As I was doing the research to write this article, I was pretty shocked at the sheer amount of misinformation available online about Costco and WIC. Unfortunately, if you’re a WIC recipient looking for places to shop, you can’t trust a lot of the information that shows up in a quick Google search.
To put it simply, Costco is not set up to accept WIC cards in 2023, despite dozens of claims to the contrary online. Because Costco accepts EBT cards (SNAP benefits), many people assume that they also accept WIC cards. But this unfortunately is not true.
I started to suspect that there was more to the story when I looked at the list of accepted payment methods on Costco.com, which does not list WIC.
Then, I went to the online WIC store locator tool and searched for several of the Costco locations in my area. Lo and behold, none of them are listed as WIC-authorized retailers.
So, to set the record straight, I called a Costco customer service representative directly. What they told me is that, while Costco is fully equipped to accept EBT cards, they cannot accept WIC benefits because they do not generally stock WIC-approved products.
The products Costco carries are almost always sold in larger containers than what you find at standard grocery stores. For this reason, Costco items cannot be WIC approved through the benefit program. In other words, while you can buy the same brand and type of products at other WIC-approved stores, the bulk versions of those products available at Costco do not qualify for WIC payments.
Where Can You Shop With WIC Instead?
While you unfortunately won’t be able to use your WIC benefits at Costco, there are still plenty of WIC-approved grocery suppliers in nearly every town across the US. In fact, the WIC program is required to authorize enough retailers in every state and region to adequately supply WIC-approved products to all WIC recipients. So, regardless of where you live, you should always be able to find a WIC-approved retailer in your area.
Some of the most common grocery retailers that accept WIC benefits include…
- Kroger (includes QFC and Fred Meyer)
- Red Apple
One of the easiest ways to find WIC retailers near you is by using the WICShopper app. You can also use this web-based tool, WICStoreLocator.com, if you’re unable to download the app. Simply select your state of residence and then search for your town or city to see a complete list of WIC-approved stores in your area.
How To Get A WIC Card
If you would like to get a WIC benefits card, start by visiting the USDA WIC website here. This page can provide you with some basic information about the program, as well as a link to the official WIC eligibility requirements.
To actually apply for WIC benefits, you will need to visit the website of the state or tribal department responsible for distributing WIC benefits in your area. You can search for your state or tribe’s corresponding website here.
Depending on where you live, WIC benefits are distributed via public health departments, education departments, or other similar governmental offices. If you have trouble navigating the lists accessible through the link above (I found them to be a bit hard to navigate), another easy way to find your local WIC application is to simply search for “[your state] + apply for WIC” in your search engine.
In many cases, you will be required to visit an office or clinic in person to begin your WIC application process. Some states might allow applicants to submit their initial applications online. However, in Washington State where I live, for example, you have to make an appointment at an approved “WIC clinic.” Appointments typically last between 30 and 45 minutes.
Unfortunately, there is no universal or streamlined process for applying for WIC benefits. You will need to contact your designated state or tribal agency to learn more about the process where you live.
Once you’re approved for the WIC program, you will receive your WIC benefits card, which you can use to purchase WIC-approved products at WIC-authorized grocers.
The WIC program is designed to distribute food assistance benefits to women who are pregnant, nursing, or raising small children. According to the official USDA WIC FAQs, “pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age five are eligible.”
Beyond these requirements, WIC recipients must also…
- Meet certain income criteria (those earning above a certain income threshold cannot qualify)
- Be a resident of the state where they’re applying for benefits
- Be determined as “nutritionally at risk” by a health professional (to learn more about how the USDA defines “nutritional risk,” click here)
How Much Can You Get Through WIC?
How much you can receive through WIC will depend on how many people you are responsible for feeding and the state or region in which you’re applying for benefits.
Here are the current maximum allowable benefits as of 2023…
While most states distribute the maximum benefits, some states might allocate less.
What Items Can You Purchase With WIC?
WIC benefits are reserved for products that provide necessary nutrition to infants, children, and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Some common WIC-eligible foods include…
- Baby food and formula
- Healthy breakfast cereals
- Canned beans
- Fresh dairy products (milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.)
- Dried beans, peas, and lentils
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Peanut butter
- Soy milk and tofu
- Whole grain foods
Unlike other government benefits like SNAP (EBT), WIC cannot be used to purchase general grocery items like snacks, packaged meals, soda, baked goods, etc.
Other Forms Of Payment Accepted At Costco
When shopping at Costco in person, you can pay with…
- Any Visa credit or debit card
- Most PIN-based debit cards (including Visa and Mastercard)
- Costco Shop Cards
- Cash or personal checks
- EBT cards
- Mobile payments like Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay
On Costco.com, you can pay with the following…
- Most major credit cards (except for American Express)
- Most PIN-based debit cards
- Costco Shop Cards
Who accepts WIC online?
As of 2023, very few retailers can accept WIC online. This is because federal regulations did not allow it for many years. In 2021, the USDA first announced that they support the expansion into online ordering options for WIC recipients, and a handful of stores have begun experimenting with this option. However, the program is still very limited. As of 2023, some Walmart locations in Massachusetts and Washington may be able to accept WIC payments online for in-store and curbside pickup, and Amazon also appears to allow WIC payments in some situations (read more about Amazon’s policy here).
Can you use WIC on Instacart?
No. Instacart is not currently set up to accept WIC payments.
Can you use a WIC card in another state?
As far as we can tell, yes. However, only if you are visiting the other state on a short-term basis. If you move to another state permanently or plan to be out of your home state for an extended time, you will need to have your benefits transferred to the corresponding program in the state where you do most of your shopping. There is no guarantee that your WIC card will continue to work out of state for the long term.