Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are also known as food stamps. You can use SNAP benefits to buy food. The benefits come from the federal government, but are administered in Illinois by the Illinois Department of Human Services. Learn how to apply for SNAP benefits.
If you are approved for SNAP benefits, you are mailed a LINK card. Every month, your SNAP benefits are automatically put on the card. The head of household can then use the card at approved locations to buy food. The LINK card works like a debit card or ATM card.
If you receive cash benefits as well as SNAP benefits, your cash benefits will also be placed on the LINK card.
You can use your SNAP benefits to:
- Buy most food or food products
- Buy seeds and plants to grow in home gardens to produce food
- Buy food at a farmer's markets
- Pay for meals provided by the Meals-on-Wheels program
You cannot use your SNAP benefits to buy:
- Prepared or ready to eat foods from a grocery store
- Vitamins or medicines
- Pet food
- Any non-food items except seeds and plants such as paper products and soap
If you break these rules, there are strict penalties.
It is illegal to sell your LINK card or allow others to use your card in return for cash. Doing this can cause you to lose your SNAP benefits and potentially face criminal charges.
To learn more about where you can use SNAP benefits to pay for food, see SNAP Retailer Locator and farmer's markets that accept Illinois LINK cards. To see what you can buy with SNAP benefits, see eligible food items.
Using a LINK card
When you get a LINK card you should choose a personal identification number (PIN). The PIN is required when you use the card. You should never let anyone else know your PIN number. If you give your PIN to someone else and they use your benefits, Department of Human Services (DHS) will not replace your benefits.
If your card is lost or stolen, your benefits cannot be used unless the thief also knows your PIN number. You should never write your PIN number on your card or on the sleeve that is given to you to keep your card from getting damaged. If it is written on the card, your food benefits can be stolen. If that happens, the benefits will not be replaced by DHS.
You can call (800) 678-LINK or go to the Manage My Illinois LINK Account website to:
- Check your benefits balance
- Select a PIN
- See your card use history
- Report a lost, stolen, or damaged LINK card
- Request a replacement card