits that You Can Get with TANF?
TANF was created to assist families with children when the parents cannot provide food, housing, and other basic needs for the family. The TANF program is funded by the federal government, which provides grants to states to run the program.
The goals of TANF include the following:
- Providing assistance for raising children in their own family or their relatives’ family
- Reducing parents’ dependency on the government by offering services like preparation for jobs, work, and marriage assistance
- Reducing the risk of unwanted pregnancies that happen out of marriage
- Encouraging the rise of families with two parents for a healthier family structure
The TANF program was started in 1996 to replace the AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children) program. With TANF, the government provides cash benefits to eligible families.
Because the TANF program provides cash benefits to eligible families, some stores will allow you to get cashback for the amount higher than the cost of your purchase. Some stores might also allow a cash withdrawal without making you purchase anything.
ATM withdrawals are also a part of TANF benefits. However, there is a limit on these withdrawals and the locations where you can get them. You can only use ATMs that do not have a surcharge. You also only get two free ATM withdrawals per month, with extra withdrawals costing you 65 cents per use.
Can I Use My Card for Cash and Pay for Food Together?
While you can certainly use your card for cash transactions and for purchasing food, there will be some factors that you will need to keep in mind before you choose to carry out these transactions.
First of all, the store where you’re purchasing your food should allow the use of the card for both these types of transactions.
Secondly, if you have a transaction limit on your card, you will need to keep track of how many transactions you’re carrying out each month. In this case, paying for food and carrying out a cash transaction at the same store will count as two different transactions.
Does McDonald Accept EBT Summary
McDonald’s has over 14,000 locations in the United States. That makes it a convenient place to enjoy a meal with free unlimited Internet. To use your EBT card at McDonald’s restaurants, you must live in a state that participates in the RMP and qualify for the program per your state’s requirements.
Unfortunately, not many states allow SNAP through the RMP. So far, McDonald’s only accepts EBT cards in Arizona and California. So if you live there, use our list above to find an RMP-approved McDonald’s restaurant in your area. Then, go ahead and enjoy your hamburger, sandwich, salad, chicken, and non-alcoholic beverages. If you don’t qualify for the RMP, you may be able to purchase cold foods at the store manager’s discretion to carry and prepare at home.
McDelivery and the McDonald’s app don’t accept EBT as a payment method. Thus, you can’t use your EBT card to order McDonald’s food delivery or pickup via DoorDash, Uber Eats or Just Eats. But you can use Visa, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express cards.
If you live in a state that doesn’t participate in the RMP, or there isn’t an RMP-approved McDonald’s in your RMP participating state, you won’t be able to use your food stamps there. In that case, consider using another payment method like cash, debit, credit card, Reliacard, Google Pay, or Apple Pay and keep your EBT balance for other SNAP-eligible purposes.