eWIC FAQ's for WIC Authorized Retailers
Information and Resources for Vendors
MN WIC Program
- Frequently Asked Questions
Approved Product List (APL) – Categorized list of UPCs and PLUs that are WIC allowed. WIC cards cannot be used to pay for any item that is not in the APL.
eWIC Service Provider – Contractor whose software will connect cash registers to the WIC Information System and transfer payments between banks.
Integrated Stores – Stores that are able to accept eWIC as a form of payment along with cash, credit/debit, and SNAP EBT.
Non-Integrated Stores – Stores that need a stand-beside terminal to process eWIC benefits. They may currently use separate machines to process credit/debit and/or SNAP EBT.
Stand-Beside Terminal – A machine that allows non-integrated stores the ability to accept eWIC payments. The terminal connects to the internet over a dial-up connection or high-speed internet to get participants’ benefits and download the APL. The stand-beside terminal has a barcode scanner and a PIN pad.
PIN – Personal Identification Number. Participants and proxies must enter a PIN number after swiping the WIC card. Anyone who knows the PIN can use the WIC card.
WIC Card – Used as payment in an eWIC transaction. Benefits are not stored on the card, but the point of sale system’s card reader will read the card’s magnetic strip and get the account balance for the household.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is eWIC?
A: eWIC is an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) system for WIC. This system will replace the current paper vouchers with an electronic process for participants to purchase approved items in your stores by 2020.
Q: Which company will serve as Minnesota WIC’s eWIC Service Provider?
A: Minnesota WIC has contracted with chosen Fidelity Information Services (FIS) to serve as our eWIC Service Provider. FIS has sub-contracted with Custom Data Processing (CDP) to assist with the conversion and ongoing service of our eWIC system. FIS-CDP is the eWIC service provider for many states, including Wisconsin, Iowa, and South Dakota and brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the project.
Q: What is the transition timeline?
A: At this time, our best estimate is that the pilot will occur from in Fall 2018. Following a successful pilot, statewide rollout will begin in early 2019. Note that all stores must continue taking vouchers through the end of rollout.
Q: Will the WIC allowed foods change?
A: The foods will not change (other than the usual annual updates), so clients will still be limited to the same WIC food categories.
Q: Will customers have a choice between paper vouchers and eWIC cards?
A: No. There will be a period during the transition where some participants will have WIC cards and others will still have vouchers. However, once the transition is complete, there will only be WIC cards.
Q: Are cash register companies such as RDS and NCPB going to be involved in the eWIC planning?
A: Minnesota WIC will be working with a variety of cash register companies to help understand stores’ technological capabilities. The good news is that these companies will have implemented eWIC in other states by the time Minnesota chooses an eWIC contractor, so they will already understand the process.
APL (Approved Product List) Questions
Q: How does eWIC restrict allowed items?
A: All UPCs in the APL fall into a category of foods. If a participant does not have that category assigned to the household, they will not be able to purchase an item in that category.
Q: Do I have to manage the UPC lists myself?
A: No. Both integrated eWIC systems and stand-beside terminals will connect to the MN WIC APL file. However, store owners/managers need to ensure that their system updates daily. They will also need to report items to MN WIC that may be allowed but are not in the APL.
Q: How difficult is it for vendors to perform the UPC updates every day?
A: This is a simple process for vendors, provided they have a dedicated phone or broadband connection. The POS system automatically downloads the new Approved Products List (APL) file; the file feeds into the vendor’s POS system to match-up with the store’s item file. Vendors also typically have the ability to request an updated APL on-demand.
Required Equipment and Fees
Q: Do I have to buy a new cash register to take WIC cards?
A: No. Stores with systems that are not able to accept integrated eWIC payments can use a stand-beside machine to process eWIC. This is similar to the machine that they already use to process SNAP EBT and/or Credit/Debit transactions. However, since integrated systems are more efficient for stores and participants, MN WIC plans to offer grants to stores wishing to upgrade to a system capable of processing integrated eWIC payments.
Q: Will I use the same equipment for eWIC that I use for SNAP EBT?
A: If you are currently using a stand-beside terminal to process SNAP EBT, you will not use the same equipment that you currently use to process eWIC. However, the stand-beside terminals that will be required by MN WIC will likely be able to process both eWIC and SNAP EBT.
Q: Will I have to pay for the equipment that processes WIC cards?
A: Yes. Stores will purchase a cash register system capable of accepting eWIC (or upgrade to one) OR they will lease a stand-beside machine capable of processing eWIC transactions. Store owners will be responsible for transaction fees regardless of the type of system.
Q: How much will the eWIC equipment cost?
A: A lease for a stand beside machine that can process eWIC and SNAP EBT will cost approximately $40/month, plus transaction fees. Low cost point of sale systems may be available for approximately $2,000-2,500, plus ongoing maintenance fees. Sophisticated systems may be available through value added resellers such as RDS and North Country for about $10,000-$15,000.
Q: Could the WIC Program help me get an integrated system?
A: MN WIC hopes to offer grants to stores wishing to upgrade to a system capable of processing integrated eWIC payments. These grants can be used for the following:
- Purchase a low-cost system that is certified to accept integrated eWIC payments (approximately $2000)
- Upgrade an existing point of sale system so that it can accept integrated eWIC payments.
- Puchase a new point of sale system from a qualified value-added reseller, which will be capable of processing integrated eWIC payments (starting at approximately $12,000)
Q: In deciding with which stores it may cost-share, how will the WIC Program decide which stores are needed for participant access?
A: The USDA allows the WIC Program to help a vendor pay for the costs of eWIC equipment and transaction costs, if the vendor is “necessary for participant access”. If there are no other stores nearby, and no public transportation that people could use to get to another store, WIC may be able to help pay for the eWIC equipment and fees. We’ll give stores more information on this as we get closer to implementing eWIC.
Q: What will happen if stores do not have an integrated system? Can they no longer be a WIC vendor?
A: Stores without an integrated cash register system will have alternatives that allow them to remain a WIC vendor. A multi-function stand-beside terminal can be used to process eWIC cards, and a dial-up or broadband internet connection can be used to allow the terminal to complete the transaction.
Q: Will there be any fees passed on to the retailer as a result of the conversion to eWIC?
A: Yes. As with SNAP and Credit/Debit, stores with integrated POS systems, will be responsible for transaction fees. Stores with stand-beside terminals may be able to have transaction fees covered during the roll-out period, but will be responsible for the fees after implementation is complete.
Q: Why can’t Minnesota WIC just use the existing SNAP cards and terminals?
A: For a variety of reasons related to program requirements, technology, and funding, WIC must have its own EBT card and system. A WIC transaction is much more complicated than a SNAP transaction, so the benefits are programmed differently. However, if a store is not integrated, it may be required that their stand-beside terminal be multi-function so that it takes both WIC and SNAP transactions.
Q: Could we try out one of these multi-function stand-besides devices before implementation?
A: Minnesota WIC will provide some examples of the eWIC stand-beside terminals in action. These terminals are similar to terminals that may currently be used for SNAP EBT, but will have more functionality.
Differences between eWIC Card and Paper Vouchers
Q: What are some of the benefits of eWIC to Retailers?
A: Benefits of eWIC to retailers include:
- If the item scans as WIC allowed, it is allowed. If it does not scan as WIC allowed, cashiers cannot override the eWIC system.
- For retailers with an integrated eWIC system, it is a quicker, more discreet transaction.
- No need to check ID folder for signatures. Each card has a pin number; if someone has the pin number, he or she can shop for WIC foods.
- No need to deal with vouchers – smudgy stamps, dates of use, forgotten signatures, rejections, etc.
- Faster reimbursement.
Q: What are some of the benefits of eWIC to WIC Participants?
A: Benefits of eWIC to participants include:
- Can purchase foods as needed throughout the month – no need to buy everything on the voucher at once.
- Household benefits are combined on one card.
- eWIC cards are more discrete than vouchers
- No need to carry an ID folder – anyone with the PIN can use a WIC card.
Q: How does eWIC impact the participant experience at check-out?
A: As with any change, there can be challenges, but overall, participants in other states report preferring eWIC to paper vouchers. Challenges include initial participant and cashier orientation to use of the new card, and participants occasionally discovering that an item they’ve always purchased is not actually a WIC allowed item included in their food package. Benefits include a more immediate, straight-forward check out process. Many participants report that combined benefits for the whole family are also easier to track.
Q: Will there be additional paperwork for stores to complete after the eWIC transition?
A: No. There will be less paperwork for stores after the eWIC transition. Stores will not have to deal with stamping or depositing returned vouchers.
Q: Does eWIC reduce fraud?
A: While there is strict oversight with eWIC in terms of which foods may be purchased, eWIC does not eliminate fraud. Minnesota WIC will work with other states and groups to identify patterns of fraud and hold violators accountable. eWIC assures strict oversight in terms of which foods may be purchased and the eWIC card can be deactivated if it’s lost or stolen. eWIC also adds new tools for fraud detection. Minnesota WIC will leverage information from other states and partners to identify new ways to prevent and detect fraud and hold violators accountable.
Q: How will participants know what they can buy with WIC Cards if they don’t have a voucher with the items listed on it?
A: There are many ways for participants to know the benefit balance of the WIC card:
- Shopping List printed at the clinic, combined with receipts
- My MN WIC App – note that participants will be able scan barcodes and the app will tell them if a food is allowed and if they have benefits available to buy it
- Balance Inquiry at checkout
- Online Portal
- 1-800 Number
WIC customers and cashiers will still refer to the WIC Shopping Guide to know which foods are allowed. The WIC customer will be able to buy any of the foods in the shopping guide or App if the UPC is in the APL and the category of foods is listed in the customer’s Shopping List.
Q: How will Cashiers and grocery store staff know what the participant can get with their card? Sometimes we offer to help the customer find a WIC allowed item if they have one that is not allowed.
A: It is always possible to run a balance inquiry, print the receipt, and use it to help the customer find an allowed item. The customer may also be able to show the employee their balance on the My Minnesota WIC app.
Q: How will an eWIC transaction work (generally)?
A: In an integrated store, the customer will bring their items to the register. It is recommended that they separate the non-WIC foods from the WIC foods, but the foods do not need to be separated into two transactions. The cashier will scan all of the items though the cash register. The customer will swipe their WIC card, enter the PIN, and the POS will tell them the dollar amount that will be covered by WIC. If the dollar amount is lower than expected, they can decline the transaction and try to figure out which items were not included for WIC. (This is why grouping the WIC items together is recommended.) If the items deducted with WIC benefits are as expected, the customer can accept the total and pay any remaining balance with SNAP (if applicable), and then cash or debit/credit. The cashier will print out a receipt, which will show the remaining balance of WIC foods. In a non-integrated store, which uses a stand-beside terminal to process eWIC benefits, the process is a bit different. The customer must let the cashier know that she is paying with a WIC card and must separate the WIC items from non-WIC items before the transaction begins. The participant will swipe the WIC card and enter the PIN to begin the transaction. The cashier will scan the barcodes of the WIC foods and enter the price in the terminal. They will also scan/enter the price into the cash register. The stand-beside terminal will let the participant know immediately if a food is not WIC allowed. When the cashier has finished scanning and entering all of the WIC foods, the participant will verify the final total and accept the transaction. The cashier must provide a receipt to the participant.
Q: Do customers have to separate WIC items from non-WIC items?
A: In an integrated eWIC system, cashiers can process both groups in one transaction, but MN WIC recommends separating WIC foods from non-WIC foods to help with troubleshooting if there are any questions or problems.
With a stand-beside terminal, customers must separate WIC foods and SNAP foods from other items. Minnesota plans to use stand-beside machines that process both eWIC and SNAP EBT.
Q: How will the eWIC transaction affect the SNAP transaction?
A: In integrated stores, it will be possible to purchase WIC and SNAP items in one transaction. However, it’s important that the WIC customer use the WIC card first, then the SNAP card, and then any other form of payment.
In non-integrated stores, it will be possible to transact both payments with the multi-function stand-beside terminal, but it may not be possible to use other forms of payment. More information about this process will be available when the eWIC service provider is on board.
Q: How will eWIC affect the long transaction times that we sometimes have with WIC vouchers? Sometimes people bring up the wrong thing and we have to help them troubleshoot and get the right one.
A: Generally, eWIC will reduce the transaction times for WIC customers. They may still occasionally bring up the wrong items and require help troubleshooting. However, in stores with integrated systems, WIC customers will no longer have to separate their WIC foods from other purchases or by voucher. With a split tender transaction, you will be able to process the entire order together. Additionally, customers will no longer have to redeem a full voucher at once. They can purchase a gallon of milk or box of cereal as needed, so they may bring up fewer items at once.
Q: Will there be ID required? If so, with photo?
A: With eWIC, no form of photo identification or signature is required. The WIC customer will have a PIN number to identify themselves as an authorized WIC shopper. Anyone with the PIN is authorized. This will eliminate the need for customers to show an ID folder to verify signatures.
Q: How will BOGO coupons work with eWIC? You cannot scan a coupon twice.
A: In a store with a multi-function stand-beside device, you would not scan the free item or the coupon. A store with an integrated system should handle it internally and not apply the free item to the purchase transaction – there is a test in the certification process that makes sure it is working correctly.
Q: What kind of training will be offered to retailers for eWIC?
A: Minnesota WIC anticipates providing general information and training to vendors in advance of eWIC rollout in each region. Most stores will receive training on how to transact eWIC from the manufacturer of their cash register software or from the eWIC service provider.
Q: Will participants be trained?
A: Yes – participants will be trained at the time their card is issued during a clinic visit. Because benefits are issued 3 months at a time, there is a staggered transition for program participants, which gives the WIC program room to work out issues that arise.
eWIC System Support
Q: What are some things stores can do now to get ready for eWIC?
A: Here a few things stores can do to make the transition to eWIC easier:
- If you plan to purchase a new electronic cash register system in the next year, look for one that that is eWIC ready. This will give your employees and WIC customers all of the advantages of eWIC. Many companies provide these systems, including Retail Data Systems, North Country Business Products, LPA Retail, and FTS Solutions. Contact Emily.Gomez@state.mn.us. if you have questions about eWIC-ready cash register systems.
- Have you tried using the Food Finder function of the My MN WIC App? Or does your cash register have a scanning system for WIC foods? Using these tools can help cashiers and store employees get used to the way eWIC only allows items if the UPCs are in the Approved Product List (APL).
- Join the Minnesota WIC Vendor Advisory Group. As a member of this group, you will be able to represent your store as Minnesota WIC makes decisions related to eWIC and other areas of WIC that affect stores. To join, simply email Emily.Gomez@state.mn.us.