State of Illinois
Department of Human Services
Welcome to the Illinois Link program
You are on your way to enjoying a safe and easy way to get and use your benefits. The Illinois Link program lets you use the Illinois Link card, similar to a bankcard, to spend your benefits. You will select a secret Personal Identification Number (PIN) by calling the toll-free Help Line (1-800-678-LINK) or by going to the web site at www.Link.Illinois.gov. Your Illinois Link card and PIN let you use your benefits that the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) deposits into an account - just for you. Once your benefits are deposited in your account and you have selected your PIN, you can begin using those benefits with your Link card.
Information you should know
- You will receive your Illinois Link card through the mail at the address you gave to your local DHS office. Please allow seven (7) days for mail delivery.
- You must have a PIN before you can use your benefits. You can call either the toll-free Help Line number or use a computer and go to the web site www.Link.Illinois.gov to select your PIN. The Help Line number and the web site are printed on the back of your Illinois Link card and in this pamphlet.
- The first time you call to select your PIN, you will need the 19-digit number on the front of your Link card.
- You must keep your card and PIN safe and private. If you think someone else has your Illinois Link card or PIN, you must call the Help Line or go to the web site to report your Illinois Link card as lost or stolen.
- If you give your card and PIN to someone else and they use your benefits-your benefits will NOT be replaced. Remember: Never tell anyone your PIN. Do not write your PIN on your card. Do not carry it with you in your purse, wallet, or billfold or where someone could find it. Keep your card away from electronic equipment (like TVs, microwaves) and magnets. Keep your card out of direct sunlight, like a car dashboard.
- You are responsible for using your benefits and taking care of your Illinois Link card and PIN.
- You can use the toll-free number (1-800-678-LINK) or the web site at www.Link.Illinois.gov to get a history of your card use, check your benefit balances, select a PIN, report a lost, stolen or damaged Illinois Link card or request a replacement card by mail. Please allow seven (7) days for mail delivery.
- You should keep this pamphlet with you because it contains important information that you can read again later if you need to.
- If you would like to have your cash benefits deposited directly into your bank account instead of your Link card, contact your DHS office.
DO NOT THROW YOUR ILLINOIS LINK CARD AWAY. YOU WILL NOT RECEIVE A NEW CARD EACH MONTH.
How do I use my Illinois Link card at the store?
You may use your Illinois Link card at the grocery store to spend your food stamp or cash benefits. At some stores, you may also use your card to get cash from your cash benefits. Look for the Illinois Link logo in the windows or on the doors at the grocery store to make sure that the store accepts the Illinois Link card before you begin shopping.
The steps below explain how to use your Illinois Link card to use your benefits.
- At the checkout lane, tell the cashier that you are using your Illinois Link card and which account you want to use - your food stamp or cash account. If you want to get cash from your cash account, you can ask the cashier at the checkout lane or you may need to go to the customer service counter.
- You, or the cashier, will scan your card through the Illinois Link terminal. If your card cannot be scanned, the cashier can manually type in your card number on the terminal to complete your purchase. However, you can only have three (3) manually-entered transactions per month. After the third time, your Link card is automatically marked as "damaged" and you cannot use the card to spend your benefits until the card is replaced.
- You, or the cashier, enter the amount of purchase or the amount of cash you want to withdraw.
- Enter your 4-digit PIN. No one should ever ask you for your PIN. Make sure you enter your PIN carefully and that no one sees you enter it. If you enter the wrong PIN four (4) times in a row, your benefit account is "frozen" and you will not be able to use your benefits. You will not be able to use your Illinois Link card until you get a new PIN.
- When your purchase or withdrawal is complete, the terminal prints a receipt with your purchase or withdrawal amount and the amount of benefits you have left in your account(s). You should save your receipt every time you use your Illinois Link card so you know your balance the next time you go shopping.
What happens if a store's Illinois Link terminal is not working?
Even if a store's Illinois Link terminals are not working, you may still use your Illinois Link card, but the purchase must be for food items only using either your food stamp or cash benefits. The store cashier can use a manual voucher and call to get telephone approval for your purchase up to $150.00 a day.
Instead of getting a receipt for your purchase, the cashier fills out a paper voucher that shows the amount of your purchase. Before you sign the voucher, make sure your purchase is being made from the correct account (food stamps or cash) and that the amount on the voucher is correct.
The cashier should give you a copy of the voucher for your records.
How do I use my card at an Automated Teller Machine (ATM)?
You can only withdraw money or check your cash account balance at an ATM. You cannot use your food stamp benefits at an ATM.
These are some of the ATM networks that accept the Illinois Link card: STAR, SHAMZAM, NYCE.
Some ATMs may charge you a fee. To avoid paying any fees, it is best to withdraw your cash at stores that accept the Illinois Link card and provide cash back.
Before you use your Illinois Link card at an ATM, here are some things you need to know:
Amounts. You can only withdraw cash in the amounts that the ATM allows you to get. Some ATMs allow you to withdraw your cash in amounts of $10.00, $20.00, etc. If you do not have enough money in your account to withdraw your benefits and pay any fees that may be charged, your transaction is denied.
Fees. You can withdraw cash from your cash account at an ATM up to two (2) times per month. After your second cash withdrawal, or your second balance inquiry, you are charged a fee.
Surcharges. In addition to the fee you pay for withdrawing cash, the ATM may charge you a "surcharge" every time you use that ATM. A surcharge is an extra fee that the owner of the ATM charges. The amount of the added charge is displayed on the screen. The ATM gives you the choice of accepting the added charge or cancelling the transaction. At these ATMs, you could pay both a surcharge and a fee for a cash withdrawal. These fees are taken out of your cash account. Even if you only do a balance inquiry, you may still be charged a fee.
To use an ATM to withdraw cash or check your balance:
- Follow the ATM instructions for inserting or scanning your Illinois Link card. Some ATMs ask you to insert and remove your card, others ask you to insert the card that is held inside the machine until you complete or cancel the transaction.
- Enter your PIN. If the ATM charges a surcharge a screen appears and you have the option of accepting or cancelling the transaction. If you accept the transaction, the fee will be taken from your cash benefits.
- Choose either the "Cash Withdrawal "or "Balance Inquiry" option. (Remember, you cannot check your food stamp balance at an ATM.)
- Select the "Checking" option.
- Enter the amount of cash you want to withdraw.
- When your transaction is approved, the ATM gives you cash, a printed receipt and your card.
- Do not forget to take your receipt, card, and cash.
When using your card at an ATM, remember:
- Be careful. Only use ATMs in a well-lighted area.
- Look out for suspicious people. If you feel you are in danger, cancel your transaction, get your card, and leave the area.
- Be prepared. Have your card ready to use.
- Keep your PIN safe. Do not write your PIN on your card.
- Enter your PIN carefully so no one else sees you enter it.
- Keep your last receipt.
How do I get a replacement card or PIN?
You have safe, secure 24/7 access to your Illinois Link information.Call the Help Line or use a computer to go to the web site. You can report your card as lost, stolen or defective to protect your benefits, request a replacement card, select or change your PIN, and check your balances. You can also report a problem with an ATM or Link equipment in a store, or if you have a question about a purchase or withdrawal at a retailer, and receive training or help with your Illinois Link card. Replacement cards are mailed to the address that you gave to your DHS office. Once you report a card lost, stolen or defective, you will not be able to use your benefits until you receive the replacement card in the mail. Please allow seven (7) days for mail delivery.
How do I find out how much money is in my Illinois Link account?
- Look on your last receipt.
- Use a computer and go to the web site: www.Link.Illinois.gov.
- Get your balance at a store. Some stores can give you your balance without having to make a purchase.
- Call the Help Line at 1-800-678-LINK.
- Go to an ATM (for cash account balance only). You cannot get your food stamp balance at an ATM, only your cash balance. Remember, you may be charged a fee - even for a balance inquiry.
What information do I need when I want to call the Help Line or go to the web site?
You use the same information when you call the Help Line or use the web site.
You must have your:
- Nine-digit Social Security Number
- Date of Birth and,
- PIN or 19-digit number on the front of your card.
If you receive benefits for your children, or other dependents, but not for yourself, you may need their information before calling the Help Line.
What happens if I stop using my Illinois Link card?
If you do not use all your benefits each month, they stay in your account and are added to the next month's benefits. However, if you do not use your benefits to make a purchase or a cash withdrawal for 270 days, the benefits will no longer be available.
24 hours a day, 7 days a week
For questions regarding eligibility call 1-800-843-6154 (DHS)
DHS TTY 1-800-447-6404
Programs, activities and employment opportunities in the Illinois Department of Human Services are open and accessible to any individual or group without regard to age, sex, race, sexual orientation, disability, ethnic origin or religion. The department is an equal opportunity employer and practices affirmative action and reasonable accommodation programs.
WCS 9203 (R-02-08)