For more than a third of the flexible spending account (FSA) user population, March 15 is a pivotal deadline when they have to spend the last of their 2019 funds before they're forfeited to the "use-it-or-lose-it" rule.
Need some help getting your wellness shopping trip started? Let the FSAstore.com staff help. We've compiled our staff's favorite newly eligible and top sellers so you can get exactly what you need to spend your remaining funds and get what your family needs to stay healthy year-round.
"This is my favorite sun-safe lip balm that goes with everything. It has broad spectrum protection and helps prevent chapped lips," - Pauline F.
"This is one of our office favorites. It uses a suction tool to remove insect saliva and venom to quickly get rid of any itching or burning after a bite," - Kevin O.
"If I have a sports injury or just some regular workout soreness, this is a great option to have in my freezer to fight off pain and inflammation," - Ethan W.
"I'm a big fan of Kanjo products, and this zip-apart mat helps me set up and break down the mat quickly and stow it in a suitcase or bag when traveling. It's a great way to treat common pain issues that can affect your neck and back," - Brendon A.
"I love this face stick for my little ones because it's plant-based, reef-safe and certified sustainable while offering broad spectrum protection against UVA/UVB rays," - Nancy H.
"When I pull a muscle or tweak something at the gym, this cold compression sleeve is a lifesaver. It conforms to the area to ease pain and speed up the recovery process," - Bill S.
"If you wear contacts or eyeglasses, an FSA is a no-brainer to cover vision corrective aides and everything else that goes with them. I'm a big fan of Sven Antifog gel that will keep my lenses clear for 24 hours and comes in a pen-sized spray bottle that can go with you anywhere," - Zach W.
"After using a regular breast pump after the birth of my first child, I'm absolutely wowed by the Elvie. It can be worn in a standard nursing bra, and I can get stuff done while still being able to pump. It's one of the coolest mom innovations out there today," - Vanessa S.
"You'd be amazed how many ways you can use a heating pad, especially when it comes to treating abdominal cramps and discomfort. This Caring Mill design is perfect for use at home and can fit easily in a travel bag, and each sale benefits our charitable partner, Children's Health Fund! It's a win-win," - Jackie D.
March 15 will be here before you know it, so make sure you shop at FSAstore.com for all of your deadline spending needs:
- Shop worry-free until midnight PST on March 15
- 24/7 access to FSA experts, call or chat
- 100% eligible products, guaranteed
Paperwork. It's not something most people look forward to. Can't miss that it has the word "work" right in the name. But it can be a lot more interesting (and literally rewarding) if that paperwork leads to getting some of your hard-earned money back from taxes and in your pocket where it belongs.
You know, kind of like what happens with your flexible spending account (FSA). You see, even though FSA cards have made it easy to buy eligible health care products without paying tax, you've probably bought some things in the last year that qualify for FSA reimbursement. After all, there are SO many everyday health products and services like chiropractic appointments, allergy meds and more that you might have bought not knowing they were FSA-eligible.
(In other words, your FSA might "owe you one." We all like when that happens.)
But to get this money, you need to make sure your paperwork is in order, and your receipts match your claims. It sounds complicated, but it really isn't, as long as you know what you're doing. And that's where this guide to FSA claims and reimbursement comes in.
Over the next few sections, you'll get an everyday person's view on how to handle the organizing and filing of your FSA claims, so the only thing you need to do is sit back and enjoy your tax-free savings. Let's get started…
Gather those receipts!
You won't get far if you don't have receipts for the FSA claims you want to make. So whether you're tracking with a spreadsheet or a shoe box, take a few minutes to track down all the items and/or services you want to claim for reimbursement.
Remember, to be accepted for a claim, these need to be itemized receipts. That means they should have the following information:
- Patient Name: The name of the person who received the service or item. (Keep an eye on retail store receipts, which might not have this info.
- Provider Name: The provider that delivered the service or where the item was purchased.
- Date of Service: The date on which services were provided or the item was purchased.
- Type of Service: A detailed description of the service provided or item purchased.
- Cost: The amount you paid for the service or product and/or the portion that is not reimbursed through your insurance carrier. Note that if there is a service that was processed through insurance, you'll be looking for your Explanation of Benefits (EOB) from your health care provider for this information.
Know the Explanation of Benefits (EOB) form
We know, we know… more forms. But this is an easy one. Anything processed through your insurance will require an EOB to verify the need, service type, etc. to your FSA administrator. Basically, the form gives you a chance to state your case, and offer up any details needed to prove eligibility. It's not difficult, and it doesn't take much time.
What about itemized receipts?
Even though you might know what a particular receipt is for, it doesn't mean your FSA administrator will have the same understanding. The more info on the receipt, the clearer your request will be, and the easier it will be to get reimbursed. This is a good rule of thumb for any FSA owner.
If your administrator comes back and requests more documentation, don't worry -- you'll probably have a chance to resubmit. Whether that means finding a more-detailed receipt in a shoebox, or going back to the pharmacy to see if they can pull up a transaction record, there should be a better source of info out there.
Alright, let's file those FSA claims
Before we dive in, let's state one thing -- the more frequently you submit FSA claims, the easier it is to stay on top of your reimbursements throughout the plan year. Not only will you get the money faster (obviously) but it also serves as a good way to stay aware of your available FSA funds.
Our suggestion? Make it a regular habit -- either on a weekly cadence, or even as soon as you make a purchase, so you're always right on top of your available balance (a hearty spreadsheet saved to the cloud so you can access it anytime would be a good start).
When it comes to starting the filing process, your FSA administrator will usually have a specific way they want to receive claims. Some FSA administrators let you submit claims online, while others offer a form to complete. With most of the world moving these transactions online, there's a good chance you can submit this way for all expenses. But "most" doesn't mean "all" so be ready for some light paperwork if needed.
A quick look at the FSA claim form
Here's a brief breakdown of what you can expect from your own FSA administrator's claim forms:
First, you'll fill in your first and last name and employer name and you'll probably need to enter an account or personal ID number (this all depends on your administrator's account setup, of course).
Below that, you'll likely have to itemize each specific claim on its own line, detailing the following:
- Name of provider
- Service/purchase date
- Type of service
- Patient relationship (i.e., identifying if this for yourself or a qualified dependent)
- Cost of purchase or service that's eligible under your FSA
- Individual and total claim cost
Some things to remember. If you use your FSA to pay for a portion of a service that wasn't fully covered by an FSA, and an explanation of benefits wasn't provided, the administrator would likely need a detailed statement from the provider explaining the service before the claim would be approved. After all, the IRS (you know, the people handling your taxes) are very adamant that FSA expenses should only be for medical needs.
But that's really all there is to it. Just complete as much information as you have for each separate claim, making sure that all expenses are for yourself or qualified dependents, and that they fall within eligibility guidelines.
A quick refresher on dependents:
- An eligible dependent is defined as a spouse, qualifying child or qualifying relative. And a qualifying child is defined as a dependent child up to age 26, or any age if permanently disabled and otherwise qualifying.
- A qualifying relative is someone who resides with you for more than half of the year. Qualifying children and relatives must not provide more than half of his/her own support.
- A letter of medical necessity is required for any expense listed as such on our Eligibility List (and potentially others if your FSA administrator requires it). Basically, even if you think you need it, it won't be eligible unless deemed medically necessary by a licensed physician.
- Explanation of Benefits forms (EOBs) are recommended, in case your insurance covered a portion of the expense.
Finally, be sure that your receipts match the totals accurately, so there's no problems after you've sent the forms along. A little extra diligence now can save you a ton of hassle later. Which is really the theme of this whole guide.
Keep in mind, this is an overview -- your FSA administrator likely has a preferred way to file claims, so be sure to check with them before proceeding. But once it's done and submitted, sit back and relax - your FSA administrator can take it from here.
How will you get your FSA reimbursement?
Most FSA providers offer direct deposit for reimbursed funds, but others will issue paper checks. Typically (especially if you submitted online) these claims are processed quickly -- often within a few days of submission -- so you likely won't be without your money for very long.
Most FSA administrators have this process down to a science, and have made even the most-complicated FSA claims submissions an easy process, thanks to platforms, apps, user-friendly websites and clear language about eligibility guidelines. In other words, they empower you, the user, to maximize these accounts with as little effort as possible, so you can make the most of these fantastic benefits.
What if my FSA claim is denied?
We're glad you asked. It's never fun to deal with more paperwork, but sometimes a lack of clarity around an expense can lead to your claim being denied. Still, you shouldn't panic or give up -- sometimes there's a simple fix that can allow you to refile the claim and get reimbursed. It doesn't mean you've done anything wrong and there's a good chance it's not even your fault.
There are a lot of reasons your FSA claim might be denied and most have an easy fix. Here are just a few of the most common causes.
Less remaining funds than expected
Sometimes it's hard to keep track of these expenses, and that can affect your FSA balance. If your claim is denied, it might be because you had insufficient funds in your account or that the price of the item you tried to purchase is higher than your available balance. Be sure to regularly monitor your available FSA balance whenever making a purchase, so you don't overextend your benefit.
Items aren't FSA eligible
While the IRS determines which items are FSA-eligible, employers can set their own eligibility rules as long as they are within IRS guidelines. In other words, it's important to check in with your FSA administrator and confirm that the item you want to buy is eligible for tax-free spending.
If your FSA card was declined but you decided to buy the item with a different card, then it's still a good idea to try and get reimbursed through your FSA. Of course, this is the perfect moment for a shameless plug -- if you bought the item through FSAstore.com and the item was allowed under your plan guidelines, we guarantee that the item is FSA-eligible (as long as you're using your plan properly), so be sure to save your receipt and submit for reimbursement.
Your receipts don't match
If you submitted the wrong form, contact your FSA provider right away and see if you can resubmit. It's as simple as that. However, if you make a purchase and don't have a matching receipt, you may be able to substitute one from another qualified transaction.
Let's say you purchased sunscreen and realized you don't have the receipt. Instead, you may be able to find another receipt for a qualified purchase to offset your original purchase. Maybe you buy additional sunscreen at a different store and submit that receipt, instead. As long as the prices match, you should be okay.
In some cases you may not even need to submit a receipt, although we always advise that you keep them just in case. For example, if you used your FSA debit card to make a payment and at a qualified merchant with the proper system in place, your expense may even be automatically approved without the need for documentation.
Are there any other FSA claims mistakes I need to watch for?
Mistakes are normal, and they aren't the end of the world. But when you make a mistake with your FSA claims, you need to be able to fix them as soon as possible, so you're not caught paying for them later. In other words, you want to be sure that you're using your FSA correctly so that you're not required to pay your reimbursements back or stuck with money you can't realistically use.
Here are a few common errors that could lead to bigger issues, if you're not careful.
One common mistake is paying for an FSA-eligible expense with your FSA card, and then submitting the same expense for reimbursement. Most benefits administrators can catch these mistakes pretty quickly.
But if a claim does go through and you get reimbursed twice for the same expense, you'll have to pay it back to your administrator if (and let's be real -- when) they become aware of the issue.
Claiming through separate accounts
Let's say you and your spouse each have FSAs through your respective employers. If you pay for a copayment or FSA-eligible product and submit a claim for that expense under both accounts, this is another clear example of double dipping.
Get ahead of this -- keep your claims separate for each account to avoid problems down the line.
Paperwork might not be the most-exciting thing to discuss … well… ever. But when it comes to eligible items and services you might have purchased during your plan year, the paperwork can result in some big savings. After all, it's your money -- a little legwork can mean a lot more of it in your wallet, and less of it lost due to forfeiture or denied claims.
Using the tips here, some diligent record-keeping with receipts, and a conversation (or two) with your FSA administrator, filing FSA claims and receiving reimbursement can be an easy, effortless process for making the most of your tax-free funds.
A little-known fact: Your entire year's worth of allocated FSA funds is available to you on the first day of the plan year. So, even if you've only contributed a few paychecks' worth so far, if you need to use the funds for a larger qualified expense, you're able to do so -- you'll just "pay back" the account over the rest of the year through your already planned payroll deductions.
This is a great perk for those situations. But, life isn't a straight line, and sometimes things happen -- unexpected expenses, relocation, etc. -- that can get in the way of your planning and budgeting. If your life doesn't always stay on the straight and narrow, check out these tips to stay on target.
Consider lifestyle changes
If you're relocating to a larger, more-expensive city, you want to take into account a higher cost of living. For instance, let's say you're uprooting from Springfield, Missouri, to Brooklyn, NY. As the cost of living is nearly double in the Big Apple, you'd need to increase your salary two-fold to enjoy the same standard of living. Even if you're getting a bump in pay, you'll want to create a spending plan accordingly.
(Please note: If you switch jobs -- and health coverage -- your FSA stays with your employer. Any expenses you had prior to leaving are fine, but these funds aren't transferable, and don't "come with you" if you switch jobs.)
If you're expecting a lifestyle change like a move, you might want to use the funds in the FSA to help pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses. This way, more of your take-home pay can go toward your living expenses. Need to spend more on rent, bills, transportation and food? Then use the money in your FSA toward qualified medical supplies and other out-of-pocket health care costs.
Stay on top of eligibility
It's always good to know what's eligible -- and it changes pretty often (our "New Arrivals" section is a pretty good barometer for what's up). Just because something isn't considered preventive medicine last year doesn't mean it doesn't fall under preventative medicine this time around. By knowing exactly what's eligible, you can put the money that would otherwise be sitting in your FSA to good use.
Divvy up your funds
Figure out what your medical expenses might be for you and your family for the rest of the year. Then allocate the money in your FSA accordingly. How you want to divvy up the funds is based on your personal situation and different needs for each season. For instance, when will you need to buy supplies for medical conditions, or over-the-counter medication during flu season?
"End-load" your spending
If you're unsure of how much you'll need to spend on medical expenses throughout the year, figure out ways to spend whatever's remaining in your FSA in the last months. The max your employer can contribute is $2,700 within a plan year. So, since you'll have access to the full year's allocation at the beginning of the plan year, you'll want to figure out how much you can reasonably spend through each month.
Remember: if you don't use it, you'll lose it. If it's deemed necessary, get Lasik, pick up new prescription sunglasses, or be prepared with necessary health-related supplies and equipment. The beauty of online shopping is you can figure out what your grand total is before you check out. Whereas if you shop in a brick-and-mortar drugstore, you can only best guess how much you'll be spending. It'll keep you within budget, and prevent you from going over your limit.
If your life is prone to change, take full advantage of the fact that the FSA funds provided by your current employer are made available from the start of the year. When life throws you a curveball, knowing what's eligible, assessing any changes in your financial needs and living situation, and creating a spending plan will ensure you spend all the money before the end of the year.
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.
A flexible spending account (FSA) is a great tool to help you save money on health-related expenses. But, for all their benefits, FSAs also have a set of sometimes confusing rules and deadlines. Below, we've identified several of the most-common FSA missteps, and offer a few ideas on how to avoid them.
1. Missing a deadline
The purpose of an FSA is to use your tax-free dollars to offset medical costs throughout the year. But an FSA only saves you money if you use your available funds prior to your FSA deadline.
Many FSAs have an end-of-year deadline, with an FSA grace period of 2.5 months immediately following to spend rollover funds. There's also a run-out period, an option that may be offered by your employer to submit claims from the previous year.
If your deadlines coming, don't panic. There's still hope for you, last-minute FSA shoppers. First, check your FSA balance. Then, take an inventory of your home's medical supplies, so you know what you need to replenish before your deadline hits. Also, be sure to organize and submit receipts from any doctor's appointments or visits to a specialist.
(To make things easier, you could always just shop for 100% guaranteed FSA-eligible products at a certain site we know about..)
2. Not using all your funds
If you don't use your FSA by the end of your plan year, that money is typically returned to your employer. In some cases, you may be eligible to roll over up to $500 of your FSA funds into the next plan year. Or you may even have a deadline extension to allow you to continue using those funds before they're lost, if your plan offers it.
Currently, about 40% of employers allow this rollover. This provision helps offset the typical concerns regarding an FSA: that you'll set aside too much money throughout the year, only to end up forfeiting those funds.
3. Finding the magic number
Another potential challenge of an FSA? Deciding how much to contribute. Deciding how much to contribute to your FSA can feel like a guessing game.
Contribute too little and lose out on the tax benefits. Overfund the account and you could find yourself scrambling to spend it before the grace period deadline of March 15 (unless you have the rollover we mentioned earlier). Or, you could lose that money altogether, depending on your plan.
While this can feel like a guessing game, try this strategy to find your magic number:
- Total last year's medical expenses, so you have an idea of what you spend on an annual basis.
- Keep in mind any copays and deductibles and whether these will increase the next calendar year.
- Plan for potential life changes that could be an FSA-buster: like, a pre-scheduled surgery or the birth of a child.
4. Not establishing a budget
Not setting a budget for your FSA is pretty common. But establishing a budget for those tax-free dollars can be as simple as looking at your previous year's healthcare spending.
First, determine which FSA-eligible products you spent the most on, those you were short on, any surprise expenses, and if you ended up using out-of-pocket dollars on any FSA-eligible products. This will give you a clearer snapshot of how to spend your money in the months and years to come.
Then, include any recurring annual expenses, such as medication for a ongoing conditions, allergy medicines, even contact solution. It's also a good idea to factor some extra money from your FSA for unexpected expenditures.
New to FSAs? Need a refresher course in all things flex spending? Our weekly Flex-Ed column gives you a weekly 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.
The entire self-care industry seems to have been given a bad rap lately, with people encouraging us to spend outrageous money on things like gold face masks, weekly massages (that aren't medically necessary), or going on shopping sprees all in the effort to "treat yourself."
Alright, perhaps I'm being a bit pessimistic here, but self-care to me has always been a daily practice, in which I take care of my mental and physical health -- not a luxury "day out." It's an absolute necessity because without either of those things, I don't feel as ready to be there for work and my family.
However, if you're like me, you may feel a little bit of guilt spending time and money on yourself. One way that may help is to look at money you can set aside specifically for self-care.
Take your FSA for example. Even with the best of intentions, sometimes you'll have money sitting in the account that you need to use up or else it'll be lost forever. In this case, why not look for self-care products that are both medically necessary (i.e. helpful for your physical health) and give you an opportunity to use up your FSA funds?
Personally, I like to keep a wish list for such occasions. Here are just a few of the items I'd love to buy if I had FSA funds I really needed to use up.
Remote-powered foot circulator
I'm a sucker for tools that relax stiff muscles. With a young kid to take care of and standing on my feet most days when I'm attending conferences, my legs get sore real fast.
I'd love to get this remote-powered foot circulator so I can just turn it on, sit back and relax while eliminating my pain. The product claims to help increase blood circulation and reduces swollen feet too, which sounds awesome if I need to get up the next day and face another hectic work schedule
Full-on migraine relief
Loud noises and bright lights tend to give me headaches, and unfortunately my son's toys seem to be the noisiest and brightest when I'm the most stressed. I'd love to find a drug-free solution to headaches so I can lie back and just let go.
This looks pretty neat since you get a head and eye wrap and can be used hot or cold, which is lovely because it really depends on what kind of headache or migraine you have as to what you need.
Acupressure mat set (don't forget the pillow)
I'm a total sucker for anything purple and alternative medicine. My grandfather was actually a traditional Chinese doctor so when I saw this mat, it was totally up my alley. The idea is that you lay on this mat that uses acupressure points to relieve pain. I want it because I tend to have a lot of neck and shoulder pain.
Next-level lip balm
Nobody can blame a person for wanting to look nice, right? But more importantly, I want to look nice while getting the necessary sun protection I need.
SPF lip balm is something I love because it offers that level of protection -- something I definitely need since my family spends a ton of time outdoors. But it also looks pretty good, too! This tinted lip balm offers a few colors to choose from -- but I'm digging on the one called "Summer Crush" right now.
From the looks of it, it's also got SPF 30 and a bunch of non-toxic ingredients, so it's good for your health and the environment.
Here's my dream FSA wish list, at a glance...
Prescription-strength relief by relaxing stiff muscles and increasing blood circulation
Whether you budget week-to-week, or plan to use your FSA for bigger things, our weekly Real Money column will help you maximize your flex spending dollars. Look for it every Tuesday, 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.
They say, "Beware the Ides of March," but around here, we see things a little differently. That's because it's the March 15 FSA grace period deadline, a golden opportunity to make the most of your leftover 2017 funds.
We've been making a lot of buying suggestions lately -- many of them "bigger-ticket" items. But if you only have a few FSA dollars left, and they're burning a hole in your pocket, here are some low-cost, big-value ways to use every last bit before the clock runs out.
Perfect for sore knees and thighs. Use it at the gym, the office, at home, to let you work or play comfortably. This flexible wrap stays in place, even during a workout. Stick it in the freezer for cooling relief, or pop it in the microwave for penetrating heat. The pack holds its temperature for a full 20 minutes so you get fast, effective pain relief, perfect after exercise, or just for tired knees.
Speaking of soreness, talk to your doc about glucosamine supplements that contain calcium, vitamin D, and soy to help maintain healthy bone and joint function. If you have arthritis, this dietary supplement may support joint flexibility, cartilage maintenance and bone health. The best part? There's no prescription needed.
Don't forget your lips. As one of the most sun-sensitive parts of the body, this all-in-one lip treatment, with delicious peppermint vanilla flavor, moisturizes your skin and covers you with SPF 30 broad spectrum UVA/UVB protection. The vitamin- and antioxidant-enriched formula soothes and nourishes, while fruit butters like raspberry and avocado hydrate your lips.
The TheraBand Foot Roller is designed to provide quick relief from foot aches and soreness. The foot roller is an affordable, simple, and effective tool, with ridges that deliver a therapeutic foot massage. The 1.5" diameter increases flexibility by stretching your feet and toes which helps blood flow. The foot roller can also be chilled to assist in immediate pain relief.
While we're discussing feet, Profoot's Super Sport orthotic design helps eliminate fatigue and foot aches by providing solid support to the heel and arch. The new advanced-gel insert absorbs shock and helps make any shoe feel like a comfy pair of sneakers.
Let's face it, you never think about contact lens cases… until you actually need them. This 3-pack ensures you'll never wonder how you're going to store and clean your lenses, at home or on the road.
Have a rollover instead of a grace period? If you have a good chunk of money left over, and decided to roll it over into your 2018 FSA funds, good for you! The rollover option is a huge advantage for FSA owners who might want to put their tax-free funds toward something else.
Hopefully, you budgeted your 2017 dollars perfectly, and have zeroed out your balance (or rolled over the funds you need for 2018). But, if you have a few bucks remaining, don't let them just sit there and expire. It's your money, don't lose it!!
We don't want to be too dramatic, and scream, "Your FSA grace period ends on March 15!" But, with just two days remaining….
"YOUR FSA GRACE PERIOD ENDS ON MARCH 15!"
Let's take a collective breath because there's still time to use these tax-free dollars before the clock runs out. And to help you along, we've created a quick checklist to help you make sure your bases are covered before midnight on Thursday!
So, if you're a last-minute FSA shopper, read on, and avoid forfeiting your hard-earned flex dollars. Get that pencil ready and start checking!
The grace period deadline checklist
_____ 1) Make sure you have a grace period. Because it's only available to FSA users whose employers have chosen this option for their FSA programs. (If it turns out you don't have a grace period, skip ahead to the next section - there's still some items to consider!)
_____ 2) Know your balance. Visit your online FSA management portal (or call your benefits administrator) to find out exactly how much you have left to spend from your 2017 funds.
_____ 3) Take stock of your home's medical supplies. Running low on first aid items? Want a way to bounce back from workout soreness? Ready for the oncoming allergy season? Use your flex dollars to stay ahead of potential health needs.
_____ 4) Get organized! Have any receipts you need to submit for doctor appointments or specialist visits? Have these itemized and ready to submit before the deadline.
Also, if you don't have a grace period, but want to find some great deals on FSA-eligible items, consider shopping this week, anyway. Because we're running some FANTASTIC sales.
The "run-out" period checklist
While checking off the items above, you may have learned your FSA also has a "run-out" period, which ends on March 31. But, despite the similar concepts, the run-out period is not the same as the grace period.
Instead, the March 31 run-out deadline is your last chance to file claims from 2017. These are only for claims made before the March 15 deadline and you can't incur any new expenses with 2017 FSA funds after your grace period deadline.
In other words, do your FSA shopping and have your eligible medical visits by March 15. Then have the paperwork submitted to your benefits administrator by March 31. To make this easier, let's do another checklist:
_____ 1) See what's eligible. Have you paid for FSA-eligible items with cash or a credit card recently? Use our expansive Eligibility List to find out if you can be reimbursed for these purchases. Then submit your receipts/invoices in a claim to your benefits administrator before the run-out period deadline.
_____ 2) Get those invoices. Need to be reimbursed for a past doctor's appointment co-pay? You may be able to contact your physician for an invoice you can use for submitting a claim.
_____ 3) Plan ahead for 2018. Use these deadlines as an opportunity to better organize receipts and proofs of payment, so this is a breeze next year!
To make this even easier, let our team help you stay ahead of deadlines with our FSA Tracker! We'll send you email updates throughout your plan year to help you stay on top of FSA spending.
This week, instead of diving into consumer healthcare news, we're going to talk shop about our favorite FSA-eligible products. That's because we don't just sell this stuff -- we use it! On a standard day in FSAstore.com headquarters, you'll see someone relaxing with an eye therapy mask, typing with arthritis pain gloves, or blowing their nose with Boogie Wipes.
We've added a bunch of new products in 2018, and in addition to being big sellers. Here are some of our favorites, just in time for the March 15th grace period deadline.
Our FSAstore.com extended family is growing every week, thanks to our most-exciting new arrivals -- babies! FSAs cover a huge range of hi-tech health products, and one of our most exciting new additions is the Owlet Smart Sock 2 Baby Monitor.
This innovative device is worn around the baby's foot during sleep and takes heart rate readings and oxygen levels. It's also compatible with both iPhone and Android devices and notifies parents if these levels fall outside of comfortable ranges.
Heartburn and acid reflux can pop up from time to time. This is an issue for millions of Americans, and sleep position can contribute to the severity and frequency of digestive acid issues.
The MedCline Reflux Relief system has been validated in five independent clinical trials, and the components work together to comfortably create and maintain the ideal inclined and left-side sleep position for 100% natural reflux relief.
Plus, we have to mention the patented arm pocket that keeps you from sliding downward while you sleep, so you can rest on your side, and remove pressure off your arm and shoulder. It's unbelievably comfortable, and works really well.
Our team's skin is flawless. Mostly because it's raining sun care products in our office that protect us from nasty sunburns and other irritations. But sometimes, more advanced treatments are necessary. Light therapy has become an increasingly popular acne treatment for those looking for a drug-free solution to frequent acne breakouts.
The dpl II Professional Acne Treatment system uses varying light wavelengths to eliminate bacteria at the skin level to clear acne and other skin imperfections naturally! Best of all, this therapy can treat your full face, neck, chest, hands and back in under 10 minutes.
If you use CPAP equipment because of nighttime breathing issues like sleep apnea, you know how difficult it is to keep these various components clean.
The SoClean CPAP Cleaning and Sanitizing Machine has been one of our hottest sellers of 2018. It sanitizes and disinfects your CPAP accessories like your mask, hose, and water reservoir (including the water inside) without needing to take any pieces apart! Phew.
With the FSA grace period ending on March 15, we've seen a boost in social media activity as FSA users look to spend their remaining funds before the deadline.
We're here to answer the most-popular FSA grace period questions to help you better manage your FSA funds. These are just a few of the most-commonly asked questions, but the answers can help equip you with the knowledge to make this a successful March deadline.
"If I purchase an Rx item, where do I send the prescription?"
Over-the-counter products that contain medicated ingredients - such as Tylenol, Advil, Claritin and even some cough drops - require a doctor's prescription for FSA reimbursement. In most stores, you need to hand your prescription to the pharmacist and you will be able to use your FSA card with the prescription number you get.
However, if you shop on FSAstore.com, we have a easy Prescription Process that requests prescriptions from your doctor on your behalf, so you can quickly make your purchase without any hassle.
Update: As of March 2020 with the passage of the CARES Act, the OTC Rx requirement has been repealed and prescriptions are no longer necessary to purchase over-the-counter medicines with an FSA or HSA. Additionally, menstrual care products like tampons and pads are fully FSA-/HSA-eligible. Learn more here.
"If I retire this year, what happens to the leftover balance in my account?"
If you're planning to retire and you're enrolled in an FSA, you should spend the money before leaving your position. If you don't, your unspent money will go back to your employer.
If you've been keeping track of your FSA balance and spending throughout the year, hopefully there won't be much leftover. If you need some inspiration for new ways to use your remaining balance, check out our hi-tech health and surprisingly eligible goodies collections.
"What specific health practitioners can sign a Letter of Medical Necessity?"
Medical products and services that fall outside of FSA eligibility rules like massage therapy and calcium supplements can still be eligible with a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) from a doctor. However, your plan administrator can still approve or deny the expense.
"What's the difference between the FSA grace period and run-out period?"
Let's tackle this as simply as possible: the FSA grace period is your last chance to spend, the "run-out" period is your last chance to file claims.
The FSA grace period gives you 2.5 months after the end of your plan year to spend your remaining FSA funds from the previous year. So if your plan usually ends on December 31, you would have until March 15 to spend the last of your 2019 funds.
The run-out period is an option offered by your employer to submit claims from the previous year. This will give you a chance to be reimbursed for any outstanding medical expenses you incurred during 2019 and forgot to submit for reimbursement. Check with your benefits administrator to see if this option is offered to you (since not all plans have it) and to find out how much time you have to submit expenses.
"So, can I use 2019 FSA funds to pay for 2020 expenses?"
Employers have the option to elect either a 2.5 month grace period or a $500 rollover option to help you not lose your funds. If you have the FSA grace period, your plan year will function a bit differently than those without one.
For example, if you have a plan year beginning in January 2019 that ends in December runs into 2020, the FSA grace period extends this deadline until March 15, 2020. Check with your plan administrator to see if you have the grace period option.
Those with a traditional 12/31 deadline have to spend down their funds by this date. Those with FSA rollover can move up to $500 of their remaining funds into their 2020 FSA totals.
Now the 12/31 FSA deadline has passed, we have a bit of breathing room here at FSAstore.com before we ramp up for the next big deadline, the FSA Grace Period, coming on March 15! But, before we get to that, let's read about the employee benefit trends that may affect you in 2018.
Whether you're a manager or an entry-level employee, knowing what's out there in terms of employee benefits and health coverage can help you make more informed choices in the future and get the maximum bang for your buck. Here's what to look out for in 2018.
20 Companies with the Best Benefits - Nick Otto, Employee Benefit News
Looking for a new job in 2018? You may want to look at these companies first. Employee Benefit News used data from Glassdoor Economic Research to build a list of American companies that go above and beyond for their employees in terms of health/dental/vision insurance, vacation/paid time off, retirement planning, and maternity/paternity leave.
On-Trend: 9 Voluntary Benefit Trends for 2018 - Nick Park, BenefitsPro
Today, health coverage, PTO and retirement planning are common employee benefits. It's voluntary benefits options that have become key for attracting new talent. BenefitsPro compiled a list of the most popular trends to expect in 2018, including student loan assistance, identity theft protection, personal financial planning, and more.
The 15 Biggest HR Challenges of 2018 - Nick Otto, Employee Benefit News
On the other side of the benefits discussion are the concerns faced by HR professionals, who directly communicate changes and updates to workers. Many of these HR trends reflect today's evolving workplace, including placing an emphasis on diversity and inclusion, curbing workplace harassment, and other relevant issues.
If you are like many people with FSAs, the end of the year deadline can bring with it a mad rush to spend your leftover funds, so you don't lose them. This tax-free money is a great way to cover qualified health-related spending, while enjoying savings on taxable income. But waiting to spend right before the deadline might just lead to losing the funds if you're not careful.
For 2018, use these simple tips to plan ahead with your FSAs. As you'll learn, they don't have to be a year-end burden -- in fact, they're opportunities to save on the products you need, with the tax-free money you've already set aside year-round.
Make a spending plan your New Year's resolution
If you head into a new tax and employment year understanding what your paycheck contributions will be for your FSA account, you already have a key piece of planning in place for knowing how much you have available to spend in any given month.
The FSA contribution limit in 2018 will be $2,650, which comes out to about $221 per month.
If your medical expenses are straightforward, here are two easy rules of thumb for choosing an FSA amount:
- If your out-of-pocket medical bills typically amount to $221 a month or more — or roughly $2,650 a year — consider contributing the maximum to your FSA.
- If you don't contribute the maximum, consider adding $200-300 per month.
- If your medical expenses are lower, calculating the total of your estimated copayments, dental and vision expenses for next year should cover your needs.
And you probably don't want to try and zero-out your FSA funds on a monthly basis so your account does have some money available for unexpected expenses. Like when your entire extended family catches a seasonal flu … at the same time … and requires a huge amount of over-the-counter decongestants.
What you can do is take stock of FSA-eligible items you know you purchase regularly from basic medicine cabinet restocking or maybe just a replacement of reading glasses that get lost like clockwork.
The goal with a spending plan is to prepare regular purchases in advance on a regular basis – maybe monthly, maybe every other month or even just quarterly – which figure into your regular FSA fund contribution levels, while leaving some room for unexpected emergencies.
Avoiding the end-of-year crunch
This way you will be consistently spending that money that has the yearly use-it-or-lose-it deadline on items you know you'll be needing throughout the year anyway. Doing so will avoid a total crunch at the end of next year and will keep your contributions going toward FSA-eligible products.
Anyone making that end-of-year mass purchase right now is probably thinking back on the number of items that were bought out of pocket that could have been purchased using FSA funds with a little more planning.
In fact, if you're scrambling to spend this year's FSA contributions before the deadline hits, once that task is complete take a few more minutes and put together a spending plan for next year.
You've already put thought into what you regularly need and done the research on different products that are FSA-eligible. There are probably a few in the mix you didn't even realize qualified for FSA spending. Check out our eligibility list for a complete listing of FSA-eligible products and services.
It's your money. Use it to ensure continued health and wellness for 2018 and beyond.
If you have an end-of year FSA deadline, what are you still doing here? You only have two days to shop with your available funds before you lose them!
This is a particularly busy time of year for personal finance journalists, as well. This week, we were lucky enough to be mentioned in a series of pieces regarding this all-important FSA deadline. (And we even contributed our own views to a few publications as well.)
So as we close out 2017, let's recap some of our best media hits from the past week -- all of which can help you gear up and spend down, just in time for the 12/31 deadline.
Employee Benefit News - "What to tell workers about FSAs before the end of the year" - Jeremy Miller
Our CEO and founder, Jeremy Miller, was published in Employee Benefit News this week with tips for HR and benefits professionals. FSAs are often plagued by confusion among employers, and Jeremy outlined some simple strategies that can make a real difference around FSA deadlines to help employees get every financial benefit from their accounts.
CBS News - "Don't let your flexible spending account money vanish" - Ray Martin
We think our website's Eligibility List is the best in the business, and we're thrilled that CBS News agrees! After you've read this great rundown of end-of-year flex spending tips, follow the link to our Eligibility List to check out the eligibility status of thousands of medical products and services.
Consumer Reports - "It's time to spend your flexible spending account money" - Donna Rosato
We received another mention in an article by Consumer Reports, which you might know as one of the most popular consumer advocate publications in the U.S. In addition to important information about the deadline, the article also covers the primary differences between FSAs and HSAs, helpful links to IRS documents, and a link to our home page!
Happy New Year from all of us at FSAstore.com and HSAstore.com! For the latest info about your health and financial wellness, be sure to follow our Learning Center, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter pages.
The holidays are a time for giving, and for many people part of that giving spirit is contributing to a charity (or charities) of choice. And that's awesome.
But one place where you want to avoid being "too giving" is with your FSA account. Not only can't you use FSA funds to gift products or services to others (your FSA can only be used on you or your qualifying dependents), but your unspent FSA money doesn't go to a deserving charity -- it's used for an entirely different purpose.
What happens if you don't spend FSA funds?
Unlike HSAs, FSA funds don't rollover from year-to-year and are instead subject to what is typically called the "use it or lose it" rule.
That money doesn't just disappear. Whatever funds are unused go back to your employer. Now, to be fair, employers don't necessarily want the money back - the IRS requires they get it back. In these situations, it's used to balance losses that happen when employees overspend their accounts and then leave a company. This money helps the company offset the loss.
It's certainly a good use of money for the company, but there are no direct benefits to you. Ask yourself this: Would you donate your paycheck for your company's other financial gaps? Unless the answer is "yes" it's time to start putting your FSA money toward better things.
What to do? Get to spending!
If your plan has a December 31 spending deadline, guess what? That's just weeks away, so take a look at your FSA account. If you have funds remaining, FSAStore.com has ways you can make sure you're not losing out on the opportunity to spend wisely.
If you're not sure where to start to zero out that FSA account before the deadline, here are a few out-of-the-box ideas:
- If you use any medical devices with replaceable parts, make sure you have all your required supplies. For example, blood glucose test strips or breast milk storage pouches.
- Why not get a spare pair of reading glasses?
- Need some help with family planning? Fertility testing kits and condoms are both FSA-eligible.
The key takeaway is to remember that FSA funds are yours -- and there are a ton of uses you might not have even considered. If you are at risk of losing your FSA funds by December 31, browse through our growing list of more than 4,000 eligible items for your health and wellness.
In the end, make sure that zero balance in your account at the end of the year is because you spent every penny you contributed, and not because you missed out on a fantastic opportunity.