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Does McDonald’s Take EBT in California?

Does McDonald's Take EBT in California?

With over 40,000 locations around the globe, McDonald’s is the most popular and largest fast food chain in the world. Every day, it serves over 68 million people and thereby caters to the fast food needs of about 1% of the world population.

In the U.S., McDonald’s serves impressive meals which are consistently delicious in more than 13,000 diverse locations. You are likely to pass by its iconic golden arches every day. McDonald’s is also among the 24-hour restaurant locations you can visit whenever you want to treat yourself and your family to delectable food without cooking it.

Finding a McDonald’s that accepts food benefits is a godsend for more than four million CalFresh recipients in California. It is especially true for the vulnerable groups that can not cook their food or do not have the means to do so.

Is McDonald's in California accepting EBT cash

In this post, you will find everything you need to know about the McDonald’s locations that accept EBT payments in California. Also, who qualifies to buy hot meals in McDonald’s with their EBT cards and a list of food options you can choose.

Does McDonald’s take EBT food benefits in California?

In a nutshell: If you live in a county participating in the CalFresh Restaurant Meals Program (RMP), you can utilize your EBT food benefits at McDonald’s. Since only CalFresh recipients who qualify for the RMP can use their EBT cards to buy hot foods served at McDonald’s.

RMP enables CalFresh recipients who are vulnerable, including the elderly, individuals with disabilities, and the homeless, to purchase hot and prepared meals at a participating restaurant.

Not all McDonald’s locations accept EBT payments. Even in counties that partake in the RMP, you will not be able to use your EBT card unless you find a McDonald’s that is RMP authorized. Nevertheless, RMP-approved McDonald’s locations in California only accept EBT cards for in-store payments. EBT payments are not allowed when ordering food online or through McDonald’s mobile app.

In greater detail: Typically, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) guidelines prevent CalFresh recipients from using their EBT food benefits at the checkout for hot, prepared food.
Moreover, you can only utilize your food benefits on nutritious foods and groceries you can prepare yourself. It can include discounted meats, seafood, non-alcoholic drinks, and meal delivery kits. These limits are meant to dissuade CalFresh recipients from using their food benefits for extravagant, non-essential indulgences.

It causes difficulties for the disadvantaged populations who are unable to cook or lack the means to carry and prepare their food. This was also the rationale for California’s implementation of the CalFresh Restaurant Meals Program. The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) leaves it up to individual counties to determine who qualifies for the California restaurant meals program and which restaurants are authorized.

To be eligible for the Snap Restaurant Meals Program, a CalFresh recipient must belong to one of the groups listed below:

  • elderly, i.e., adults at the age of 60 or older
  • people with disabilities
  • spouses of individuals from one of the previous groups
  • people experiencing homelessness

Unfortunately, only a few counties participate in the program. Even within the participating counties, not all fast-food restaurants are RMP-approved. A restaurant must meet specific standards imposed by the CalFresh federal agency to be RMP-approved. According to these standards, most fast foods are classified as unhealthy.

Hence, the RMP participating counties in California only let a select number of fast food businesses join the program.

Basically, you and your local county must participate in the California restaurant meals program to redeem your EBT food benefits at an RMP-approved McDonald’s. Except for a few, most fast food meals in McDonald’s are not RMP-approved. Thus, only a few McDonald’s locations accept EBT cards in participating counties in California.

Does McDonald’s take EBT cash in California?

Does McDonald's in California accept EBT cash?

If you receive EBT cash benefits through CalWORKs or a similar program, then you may be able to utilize those EBT cash benefits at your nearby Mcdonald’s. California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) is a public assistance program that offers financial aid and other services to qualifying families with a child(ren). It operates in all 58 counties of California.

If your local McDonald’s accepts EBT payments, you can use your EBT card like a debit card to pay with your cash benefits. Alternatively, if a McDonald’s near you does not take EBT payments, you can use your EBT card to withdraw your cash benefits at an ATM. Then pay in cash for your meal. Please note that some ATMs charge a surcharge or transaction fee.

To be eligible for CalWORKs cash benefits, you must be a U.S. citizen, legal or qualified immigrant, and have a permanent residence in California. You must have a low income or be unemployed. In addition, You must belong to one of the listed categories:

  • Have a child(ren) who is 18 years old or younger
  • You are pregnant
  • You must be at least 18 years old and the head of your family
  • You can apply for CalWorks online at BenefitsCal.com or contact your local county social services office in case of any queries.

Does your local McDonald’s take EBT in California?

California, alongside Arizona, has one of the most extensive RMP programs. McDonald’s is one of the fast-food chains that accept EBT at numerous authorized locations across the state.

In California, you can find a nearby McDonald’s that takes EBT cards based on whether you live in a county with or without a EBT restaurant meals program. Most fast food restaurants that accept EBT are concentrated in counties participating in the RMP. Such counties include:

  • Los Angeles
  • Orange
  • Riverside
  • San Diego
  • San Luis Obispo

To find a McDonald’s outlet that takes EBT payments in your local county, go to the California EBT Cardholder Portal. Next, choose your county and search for ‘McDonald’s’ in the Retailer tab. Instead, you can use the EBT Map Locator to locate a McDonald’s that accepts EBT near you.

What can you buy with your EBT card in McDonald’s?

McDonald's accepts EBT cards. What can you buy

You can use your EBT Food benefits to purchase meals at McDonald’s only if you qualify for the CalFresh Restaurant Meals Program. However, not all McDonald’s outlets in California participate in the RMP. Yet, if you live in one of the five counties listed above, you can practically buy any meal sold at an RMP-approved McDonald’s near you.

You can choose anything from the Dollar Menu, buy a Happy Meal, or a Combo Meal. In addition, you can choose among a variety of burgers, sandwiches, breakfast options, baked goods, desserts, shakes, and other non-alcoholic drinks. You can easily use your EBT card, like a debit card, to order anything from the menu. You will not face any issues unless your EBT card has insufficient food benefits.

If you live in a county that does not accept CalFresh benefits through the RMP, you will not be able to buy your meals at McDonald’s. The only alternative is if you qualify for additional financial aid programs such as CalWORKS. In that situation, you can withdraw your cash benefits at a nearby ATM and use them to purchase hot meals at McDonald’s.

If you are not eligible for the CalFresh Restaurant Meal Program but live in a county with an RMP-approved McDonald’s near you, you can only buy cold food items with your EBT card. Although, you should check with the cashier before placing your order as it is not common practice.

What cold food items can you buy at McDonald’s with EBT?

All CalFresh recipients with a valid EBT card can use their food benefits to purchase cold and fresh food items.

Cold food options that you can buy at EBT-accepting McDonald’s include the following:

  • Bread and cereals
  • Dairy products such as milk and yogurt
  • Coffee and tea
  • Salads
  • Fresh fruits and veggies
  • Cold sandwiches
  • Baked desserts such as pies, muffins, cinnamon rolls, cookies, and brownies
  • Ice creams, shakes, and smoothies
  • Packed snacks such as crackers, and potato chips

What can you not buy with your EBT card at McDonald’s?

If you use your EBT card at McDonald's, what can't you buy

CalFresh policy prevents CalFresh recipients from splurging their EBT food benefits on non-essential items at all restaurants, including McDonald’s. Irrespective of your county participating in the restaurant meals program, CalFresh prohibits you from buying the following items at McDonald’s:

  • Alcoholic beverages such as liquor, beer, and wine.
  • Cigarettes and other tobacco products
  • Medicines and supplements
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Cosmetics
  • Household supplies
  • Pet food
  • Other non-food items

Note: Keep in mind that these restrictions do not apply to EBT cash payments and are only applicable to EBT food benefits.

Does McDonald’s take online EBT for delivery and pickup orders?

No, you can not use online EBT payments to order food delivery or pickup from McDonald’s.

McDonald’s works with food delivery apps such as DoorDash, Uber Eats, and Grubhub for McDelivery and pickup orders. These mobile delivery apps do not accept EBT payments for food delivery or pickup orders. It is due to the fact that most U.S. states, including California, do not accept EBT payments for hot, prepared foods. Therefore, they do not qualify to participate in the CalFresh program.

You can pay for your food instead using one of the other payment cards accepted at McDonald’s, such as a debit or credit card, Visa, and MasterCard.

What payment methods does McDonald’s accept?

McDonald's accepts what types of payments?

RMP-approved McDonald’s locations accept EBT food and cash benefits as payments. But, McDelivery and pickup orders do not accept online EBT payments.

With the exception of a small number of RMP-approved locations, most McDonald’s do not take EBT in California. Thus, it is better to have a backup payment option, on hand, before rushing to your nearest McDonald’s whenever you get cravings or placing an order for McDelivery or pickup from the comforts of your home.

McDonald’s takes card payments through debit, credit, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. If you are an Apple user and your card is linked to the Apple Wallet, Apple Pay will automatically appear as a payment option in the McDonald’s app. Similarly, you can choose Google Pay as a payment option if you have added a card to the Google Pay app on your Android device. McDonald’s also takes Arch gift cards.

Can you make a combined payment with EBT food and cash benefits to purchase a meal at McDonald’s?

It depends. Essentially, you can easily split your payment between your EBT food and cash benefits to cover the bill for your order. But, there are a few factors that you need to bear in mind before you decide to carry out these transactions.

First, determine whether or not you are qualified to use both payment methods to purchase the food you want. Secondly, confirm that a McDonald’s from where you want your food accepts an EBT card for both payment options.

And finally, you must always inquire with the cashier before placing your order about your need to make a hybrid payment, as not all EBT locations allow such transactions.

What other fast food restaurants accept EBT in California?

In California, what other fast food restaurants accept EBT?

There are 16 counties in California that participate in the CalFresh Restaurant Meals Program. Nonetheless, as previously stated, only five of the 16 counties have McDonald’s locations that have received RMP approval. If you live in a county that does not have RMP-approved McDonald’s locations or if the nearest one is too far away, you can purchase your meals at other authorized fast food restaurants in your county.

Apart from McDonald’s, some fast food chains that accept EBT in California include:

  • Subway
  • Pizza Hut
  • Taco Bell
  • Burger King
  • KFC
  • Jack in the Box
  • Domino’s Pizza
  • El Pollo Loco
  • Wendy’s
  • Carl Jr

Not all locations of the listed fast food chains will accept EBT cards in California. Their RMP participation will vary depending on location and county. Since each franchise is individually owned or run, each restaurant will require CDSS authorization to participate in the RMP.

You can find a complete list of RMP-approved restaurants in California here or search for a Restaurant meal program near me via Google Map.


According to the USDA guidelines, CalFresh recipients can not use their food benefits to buy hot meals from fast food restaurants like McDonald’s. The only exception is the participants of the CalFresh Restaurant Meals Program.

The RMP provides food assistance to disadvantaged groups, the elderly, disabled people, and the homeless, that can not carry or cook their own food. It enables qualifying CalFresh recipients to buy hot and prepared meals at McDonald’s and other authorized restaurants.

The CalFresh Restaurant Meals Program is available in 16 California counties. Although, only five of these counties have McDonald’s locations that accept EBT payments. RMP-approved McDonald’s locations take EBT food and cash benefits as payments.

RMP recipients can use their food benefits to buy anything from the McDonald’s menu, including a Happy Meal, a Big Mac, a Crispy Chicken Sandwich, or hot and cold drinks.

Moreover, if you receive cash benefits through CalWORKS, you can withdraw them at an ATM and use them to purchase hot meals at McDonald’s.

Online EBT is not accepted as a payment method for McDelivery or the McDonald’s app. As a result, you cannot use your EBT card to order meals from McDonald’s through DoorDash, Uber Eats, or Grubhub. Instead, you can pay for your food with a debit or credit card, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Arch gift cards, which are all accepted at McDonald’s.

If you are not eligible for the CalFresh Restaurant Meal Program, you may be allowed to purchase cold food items with your EBT card at an RMP-approved McDonald’s, but only at the manager’s discretion.

Leigh Buttrey

Leigh Buttrey

Leigh Buttrey is the SEO Editor on our team. She’s responsible for making sure our articles are optimized for search engines so that they can reach the widest audience possible.

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