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Flex-Ed: A refresher course on FSA-eligible eyewear

Eligibility

Glasses and contacts are so commonplace, it's easy to forget that optometry is a medical issue. When you're prescribed eyewear by an eye doctor, you're essentially being prescribed medicine to treat a vision disorder. In the United States, over 61% of the adult population need some kind of corrective eyewear.

So how do eyewear expenses fit in with your FSA? Do contacts fall under the same rules? What about accessories and other related products? Read on for a few things you might want to know.

Eyeglasses

Most people know they can use their FSA card to purchase prescription glasses, but they might not be aware of one key fact - there's no limit on what kind of prescription glasses you can buy with an FSA.

All glasses are FSA-eligible, even if you buy $300 frames (yes, that includes those Gucci or Louis Vuittons you've had your eye on the last few months). As long as you're buying prescription glasses, you can use your FSA card to pay for them. You can also use your FSA to purchase eyeglass repair kits, for when those high-end frames inevitably get damaged.

Prescription sunglasses

Sunglasses are essential for protecting your vision while outdoors, but FSA eligibility surrounding sunglasses is complicated. If you're just buying regular sunglasses for personal use, you're not allowed to use an FSA.

Prescription sunglasses, however, are FSA-eligible. You may or may not need a prescription from your eye doctor to buy prescription sunglasses. As long as the glasses you buy help your vision, your FSA will likely cover them (when in doubt, always ask your FSA administrator for help).

Contact lenses

Consumers who prefer to wear contacts instead of, or in addition to glasses can use their FSA to purchase contacts. Even if your vision insurance company doesn't cover contacts, you can still use your FSA to pay for them. Contact solution and contact lens cases are also FSA-eligible (and things you shouldn't overlook when going through those receipts for reimbursement).

Note: You can't use an FSA for color contacts that don't have any vision correcting qualities. So no, you probably won't be getting reimbursed from those party store expenses.

Reading glasses

Reading glasses correct farsightedness, a problem that affects most adults after age 40. If you have to squint to read the words on this screen, chances are you need them too.

Reading glasses don't have to be as individually specific as regular glasses, so you don't need a prescription. You can buy them at grocery stores, drugstores or online. Reading glasses are also FSA-eligible, and you don't need a prescription to make them yours with FSA funds.

People who also have nearsighted issues need to buy bifocals, which address both types of eye problems. These glasses are often expensive, but your FSA can help offset the additional costs of this more-complicated eyewear.

Putting your FSA to work for better vision

Honestly, it's easy -- like any other eligible purchase, you can use your FSA card when buying contacts, glasses or prescription sunglasses from your optometrist, retail eye clinic or online store. (Need to find one? Well, stop looking.)

You can also pay for the item with your regular debit or credit card and then reimburse yourself from your FSA. No matter which option you choose, keep the receipt and upload it in a cloud or other virtual storage space. You'll want to have proof in case your FSA administrator questions the purchase.

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New to FSAs? Need a refresher course in all things flex spending? Our Flex-Ed column gives you a dose of FSA Living 101, offering tips for making the most of your tax-free funds. Look for it every Thursday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center.

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