How Do I Unlock My EBT Card in California?

If you are a recipient of the CalFresh program in California, you may have received an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card to access your benefits. This card works like a debit card and can be used at participating retailers to purchase food items.

However, there may be situations where your EBT card gets locked or blocked, preventing you from accessing your benefits. In this article, we will discuss the steps on how to unlock your EBT card in California.

Reasons for Locking an EBT Card

Before we dive into the process of unlocking your EBT card, it is important to understand the reasons behind why your card may have been locked. Some common reasons include:

  • Entering the wrong PIN multiple times: If you incorrectly enter your Personal Identification Number (PIN) more than three times, your card may be temporarily locked.
  • Suspicious activity: Unusual transactions or activities on your card can trigger a lock as a security measure.
  • Administrative errors: Sometimes, errors within the system can result in a card being locked unintentionally.

Steps to Unlock Your EBT Card

1. Confirm the Reason for Lockout

Before taking any steps to unlock your card, it’s essential to understand why it was locked. Check for any error messages when attempting to use the card or review any recent communications from the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) for information.

2. Contact Customer Service

The most direct way to unlock your EBT card is to contact the EBT customer service line. Follow these steps:

  • Call the EBT Customer Service Number: Dial the toll-free number at 1-877-328-9677. This number is available 24/7.
  • Verify Your Identity: Be prepared to provide your card number, personal details, and possibly answers to security questions to verify your identity.
  • Request Unlock Assistance: Explain that your card is locked and request assistance in unlocking it. The customer service representative will guide you through the necessary steps.

3. Use the ebtEDGE Portal or App

If you have enrolled in ebtEDGE, the California EBT online portal and mobile app, you might be able to unlock your card directly through the platform. ebtEDGE allows you to manage your benefits, view transaction history, and even reset your PIN.

  • Access the Portal/App: Log in to your ebtEDGE account via the website or mobile app.
  • Follow Instructions: Navigate to the section for unlocking your card or resetting your PIN.

4. Visit a Local County Social Services Office

If you prefer in-person assistance or cannot resolve the issue via phone, visit your local county social services office. Here’s what to do:

  • Locate the Nearest Office: Find the nearest county social services office using the online directory on the CDSS website.
  • Bring Identification: Carry your EBT card and a valid form of identification (such as a driver’s license or state ID).
  • Explain Your Situation: Inform the staff about your locked card and follow their instructions to unlock it.

5. Reset Your PIN

If the lockout occurred due to incorrect PIN entries, you might need to reset your PIN. Here’s how:

  • Call the EBT Customer Service Number: Dial 1-877-328-9677.
  • Follow the Automated Instructions: Select the option to reset your PIN.
  • Enter Required Information: Provide your EBT card number and other requested details.
  • Choose a New PIN: Select a new 4-digit PIN that you will remember.

6. Monitor Your Card Activity

After unlocking your card, it’s crucial to monitor its activity regularly to prevent future issues. Here are some tips:

  • Check Your Balance: Regularly check your EBT card balance online or via the EBT customer service number.
  • Review Transactions: Look over recent transactions to ensure there are no unauthorized activities.
  • Secure Your PIN: Keep your PIN confidential and avoid sharing it with anyone. If you suspect someone else has access to your PIN, change it immediately.


Having your EBT card locked can be a frustrating experience, but it’s essential to follow the proper steps to unlock it. Contact customer service or visit a local county social services office for assistance, reset your PIN if necessary, and monitor your card activity regularly.

By following these steps, you can ensure that you have access to your benefits when you need them. So, always take care of your EBT card and keep it safe.