Starting as a modest coffee shop in the cobblestoned streets of Seattle’s Pike Place Market, Starbucks has since grown to become the world’s largest coffeehouse chain in the world. It currently operates over 34,000 stores spread across 84 countries.
Starbucks has become an indelible part of American culture since its founding in 1971. Now, the brand’s name is used synonymously with coffee by millions of Americans. There are more than 15,000 Starbucks locations in the United States, with California accounting for 19% of all Starbucks nationwide, with over 3,000 stores.
Every month, four million CalFresh recipients rely on their EBT food benefits to provide for the food and nutrition needs of their families. But can they use their EBT cards to get their morning caffeine kick at Starbucks?
Does Starbucks Take EBT?
Starbucks does not accept EBT as payment at any company-owned locations per its company policy. However, many licensed Starbucks locations continue to take an EBT card as a payment option. You will find these licensed Starbucks inside grocery stores such as Target, Safeway, and other grocery chains that allow purchases through food assistance programs such as SNAP or CalFresh. You can use your EBT food benefits to buy only CalFresh-eligible food items at a licensed Starbucks.
Further explanation: Starbucks is not an authorized CalFresh retailer as it is primarily considered a luxury brand, with most of its purchases categorized as non-essential indulgences. Thus, corporate or company-owned Starbucks stores do not accept EBT food benefits as payment. But, this is not the case with non-corporate Starbucks stores.
Licensed or non-corporate Starbucks locations are found inside grocery stores such as Target, Safeway, Publix, and Fred Meyer. They are linked to Starbucks by a business contract. Through this contract, they lease Starbucks’ name, logo, style, menu, and other standard practices as a licensed Starbucks cafe. And in return, they pay a percentage of their profits to Starbucks. Licensed Starbucks locations housed inside Marriott hotels may accept EBT cards as well.
For the ease of their customers, Starbucks licensees that accept purchases through food assistance programs like SNAP or CalFresh allow EBT cardholders to use their food benefits at Point-of-Sale (POS) inside grocery stores. As a result, you can use your EBT card at a Starbucks in a grocery store that accepts EB payments because they are already CalFresh approved.
Since not all licensed Starbucks stores accept EBT payments, you should call ahead to check whether you can use your EBT card or not.
What Can You Buy at Starbucks with EBT?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) imposes certain limitations on what you can buy with your CalFresh EBT. To specify, you can utilize your EBT food benefits to only purchase CalFresh eligible food items at a Licensed Starbucks. You can buy cold and fresh food items or anything with a nutrition facts label on the packaging.
Here is a list of CalFresh eligible items sold at Starbucks:
- Bottled and iced coffee
- Bottled and iced tea
- Plain or flavored milk and other dairy products
- Fresh bread
- Juices, cold drinks, energy drinks, and other non-alcoholic drinks
- Packed cakes, cookies, and biscotti
- Chocolates and candy
- Fruits and nuts
- Snack bars
- Packed chips and popcorn
- Coffee beans, creamer, coffee pods, and instant coffee that are not for instant consumption
- Bottled water
You can contact your county office for a detailed list of CalFresh eligible food items.
What Can You Not Buy at Starbucks with EBT?
The USDA has issued a list of non-CalFresh eligible food items you can not buy with your EBT Food benefits. These restrictions keep CalFresh recipients from utilizing their food benefits to make unnecessary purchases.
Starbucks does not participate in the Restaurant Meals Program (RMP) in any of its locations in the United States. Therefore, you can not use your EBT food benefits to buy hot, prepared food items (food for instant consumption) at any of the licensed or corporate Starbucks stores.
Here is a list of non-CalFresh eligible items sold at Starbucks:
- Hot drinks
- Frappuccino blended drinks
- Freshly baked goods or other hot, prepared food items
- Alcoholic drinks
- Items with a Supplement Facts label
- Mugs, tumblers, straws, water bottles, and other Starbucks merchandise
- Starbucks gift cards and any other non-food items
Note: Keep in mind that all these limitations only apply to EBT food benefits. They do not apply to purchases you make using EBT cash. Therefore, you can use EBT cash or other accepted payment methods to purchase non-CalFresh eligible items at Starbucks.
How to use an EBT card at Starbucks?
To begin, you must visit a licensed Starbucks in a grocery store such as Target, Safeway, Fred Meyer, or any other retail store that accepts EBT. Else, you can go to a Marriott Hotel location with a Licensed Starbucks. Save yourself the hassle of visiting corporate or company-owned Starbucks stores, as they do not accept EBT as payments.
When you arrive, check with the cashier or the working staff if they accept CalFresh EBT at the Starbucks kiosk or POS and which items are CalFresh eligible. Usually, you can choose anything from the previously mentioned list of food items.
Follow these simple steps to pay at a Starbucks kiosk or Point-of-Sale (POS) with your EBT card:
- Choose your order from the list of CalFresh eligible items.
- Once your order is ready, you can swipe or insert your EBT card at the point-of-sale (POS) machine. Otherwise, you can give your EBT card to the cashier to process your order.
- Enter your four-digit EBT PIN.
- Your EBT card will be charged for all CalFresh-eligible items.
- Next, you can use a credit/debit card or cash to pay for any non-CalFresh eligible item.
- In rare cases, the cashier may request your photo identification to verify that the card is in your name.
- If you have cash on your EBT card, you must inform the cashier of which account (CalFresh or Cash) to charge for the transaction.
- Your Starbucks receipt will show your new account balance. Hold on to the receipt to keep a record for your next purchase.
What Payment Methods Does Starbucks Take?
Starbucks accepts a variety of payment options to enable its customers to choose the one that is most convenient for them. All Starbucks locations accept cash for in-store orders. You can also pay for in-store orders using a debit card or credit cards, such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover. Moreover, you can make direct payments by adding a credit or debit card to the Starbucks App.
Customers can use the Starbucks App to make quick and safe purchases while earning Stars through the Starbucks loyalty scheme. They may use the app to find a nearby store, place an order in advance, and pay using contactless means. Starbucks Rewards members in the United States can earn Stars by scanning their Starbucks app first, then paying with a Starbucks Card, cash, credit/debit cards, or some mobile wallets.
Starbucks Cards, which may be purchased in-store, online, or through the Starbucks app, can be loaded with a monetary value and used to make purchases. Moreover, Starbucks offers contactless payment options such as Apple Pay, Google Pay, and PayPal. You can utilize these to pay directly or reload your Starbucks Card via the Starbucks App. Also, Apple Pay and Google Pay can be used outside the Starbucks App to pay for in-store orders at participating locations.
You can not use your EBT cards to make payments in corporate Starbucks locations, but numerous non-corporate (licensed) Starbucks locations still accept EBT as a payment option. Only some Starbucks inside participating CalFresh grocery stores like Target and Safeway accept EBT cards. Yet, you can only buy CalFresh eligible food items at a Licensed Starbucks, for instance, bottled coffee and tea, fresh fruits, nuts, milk, bread, packed snacks, and cold drinks. Starbucks is not an authorized RMP retailer. Therefore, you can not use your EBT food benefits to buy hot, prepared food items at any Starbucks stores.