Living Well

Real Money: New year, no gym membership

It's no surprise that in the first few weeks of January, the gym's packed and there's no lettuce left at the supermarket. While having a "get healthy" new year's resolution is great, a $50-per-month, 5-day-a-week gym membership doesn't always fit nicely into a busy life schedule. That's why I came up with an alternative.

Welcome to my "I don't need a gym to work out" workout.

(Please Note: I don't have a Ph.D. or an M.D., and can't tell you how to work out. But I also don't have a gym membership card -- this is just what works for me. Maybe it can help you, too!)

Find your own "I workout and don't go to a gym" lifestyle

If you're a busy mom of three, a full-time student, or crunching the numbers at your 9-5 (actually, 9-9), finding time to go to the gym can be tough. That's why I have what I call, "The Apartment Hustle."

I live in a small city apartment (and work in Manhattan) so there's never time to do much because of long commutes. So, I started doing lunges on my way down the hall, sneaking in a few sit-ups while my next Netflix episode loads and even running (yes running) up the stairs to the apartment. It's everything you could want in a workout without having to go to the gym and work out.

However, once I'm done with the Apartment Hustle, I need a bit of recovery (because I'm actually a retired and very injured athlete at 21-years old). So, when it comes time to make sure I'm feeling A-OK, Paincakes are pretty great. These little ice packs stick to you for optimal recovery and you can just pop them back in the freezer for the next time you run up the stairs a little too hard and sprain your ankle.

(Not like I've ever done that.)

Healthy doesn't always mean gym membership

An intense, sweat-inducing workout can feel good, but it's not always about the physical. You may look good but it's about the mental part, too. Whenever I'm not feeling up to a 10-minute sit-up routine, I'll go for a long walk, break out the skateboard, or even play soccer (hence the retired athlete).

Finding a hobby to do can help make the "getting healthy" lifestyle a bit easier. You can get the exercise you want while still doing something other than lunging your way to the bathroom just to get toned legs.

(Shameless plug: We know just the place to get some pain relief if your activity gets a little intense.)

Check out these gadgets

With technology today, there are so many apps to use when you're working out (or to remind you when you're not). It really pushes me to stay on top of my workout (only because the notification won't go away). There are apps you can set up to remind you, apps that keep track of your heart rate, and even apps that track your workout if you run or take a certain number of steps per day.

If the hi-tech apps aren't up your alley, we have other products to keep you in the hi-tech-healthy circle. We have smart blood pressure monitors, TENS units, and a bunch of other connected pain-relief products, so getting healthy can be a tech lovers paradise, too!

Here's to a great year

Maybe it's a little late in January to still be saying, "happy new year," but I'm going to do it anyway. Even though some of those resolutions might be on the back burner already, it's not too late to set new ones.

If you're sold on my Apartment Hustle workout, it's available for the low price of $50 a month (just kidding). But, you can get the best workout and healthy lifestyle no matter what gym you go to, or what at-home substitutes you decide to take on.

It's all about doing what makes your body feel good and if the pain or injuries you thought were gone three years ago (oops, that's me too) we're here for the pain relief you need.

Athlete essentials

Eligibility

Product Pick of the Week: KT Tape PRO Precut Strips

The weather is getting cold. But that doesn't stop athletes and active types from enduring the elements to get outdoors. That's why we recommend KT Tape Pro Precut Strips, which are specifically built to withstand harsh conditions, such as humidity, extreme cold and extended exposure to water.

In other words, the synthetic microfiber tape can be equally beneficial to skaters, hockey players, biathlon participants, or competitors in virtually any other physical activity, indoors or out.

While standard athletic tape has been used for years, FSA-eligible KT Tape Pro is made from a highly flexible, elastic material that not only supports sore joints and muscles, but also lifts the skin to ease pressure on these areas, improving movement while reducing pain.

KT Tape limits your range of motion and constricts muscle movement to promote a speedy recovery. However, due to its ability to adjust and flex around an individual's body, it can give users -- from weekend gardeners to world-class athletes -- more support and agility during physical activity.

Full disclosure: Our staff loves KT Tape products, even for everyday use navigating the streets of New York City. It keeps us pain-free and supported through the harshest conditions, and through including showers, humidity, cold, even dips in the pool.

Each box comes with 20 precut strips of 100% synthetic tape. One hard plastic carrying case with twist on lids to keep your tape in good shape in your gym bag or purse. And the Quick Start Guide with step-by-step instructions will show you how to make the most of KT Tape, on any kind of injury.

More from KT Tape

KT Tape Flex Blue/Black

Specially engineered to provide more effective, comfortable support for weak or injured knees.

Accounts

Podcast-Eligible: Let's talk FSA and HSA budgeting

Sean and Brad ring in the new year by discussing the best ways users can make the most of their tax-free accounts and budget appropriately throughout their plan years.

If you want more ideas, head over to our shop, to find 4,000+ guaranteed-eligible health care items, with something for any budget.

Living Well

That's Eligible?! What I learned from a 5-week head cold

I could feel the sneeze coming and tried my best to stop it. I looked up at the lights and held my breath (or is that what you do for hiccups?). My eyes started to water and I knew that the fight was over. "ACHOO!" The sound of my sneeze echoed around the conference room and before I could even apologize for the interruption to the meeting, three more sneezes left my body, "ACHOO! ACHOO! ACHOO!"

Wiping my nose, I looked around the room at my coworkers. My eyes were still watering and it felt like an elephant was stomping on my head. I offered a weak smile that looked more like a grimace as I apologized for the third interruption that day.

It was my fourth week of feeling sick and in that moment, I knew I had to face the facts: my body was stressed, tired and sick.

Now that I'm finally recovered, it's clear that I could have done things differently to avoid my prolonged cold. I may not be a medical professional (and you should always speak with one before making any changes to your health and wellness routine), but here are some valuable tips that could have worked for me to avoid some of these issues.

Seek treatment before things get bad

For the first few weeks of my head cold, I tried to ignore the pain in my nose, eyes, ears and throat. I figured that it was just a cold and it would go away with time. By week three of the head cold, I thought I would never recover. Instead of swinging from one extreme to the next like I did, it's a good idea to visit your doctor on day two or three of an illness.

Part of the reason is that your sickness might be more serious than you thought, but even if it's not, the visit is still a chance for you to check in with your doctor, gain some peace of mind and get a prescription for over-the-counter medicine so you can use your FSA to pay for it. Plus, you can use your FSA to pay for the doctor's visit.

When I finally went to the doctor sometime during week three of my cold, I found out that it was just a cold, but the peace-of-mind was worth the trip.

Regular doctor's visits

It's hard to admit this, but I haven't gone to my annual check up in years. The thing about check-ups is that when you feel healthy, they feel unnecessary. But part of the recipe for health is actually going to the check-ups, so it's the ultimate catch-22.

There's no guarantee that regular doctor's visits will prevent illness, but they do help ensure that you're generally healthy. By checking for things like vitamin deficiencies through blood work and annual wellness checks, you'll feel confident about your health. So next time you are sick, you'll know that it's just a bug and nothing life-threatening like Google might lead you to believe.

Make time for your annual doctor's visit and don't be afraid to make a doctor's appointment if you have a specific concern. The best part? You can use your FSA to pay your copay or any associated costs.

Get serious about sleep

If you don't sleep well or at all (thanks, insomnia) you might be compromising your immune system. If you struggle with sleep, you're not alone. Nearly 60 million Americans can't sleep. Whether it's anxiety, insomnia, hormones, pain or something else or altogether, it's important to find a solution.

Medicine can be a big help

I don't know what it is about medicine, but I always avoid it. (Okay, so it may have something to do with the fact that I accidentally took nighttime cold meds before a school exam once when I meant to take the non-drowsy type...)

Regardless of the reason, I was not a fan of over-the-counter medicine. But when my sneeze interrupted the meeting for the third time that day, I knew I needed to make some changes and taking medicine was my first step, specifically medicine for congestion.

The good news about over-the-counter medicine is that there are countless types to choose from. Plus, certain medications are FSA-eligible with a prescription from your doctor, like these below.

Cold-EEZE Cold Remedy Lozenges, Wild Cherry

$6.99

NeilMed SinuFrin Plus™ Decongestant Spray

$6.99


Don't ignore your mental health

Whether it's exhaustion, depression or anxiety, it's always important to prioritize your mental health. After all, without your health you have nothing. But, with the fast pace of life, it is difficult to find time to relax and unwind, even though your body needs it.

The quickest way I've found to prioritize mental health — and subsequently my physical health — is to create a routine. Whether it's using a therapeutic mask every night to help eliminate daily pains, or utilizing acupressure twice a week after your workout to stave off those aches, it's important to make healthy living and preventive care part of your daily routine.

In addition, seek professional help when you need it. If you're feeling particularly low or can't seem to shake your anxiety, make an appointment with a therapist. Don't wait until it becomes a physical ailment, too.

Bottom line

By the fifth week of my head cold, I had accepted my fate — perpetually congested, always sneezing and continually coughing. My coworkers had bought me an extra-large box of tissues that I carried around with me and we joked that I might get better in 2020. But just as suddenly as it had arrived, my head cold left. Armed with the lessons I learned, I'm ready to make sure it never comes back like this.

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Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Eligibility

That's Eligible?! A quick holiday health survival kit


Hear that? No, it isn't the distant sounds of jingle bells, ringing merrily for all to hear. It's the sound of the impending holidays and all that entails – a house full of family members, someone suggesting your deep-fry your holiday roast stringing up a tangled ball of lights on your roof, or Great Aunt Sally's excellent idea to gift the kids their very own set of permanent markers for the holidays.

Whether you're traveling or staying home, going to a big family gathering or keeping it small, the holidays don't only bring along a sleigh full of gifts. They can come with their very own set of aches and pains, even potential injuries. We put together a quick and easy holiday survival kit, complete with everything you need to survive the holidays in one piece – all FSA-eligible of course.

Stay healthy, stay active

We realize being active isn't hard to do this time of year -- but too much running around isn't good, either. And being sick during the holidays isn't fun for anyone. That's why you should do your part beforehand to avoid any holiday sniffles. Bone up on your medicine cabinet 101, from prenatal vitamins for expectant moms to other meds, like pain relievers and supplies for diabetes.

Don't go too far in the other direction, either. Staying active in the weeks leading up to the festivities is key, and easy to accomplish, just by taking long walks or runs, using insoles to keep you feeling pain-free when it's done. But, if you have a lingering knee or ankle injury, invest in an orthopedic brace to make regular exercise a bit more bearable.

Banish aches and pains

Every family has one: that lovely, yet extremely talkative family member who can chat for hours and hours on end, usually on a subject of their choosing. Despite your subtle attempts at escaping to the next room to score some pie, they just don't take the hint.

This scintillating conversation is usually followed by a stress headache. To be fair, whether it's brought on by the incessant chatting or the overindulgence of eggnog on your part, that's beside the point. Acetaminophen is a must-have in your FSA-eligible holiday toolkit (as long as you have an Rx). You could also try a calming acupuncture pillow and matching eye mask for pain relief once you're home, to help take the edge off.

Keep stress away

The holidays can bring about a plethora of potential stressors, whether it's from the pressure to overspend, holiday travel delays and inevitable hiccups, or complicated family dynamics at play.

Keep your stress level down with FSA-eligible acupuncture (with a letter from your doctor proving medical need, of course). Acupuncture has been known to reduce stress, but can also melt away tension in your neck and back, and can even help with digestive issues, which we all know are a common side effect of that big holiday meal.

(Fruitcake, am I right?)

Prepare for guests

If you're expecting visitors this year, be sure any elderly visitors are accommodated with FSA-eligible bathroom safety products. After all, the last thing anyone wants this holiday season is a late-night trip to the ER.

If children are a part of your household, other great items to have on hand during these hectic times are thermometers, children's cold and allergy relief, a nasal aspirator, and even band-aids. (Because kids love band-aids. It's science.)

Just don't tuck any of your FSA-eligible items into anyone's stockings, unless they're your dependents. It's a surefire way to earn a lump of coal from the IRS this season.

BrainStrong Prenatal Multivitamin Plus DHA

Vitamins and minerals to support mom's health throughout pregnancy and breast feeding.

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Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Basics

Podcast-Eligible: The 2019 FSA Deadline Countdown

Sean and Brad are back to dive deeper into the 2019 FSA Deadline, bringing some handy spending tips and recommendations, no matter the size of your remaining balance. It's a fun episode, offering holiday wishes and FSA deadline know-how, so you can go into 2020 with a zero balance and a plan for the year to come.

They also dive into FSA Store's Know Your Balance Challenge, where you can enter your info to potentially win one of three $880 prizes, to throw the New Year's Eve party of your dreams!

(If you want more ideas, head over to our shop, to find 4,000+ guaranteed-eligible health care items, with something for any budget...)

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Brad and Sean's Product Picks of the Month

Vibrathotics Premium Vibrating Insoles

Amazing (and amazingly quiet) vibration therapy you can wear everyday. We all get achy feet from time to time, and that's when vibration therapy can help.

MedAngel ONE Wireless Thermometer

The perfect companion for your medications. The Bluetooth thermometer is easy-to-use, compact, and connects to your smartphone

Living Well

Warm deadline greetings from the FSAstore.com carolers!

Things are getting festive here at FSAstore.com! Not only are the holidays in full swing, but for everyone who has a 12/31 deadline, there's just a few weeks left to save big on 100% guaranteed-eligible products.

Because this is the most wonderful time of the year, we thought we'd give everyone a friendly reminder ... in the most jolly way possible. Introducing the FSAstore.com Carolers...

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Remember, if you have a 12/31 FSA deadline, shop FSAstore.com for thousands of guaranteed FSA-eligible health products!

Basics

Real Money: Just how strict is the 12/31 FSA deadline?

Just take a look around FSAstore.com and you'll notice that we're racing toward the year-end FSA deadline. And there's a good reason -- a LOT of people have their deadlines fall on the end of the calendar year. It's an exciting time around here (and for anyone getting great deals on FSA-eligible products) but it doesn't apply to all FSA holders.

So, the first thing you need to do is contact your FSA administrator, to be 100% sure of your deadline, and your options. If you do have the 12/31 deadline, it's technically pretty strict, but that doesn't mean you have to submit all your claims by the end of the year.

If you have a 12/31 deadline, there are two other dates in 2020 you need to be aware of — March 15 and March 31. These are both deadlines that may apply to you to but they're drastically different in terms of the last date you can spend your FSA funds.

Confused? Not to worry, we've got you covered.

Which deadline do you have?

As I mentioned before, there are two separate deadlines. The grace period for December 31 plans ends on March 15, while the run out period typically ends on March 31

The runout period is the time you can submit to get your FSA funds reimbursed for the previous plan year. For example, you have $300 left in your FSA in 2019 and are waiting on invoices. If your plan offers the runout period, then you likely have until March 31, 2020 to submit the receipts for the $300 or else you risk losing the money.

On the other hand, the grace period typically ends on March 15 on the following year. This is where your FSA provider gives you time to purchase new products or services before you need to forfeit your money. That $300 in your FSA funds for this year can be used up until March 15, 2020. It can include money you spend on qualified expenses anywhere between January 1 and March 15, 2019.

Your FSA provider may also give you a rollover option — and it means just that -- you can roll over up to $500 into your 2020 FSA budget. Keep in mind that your plan will only offer either the grace period or rollover options (you can't have both), they can be combined with the runout, and they may offer none of them. Your employer's plan is not obligated to offer any additional extensions for people with a year-end deadline, so again -- check with your administrator before assuming anything.

(If you still have questions, we have a fantastic guide that decodes these terms so you know exactly where you stand.)

Now I know… so what now?

No matter what your plan's rules are, it's still a good idea to comb through your 2019 expenses to see if you've already made claims on them. Hopefully, you've been keeping track of receipts and invoices for this very reason.

If you have the runout period, now's the time to make sure you spend the rest of the FSA funds before December 31. You still have time to submit receipts until the cut off date.

If you have the runout, make sure you budget accordingly so that you can use up the funds. Let's say you still have $200 left to spend and your FSA providers allows you to spend those funds until March 15, 2020. Make a budget now to see what qualified medical expenses you can make so that you're prepared.

With the rollover option, think about your expenses for the year and if you will have more than $500 remaining at plan year-end, make sure you spend it down.. Does this mean you'll need to change your contribution amount for 2020? Or are there upcoming expenses you have you didn't before?

Planning ahead will help you with budgeting and making sure you use your FSA funds the right way. It's worth taking the time to do it, because the savings are usually pretty significant.

Use it... don't lose it!

Plantar Fasciitis Bundle

$109.99

Caring Mill™ Bundle

$185.99


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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.

Eligibility

Product Pick of the Week: MedCline LP Shoulder Relief System

The MedCline LP Shoulder Relief System is a shoulder support pillow designed to provide relief from shoulder pain and offer side sleeper support and has garnered rave reviews from customers! Its patented arm pocket allows you to sleep on your side without putting pressure on your downside shoulder and arm.

Each component of the Shoulder Relief System works together to lift the user's shoulder and arm areas up to ease pressure on these parts of the body to alleviate pain and discomfort. The Shoulder Relief System is also fully adjustable and users can sleep on their left or right side to find what's most comfortable for them.

For those feeling the lingering effects of an old sports injury to those suffering with arthritis in the shoulder, the MedCline LP allows you to once again sleep comfortably on your side. The Shoulder Relief System comes complete with a therapeutic body pillow to create unparalleled side-sleeping comfort. The entire package will only take up ½ of a queen sized bed, so users can rest assured that their Shoulder Relief System will not disturb their partners.

The Shoulder Relief System is also built to last. Each device is with multiple types of medical-grade foam, strategically placed and layered for maximum support and product longevity. All components of the LP Shoulder Relief System are removable, machine washable and additional covers are available for purchase.

Finally, a new sleep position can be a difficult adjustment, but new users should expect to adjust to this shoulder support pillow in about 30 days as the foam breaks in and users adapt to a new nighttime routine.

  • Acts as your own personal mattress topper
  • 45" long, MedCline LP creates a gradual 5-8 degree incline
  • Full-length body pillow adds lower back support
  • Can sleep on right or left side
  • Medical-grade materials for quality, support, and longevity
  • Complete with removable and washable cases

Other soothing pain relief

dpl Pain Relief Neck Pillow

$99.99

Omron electroTHERAPY Max Power Relief Device

$69.99


Basics

Guide to using your FSA card

FSA cards are pretty common these days – almost every FSA provider gives you one to help using your funds (and tracking your spending) easier. But if you're new to FSAs (or at least new to these cards) you probably have some questions about how they work, where they can be used, what they're NOT for, etc. etc.

Well, if you haven't figured it out by now, we love making guides for these types of things.

A big-picture look at the humble-but-awesome FSA card

Flex spending cards are essentially the same as debit cards but used only to cover eligible medical expenses. In some cases, FSA holders who wish to access their funds are required to pay an out-of-pocket expense, and then submit receipts to their benefits administrator. Employees get reimbursed once the paperwork is submitted for eligible expenses.

FSA cards make the reimbursement process much easier by automatically withdrawing funds from the debit card. However, if an FSA holder opts to make a purchase with his/her card for a product or service that is a non-health care merchant, this merchant has to support an inventory information approval system (IIAS).

We could go into a lot of details about these systems, but there's no need to bore you with jargon. The key takeaway about these systems is: They verify eligibility so you're not hit with a surprise denial. When you use your card, the computers immediately recognize eligible vs. non-eligible expenses, so you can shop accordingly, and play by the rules!

That's basically it. BUT, if you ventured here wondering about the difference between FSA and HSA cards, guess what? They function in the exact same ways. And the information below will help you understand how to handle your card.

Ways to check the balance on your FSA card

  • Log into patient portal
  • Use the provider app
  • Call TPA at the number provided
  • Some retailers might also have balance information available at the bottom of their receipts.

Waiting to get reimbursed for an FSA-eligible item the traditional way can be a little mind-numbing—filing paperwork with your FSA administrator, waiting for approval and paying out of pocket in the meantime. Luckily, the FSA card streamlines the process.

The reason? Your FSA card is linked directly to your FSA. But here's the deal, FSA cards are slightly different than standard debit cards and come with their own set of rules. Here's what you'll want to keep in mind.

You can't withdraw money from an ATM

A significant difference between the FSA card and a standard debit card is that you can't grab cash from an ATM using your FSA funds. No - this is strictly for eligible health care expenses.

The easiest way to be sure your purchases are eligible is to shop at a store that exclusively sells FSA-eligible items (hint, you're already here). It removes the guesswork and allows you to focus on getting the items you need without having to file for reimbursement.

You can't use it in every store

It might sound obvious, but it's important to note that you can't use your FSA card at just "any" store, unless the purchases are eligible for FSA reimbursement.

In order to be able to use your FSA card, either the merchant category must be approved by the FSA administrator or card issuer, or the merchant must be specifically approved or the merchant must have a system in place to allow the use of the card on FSA-eligible items.

What to do if your card is lost

Having your payment information or identity stolen is about as scary and uncomfortable as it gets. And having it happen to your FSA is no different. But it's important to not panic.

We know money is money, but these accounts are as safe as any other banking you might do -- as long as you're careful and have good records of your purchases (yes, even with the card) all will turn out right.

What happens if I lose my FSA card or get hacked?

If a fraudulent purchase has been made with your FSA, you'll need to notify your administrator immediately so that they can open an investigation. Once the investigation is completed, your funds will be reimbursed into your account.

Keep in mind, your account will likely be shut off until the investigation is complete, and a new card will have to be sent to you. Keep this in mind when making additional purchases, so you can still use the traditional reimbursement approach to access the tax-free funds.

How to keep your FSA safe

While there isn't a 100% guaranteed method to preventing fraud, there are steps you can take to help keep your FSA safe. You'll want to treat your FSA card (and all of your account info, for that matter) with the same care and precautions that you would give any debit or credit card.

An FSA card doesn't have nearly as many places where it can be used, it's still a source of funds that people can purchase items they need. And because of that, it's important to treat FSA fraud like any form of card theft.

First off, it's pretty clear you should keep your physical card in a safe place where others can't easily access it. You should sign the back of your card as soon as you get it, and never store a PIN with the card.

Also, don't give your card number to anyone you don't trust. We could do another guide of all the places NOT to give your card number. But for now, one place you definitely shouldn't is over the phone, unless you're the one who made the call to a business or medical office, so you know the people you're speaking to are legit.

If you do give your card number out over the phone, make sure you're speaking with a reputable outlet, and are in a private place where others can't overhear the information.

(And never, ever provide your card number through email. No reputable store would ever ask you to do this. Shop smart, everyone!)

If you're making payments online, be sure to use a secure connection. Never make payments or enter your info over a public Wi-Fi connection. This makes you vulnerable to hackers who can easily access your account. Only make purchases from merchants that you trust who have a secure website.

Your FSA plan administrator is your friend

This all may seem obvious … but just for peace-of-mind and a quick resolution to any problems you might have, reach out to your plan administrator, to see their policies on processes, proper card use, etc. And always keep a copy of your confirmation for your records.

They can probably help you better organize and protect documents and receipts that may contain sensitive account information. And they can help keep your contact information up-to-date so no one else can try to access your account using older information.

What to do if your FSA card is declined

It's embarrassing when your credit card is declined because it feels like everyone in the store is looking at you. The good news is that you typically know how to handle it: call the bank, try a different card, or check your balance.

But what happens if your FSA claim is declined? It often feels similar, but the next steps can be confusing. Here's what you should know.

Don't panic

Regardless of why your card was denied, there's no need to be embarrassed. 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 an FSA claim might be denied -- and most have an easy fix. The first step is to figure out whether or not your card has been activated.

No, we're not kidding. Forgetting to activate your card is a common oversight with a simple solution: call your administrator or explore your company's benefits website to learn how to activate your card.

Double check your funds

Let's be honest: sometimes it's hard to keep track of everything and that includes your FSA card balance. If your FSA 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 balance. Be sure to check your balance before you use your card again.

Make sure the merchant accepts FSA cards

For the most part, your FSA card should work where it makes sense; at locations like pharmacies, vision centers, doctor and dentist offices, etc. But if you try to use your card at a restaurant or bike shop, even if that bike shop happens to sell FSA-eligible bandages, chances are your card won't work.

If you have questions about whether or not a specific merchant will allow your FSA card, you can contact your FSA administrator to find out.

(But let's be honest, did you really think a restaurant was going to accept pre-tax health care funds for that lobster roll?)

The easiest way to ensure that your items or services are eligible is by checking out our comprehensive Eligibility List, and by shopping at a store that exclusively sells FSA-eligible items. It takes the guesswork out of shopping and decreases the chances that your FSA card will be declined.

Confirm with your employer that the item is FSA-eligible

The IRS determines which items are FSA-eligible. But employers can set their own eligibility rules as long as they're sticking to the IRS guidelines. In other words, it's important to check in with your FSA administrator and confirm that the item you tried to buy is FSA-eligible.

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 traditional means. 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, so be sure to save your receipt and submit for reimbursement.

Other helpful FSA card tips

You should still save your receipts

Even though you won't need to file your receipts for reimbursement after every purchase, you'll still need to save your receipts. The IRS requires all FSA purchases be backed up with proof, so if your employer gets audited, you'll have to show itemized documentation of your FSA card purchases. Your administrator will also require you to submit receipts on select FSA card purchases.

In nearly every situation, the card will be accepted and processed without worry. But there's no better way to fight off "unpleasant surprises" than by keeping good records. You should always keep paperwork for charges, not just in the event of a denied charge. Depending on where you use the card, you may need to submit a receipt or documentation even if it was approved.

Why? Because if your benefits administrator denies an FSA card charge, having this paperwork handy to verify eligibility will save you time and hassle down the line.

Pro Tip: Use electronic receipts whenever possible. Just create a file in your inbox and simply move your receipts there throughout the year. It's a painless way to ensure you're following the rules.

You can still file manually

By now, you've probably figured out that an FSA card makes life simpler, but like we mentioned above, you don't have to use it. If there's ever a time when you forget it at home or are working with a medical provider that doesn't accept it, then don't worry. You can still file for reimbursement the old-fashioned way and submit receipts to your FSA administrator.

Eligibility

Product Pick of the Week: Adventure Medical World Travel First Aid Kit

It's fall, and for most of the country, the cool weather and crisp air is the perfect reason to get outdoors before winter takes hold. But climbing, hiking and other outdoors adventures mean it's a good idea to be prepared for anything that comes your way. That's where this week's product pick comes in -- a first-aid kit that has just about anything you might encounter in the great outdoors.

The Adventure Medical World Travel Kit contains the supplies you need when traveling to remote locations where medical assistance may be hours or days away. Recommended for travel to developing nations, international relief work, or adventure travel involving high-risk activities, the Adventure Medical World Travel Kit provides you with a full complement of wound care supplies as well as medications to treat common travel ailments including stomach upset, dehydration, pain, and allergies.

Don't believe us? Check out the contents here.

Kit details

  • Size: 8" x 8.5" x 3.75"
  • Weight: 1 lb 10 oz.
  • Group Size: 1 - 4 People
  • Trip Duration: Multiple Days
Bandage Materials
  • 10 - Bandage, Adhesive, Fabric, 1" x 3"
  • 4 - Bandage, Adhesive, Fabric, Knuckle
  • 1 - Bandage, Conforming Gauze, 2"
  • 3 - Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 2" x 2", Pkg./2
  • 3 - Dressing, Gauze, Sterile, 4" x 4", Pkg./2
  • 2 - Dressing, Non-Adherent, Sterile, 3" x 4"
Bleeding
  • 1 - Gloves, Nitrile (Pair), Hand Wipe
  • 1 - Trauma Pad, 5" x 9"
  • 1 - Orange 2" x 2" Biohazard Label
  • 1 - 5" x 8" Ziplock Baggie
Blister/Burn
  • 1 - GlacierGel (Large Oval)
  • 1 - GlacierGel (Small Rectangular)
  • 1 - Moleskin, Pre-Cut & Shaped (14 pieces)
Instrument
  • 1 - Pencil
  • 3 - Safety Pins
  • 1 - Bandage Scissors with Blunt Tip
  • 1 - Splinter Picker/Tick Remover Forceps
  • 2 - Thermometer, Disposable
  • 1 - 6" x 8" Bag, Plastic
Medical Information
  • 1 - Comp. Guide to Wilderness & Travel Medicine
  • 1 - Patient Assessment Form
  • 1 - Visual Communication Tool
Medication
  • 4 - Acetaminophen (500 mg), Pkg./2
  • 4 - Antacid, Pkg./2
  • 4 - Antihistamine (Diphenhydramine 25 mg)
  • 2 - Oral Rehydration Salts
  • 2 - Cold Medicine, Medicidin-D, Pkg./2
  • 6 - Diamode (Loperamide HCI 2 mg), Pkg./1
  • 4 - Diotame (Bismuth Subsalicylate), Pkg./2
  • 4 - Ibuprofen (200 mg), Pkg./2
Other
  • 2 - Bottle, Plastic, 2oz.
  • 1 - Plastic Vial, Flip-top, Small
Wound Care
  • 6 - Antiseptic Wipe
  • 2 - Cotton Tip Applicator, Pkg./2
  • 1 - Povidone Iodine, 3/4 oz
  • 1 - Syringe, Irrigation, 10 cc, 18 Gauge Tip
  • 1 - Cloth Tape, 1/2" x 10 Yards
  • 2 - Tincture of Benzoin Vials
  • 3 - Triple Antibiotic Ointment, Single Use
  • 1 - Wound Closure Strips, 1/4" x 4", Pkg./10
No matter how you enjoy the outdoors, it's clear that the Adventure Medical World Travel First-Aid Kit needs to be a part of your day pack. With all this included, it's likely all you'll need.
Eligibility

Product Pick of the Week: Vibrathotics Premium Insoles

When doing these new Product Pick posts, we try to stay neutral -- with 4,000+ FSA-eligible products on our site, we have plenty of great items to choose from. But every now and then, our personal opinions take hold. And that's precisely what happened this week, when we learned about the Vibrathotics Premium Insoles.

According to the Vibrathotics website, these insoles "are different than any other insole on the market. We've taken the technology of a big, expensive, loud vibration plate and crammed it all into a compact, portable insole that can go everywhere you go."

In our words? Amazing (and amazingly quiet) vibration therapy you can wear everyday. We all get achy feet from time to time, and sometimes those aches need a little bit more than comfy socks. That's when vibration therapy can help.

Depending on the setting of Vibrathotics (low, medium, or high), you may or may not feel the vibration. But that doesn't mean you're not getting the therapeutic benefits from vibrations -- even on the lowest setting the vibration is stimulating the nerves and increasing circulation. And it makes a pretty immediate difference.

We've only had the Vibrathotics Premium Insoles a short time, but they've already proven to be a tremendous success, both with our coworkers and our readers.

Other foot care needs

Ultimate Foot Circulator with Remote

$219.99

Foot Care Bundle

$56.99


Eligibility

That's Eligible?! It's time to start thinking about those remaining FSA funds!

While most of the country is still wading through piles of Halloween candy, before you know it, we'll be carving turkeys and preparing for countless year-end celebrations. Yes, this time of year moves at a rapid pace, and if your FSA funds expire when the ball drops, it's best to start planning now.

But you still have plenty of time, so don't panic. We're here to help you navigate this turbulent time of year so you can spend more time being merry, and less time worrying about losing your hard-earned money.

Step 1. Check your deadlines

While MOST of the country uses the calendar year to determine FSA cutoffs, this is not mandatory! Your company might have a different deadline, giving you even more time to use your funds. It's not common, but this is entirely up to your benefits administrator (that's the number usually found on the back of your FSA card) so before you spend hastily, speak with them first.

Secondly, the IRS offers a grace period to employers that allows account holders the chance to make FSA-eligible medical costs up until March 15, as well as the option for a $500 rollover of your remaining funds into 2018. Both options are left up to your employer to choose one - or neither - so speak with your benefits administrator to confirm concrete deadlines, and specifics that determine how to best use your money.

Step 2. Assess your needs

Let's assume your FSA spending deadline coincides with Ryan Seacrest's annual visit to Times Square. As you might expect, account owners often opt to use FSA money to pay for medical needs not covered by insurance plans.

For example, vision coverage isn't always provided under certain plans, so customers can choose to get a new pair of glasses, or some extra contacts. Likewise, sources of alternative medical treatments, like chiropractic or acupuncture, aren't commonly covered on health plans, but are perfectly eligible for FSA spending.

(And, of course, general wellness visits and preventive care is always a good use of funds, as well. Start the new year the right way – get a flu shot and rest easier this coming winter.)

Step 3. Fill those medicine cabinet gaps

Now, this is where people might get a little hasty, so read on before grabbing a leaf bag and wiping out your shelves to get new replacements for older medications. There are a few things to remember when it comes to prescription and OTC medications.

This is an ideal time to replace expired products, prescription or otherwise. If you have some "take as needed" medications with questionable expiration dates, first call your medical professional to determine if you can obtain refills. Once confirmed, go ahead and shop with those FSA funds (and rest easier knowing your shelves are as current and well-planned as your healthcare spending).

FSAs can cover the cost of both prescription and OTC medication, so open up that medicine cabinet and take an inventory. If you have flex dollars to burn, this is a great way to plan ahead for injuries, illnesses and anything else that may come up.

Step 4. Get health care items you've always wanted (and needed)

So much of the FSA deadline is focused on filling needs, that we often forget how these funds can also be viewed as an opportunity to try new products. Perhaps that expensive sunscreen you wouldn't ordinarily purchase with your after-tax dollars? The choice is yours.

In other words, if there are healthcare items you've long desired, but never purchased because they weren't "necessary," consider your FSA funds the encouragement you need to treat yourself, and your health.

Some examples of FSA-eligible items you could use to improve your well-being include comforting shoe insoles, smartphone-compatible blood-pressure monitors, soothing steam vaporizers and more! Sure, you could continue to live without these products, but thanks to your FSA dollars, you can make them a part of a healthier, happier lifestyle for you and your family.

Please note: The above suggestions are just that; there are myriad ways to use those remaining flex spending funds for products, services and even transportation!

The word "deadline" has a negative connotation, but for those who know, the FSA spending cutoff is an exciting reminder for customers to use their funds for better health, all year long.

Strong spending ideas

Dr. Scholl's Custom Fit Orthotic Inserts

Customized layers of cushion and arch support will keep you feeling good.

$51.99

reVive Light Therapy® Spot Portable Acne Treatment

A gentle, noninvasive way to treat existing acne flare-ups and preventing future breakouts.

$29.00

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Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Basics

Flex-Ed: Staying ahead of your year-end FSA deadlines

You had the best intentions when you put money into your flexible spending account (FSA). But as the calendar winds down (and don't be afraid, but November is already here!) the holidays can disrupt your to-do list, and that money could easily go to waste. Luckily, there's still plenty of time to make smart year-end FSA spending decisions. We'll cover how to make the most of your money — while avoiding IRS scrutiny.

Know these key dates

When it comes to maximizing your FSA, knowledge is power. Start by asking your plan administrator for details about your key FSA deadlines (and know the difference between them!). These may include:

  • Rollover - If your company offers a rollover, you'll have an opportunity to keep $500 in your account from the previous year.
  • Grace period - Some employers offer up to 2½ extra months after the annual deadline to use your FSA money. If the annual deadline is December 31, a grace period extends your deadline to March 15.
  • Run-out period - This is your deadline to submit receipts from the previous year. Most companies offer a 90-day run-off period after the deadline. If your plan's deadline is December 31, you'll have until March 31 to be reimbursed.

Before crafting your FSA spending plan, it's critical to know these deadlines. Your company could offer a rollover, grace period, or hard deadline on December 31. Once you know your plan's deadlines, set more than one reminder to avoid surprises.

Where can you spend your FSA money?

If you're taxing your brain, it may be worth revisiting what you purchased over the past year. Now is the perfect time to reimburse yourself for an FSA-eligible expense you may have missed.

Taking inventory of the past couple years of spending may also jog your memory. Are you overdue for an eye exam? Have you been putting off a specialist visit? Did you skip your annual trip to the dermatologist? Time slips away faster than you may expect. You may be able to use your extra FSA money on basic necessities.

If you're still feeling nervous, our foolproof list of FSA-eligible products and services has you covered.

Resist the urge to stockpile

We've said it before, but it's worth mentioning again - try not to "stockpile" FSA-eligible products. There's no hard and fast rule about this, but being too frivolous with these funds can trigger some unwanted IRS attention.

Look, we get it. Things happen — the holidays creep in and before you know it, you're up against the FSA spending deadline. While it may be tempting to splurge on a lifetime supply of gauze, experts urge against it.

If you're trying to follow the rules — and you should be — FSA purchases should cover your current needs. This means things you need through the end of the year. Does that mean your administrator will show up to inspect your bottle of nasal spray? Probably not.

But buying three bottles in December could trigger a red flag. If that happens, it's possible your administrator won't reimburse you. Then you're stuck with too much nasal spray and you spent money unnecessarily.

If your plan offers a rollover or grace period, it may be easier to avoid the temptation to stockpile. Plus, you'll have extra time to plan for the medical expenses you actually need.

Be smart with year-end FSA spending

One of the best things about your FSA is spending pre-tax money on medical necessities. But if you're not careful, you may have to surrender the unused funds. Unless you're flush with cash, returning FSA money to your employer at the end of the year is less than ideal.

The good news is you can use this year's missteps to plan for next year's FSA spending. Planning ahead may help you avoid the same trouble next December.

Start here!

MedAngel ONE Wireless Thermometer

MedAngel ONE is the perfect companion for your medications. The Bluetooth thermometer is easy-to-use, compact, and connects to your smartphone.

$49.99

Caring Mill™ Essential First Aid Kit 160pc

This is a great every day first-aid kit that offers a variety of bandages and medical supplies to cover the most common medical situations.

$34.99


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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.