MR #18.09: How to Treat Gift Cards Received by SNAP Customers

Helping Families. Supporting Communities. Empowering Individuals.

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04/12/18

Summary

  • Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has provided guidance on the treatment of gift cards when determining eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • Gift cards are treated differently in determining SNAP eligibility and benefit amounts depending on the type of gift card.
  • Establishment-specific gift cards, such as a department store card, can be used to purchase goods and services at the establishment offering the card. The use of the card is restricted to the establishment offering the card and cannot be spent in the same manner as cash. For SNAP, consider an establishment-specific gift card exempt as a resource and exempt as income.
  • Credit card company gift cards can be spent in the same way as cash. A credit card company gift card is considered as cash on hand for the purpose of the resource test for SNAP households that are not categorically eligible (PM 05-07-00). However, if the credit card company gift card is received on a regular basis and can be reasonably anticipated, consider as an exempt resource and budget as income for SNAP.  

Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has provided guidance on the treatment of gift cards in determining Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility and benefits. This manual release puts policy in the manual on the treatment of gifts card based on the FNS guidance memorandum.

Establishment-Specific Gift Cards

Establishment-specific gift cards, such as a department store gift card, can be used to purchase goods and services at the establishment offering the card. These cards are restricted to the establishment offering the card and cannot be spent in the same manner as cash. When determining SNAP eligibility and the benefit amount consider establishment-specific gift cards exempt as a resource and exempt as income.

Example 1: Ms. B applied for SNAP on June 23, 2017. At the interview, Ms. B states she will be starting a job in a few days. Her mother gave her a $100 Macy's department store gift card to purchase clothing for her new job. Since the gift card can only be used to purchased items at Macy's, it is exempt as a resource and exempt as income for SNAP.

Example 2:  Mr. T reports at his SNAP REDE interview that his house was damaged in a storm. He does not have home owners insurance but stated that he received a $500 Menard's gift card from his church to help with repairs. Since the gift card is specific to the Menard store only, it is exempt as a resource and exempt as income for SNAP.

Credit Card Company Gift Cards

One-time Receipt

Credit card company gift cards, such as American Express, MasterCard, or Visa, do not include the same limitations as gift cards for specific establishments and can be spent as cash in any store. Credit card company gift cards that are not received on a regular basis should be considered as cash on hand (PM 07-04-09) for the purpose of the SNAP resource test for households that are not categorically eligible (PM 05-07-00), (PM 07-04-01-a). Use the available resources at the time of the household's interview to determine eligibility.

If the SNAP customer declares that they have a credit card company gift card, accept the customer's statement regarding the amount of money on the card without requesting verification, unless the information is questionable.

Example: Mr. J is renewing his SNAP REDE in June. The HSC asked Mr. J if he has any cash on hand, including a credit card company gift card that can be used the same as cash. Mr. J reported that he turned 50 years old on June 1 and his daughter sent him a $50 Visa gift card for his birthday. Consider the $50 Visa card as a nonexempt resource and exempt as income.

Received on a Regular Basis

A credit card company gift card that is provided regularly and can be reasonably anticipated is counted as income. The amount of the credit card company gift card must be verified through the provider of the card. If attempts to verify the current amount on the card is unsuccessful because the provider failed to cooperate with the household and all other sources of verification are unavailable, determine an amount to be used for certification purposes based on the best available information, including the customer's statement and/or the gift card balance receipt.

Example: On March 6, Ms. K applied for SNAP for herself and her child. During the interview the HSC asked Ms. K if she had any cash on hand. Ms. K stated she had just received a Visa Card of $125 from entering her baby in a photo contest in February sponsored by Pine River bank. She stated the grand prize was $1500. The prize money will be disbursed to her around the first of each month for the next 12-months in the amount of $125. Since Ms. K will be receiving this $125 credit card company gift card payment on a regular basis considered as monthly unearned income for SNAP. Ms. K provides a document from the bank showing the amount of her winnings.

Manual Revision

James T. Dimas

Secretary, Illinois Department of Human Services