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.