SNAP/Merchant Services & Providers


Farmers markets accepting SNAP help to expand market sales, provide greater access for low-income customers and improve the shopping experience for all. In order to process SNAP at your market, a "point of sale" (POS) swiping machine is is needed to process the Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT). EBT can include SNAP or debit/credit cards.  These machines are either – 1) a "wired" system to use through an existing phone line, or 2) a free-standing "wireless" machine using cellular technology to receive information and perform the monetary transactions. The EBT programs generally include hardware (POS machines) and software, account user fees, if wireless, and transaction fees and implementation costs.  To process any EBT, an account must first be established with 1) Food Nutrition Services (FNS), and 2) a bank and POS "vendor" to conduct the electronic money transfers that occur between the customer and the retailer or market.

Farmers Markets can offer either SNAP only, SNAP and debit services or SNAP, debit, and credit.Each offering has different costs depending on the wireless card service provider and frequency of use. Generally, farmers markets are using point of sale (POS) wireless machines since most do not have access to a telephone line or power source. A Merchant Services Provider can provide wireless machines plus the technology to process your sales transactions and deposit the SNAP/EBT monies into your bank account. Whether or not you should use a SNAP only system or a SNAP/Debit or SNAP/Debit/Credit depends on your market.

Each market is unique. When choosing a system keep in mind:


Choosing a Card Service:

Depending on your market you may want to provide SNAP only transactions, or increase sales by using a debit/credit card option. The following information is provided to help guide you through the process. The PDF's will provide information about break even analyses to determine which Merchant Service Provider and card service program fits your market needs. These analyses are based on wireless systems (which means the wireless machine is communicating with cell phone towers to transmit information versus using a direct phone line).

Below is information on the following system:

Wired SNAP Only
A wired EBT system for SNAP only is free from FNS

Free wired EBT machines
It is an USDA Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) requirement that qualifying entities (farmers markets, farm stands, etc.) have access to free wired EBT machines. SNAP is issued through the FNS and its nationwide network of state field offices; however, FNS contracts with EBT providers in each respective state. In Oregon the contracted provider is E-funds.   For more information, click here.

Oregon's approved FNS EBT Contractor? 
E-funds is Oregon’s EBT contractor. E-funds also provides debit and credit services if you're not already set up with your banker.  The contact information for an E-funds account manager can be found below under "Choosing a Provider".

Getting a free machine
The process for a free machine is pretty much automatic.  The merchant/market first completes their application with FNS for their Certification Number.  Once that is approved, FNS enters that number into a database that all contractors access.  E-funds (the main contractor) picks out the numbers that apply to the states where we are the prime contractor and automatically send that merchant/market a packet of information/application that allows them to apply for the machine.  Rules are that the merchant/market has to be doing at least $100.00 in food stamp transactions in order to qualify for the free machine.  Anything under the $100.00, the merchant/market can still participate, but will be sent a stack of vouchers to do transactions. 

Free machines and debit/credit cards
Your free machine does NOT connect you to debit or credit options - It's for SNAP only.  There are restrictions for the free machine and many markets still try to get set up with wireless (satellite/cellular) system so they can expand into debit or credit in the future.

Wireless SNAP Only (pdf)
A wireless system requires a portable handheld card reader and a network connection. The SNAP only option offers limited sales, lowest cost, and no revenue source.

Wireless Debit/SNAP (pdf)
A wireless system requires a portable handheld card reader and a network connection. The Debit/SNAP option may have an higher initial start-up cost but it can provide higher vendor sales and can be a source of revenue with usage fees.

Wireless Credit/Debit/SNAP (pdf not available at this time)

SNAP and Debit service charges have a relative fixed fee structure and consequently are easier to project future program costs. Credit card usage fees are based on percentage of sales and much less predictable, and require more complex accounting. The following documents provide support for the market's pursuit to add card services.

Choosing a Merchant Services Provider

*The details below are for informational purposes only. OFMA does not endorse any specific provider. Each market should research and select a provider that is best suited to their specific needs as each provider has a different financial structures and fees for EBT and Debit/Credit usage.

When choosing a provider it is important that the Farmers Market determine what card service fits best. Here are some important questions to consider asking:

  • What services can you provide that are different than your competitor?
  • What telephone provider do you use? If you are in a rural area, make sure the telephone network works well in your area (for example Verizon versus AT&T).
  • What is the fee for turning the system off during non-market months and what is the monthly fee while it is off?
  • Remember to ask other farmers markets for recommendations on which provider worked best for them.
  • What is the turn-around time on market transactions? Will I see it on my next billing statement? This will help you to keep record of the market transactions.

Below are four companies that have assisted other markets. Keep in mind that each company uses different technologies which are not necessarily transferable to other companies. This means that each card service device is specific to that company only. Keep in mind that if you are in a rural area you will need to use a provider that has cell phone service in your area. This is an important question to ask the company. The providers are listed alphabetically below and are in no order of preference.

card

fis

E-funds - Owned by Fidelity National Information Services (FIS)

Clyde Terry, email
Sr. Account Manager, eFunds Corporation - Government Solutions
P: 801-444-9950, F: 801-444-9951

ms

Merchant Source

Kim Lyons, email
Business Relations Manager
P: 800-313-5198
F: 239-236-5198

tsys

TSYS Merchant Solutions

Jason Butts, email
Business Development
P: 402-602-4086, Cell: 402-720-7972

Chris Shanahan, email
Senior Business Consultant
P: 402-602-4275 or (800)516-6242 ext. 4275
F: 402-938-5477

 

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