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.
Texas has operated the off-line EBT system statewide since April 2009 and currently serves approximately 1 million participants.
Grocer System & Smart Card Contacts
|Vendor System Support & Testing
||WIC EBT Support
|Vendor System Card Orders
||WIC EBT Support
|LA Card Orders
|EBT Mailing Address
||Nutrition Services Section
Vendor Management & Operations Unit
EBT Operations Branch
4616 West Howard Lane, Suite 275
Austin, TX 78728