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Fridays (with Benefits) - Better benefits through data

Data is everywhere. This isn't exactly "news." Mostly about how Big Data is affecting large industries. But we haven't heard much about how localized data can help smaller companies leverage the same types of insights, scaled to their specific needs.

This week, we look at an article that highlights an HR professional who leveraged her own love of data analysis to better craft employee benefit plans at her company. What might be the most interesting is how much of the data she uses is qualitative, addressing the targeted needs of people.

How one HR pro uses data to increase benefit utilization - Nick Otto, Employee Benefit News

Misty Guinn, the director of benefits and wellness at Benefitfocus, calls herself a "data nerd." Yet, HR hasn't traditionally been a line of work that relied heavily on deeper metrics -- even at a company that provides benefits services to other organizations.

And what struck her the most was how it seemed that her company's employees knew more about other people's benefits than their own. So, she tore down the existing model and built a new internal benefits education plan that treated the company's own workers like the customers they serve.

The result? An Employee Benefit News' 2019 Judges' Choice Benny Award.

Guinn's new approach was people-focused, aiming to ensure an entire wellness strategy -- physical, mental, emotional, financial and purpose-driven needs. These plans and options were crafted by analyzing the data at hand.

We won't get too deep into the specifics, but the data was telling, giving Guinn the insights necessary to rework entire communications plans, increasing engagement before, during and after open enrollment. She knew that employees were often confused by the wealth of benefits options in front of them, never making the most of what was offered.

Even more telling, by analyzing her company's enrollment data, Guinn saw ways to optimize benefits offerings by life accomplishments and milestones -- having children, buying homes, paying for college, etc. Not only did she make it easier for employees to understand their options, but also continued education and communication through these life-changing events.

Even for employees who aren't undergoing these changes, Guinn's data allowed her to create a thematic approach to internal communications, centering her outreach on awareness months, national observances and the like.

With these overhauls, Benefitfocus saw a 72% adoption rate into its high deductible health plans during the 2019 open enrollment period, above the national average of 25 to 30%. Additionally, there was a 27% increase in employee contributions to health savings accounts.

Yeah, this is the type of data we like to hear. Check out the rest of the article to hear more about how Guinn and Benefitfocus leveraged data to transform benefits into a personal journey.

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Accounts

Asked and Answered: What's the best way to contact your FSA administrator?

Communication is important in every successful relationship, and the relationship you have with your FSA administrator is no different. Whether you have questions about your benefits, require assistance to file a claim, or need to know what's eligible, your administrator is there to help.

Who do I contact?

If you aren't sure who your FSA administrator is or how to get in touch, your HR department can help. More often than not, your FSA administrator won't actually be a company employee, but a third-party administrator (TPA) instead.

Processing employee benefits is a time-consuming and complicated task, so it's not unusual for employers to outsource the work to another company that specializes in FSA administration.

If your employer is your FSA administrator, your HR department will be able to direct you to the right person. If you have a third party administrator, they'll be able to provide you with contact information.

You should also be able to find a contact number for your administrator on the back of your FSA debit card, and in the information you received at the beginning of the policy year.

Communicating with your administrator

FSA administrators want communication to be simple for policyholders, so they provide different ways to get in touch. The best way will depend on both personal preference and what you need.

Here are the most common ways to get in touch with your administrator, as well as some pros and cons of each:

By phone - Most (if not all) FSA administrators will have a phone number that you can use. Phone calls are great if you have complicated questions about your policy or a claim, since someone on the line can walk you through everything. While many administrators offer 24/7 support, keep in mind that you may find yourself waiting on hold to speak with someone.

Mobile apps - Many FSA administrators offer mobile apps that are easy to use when you're on-the-go. If you download an FSA administrator's app, you'll be able to instantly check your balance, see an overview of your account activity, and even upload photos of receipts so that you can submit a claim.

Most apps will also contain a link to an FAQ page so that you can easily find answers to your questions. The main drawback is that most of the time, you won't be able to speak with a representative directly.

Websites and live chat - FSA administrators offer online portals where you can view your balance, file claims and review your policy information. When you're on your administrator's website, you may also have an option to speak with a representative through online chat, which is a great way to connect and get your questions answered quickly.

Text alerts - Your FSA administrator might let you enroll in text alerts for your account. Through this service, you'll receive automated alerts about your balance and account activity. As soon as a claim is approved or denied, you'll receive a message letting you know.

While these alerts are convenient, they have limited function and can't replace other methods of communication. You won't be able to submit claims by text or speak with a representative.

Since expenses and questions can come up unexpectedly, it's important to know how to get in touch with your FSA administrator before problems occur. And with communications resources becoming more accessible by the day, there's no reason to lose track of your account, and the best ways to maximize your funds.

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From FSA basics to the most specific account details, in our weekly Asked and Answered column, our team gets to the bottom of your most-pressing flex spending questions. It appears every Wednesday, exclusively on the FSAstore.com Learning Center. And for the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.