Top 10 FSA eligible OTC medicine cabinet essentials

It used to be that you needed a prescription in order to purchase many popular over-the-counter medications with your FSA funds. That left some people scheduling unnecessary doctor's appointments just to get a prescription for something they could easily buy over the counter.

That all changed when the CARES Act passed in March 2020, expanding the list of FSA-eligible items. Now you can use FSA funds to pay for many of your favorite over-the-counter medications and treatments with no additional documentation necessary.

10 Popular FSA-eligible OTC items

If you're like some people, you may have money left over in your FSA at the end of the year. If your employer doesn't let you roll over money from your FSA or provide a grace period, then you have to use the funds before December 31.

Take this time to go through your bathroom and medicine cabinet to see what useful medications you may be missing. If you already have these products at home, see if they've expired and need to be replaced. It's also a good idea to have a travel pack with health essentials in your purse or at work.

Here are the top 10 FSA-eligible items you should have in your medicine cabinet:

1. Cold and flu medications

Now that flu season is here, it may be a good idea to resupply your flu medication. Cold medicines can reduce your cough, making it easier to sleep at night. A daytime cold medicine will be less drowsy than a night-time option, and some people prefer to have both.

2. Pain relievers

Pain relievers like ibuprofen, naproxen and acetaminophen are must-haves for any family medicine cabinet. These can help reduce inflammation, lower a fever or alleviate pain after an injury.

If you've ever woken up with a massive headache or sprained your ankle while running, you probably know how important it is to have immediate access to something that will soothe your pain. Both brand-name and generic products are FSA-eligible.

3. Allergy

Allergy sufferers can now find some relief by using their FSA to purchase antihistamines and other allergy medications.

If you have leftover FSA funds, you can buy allergy medicine now so you're prepared whenever your allergy season starts. Make sure to choose products that won't expire soon.

4. Acne products

Acne treatments including lotions, gels and cleansers are useful whether you have a teenager at home or you're suffering from adult acne.

OTC acne products are a good place to start before visiting a dermatologist and getting a prescription medication. They're more gentle on your skin and less likely to cause flakiness, peeling for sun sensitivity.

Acne products expire like other skincare items, so it's worth replacing anything past its use date. An expired spot treatment cream may not be effective anymore and can even cause a negative reaction.

5. Decongestants

Don't want to spend the winter with a stuffy nose? Use your FSA card to buy decongestant medications. These will make it easier to cope when you have a bad cold or flu.

If you prefer a more natural route, you can also purchase a Neti pot with FSA funds.

6. Tampons and other menstrual products

Even though menstrual products are still taxed in most states, women can now save money by using FSA funds on tampons, pads, panty liners, menstrual cups, period panties, and other menstrual products. Menstrual pain relievers, vaginal cream and menstrual cup wash are also FSA-eligible without a prescription.

If you have a lot of money leftover in your FSA, pick up your favorite period products to prepare for the months ahead.

7. Laxatives and antidiarrheal

People who suffer from occasional bouts of diarrhea or constipation should be relieved to find out that their favorite antidiarrheal medication or laxative is now FSA-eligible.

Items from brands like Immodium, Colace and Dulcolax are eligible, as well as generic items.

8. Bandages

Bandages, gauze and antibiotic ointment are now FSA-eligible. Go through your first aid kit and see if you need a refill. You may also want to buy different bandage sizes to fix anything from a blister on your heel to a gash on your knee. Shopping for first aid supplies is a smart choice with your FSA funds!

9. Incontinence supplies

If you have incontinence issues, you can use your FSA card to purchase underwear liners, adult diapers, leak-proof underwear and cream to relieve irritated areas and more.

10. Antacids and acid reducers

People who suffer from acid reflux and heartburn can now purchase antacids and acid reducers with their FSA card without a prescription from their doctor.

These include popular brands like Alka-Seltzer, Lactaid, Pepcid and Rolaids. Talk to your gastroenterologist about what OTC products can help manage your symptoms.

Tips for Reimbursing Yourself for OTC Products

Using FSA funds on OTC items is similar to using them for doctor's visits or prescription medications. Here's what to do:

Keep Your Receipt

Even though these items are now FSA-eligible, you should still keep your receipt to prove that you spent FSA funds on qualifying products. Some FSA providers have an online storage system where you can upload receipts.

If your FSA provider does not offer this, you can scan the receipt with your phone and upload the image to a cloud-based system like Google Drive or Dropbox.

It's crucial to upload receipts as soon as possible, because the ink tends to fade quickly. If you can't prove that you used your FSA card on qualifying products, you may be charged a 20% penalty.

Get Credit for Past Receipts

The CARES Act allows consumers to use FSA money on OTC items retroactive to January 1, 2020. If you spent money on tampons, cold medicine or ibuprofen, you can file for reimbursement through your FSA. You'll need to have your receipt.

If you don't have the receipt on you, visit the store and ask if they can look it up based on your customer profile, phone number or rewards card. They may be able to print copies of your past receipts, although it's best not to rely on that possibility.


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Zina Kumok

Zina Kumok is a freelance writer specializing in personal finance. A Certified Financial Health Counselor and Student Loan Counselor, she also works as a money coach helping people one-on-one at Conscious Coins. She has been featured in Lifehacker, DailyWorth and Time. She paid off $28,000 worth of student loans in three years.
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