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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.

But remember: items on FSAstore.com that are marked with a red checkmark are always FSA-eligible, while products marked with a BLUE "Rx" require a prescription from your doctor in order to be eligible.

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.

Accounts

FSA Reimbursement: Filing claims, rules and deadlines

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 shoebox, 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.

But itemized receipts become much more important when using an FSA to purchase prescription (Rx) products. As an example, if you purchased a prescription medicine from a pharmacy, but you only submitted a credit card receipt with date and price listed, it would be difficult for your administrator to determine that the brace was being used for a qualified recipient.

That's not a dead end, so 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.

But remember: items or services marked with a BLUE "Rx" on our Eligibility List require a prescription from your doctor in order to be eligible. In other words, if you're attempting to purchase cold medicine without having approval from your doctor, there's a good chance that's the reason for a declined claim.

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.

Double expensing

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.

Wrapping up…

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.

Living Well

Start your year-round sun care regimen this deadline season

"Do I really need to wear sunscreen all year long?"

We hear that a lot around here. Which is why we're even more motivated to remind readers of just how important year-round sun care really is. Because even though most of the country spends the winter months covered in layers of warm clothing, any exposed skin is still at risk of damage if it's not protected.

Whether it's sun glare from snowy hills, or just raw, irritated skin from bitter air and wind, cold weather months can take their toll. So, we recommend finding a proven line of year-round sun care products to keep your skin safe, even when you think you're completely covered.

MDSolarSciences, founded by noted dermatologist Dr. Robert J. Friedman, is responsible for a growing line of highly effective skin care solutions that can be used year-round to prevent sunburns, skin aging and skin cancers. With the 12/31 flexible spending account (FSA) deadline just around the corner, the company wants to remind account holders about the importance of year-round sun care and to take this opportunity to spend your remaining funds on qualifying sun care products.

What makes sunscreen FSA-eligible? It all comes down to prevention of sunburn and other medical conditions. If a sunscreen is SPF 15+ and offers broad spectrum protection against UVA/UVB rays, it's eligible! Let's dive and learn more about how these products protect your and your family from the sun's rays year-round.

Understanding "broad spectrum"

Ultraviolet light rays that travel from the sun can be classified by their length; the long-wave rays are UVA and the short rays are UVB. Together they make up the spectrum, but individually each damage our skin in different ways.

UVB: Causes burning

These short, intense rays cause painful sunburns on the top layer of skin. In the summer these rays are stronger—and they're also stronger at higher altitudes -- which is why you can get a sunburn while skiing!

UVA: Causes aging

These rays feel less intense than UVB rays that cause sunburns, but they make up 95% of the radiation that reaches the earth. Since UVA rays are longer, they penetrate the skin more deeply, which leads to cumulative damage and noticeable signs of aging like brown spots and wrinkles. While you might not feel these rays burning your skin, UVA rays are consistent throughout the year and can pass through clouds and even glass.

Since we need protection from both types of rays, it's important to choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen. (It's also a key part in determining which sunscreens are FSA-eligible. Only a broad-spectrum product keeps you safe from both types of rays.)

The mineral sunscreen difference

In recent years, mineral sunscreen has emerged as one of the top eco-friendly sun care products on the market. But how does it differ from traditional sunscreen and is it just as effective?

In addition to having different active ingredients to combat UV rays, mineral sunscreen has a unique texture that is different from chemical sunscreens that feel more like a moisturizing lotion. Mineral sunscreens utilize active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium oxide, and as such have a different texture than chemical variants. Dr. Friedman knew the best sunscreen is "the one you actually want to wear," so MDSolarSciences products are formulated to feel truly amazing when on, fitting seamlessly into your everyday skin care routine.

However, the key difference with mineral sunscreen is that while chemical versions are absorbed into the skin, mineral sunscreen sits on top of the skin layers and forms a physical barrier reflecting or scattering the UV rays.

So, they may be safer choices for those with sensitive skin, as well as small children. Lastly, because mineral sunscreen uses active ingredients that are derived from natural materials, it is eco-friendly and safe to wear everywhere.

MDSolarSciences products never use oxybenzone or octinoxate, two chemicals commonly found in sunscreens that can irritate skin and have been proven harmful to coral reefs. Also, MDSolarSciences' proprietary formulations are oil- and fragrance-free, water-resistant and lightweight, and won't leave a white, chalky film like many mineral-based sunscreens.

MDSolarSciences mineral-based sunscreens

MDSolarSciences Mineral Crème SPF 50, 1.7 oz

Lightweight "barely-there" formula goes on silky smooth and blends quickly, leaving a matte finish.

$30.00

MDSolarSciences Travel Bundle (a $101 value!)

MDSolarSciences' trio of bestselling tinted and non-tinted mineral sunscreens effectively protects all skin types from harsh UV rays and premature aging.

$75.00


Yes, you need sunscreen in the winter

Even when it's cold outside, the sun doesn't care that it's not beach season. Snow and ski-related sunburns can be a real problem if you're not careful. But you can keep these problems away if you use a few precautions.

Winter sunburns often happen from the snow itself, because snow is an excellent reflector of sunlight. This means not only are you getting rays directly from the sun, you're also getting UV hitting you from all directions.

Of course, many people think they're safe because they're covered in layers. But don't forget about your eyes and face. Not only should you keep using FSA-eligible sunscreen all year-round, but also protective eyewear. A good pair of snow goggles doesn't just protect your eyes from tree limbs and flying ice. They provide major protection from the intense rays bouncing all around you. And if you're not on the slopes, sunglasses with UV protection are just as important.

Don't forget the UV Index!

According to the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection (EPA), the UV Index is a calculation conducted by the National Weather Service for most ZIP codes across the U.S. to forecast the expected risk of excessive UV radiation.

No sunscreen will be able to block 100% of UV rays, but broad spectrum sunscreens are the most effective in reducing the chance of sunburn and skin damage from prolonged sun exposure. Always use sunscreen when heading outdoors, but another tip to reduce your UV exposure year-round is to check on the UV Index in your area.

Basics

Podcast-Eligible: New Host, New Open Enrollment Strategies

We're finally back - and with a new co-host! Sean and his new partner Brad tackle what to look out for this open enrollment season and what all FSA/HSA users should know before they contribute this season! We also have a sit down with personal finance writer Zina Kumok, who provides firsthand tips for HSA users.

Also, we add a roundup of our favorite product picks and the usual banter you've come to expect from Podcast Eligible.


This episode's product picks

Caring Mill Back to School Bundle

This set offers great products that can be used daily for any household or family.

$54.99

PainCakes Wrap Stickable Cold Pack

Fast, cooling relief from pain and discomfort, in one easy to use application.

$13.99

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And as always, for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Living Well

5 ways to buy quality, authentic products online with FSAstore.com and HSAstore.com

It's hard to imagine, but there was a time – not THAT long ago – when shopping online wasn't something everyone did. But just because most of the world is doing it doesn't mean it's always safe to buy health and wellness products online.

There are plenty of quality, trustworthy retailers out there. But there are just as many potential risks waiting for unsuspecting buyers. Customers need to be smarter and more diligent when researching websites, and more aware of product quality and authenticity, so they don't end up spending real money on counterfeit, or even dangerous merchandise.

Here are some steps we find helpful to ensure customer safety.

1. Avoid questionable or "new" sellers

If you've shopped on any major retail website over the last few years, you've probably noticed that a number of products are being sold on behalf of third-party sellers. While this definitely increases the odds of finding something to buy, it also increases the likelihood that these products aren't exactly what you're looking for.

Because these third-party sellers aren't usually subject to the same quality standards, you're not guaranteed to receive authentic products, meaning you could be buying older, expired or even counterfeit items.

Another red flag to consider is how "new" a third-party seller is. While every company needs to start somewhere, if they just launched their business last week and already have a slew of shiny reviews, something isn't quite right.

All products from FSA Store and HSA Store come to us directly from the manufacturer and are all vetted for quality and authenticity. It's getting easier for counterfeiters to get these products past customs, which makes our purpose even more important. In short – if it's not 100% guaranteed authentic, it's not going to appear on our site.

2. Know how to spot fake reviews

Online reviews used to be an easy way to gauge a product's value and effectiveness. Real people, giving real accounts of their experiences. But, as less-scrupulous companies started to figure out how to "game" the web, bogus reviews started populating product pages, and before long, it was near-impossible to determine which thoughts were authentic, and which were fabricated by a machine from some nondescript location.

But, if you have a sharp eye, you can figure out which reviews are fake, and which are worth your attention. For starters, grammar, phrasing and details can tell you a lot. If there are a lot of poorly written reviews that say things like, "This was great. Solved my problem..." without offering any proof they actually used the product? Yeah, that doesn't really instill a lot of confidence.

If you want to dive a little deeper, check the review dates. If you notice a flood of glowing 5-star reviews all processed within a short, specific date range, there's a really good chance they're not coming from real customers. (That would be an amazing coincidence, wouldn't it?)

All of our customer reviews are processed through Trustpilot, a leading consumer review website which hosts reviews for businesses throughout the world. And we have more than 25,000 of them, unedited and uncensored, giving our customers full transparency at all times.

3. Unbelievable deals usually ... well ... are

Growing up, you might have heard, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is..." Maybe it seems a little cynical, but there's a reason this statement has stood the test of time – it usually holds up.

We offer valuable sales, discounts and member perks whenever possible. But in order to guarantee top-tier quality and customer service, we can't offer those unreal "80% off" blowouts. Because authentic quality costs more, for all parties involved.

According to a 2015 Fraser report, the counterfeit pharmaceutical market may exceed $200 billion annually -- only slightly less than the $246 billion illicit drug trade.

If you see a health care product being offered at an unusually large discount, there's a strong possibility it's counterfeit, expired or even recalled. Is a good price worth risking potentially serious health concerns? We don't think so. And we work directly with manufacturers to ensure everything on our site meets and exceeds these standards.

4. A picture is worth a thousand sales

It seems strange to mention this, but whenever you shop online, take a few seconds to really analyze the product photo(s) on the purchase page. Yeah, we live in a world filled with Photoshop experts, but sharp eyes can still spot a bogus picture.

For starters, does the photo look appropriately high-resolution? Or does it look like it was "right-clicked" from another page? Is it accurate to the product description? Or is the image a general brand logo? These are two signs that indicate your seller might not be selling authorized products.

At FSA Store and HSA Store, all of our product images are either provided directly from the manufacturer or are taken in our in-house studio. In other words, what you see on our sites is what you'll receive in your shipment.

Why are images important? Because it gives customers a proper expectation of what they'll receive, so there's no confusion. Falsified packaging and potential safety seal issues only magnify the problem -- a problem that seems to be growing worldwide.

5. Consider your health and well-being

Authenticity has to be a top concern when buying health care products. For example, if you're looking to buy high-end sun- and skin-care products, you definitely want to know if they're authentic before using them on your face and hands every day. The wrong ingredients used can enter your bloodstream and wreak havoc.

Now imagine spending hard-earned money on counterfeit pain relief products – even medications – which could potentially have serious consequences if the ingredients aren't right for your needs.

Obviously, there's a ton of upside in buying health care products online. But consider the source, and the potential risk of buying and using counterfeit items. That's why we're offering these tips as a reminder on how to do it safely and effectively, through sites like ours, so the only thing you need to worry about is getting -- and staying -- healthy.


Eligibility

Asked and Answered: Can I use my FSA for learning disability testing?

When it comes to flexible spending accounts (FSAs) the lion's share of the coverage goes to general health products. And that's understandable, considering how great they are for providing your family with wellness products, tax-free.

But one area that may deserve more coverage is the FSA-eligibility of mental and behavioral well-being. There might be some confusion about the subject, so let's find out how your FSA can benefit anyone in your family currently experiencing learning disabilities.

What's learning disability testing (and is it FSA-eligible)?

Let's lead with the good news -- in most cases, testing to diagnose learning disabilities is FSA-eligible. This is because learning disabilities fall under the wide range of conditions and treatments that meet standard FSA requirements. Some administrators may need a letter of medical necessity (LMN) from a doctor before granting eligibility.

Examples of testing for learning disabilities include diagnosing mental and physical hurdles, like neurological issues, vision impairment, hearing problems, birth defects, head injuries, ADHD and dyslexia.

Let's look at that last one, since dyslexia is a common diagnosis, impacting around 15-20% of both children and adults in the U.S, affecting their ability to read and speak. While there isn't a cure, tutoring and educational therapy is a common and effective treatment.

But many parents and guardians don't realize dyslexia testing and treatment is FSA-eligible with an LMN. The letter needs to explain why the condition requires treatment, how the treatment will improve the condition, and how long the treatment will last.

Education and developmental services

What many FSA owners might not know is that education and developmental treatment are also eligible, as long as the programs are used for overcoming a learning disability, not just for behavioral issues. And like other conditions that may require an LMN, once a doctor determines the treatment isn't necessary anymore, your FSA no longer applies.

But if this sounds like your situation, you should definitely ask about FSA reimbursement for tuition for special needs schooling, specialized coaching, or any program that helps a child overcome a learning disability caused by mental or physical impairments. These programs may include:

  • Early childhood intervention
  • Occupational therapy
  • Recreational therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Patterning exercises
  • Sensory integration training

In each case, the costs of these treatments are eligible for reimbursement, as long as a doctor has made the recommendation. You might find your FSA is able to cover costs of braille lessons, remedial language development training, or even enrollment into specialized schools that can better serve the needs of your child.

Diagnosing and treating learning disabilities can be tough, which is why anyone facing them should see if potential therapies are FSA-eligible, so they can focus more on overcoming these hurdles and getting the treatments their families need.

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

Eligibility

That's Eligible?! A clearer view of sunglasses and FSAs

Yes, we're talking about sunglasses on a site about FSAs. Just so there's no confusion, let's be clear from the outset -- regular, garden-variety, discount-store sunglasses are not FSA-eligible. Even those $500 Aviators you got at the mall, with the 40-page instruction manual? Also not FSA-eligible. That is, unless those frames are fit with prescription lenses.

But don't all sunglasses protect my eyes?

On paper, it makes sense. Almost all brands tout UV protection so logically sunglasses should be FSA-eligible, right? But, even though companies promote the potential benefits of their products, they're not yet considered a qualified medical expense.

But, if you wear prescription glasses or contacts, you have a way to use FSA funds for new shades. Because prescription lenses are FSA-eligible, you can get the protection you need from UV rays and macular degeneration, as long as the lenses also provide vision correction.

In fact, as long as the lenses help correct vision, the sunglasses don't have to be prescribed (although you may want to check with you FSA administrator because each has different guidelines on what exactly they'll allow). Tinted reading glasses offer non-prescription vision correction -- even the mildest corrective aid -- meaning you can use tax-free funds to buy them.

Now that the small print is out of the way, let's find out how you can get the perfect pair of prescription sunglasses for the rest of the summer. To be sure you're getting the right pair, don't go on a hunch -- see an eye doctor to make sure everything is ideal.

Update your eye prescription

If it's been a few years since you've been to the eye doctor, make sure your next pair of sunglasses have the most updated prescription possible so you'll get the most out of your investment. You should go regularly to make sure your prescription is up-to-date.

Pick frames that suit your face

No matter what they tell you at that "hut" at the mall to make a sale, not every pair of frames is right for every face. So yeah, you might be itching for a specific pair, but an awkward frame size could be uncomfortable and might not provide the optimal protection from the sun's rays.

Do some research in-store (preferably with your eye doctor) before making a purchase online to guarantee you're purchasing frames that compliment your face's shape, while still keeping your sense of style.

Pick a lens to match your prescription

There are three primary lens materials that you can choose from when purchasing prescription sunglasses: polycarbonate, plastic and high-index. Generally, plastic lenses are for individuals with light prescriptions, while polycarbonate are similar but are impact resistant and are ideal for kids and those with active lifestyles.

Finally, high-index lenses are the lightest and thinnest of all lens types and are typically used with higher prescription levels.

Maybe it's not exactly the news you wanted, but if you're one of the millions of people who use glasses for vision correction, your FSA can get you a pretty nice pair of sunglasses. If you think you have a need, take the time to visit an eye doctor and see what options you have for upgrading your sun protection.

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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.

Sun Care Center

Your summer of sun, sand and skin cancer prevention starts now

Memorial Day is the unofficial kick off to summer, and there's a good chance you'll be spending time in the sun and we want to give you a gentle reminder to keep yourself - and your family - protected.

We don't have to remind you of how serious cancer is. But skin cancer is highly treatable if detected early. This is why dermatologists across the U.S. use this month's initiative to encourage people to perform self-checks all summer long.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that people perform a thorough, step-by-step self-examination every month, so you can find any suspicious marks or growths. Of course, if you spot anything suspicious, see a doctor.

Early detection of a new mole or skin growth can mean the difference between a quick procedure and something potentially more serious. Remember, self-examination is only the first step. So, check early and often, and contact a doctor if something doesn't seem right.

Speaking of which, visiting the dermatologist to check for skin cancer qualifies as an FSA- and HSA-eligible service, since it would be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent a medical condition.

Take advantage of free skin cancer screenings

If you can't get a dermatologist appointment in your town (or wherever you're spending the summer) within a reasonable amount of time, some doctors volunteer their time to offer free screenings throughout the year.

Programs like SPOTme, run by the American Academy of Dermatology, are available in many different locations, and can give you a thorough body check in a private setting, usually in a location nearby.

Prevention starts with you

Regular checks for skin cancer are vital, but don't overlook proper year-round sun care. If you want to use your HSA to help offset the costs of necessary sun protection products, you can pick up a wide range of HSA-eligible sunscreens, lip balms and more from our store!