How to activate P-EBT card [and check balance]

Tim Vickers

Pandemic EBT, or P-EBT, is a program designed to respond to the challenges faced by families with children as a result of pandemics.

As a federal program, it targets those students that were receiving school meals either for free or at a reduced cost.

So, if you are a parent whose child has been receiving free or affordable lunch at school, you should have the P-EBT card by now.

If you do not have it, you need to apply for a P-EBT card to get some money to buy groceries.

If you have a P-EBT card, you can use it at most farmers’ markets, grocery stores, and online at Walmart and Amazon.

The card will also allow you to receive up to $365 per child if you live in California.

How to apply for a P-EBT card

The P-EBT card application process may be different depending on your state.

However, the information needed is the same across the board.

If you are in California, for example, here is how to apply:

  • Go to
  • Provide some essential or as much information as possible. That includes the names and birthdates of the students, parents or guardian, and address registered at the school.
  • Fill out the application form by answering the questions provided.

Once you fill out the application, submit it, and wait for processing and approval. If approved, you will receive the P-EBT card in California loaded with some money to start buying groceries.

How to activate the P-EBT card in California

Your child must first be eligible for free or reduced-priced meals at school, and you must have received the card to activate it.

If the state sent it to you via mail, the next step is to activate it. Here is how to activate a P-EBT card in California.

  • Call the EBT Customer Service Center using the number (877) 328-9677.
  • Answer with Option 4 to set a PIN for the card.
  • Provide the 16-digit number as displayed on the card.
  • Indicate your ZIP code for your mailing address.
  • Provide your child’s birth date in the form of a 6-digit number.
  • If your child was born on 15 January 2013, the number will be 150113.

Note that when completing the P-EBT card activation, the birth date must be that of the child named on the card.

What can you buy with P-EBT card?

You have up to one year to spend all the money loaded on the P-EBT card.

Once you have it, you can use it to buy food items at all EBT-authorized retailers, including grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

However, you cannot use it to buy things like vitamins, alcohol, medicines, and all non-food items.

How to check P-EBT balance

If you want to know the balance on your P-EBT card:

  • Buy a food item from an authorized retailer.
  • After the purchase, you will see your balance printed on the receipt.

Alternatively, call 1-877-328-9677 in California or the EBT Customer Service in your state to check the balance.


Parents whose children have been receiving free or reduced-priced meals at school are eligible for the P-EBT card.

If you have not received the card, you need to apply for it before the deadline. Once you receive it, activate your P-EBT card to buy food items.


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