Why You Can’t Just Pay Your Rent At The Bank With Your EBT Card

In many states, various forms of public aid are placed on Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) cards that are then used by recipients to buy food and other necessary purchases. However, EBT users can’t always just walk into a bank to transfer funds from a card to another person’s checking account.

Over at Daily KOS, there is the story of a Californian who wanted to pay her rent by going to Wells Fargo and transferring money from her EBT card to her landlord’s Wells Fargo account.

“The teller greeted me with a smile, but after I pulled out the EBT card her eyes narrowed and became judgmental,” writes the woman. “This snotty, smirking Valley Girl told me that she couldn’t do anything with EBT cards: instead I must go outside and withdraw the money from a Wells Fargo ATM… and bring her the money in cash.”

The woman tried to argue that paying with her EBT card was no different than depositing a check, and that requiring her to go out to an ATM to withdraw several hundred dollars of cash put her in danger of being mugged.

She took her concerns to the branch manager, who suggested the alternative of going to a different Wells Fargo where the ATM is in the building.

The woman said Wells Fargo has a “policy against the poor,” but a rep for the bank tells Consumerist that it’s not a bank policy; Wells Fargo simply can’t accept EBT payments in California:

The California Electronic Benefit Transfer is a State of California card that allows cardholders to receive various program benefits electronically. The card was structured by the state to allow it to be used at “any store or ATM that displays the “Quest” mark in California and throughout the United States.”

EBT cards do not have Visa or MasterCard payment capabilities, limiting the ability of where they can be used, including inside banks for payments. Unfortunately, due to this limited capability, we are unable to process it like we would a normal credit or debit card payment.

That being said, the Wells Fargo rep admits that this situation could probably have been handled better by some of the employees involved:

However, part of our Vision and Values is to always treat customers with respect. We apologize if this did not happen. We will speak to the store manager to help ensure this does not happen in the future.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Bsamm09 says:

    I can’t wait til this woman tries to buy something at a store that is not on the Quest System so she can complain about them being against the poor.

    …Or save herself some time and complain that Quest is against the poor for not being available everywhere she wants to use her EBT card.

  2. bhr says:

    I wonder who got judgmental, the customer who decided (wrongly) that the bank was discriminating against her or the “valley girl” rep who was doing her job before this woman got an attitude.

    And you know what, I have no problem with a company not bending over backwards to placate people on public benefits. While I see the value in a social safety net I don’t think companies should have to change policies or technology to make it easier for people who don’t actually add value to the bottom line.

    • ellemdee says:

      It sounds like a limitation in the way EBT cards are set up that caused the problem, not necessarily a shortfall in policy or technology on the bank’s side, but how is depositing money in one of the bank’s accounts (the landlord’s) not helping helping the bank’s bottom line?

      • bhr says:

        It is a technology issue, essentially, as Wells could provide Quest branded reader inside all of their California locations, but since those customers aren’t account holders, and don’t pay a transaction fee for it, they have no reason to spend the time and money installing the capability.

    • coffee100 says:

      We hold these truths to be self-evident. That all men are created equal, as long as they add value to the bottom line.

      • Doubting thomas says:

        You obviously don’t understand what equal means. not bending over backward for someone is treating them equally.

        • coffee100 says:

          Wells Fargo can transfer funds from an EBT card to any account they want in five seconds. The only reason they don’t is because Wells Fargo employees are trained to be towering dicks.

          • Costner says:

            Citation please? Let’s see some proof of your claim…. and I’ll even ignore the part about “five seconds” since I’m sure you didn’t intend that to be literal (considering I can’t even enter my pin number with withdraw $20 from account in under 15 seconds).

            Per Wells Fargo: “EBT cards do not have Visa or MasterCard payment capabilities, limiting the ability of where they can be used, including inside banks for payments.”

            It seems they simply can’t process the transfer inside because they lack the capability – but the ATMs feature the Quest mark and thus could be used. So unless you have data proving otherwise I’d say you have no idea what you’re talking about.

            • coffee100 says:

              “A Wells Fargo ATM can deduct the money but Wells Fargo itself can’t.”

              How far up its own ass does a corporate policy have to get before you stop defending people who are trained to be towering dicks?

              • Costner says:

                “EBT cards do not have Visa or MasterCard payment capabilities, limiting the ability of where they can be used, including inside banks for payments.”

                Notice it doesn’t say “inside only Wells Fargo banks” but rather inside banks.

                I note you were unable to provide a citation for your claim that “Wells Fargo can transfer funds from an EBT card to any account they want in five seconds.” Sorry – if you cannot back up your own statements… don’t come whining to me. Just admit you are making shit up on the spot and move on troll.

      • aerodawg says:

        All men are created equal…in the eyes of the law, nothing more and nothing less…

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      What? People using EBT cards don’t actually add to the bottom line? Are you kidding me? The bank makes tons of money from providing the card service they provide. Grocery stores chains make about 15% of their profits from customers using food stamps. Where do you think this woman’s rent money goes? It goes to a private sector business. These businesses absolutely do gain from servicing entitlement customers. If we pulled entitlement benefits from our economy, it would suffer a great, great deal. And while the bank is not legally able to help this woman, it is asinine to say that the users don’t contribute to the bottom line. This is what all of these anti-entitlement conservative business owners fail to grasp. When that money goes away, so does some of their profit. Many businesses gain far more from entitlement customers than they pay in toward benefits.

      • P=mv says:

        I know a grocery store (a single store in a single neighborhood) that makes 95% of its revenue from EBT, foodstamps, and WIC. 95%

  3. TheUncleBob says:

    “This snotty, smirking Valley Girl […]”

    Dear Wells Fargo – I know you’ll probably not do anything anyway, but judging by this individual’s reaction, it’s very obvious one of the two people in this situation has a chip on her shoulder… and I don’t think it is your teller.

    • Coffee says:

      Seriously. Between that and the histrionics about being mugged while walking outside to the ATM in the middle of banking hours, it sounds like the woman with the EBT card is a hysterical bitch with a persecution complex and acute paranoia.

      • cspschofield says:

        Which might tend to explain why she’s unemployed, neh?

        • winstonthorne says:

          I can see how that could be a contributing factor.

        • coffee100 says:

          Let’s all gather ’round and spit on her. She deserves it right?



          • Coffee says:

            There are people who are victimized, taken advantage of, and treated poorly all the time. Our legal and financial systems systematically enable people to stay poor, stay marginalized, and feel powerless. These are things that need to change, and people we need to help.

            There are also poor people who are poor because they are antisocial, lazy, egomaniacal, paranoid, and self-pitying. I don’t feel sorry for these people.

            Can we unequivocally decide which group the woman in the article fits into? No. We can only go off of what’s there, and from where I’m standing, she sounds like someone from the latter group. Unless you think there’s a posse of hoodlums who stand between the ATM and the door of the bank, waiting to mug everyone who tries to walk in.

            • coffee100 says:

              “There are also poor people who are poor because they are antisocial, lazy, egomaniacal, paranoid, and self-pitying.”

              So in order to avoid thinking, we’ll just presume everyone to be the latter and rush to the defense of Wells Fargo Bank, a fine, upstanding and blameless member of our American community.

              I wouldn’t go into a Wells Fargo bank branch if my ass was covered in gravy and it was the only refuge from a pack of starving Rottweilers.

              • Coffee says:

                She’s going into histrionics. I know where the branch she’s talking about is in downtown Berkeley. It’s in a very busy area, and the ATM (one of SIX machines there) is right next to the door. The chances of her getting mugged are slim-to-none.

                Did you read her blog post? Did you like the part where she complained to the manager and implied that it would be a PR nightmare for him if someone like her – someone with a disability – were to slip in their lobby and pursue litigation against them? Yeah. I pine for her.

    • Costner says:

      That was my thought as well… I was following the story quite well right up until the “Valley Girl” reference. Somehow that made my sympathy towards the EBT-card holder decrease dramatically. After the claim she could be mugged by being forced to use an ATM in the middle of the day on bank property – well I pretty much realized this was the type of person who expects the world to revolve around them and that everyone needs to adapt to her needs.

      Oddly enough, this is a person who is also on public aid. I realize correlation does not equal causation, but this is one of those examples where her attitude is probably a contributing factor.

      • dangermike says:

        Same here. Of course, if the lady telling the story had a sufficient critical thinking ability, she might have realized the irony of decrying someone as prejudiced and judgmental while hurling insulting stereotypes and epithets at them in the same breath. One would wonder if, perhaps, obtaining such abilities might facilitate a move-up in the world, such as off the government teat and into a paying entry-level customer service job, like for instance as a bank teller.

    • coffee100 says:

      Dear Wells Fargo, are you submitting loan applications with the income section left blank and then shipping them off to Wall Street to be graded AAA quality investments and sold to pension funds? And then are you foreclosing on people’s houses without any evidence you hold title? And then are you running to the government for hundreds of billions of free taxpayer dollars that you can deposit in any damn account you like? How many people have you fired so far this year?

      Just wanted to be sure since we’re being all righteously indignant today.

      • Coffee says:

        I’m trying to figure out the point of your comment. Are you implying that because Wells Fargo is one of the shitty, monolithic companies behind the real estate snafu, any indignance aimed at someone who does business with them – no matter how unreasonable that that person is – is misplaced? Or did you, seeing a fake letter penned to Wells Fargo, just decide to pen one of your own that has nothing to do with the article in question?

        • coffee100 says:

          “Are you implying that because Wells Fargo is one of the shitty, monolithic companies behind the real estate snafu, any indignance aimed at someone who does business with them – no matter how unreasonable that that person is – is misplaced?”


          • Coffee says:

            Ah…got it.

          • Costner says:

            So basically you’re just trolling. Thanks for the clarification. I just feel bad for the real Coffee since your username is bound to create some confusion to the casual observer.

      • TheUncleBob says:

        Yes, I’m sure this random Wells Fargo teller that this individual is trying to demonize is really responsible for all those ills.

        My point is, I’d hate to see any disciplinary action taken towards this teller based on this story alone (admittedly, there could potentially be more evidence).

    • StarKillerX says:

      Yeah, my thought exactly.

  4. Admiral_John says:

    I clicked on the link to read the full story but when I was greeted with “Wells Fargo would rather See Poor People Mugged than Allow Them to Deposit to a WELLS FARGO ACCOUNT!” as the headline I closed the page.

    • lain1k says:

      I didn’t understand that. The ATM is like, what, 50 feet away from the door? Banks usually aren’t open to late so it probably wasn’t midnight. Was the area so bad that you’re afraid of getting mugged in a public area 50 feet from the entrance of a building during the daytime?

      • nishioka says:

        > Was the area so bad that you’re afraid of getting mugged in a public area 50 feet from the entrance of a building during the daytime?

        And if you’re that scared of being mugged, then how did you get to the bank in the first place?

    • bhr says:

      It’s a self published story from the Daily Kos. By a woman who suggested an alternative of having a police escort and an “occupy camera crew” the next time she goes to the bank.

    • The Colonel says:

      You should have read the comments. Apparently her landlord lives in India.

  5. ladylost says:

    In my state, Texas, I receive my child support payments on a similiar benefits card. I am always treated like a slug when I go inside to withdrawn money from my child support account. If I don’t pull out my Wells Fargo ATM card at the same time most of the tellers actively sneer at me. I am in the process of moving my banking to a credit union in protest, but as long as I receive child support payments I will have to deal with the condescending behavior of Wells Fargo employees.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      It’s a choice, direct deposit or the piece of crap card. Since you will have a bank or credit union account I would strongly suggest direct deposit.


    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      That is so dumb. Child support is what you get from a non-custodial parent to help support minor children no matter what your income is. What the fuck is wrong with some people?

      I would totally get the direct deposit option. Good on you for changing banks. What assholes.

    • Kuri says:

      My relatives, grandmother, aunt, and 4 year old cousin, got a similar attitude, in the same state funnily enough.

    • Mrs. w/1 child says:

      You could choose the direct deposit option. Or not involve the state in the poor decisions you make regarding who fathers your children. Either way. Tiny violins. Use this fantastically horrible discrimination you suffer at the hands of the almighty wells fargo tellers as motivation to make better choices going forward.

  6. raybury says:

    Putting money into your landlord’s bank account is hinky in the first place. A check, a credit card transaction, or a receipt for cash (not just a deposit slip) would all seem much more secure.

    As to whether the bank teller was rude or not, it might be hard for the OP to see straight with that giant chip on her shoulder.

  7. scoutermac says:

    From what I understand.. here in Indiana you can take your card to an ATM at PNC bank and withdraw cash.

  8. TheMansfieldMauler says:

    I can’t believe someone this charming can’t find a better job so she can get off benefits. It’s a cruel, cruel world.

  9. dolemite says:

    That Valley Girl is paying taxes so you have an EBT card to use in the first place.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I don’t know if EBT payments are taxed, but unemployment sure is. So I’m still paying for this in my state too!

    • iblamehistory says:

      Because not a single person receiving public benefits has any sort of employment, so none of them at all receive any sort of pay check that has taxes withheld from it.

      Oh, wait.

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        It’s easier to perpetuate ignorant stereotypes that you heard on Fox News than it is to actually live in reality. You should know this by now.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Most people on welfare and food stamps have jobs. It is very possible for a single mom of two to work 60 hours a week making minimum wage and still qualify. It’s actually possible for a single bank teller mother working full-time to qualify since wages for that position are usually low. You could also have a husband and wife with 2 kids making minimum wage working far harder than I do at my high paying cush job receiving benefits. Or, the person could be on disability and unable to work. People who receive assistance aren’t just welfare queens who sit around for years not working (the maximum you can receive welfare is for 5 years for your entire lifetime.)

    • Kuri says:

      That doesn’t excuse the attitude and never will.

  10. I wumbo. You wumbo. He- she- me... wumbo. Wumbo; Wumboing; We'll have thee wumbo; Wumborama; Wumbology; the study of Wumbo. says:

    I read this headline and I did a double take. I’ve had stamps before and I thought I was gonna learn something new about how other banks let you use their EBT card there (something I was SURE one could never do).

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but you can’t take your Chase bank card into Wells Fargo and expect a teller’s help, either…

    • Thousand says:

      EBT cards are setup by the state and are not issued by any one bank. You should be able to take it to any bank and withdraw money from it if your state allows that.

      • hmburgers says:

        …and you can at the ATM.

        But not a the teller…

        I wouldn’t expect my BoA card to work at a Wells Fargo teller either…

      • dangermike says:

        I thought the whole point of “food stamps” was to be able to issue non-generalized currency for the express purpose of purchasing food. Even if this could rightfully be extended to rent payments (isn’t that what section 8 is for?), it strikes me as a gross lack of oversight to be able to draw cash off the ebt card, since this could be used for any class of purchase, whether it be alcohol, illicit drugs, prostitutes, or office supplies for an under-the-table business being run out an apartment bedroom. At that point, why even differentiate? If this is how EBT works, it’s nothing short of a hand-out. That kind of sickens me.

  11. DAS37 says:

    I currently receive unemployment benefits in California via one of these cards. You can set up automatic transfers from the card to a bank account, no fees involved for the setup or the transfers. That’s what I immediately did while leaving a few hundred on the card in case my bank account is ever compromised so as to have an emergency fund.

  12. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    First, someone is offended because a cashier thought she might use WIC checks. Now, someone is offended because they have an EBT card, and they think the teller is judging them.

    Please people – you’re getting offended too easily! Every single miniscule thing that happens is not because the world is against you. Get over it!

  13. hmburgers says:

    When you have no job it’s easy to find the time to whine about things.

    • iblamehistory says:

      Since nobody receiving public benefits is ever employed at the same time.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Way to be an intelligent and informed individual since most people receiving benefits actually do work, many of them full-time. I will say this, but a mother of 2 making $10 an hour would easily qualify for benefits. The bank teller herself could probably qualify if she has 2-3 kids.

  14. Lyn Torden says:

    The bank manager could have gone with this woman to the ATM outside the bank so she could get the cash with greater safety. Of course, that’s not his job and I don’t blame him for not doing it.

    • Costner says:

      You’re totally right though – in the interest of customer service if she expressed concern for going to the ATM that would have been an easy solution.

      Not sure what Wells Fargo policy is though… maybe they have a policy against a manager exiting the building for safety reasons? I can think of a few made-for-television movie type scenarios where someone draws the manager outside only to have him/her surrounded and forced to ask the tellers at the drive-up window to send all the cash through in order to preserve his/her life.

      That said if there is such a policy they could have explained it. I get the feeling this particular customer wasn’t really interested in that type of assistance however – she just wanted to make her transfer and be on her way with no inconveniences.

  15. hansolo247 says:

    I don’t know if it’s just me, but if my neighbors were paying my rent for me, I’d put up with this inconvenience.

    Some people. Free rent and free lunch is just not enough.

    • iblamehistory says:

      Since nobody out there works their ass off in the only job(s) they could find for a paycheck that can’t sustain their families by meeting basic needs. Everyone on government aid is unemployed. Man, nothing gets past you guys!

      • hansolo247 says:

        I wasn’t criticizing the aid per se, but the mentality.

        Having your needs met by your fellow man should humble you a little bit…at least to the point of putting up with minor inconveniences such as this.

        • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

          Do you really think that most people aren’t embarrassed and humbled by it? How could they not be? As a group, they get judged by every greedy conservative asshole out there. They are the constant talk and subject of Fox News. They get every purchase in their food basket analyzed by the person behind them to see if they bought anything they “shouldn’t have.” They get judged as being lazy, as not having jobs (when most of them do) as living off the system (when there is a 5 year lifetime limit) as ignorant, drug addicts, dishonest, etc…. I am sure that embarrassment runs rampant among those on welfare. People like you make sure of it.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Very few people on welfare get their entire rent and food bill paid for. Most work full-time and only get the difference between their income and a certain percentage of poverty level. You can only receive benefits for 5 years too, so once you stop getting them, you have to find another way to make ends meet.

      Then again, it’s their own fault; everyone should go to college and get one of those many, many, high paying jobs floating around out there. They could pay for college with their good looks, or even student loans! /s

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Very few people on welfare get their entire rent and food bill paid for. Most work full-time and only get the difference between their income and a certain percentage of poverty level. You can only receive benefits for 5 years too, so once you stop getting them, you have to find another way to make ends meet.

      Then again, it’s their own fault; everyone should go to college and get one of those many, many, high paying jobs floating around out there. They could pay for college with their good looks, or even student loans! /s

  16. scottydog says:

    One thing you can do is have the funds transferred from your card into your bank account then pay your rent with a check.

  17. mistyfire says:

    I have one and if I had the cash part of the card (I’m food only) would have no problem walking to a ATM, getting the money and going inside to put on landlords account. I don’t know about what info comes with the California cards but Oregons mentions how the cash funds aren’t transferable.

  18. ap0 says:

    ATMs have different capabilities than tellers. I don’t think I can walk into Wells Fargo with my credit union debit card and expect to withdraw cash from a teller. I would expect to have to go to an ATM.

    This isn’t a matter of discriminating against the poor; it’s a matter of having an entitled attitude and not understanding the technology involved.

  19. Vandil says:

    Many states put their unemployment benefits on a non-VISA/MC EBT card as well. Use an (safe) ATM to get the funds and then do what you will with the cash. I would never, EVER deposit cash into a landlord’s account, even if I personally knew the landlord and had been friends for years. Business is business. Get a money order, cashier’s check, or, if you must use cash, get a receipt signed by the landlord him/herself.

  20. Torchwood says:

    Seriously? She might as well complain to the EBT card provider as well as Wells Farto about the situation. But, to me, it sounds like apples and oranges.

    Of course, the last time I checked, all that the tellers can do is follow the established policy made by upper management. They have absolutely no say in how the policy is implemented, but face all of the wrath of the customer.

  21. bwcbwc says:

    Sounds like the OP needs to open a checking account with a Credit Union (to avoid fees), so she can take direct deposit and pay her landlord from the CU’s website. Some smart banker should start up an “Unemployed Workers CU” in each state to enable this.

  22. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Why is it that people who just know that they are being discriminated against absolutely refuse to listen to reason? They get it in their head that everyone is out to discriminate against them, and when there is an incredibly reasonable explanation they just refuse to listen or try to understand it. The bank cannot take the cards, period. It has nothing to do with people being poor. It’s the way the law is set up.

    • Coffee says:

      If you want to be really annoyed, read the actual blog…in it, she talks about confronting the manager and implying that, should anything happen to her *wink* *wink* between the ATM and the bank, there will be hell to pay. Delightful.

    • Kuri says:

      eh, this is why certain people want these programs gone entirely, people like this make receivers of these benefits all look like scum

  23. Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

    Was the lady “absolutely mortified”?

    • Coffee says:

      She hasn’t been able to sleep and it’s affecting her ability to function day-to-day. She cries at random times and just feels like the world is against her. Also, are you on G+?

  24. bitplayer says:

    Some states have cozy deals where unemployment goes from them to a third party bank card, “complete with fees” for you to then use and spend. Which was a total shake down.

  25. Mrs. w/1 child says:

    *sigh* Tiny violins – oh the horrors of having your rent paid by the “valley girl” who works at a bank via forced wealth transfer.

    Guess what? If you get EBT/welfare/etc. you should feel a little discriminated against. Also you should be grateful you get anything at all. If you don’t want to be “discriminated” against for being taken care of like a child by adults who work for a living – get off welfare!

    Boo freaken hoo…

    • iblamehistory says:

      Man, I didn’t know you had to be completely unemployed to receive welfare! It’s so good to know that $7.25 an hour is enough to support a family nowadays. phew.

  26. scoosdad says:

    Vision and Values

    [snort] I’m surprised the bank rep didn’t add a trade or service mark symbol after that. I swear there are college level courses being taught out there training people how to respond with this pretentious corporate-speak crap.

  27. soj4life says:

    This is why I don’t like when people get these EBT cards, they don’t understand how they work and get mad at employees in retail locations instead of the learning how to use the cards correctly.

  28. DragonThermo says:

    I am on the bank teller’s side. Using an EBT card is essentially using stolen money. Money that was stolen at gunpoint from taxpayers by the government to give to people as a dis-incentive to get a job.