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Extra Discounts Your EBT Card Could Offer, From Free Museums to the Farmers Market

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Two hands met over a card.
 (Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

More than 5.2 million people in California receive CalFresh benefits — also known as food stamps, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP.

And if you’re one of them, in addition to the CalFresh funds that get added to your card every month for groceries, your EBT card can actually do a lot more.

By just showing your EBT card — officially known in California as your Golden State Advantage card — you may be able to access other types of discounts that can include free museum tickets, free cash to spend at farmers’ markets and a possible discount for the freeway toll lane.

Keep reading for more money-saving strategies for your EBT card. And if you have any extra tips for making those CalFresh dollars stretch a little more, we’d love to hear from you via the box below. [hyperlink to Hearken box]

And remember, if your income has dropped in the past few months or there are more people living in your home now, you may be able to receive more CalFresh benefits. Check how much you can receive from CalFresh each month based on your income and household size — and then contact the agency that manages your SNAP benefits.

1. Get $30 off your internet bill each month

Commercial internet plans with big providers can cost you more than $100 a month, depending on how much data and devices you’re using. However, the federal government’s Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) gives families with low income a $30 discount each month on their internet bill.

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If you receive CalFresh benefits, you automatically qualify for this program. Not all internet providers participate in the program, but major brands like AT&T and Comcast offer this discount.

One big caveat: The ACP program is ending due to a lack of federal funding and will only offer participants this discount until existing funds run out — which is projected to be in April 2024. To get onto the program, you’ll need to complete an online application with the Federal Communications Commission as soon as possible and before the deadline of 8:59 PM PST, February 7.

Depending on your location and what your needs are, you may have to change internet providers to receive the discount.

Your application will need to verify that you receive CalFresh benefits. The program also offers an additional $100 off to buy a laptop, desktop computer or tablet from certain internet providers that are participating in ACP. You also qualify for ACP if you are on Medi-Cal or receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Women, Infants, & Children (WIC) benefits.

Read more about the ACP program in our 2023 guide.

2. Get free museum tickets around the Bay Area 

The Bay Area has so many fantastic museums with fun weekend activities for both grown-ups and kids. The problem is that getting into these museums can often be just plain expensive — two adult tickets plus two kids’ tickets at San Francisco’s Academy of Sciences comes to just shy of $140.

But you can get into many museums for free (or at a really good discounted price) by just showing your EBT card, along with a valid California ID, at the door. This is thanks to the nationwide Museums for All program, which offers folks receiving SNAP benefits the chance to get into hundreds of museums for free or at a discounted rate. This includes dozens of museums in the Bay Area, including the Exploratorium in San Francisco and the Chabot Space & Science Center in Oakland.

Some museums, like the San José Museum of Art or the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, will also let you in for free, along with several other guests that come with you. If a museum isn’t offering free admission, you can get a pretty good discounted rate instead: At the Chabot Space & Science Center, you will only have to pay $1 for each ticket once you show your EBT card.

See the complete list of Bay Area museums that participate in the program in our 2023 guide.

3. Get extra cash for groceries at the farmers markets

If you’ve always thought that getting your fresh produce from the farmers market was too expensive, this might be what convinces you to check one out. At certain markets, all you have to do is show your EBT card, select how much money you want to draw from your EBT card, and you will receive tokens for double that dollar amount to spend at the market to “match” your own funds. You can either see it as doubling your money or getting a 50% discount on what you buy.

This is thanks to Market Match, a statewide program that distributes funds to farmers markets across California. Markets can only give these funds to people with EBT cards and the money can only be used for purchases at the market (that is why you will receive tokens instead of regular cash). Not all farmers markets participate in this program, but you can use the Farmers’ Market Finder online tool, where all you need to do is add your zip code and you’ll get a list of the markets closest to you.

Learn more about the Market Match program here, and watch KQED’s video on how to use your EBT card at your local market:

@kqedofficial If you use CalFresh, otherwise known as food stamps, you could be getting extra money to spend at your local farmer’s market. It’s called Market Match, and here’s a step-by-step guide for when you use your EBT card there. #CalFresh #FoodStamps #EBT #FarmersMarket ♬ original sound – kqed

Additionally, some supermarkets offer discounts to customers who show their EBT card at the register. For example, Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco offers folks with CalFresh a 10% discount on food items.

4. You might get a discount for driving the I-880 Express Lanes

If you commute through the East Bay and take Interstate 880 anywhere between Oakland and Milpitas, you know that hopping on the Express Lane can save you time — but it’s also not cheap. Toll rates change according to the flow of traffic and the price can rise to as high as $15 during heavy traffic.

Last year, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission launched Express Lanes START, aimed at drivers with low income. If you have START, you can get 50% off your toll if you’re driving alone, 75% if you are driving with one other person in your car, and if there are two or more passengers, the whole toll is removed for that ride. You can apply online on Express Lanes START’s website.

You can upload a scan of your EBT card or your most recent tax return — but to qualify, your 2023 earnings should also be less than $29,160 for a single person or $60,000 for a family of four.

Learn more about applying for the Express Lanes START discount with our guide.

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5. Get a discount on Amazon Prime membership

The regular monthly rate for Amazon Prime is $14.99, but the tech giant offers a discounted rate of $6.99 through its Prime Access program. You also qualify for Prime Access if you are on Medicaid, SSI, WIC or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). You can also use your EBT card to purchase groceries for delivery using Amazon.

You’ll need an Amazon account, sign up for a free 30-day trial and upload a photo of your EBT card and state ID. A payment option is also required, which Amazon will charge once your 30-day trial has ended — so set a reminder to cancel your trial if you don’t want to continue and be charged.

Read more about registering for Prime Access here.

Tell us: What else do you need information about?

At KQED News, we know that it can sometimes be hard to track down the answers to navigate life in the Bay Area in 2024. We’ve published clear, practical explainers and guides about COVID-19, how to cope with intense winter weather, and how to exercise your right to protest safely.

So tell us: What do you need to know more about? Tell us, and you could see your question answered online or on social media. What you submit will make our reporting stronger, and help us decide what to cover here on our site and on KQED Public Radio, too.

This story includes reporting from KQED’s Nisa Khan, Carly Severn, Sarah Mohamad and Jasmine Garnett.

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