Texas WIC evaluated both on-line and off-line EBT technologies. On-line EBT utilizes a magnetic stripe card to initiate an online contact between a point-of-sale system and an EBT host to complete a transaction. Off-line EBT utilizes a smart card with an embedded microchip that contains WIC participants’ benefits. A point-of-sale system equipped with a smart card reader checks the WIC benefits to be purchased against the benefits on the chip, authorizes the transaction and uploads the days’ transactions to a host.
The off-line EBT system was chosen by WIC primarily due to the size of Texas and the remote location of some WIC clinics and grocers. Texas was also drawn to the fact that the off-line system does not require transaction fees for the grocers. The off-line system allows immediate access to benefits regardless of the location of the clinic or the communication ability of the stores.
Texas WIC began piloting an off-line EBT system in El Paso in 2004. The El Paso pilot was welcomed by WIC participants and grocery store personnel. Participants were enthusiastic about the fact that the card could be used anytime during the month and items could be purchased when needed rather than all at one time. Participants also indicated using the EBT card was more socially appealing due to the privacy it provided. Grocery store managers indicated the use of EBT resulted in faster and simpler transactions for cashiers and participants and faster reimbursements for the stores.
In April 2009, Hidalgo County had the honor of being the last county to convert from paper vouchers to EBT cards. Texas WIC Director Mike Montgomery said, “I cannot state strongly enough how absolutely proud I am of this tremendous accomplishment. We have served our clients well!”
Texas currently serves more than 1 million participants and credits EBT with streamlining the process.
EBT Development Manager
Nutrition Services Section
Department of State Health Services
4616 West Howard Lane, Suite 840
Mail Code 1933
Austin, Texas 78728