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.
  • If you were approved for benefits but have not received your card within 10 days, contact your caseworker.
  • You must have a PIN before you can use your benefits. You can either call 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 16-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 right away 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.


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 SNAP or cash benefits. At some stores, you may also use your card to get cash from your cash benefits. Look for the Illinois Link sign 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.

  1. At the checkout lane, tell the cashier that you are using your Illinois Link card and which account you want to use - your SNAP 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.
  2. 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. If you have too many manual entered transactions in a row then your card will automatically be replaced. You will be able to continue using your old card until you receive the new card. Upon receiving the new card, you may begin using it immediately.
  3. You, or the cashier, enter the amount of purchase or the amount of cash you want to withdraw.
  4. Enter your 4-digit PIN. No one should ever ask you for your PIN, not even the store clerk. You should enter you PIN yourself. 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.
  5. When your purchase or withdrawal is complete, the terminal prints a receipt with the name and address of the store, type of transaction, the amount of your purchase or withdrawal, and the balance 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.
  6. There are no requirements for a minimum amount of a purchase or a maximum number of times you may use your card at the store.
  7. If you use coupons, the coupon amount is taxed and the tax cannot be paid with SNAP benefits.

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 SNAP 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 (SNAPs 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 SNAP benefits at an ATM.

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. Illinois ATMs are not supposed to charge surcharges in addition to the fees described above. ATMs outside Illinois may add surcharges in addition to these fees.


It is not legal to sell your Link card or allow others to use your card in return for cash. Doing so can result in loss of your benefits and/or criminal charges.

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)