Key Takeaways

  • How long do Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits last? Benefit periods for SNAP can range from one month all the way up to three years. 

  • Do SNAP benefits expire? You can lose your EBT funds permanently if you don’t use your card for nine months or more.  

  • To avoid disruption in your SNAP benefits, you’ll need to periodically recertify to prove you’re still eligible for assistance.

Across the U.S., about 4.8 million older adults (age 60+) receive help through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). If you’re one of them, or if you’re thinking about applying, you may be wondering how long you can get SNAP benefits.

How long do SNAP benefits last?

The duration of SNAP assistance varies across households, depending on factors such as:

  • The number of people in your household
  • Your employment status
  • Your age and health

Benefit periods for SNAP can range from one month all the way up to three years. If you qualify for the program, you’ll receive an approval letter that explains how long you can get SNAP benefits. This “active” period is called your certification period. Your household will be issued an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card along with a monthly benefit allowance for the duration of your certification period.

How do I renew SNAP benefits?

If you want to keep receiving SNAP assistance after your certification period ends, you’ll be required to recertify for benefits. Don’t worry about having to remember to recertify. Several weeks before the end of your SNAP certification period, you should receive a recertification packet from your local SNAP office. This packet will contain detailed instructions on how to do it.

In addition to completing, signing, and returning the recertification form via mail or online, you may be asked to provide verifying information and/or documents. These might include:

  • Your current income (including most recent pay stubs, if applicable)
  • Any household changes (new members or people who have left)
  • The amount you pay for shelter, dependent care, and medical expenses

Your SNAP office will use all this information to determine if you're still eligible to receive SNAP assistance. Many states have implemented a streamlined recertification process for households with older adults. If everyone in your house is age 60 or older, you most likely will not have to complete a recertification interview. To avoid disruptions in your SNAP benefits, be sure to return your recertification form and documents on time.

SNAP guidelines vary by state. If you have specific questions about how to renew SNAP benefits, it’s a good idea to contact the program administrator in your area. Use this state directory and click on your state of residence to get contact information for your local SNAP office.

Do SNAP benefits expire? How long do SNAP benefits stay on my card?

You don't have to use up all your SNAP benefits in the same month you receive them. If you have leftover funds in your account, they will roll over into the next month. In fact, many SNAP recipients save their SNAP dollars for bigger shopping trips. Even if you lose SNAP eligibility and your case is closed, you can still use any funds left on your EBT card.

However, SNAP benefits fall into the category of “use it or lose it.” You need to use your EBT card on a regular basis. If you do not access your SNAP benefits at all for 9 months, you’ll lose them for good.

What if I lost my EBT card and can’t use it?

It’s very important to keep your SNAP EBT card in a safe and secure place, such as your wallet. But sometimes mishaps occur despite our best intentions. Contact your state’s EBT Customer Service department right away if you discover that:

  • You’ve misplaced your EBT card.
  • Your EBT card has been stolen.
  • You’ve forgotten your Personal Identification Number (PIN)—the four-digit “secret” number you use to access your  funds.
  • There are unauthorized charges on your EBT account.

The USDA offers a state-by-state directory of toll-free EBT Customer Service phone numbers.

Unlike other government benefit cards, SNAP EBT cards are not protected from fraudulent charges and errors. Acting quickly can help you stop future unauthorized use of your account and preserve your remaining benefits.

Should I apply for SNAP?

Eating healthy is a challenge at any age—but for older adults on a fixed or limited income, it can be even more difficult. The rising costs of grocerties have made it a strain for many people to get enough to eat daily. Sometimes, they’re forced to choose between eating dinner and paying for essentials like utilities and medication.

Take Martha Norris, for instance. At age 60, Martha lives with diabetes, high blood pressure, and osteoarthritis. She gets disability payments—but after bills, there's not much left for nutritious groceries. Now that she has SNAP, Norris enjoys much more flexibility.

I can go to the store when I want and get some fresh vegetables: asparagus, tomatoes, lettuce... you name it!," Norris said.

If you’re having trouble affording groceries, SNAP can provide the extra financial wiggle room you need. You’ll have the power to make healthier food choices that help you feel better, prevent chronic disease, and stay independent for longer.

Wondering how to apply for SNAP? NCOA can help.

Only 48% of older adults who qualify for SNAP are enrolled. That means too many people are still missing out on life-changing benefits.

One of the most common reasons older adults don’t participate in SNAP is its complex application process. But we’ve made it easier. Through BenefitsCheckup.org, you’ll find plenty of support to help you complete and submit your SNAP application:   

  • Use our quick, easy online screening tool to see if you qualify for SNAP and other assistance programs offered in your state.
  • Check our SNAP Map to learn more about SNAP and locate the SNAP application form for your state. You’ll also find information on SNAP benefit amounts by state, SNAP income limits, and tips on how to apply. You can even sign up for text-message reminders that help guide you through the application process.