California P-EBT Balance (and how to activate card)

Are you trying to check the balance on your California Pandemic EBT Card (P-EBT)? In today’s post, we will outline the options you have to find out your California P-EBT card balance. The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) is responsible for administering the California P-EBT Program. P-EBT benefits are meant to replace breakfast and lunch that children who received free or reduced-price meals would normally receive during distance learning due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Before we get into how to check your balance or activate your card, we will first explain how the California P-EBT program works.

Next, we will walk you through how to activate a new P-EBT card.

Also, we will explain the two ways you can check the balance on your P-EBT card.

Furthermore, we have added information about the $120 Summer P-EBT benefits for 2023 and the 2023 P-EBT 4.0 Reload dates below.

Finally, we will answer the most frequently asked P-EBT questions, including when you can expect P-EBT benefits for the 2020-2021 school year.

"Check the balance on your California P-EBT Card"

  • What is California P-EBT?
  • How do I Activate California P-EBT Card?
  • How Do I check my California P-EBT Card Balance?
  • California P-EBT FAQs

For summer 2021 P-EBT benefits, click here.

What is California P-EBT?

Due to Coronavirus (COVID-19), children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals at school will get extra food benefits called Pandemic EBT (P-EBT).

P-EBT benefits help families in California buy food when school is closed.

It is managed by the California Department of Social Services (CDSS), in collaboration with the California Department of Education (CDE).

How do I Activate California P-EBT Card?

To activate your card, call the P-EBT Customer Service Center at (877) 328-9677.

Option 4 will allow you to set a PIN for your new card.

However, you’ll need the following information to activate your card:

  • The 16-digit card number found on the front of your card
  • Your zip code for your mailing address
  • The 6-digit date of birth for the child named on the card.

"California P-EBT Card"

If I already got a P-EBT card in the mail do I need to apply online?

No, you do not have to re-apply if you already received a card in the mail.

Follow the instructions above to activate your card.

You will be required to create your private PIN number.

Also, families need to set up a new PIN even if they already set up a PIN for their original P-EBT card.

Furthermore, do not throw away your P-EBT card.

That’s because more benefits may be added later if the federal government
extends the program again.

How Do I check my California P-EBT Card Balance?

You have two options available to you to check the California P-EBT balance.

Option 1 – Check by Phone

You can check your California P-EBT Card balance by calling the Customer Service number on the back of your card.

We have also provided the number below for your convenience.

California P-EBT Customer Service Number: 1-877-328-9677

The Customer Service Hotline is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

After you call, enter your P-EBT card number and you will hear your account balance.

Option 2 – Check your Last Receipt

Also, you can check the balance on your California P-EBT card through your last transaction receipt.

This is the easiest and quickest way to locate the current balance on your P-EBT Card.

To locate the balance, look at the bottom of your most recent grocery store receipt.

Furthermore, it is a good practice to keep your most current P-EBT receipt.

That way, you always have a quick way to check your P-EBT card balance before you shop.

California P-EBT FAQs

Here are the most frequently asked questions about the California P-EBT program:

When will the 2023 California P-EBT 4.0 Benefits be Distributed?

P-EBT cards for school-aged children will start mailing out in August 2023 for those who were eligible from August 2022 to May 2023.

Cards for young children under 6 will also be mailed in August for those eligible from August to December 2022.

The cards will be reloaded in September 2023 for young children eligible from January to August 2023.

How Much will my Child Receive in California P-EBT 4.0?

The benefit amount depends on the category your child falls under:

    • School-Aged Children (TK-12): They will receive $8.18 for each day they didn’t attend school in person due to COVID-19 during the 2022-2023 school year. Additionally, eligible school-aged children will receive $120 for Summer 2023 P-EBT benefits.
    • Young Children (under 6): Young children will receive benefits for each month they received CalFresh Food benefits from August 2022 through May 2023. The amount varies based on Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) meal claim reductions during the school year, with eligible young children receiving up to $36 per month.

When will the 2023 California Summer P-EBT Benefits be Distributed?

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) will begin mailing Summer P-EBT cards between July 16, 2023, and August 30, 2023.

These cards, distinguishable as P-EBT 4.0 cards, will be mailed to the address maintained in the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Database (CALPADS).

It is important for school districts to ensure that address data is up-to-date, and for students without an address, to populate either the school or district address.

How Much will my Child Receive in Summer 2023 P-EBT Benefits?

For the Summer 2023 P-EBT period from June through August 2023, each eligible child will receive a set benefit amount of $120.

How can I get help with my California P-EBT Card?

If you need help with your P-EBT card, you can call EBT customer service at (877) 328-9677.

You can get help with general questions or assistance with the following:

  • Check your P-EBT Card balance
  • PIN change
  • Change of address or date of birth
  • Lost or stolen card Replacement

Where can I use California P-EBT?

P-EBT households can use their benefits at retailers that accept food stamps (SNAP benefits).

The P-EBT benefits can be used to purchase eligible foods on the food stamps list.

In California, Families can use P-EBT benefits to buy food at most grocery stores and farmers’ markets.

Furthermore, P-EBT benefits can be used to buy groceries online at Amazon, Walmart, and Aldi stores through Instacart.

Also, families can also shop online at Albertsons, Vons, and Safeway stores and pay with their EBT card at pickup.

How do I use my P-EBT card?

As mentioned above, you can use your P-EBT card at most grocery stores and farmer’s markets like a debit card.

When you are getting ready to pay for a purchase, here’s what to do:

  • Select “EBT”
  • Swipe the card
  • Enter your private PIN number

Can I use a P-EBT card to withdraw cash from an ATM?

No. The California P-EBT card can only be used to purchase food in most grocery stores and farmer’s markets.

Furthermore, you can use your card to buy groceries online for delivery from Amazon or pick-up from Walmart.

Also, you can use your P-EBT card to order your groceries for store pickup at several Safeways stores.

Unfortunately, your P-EBT card may not be used for restaurant meals or fast food.

Do children without social security numbers qualify for P-EBT benefits?

Yes, children without social security numbers (SSN) can receive P-EBT benefits.

An SSN is not asked for on the P-EBT application.

Do all students in families receiving CalFresh/SNAP qualify for P-EBT?

No. Only families with students eligible for free or reduced-price school meals qualify for P-EBT.

Furthermore, if your child falls in this category and your family is already getting CalFresh, then you should automatically receive your P-EBT card.

Do home school students qualify for California P-EBT?

No. Families with homeschooled children are not eligible for P-EBT benefits.

That is because homeschooled children do not usually receive free or reduced-price school lunches, which is a requirement for P-EBT.

If I get P-EBT benefits, will it make me a public charge?

No. The P-EBT benefit is based on a family’s eligibility for their child’s free or reduced-price meal.

The Department of Homeland Security does NOT consider free or reduced school meals, P-EBT, or other emergency benefits for public charge purposes.

California P-EBT Balance Summary

Here’s the bottom line:

There are two ways to check your P-EBT Balance – Over the phone and via your last transaction receipt.

To activate your California P-EBT card, follow the instructions that come with your card.

You will be required to create your private PIN number, which you will need to use your card to make purchases.

Also, you can call the EBT Customer Service Center at (877) 328-9677 for help.

Furthermore, as of December 22, 2020, all P-EBT extension cards have been mailed to families with eligible children.

Finally, families with homeschooled children are not eligible for P-EBT benefits.


We hope this post on the California P-EBT Balance was helpful.

If you have further questions about California P-EBT Card, CalFresh EBT, CalFresh benefits, please let us know in the comments section below.

Be sure to check out our other articles about CalFresh and CalFresh EBT, including:

Get the Complete Guide of EBT Discounts for 2024! $1,000+ Worth of Savings!