A spokesperson from the vendor said Xerox's Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) system went down following a routine test of back-up systems.
All 17 states that use the system were affected by the outage including Alabama, California, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas and Virginia.
U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Courtney Rowe underscored that the outage was not related to the government shutdown.
"EBT cards in a number of states have temporarily stopped working today due to a technical issue that the vendor that serves these states is experiencing. The vendor is working to fix this issue and EBT cards will work again once it is resolved. This issue is not related to the government shutdown," Rowe said in a statement.
The failure caught many shoppers by surprise, forcing some to leave carts of groceries behind when their card was denied.
Xerox released the following statement Saturday night:
"Beneficiary access to programs such as SNAP, TANF, and other programs has been restored to the 17 States where Xerox provides EBT service. Re-starting the EBT system required time to ensure service was back at full functionality. Beneficiaries who required immediate access to their benefits could work with their local merchants who could activate an emergency voucher process where available. We appreciate our clients' patience while we resolved this issue and apologize for any inconvenience. We realize that access to these benefits is important to families in the states we serve. We continue to investigate the cause of the issue so we can take steps to ensure a similar interruption does not re-occur."
ABC News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.