Frequently Asked Questions - eWIC: Retailers
Information and Resources for Vendors
MN WIC Program
- Which option (smart cards/off-line or online) are most states currently choosing?
- How difficult is it for vendors to perform the UPC updates every day?
- How does eWIC impact the participant experience at check-out?
- Do participants know their balance when they come to the check-out?
- What will happen if stores do not have an integrated system? Can they no longer be a WIC vendor?
- How will BOGO coupons work with eWIC? Can’t scan [a coupon] twice.
- Could we try out one of these devices before implementation?
- Will participants be trained?
Q: Which option (smart cards/off-line or online) are most states currently choosing?
A: Currently, more states are moving toward the online approach. Many states using offline technology were early adopters who selected it because it was the best option available at the time, given the state of the technological infrastructure with which they had to work. States that chose offline more recently have done so for similar reasons; they have lots of disconnected clinics, or serve rural areas that have weaker telecommunications infrastructures. States with stronger telecommunication capabilities often elect for an online approach. The benefit of being able to modify a client’s account remotely is often cited as an incentive to the online approach.
Q: How difficult is it for vendors to perform the UPC updates every day?
A: This is a simple process for vendors. The system automatically downloads the new Approved Products List (APL) file; the file feeds into the vendor’s system to match-up with the UPC list. The master APL list is always bigger than the vendor’s list, because no vendor sells every WIC-approved item. Vendors also typically have the ability to request an updated APL on-demand.
Q: How does eWIC impact the participant experience at check-out?
A: As with any change, there can be challenges up front, but overall, participants report preferring eWIC to paper vouchers. Challenges include initial participant orientation to use of the new card, and participants occasionally discovering that an item they’ve always purchased is no longer approved. Benefits include a more immediate, straight-forward check out process. Many participants report that aggregated benefits for the whole family are also easier to track.
Q: Do participants know their balance when they come to the check-out?
A: Yes. Participants will have a number of ways to personally access their card balance prior to checking out. The receipt from each eWIC transaction also includes the participant’s remaining balance at the bottom.
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 POS stand-beside device can be used for smart card or online eWIC, and a dial-up or internet connection can be used for these transactions.
Q: How will BOGO coupons work with eWIC? Can’t scan [a coupon] twice.
A: In a stand-beside you would not scan the free item or the coupon. An integrated system should handle it internally and not apply the free item to the purchase transaction – there is a test in the certification that makes sure it is working correctly.
Q: Could we try out one of these devices before implementation?
A: When the eWIC processor is determined, there may be an opportunity to experience a demo, but not until that time.
Q: Will participants be trained?
A: Yes. Participants are trained at the time their card is issued during a clinic visit. Because benefits are issued 3 months at a time, there is a naturally staggered start for program participants, which gives the state room to work out issues that arise. Typically, states select a pilot region in the state to initiate roll-out, followed by a statewide rollout. The state sets the schedule to determine the timing of their phases. Vendors will have a period of time during which they accept both paper vouchers, and cards.