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NOTE: FSA Store Optical has a separate checkout process.

Affordable, eligible glasses? A welcome sight.

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Saving on contacts with your FSA? Eye-opening.

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Your FSA COVID-19 Prep Cheat Sheet: What We Carry and Why

As the U.S. makes preparations to ride out the COVID-19 wave, millions of Americans with FSAs are turning to their employee benefits to help them cover the cost of qualified medical products for virus preparedness.

Our customer service team has received an overwhelming response from concerned customers, and we wanted to get on top of the biggest questions quickly so you can get the best info to prepare for COVID-19.

Are masks FSA-eligible?

Surgical masks and those designed to prevent the spread of pathogens like the N95 mask, are currently not FSA-eligible. However, there may be some cases when a benefits administrator may approve a mask as a "preventive health" expense, but these cases are rare.

The CDC has advised consumers that masks should only be used by those who have already contracted the virus, and due to a shortage of available masks, the CDC urges the public to not hoard masks and other equipment that could be best used by trained healthcare personnel.

Are surgical gloves FSA-eligible?

Surgical gloves are also not FSA-eligible, although without any clear guidance from the IRS, these too could be considered an eligible expense by some administrators. In most cases, it's best to check with your administrator first to check their eligibility status under your plan.

Is hand sanitizer FSA-eligible?

Hand sanitizer may be FSA-eligible, but it likely falls under a class of products that require a prescription to purchase with FSA funds. In accordance with regulations put forth in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), over-the-counter products that contain "medicated ingredients" require an Rx to purchase. The most common active ingredient in hand sanitizer is alcohol, and products must contain at least 60 percent alcohol to be considered antibacterial.

Other products such as rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide are may also be FSA-eligible, but could falso require a prescription to be reimbursed through an FSA. To find out more about eligibility for these products, contact your FSA administrator.

Are antibacterial products FSA-eligible?

Currently no. These are not considered qualified medical expenses but we are hopeful that they may be in the future. As always, we'll keep you posted if anything changes.

What are the best options to combat COVID-19 with my FSA?

In truth, the vast majority of preparations that the CDC recommends to combat the spread of COVID-19, such as washing hands, avoiding large crowds and wiping down commonly used surfaces with antibacterial products, are not practices that can be aided by your FSA at this juncture. The fact is, FSA regulations need to expand to allow for preventive products like hand sanitizer, antibacterial products and more to help combat this public health crisis.

FSAstore.com is taking direct steps to help FSA users:

We have recently launched our new Virus Preparedness category to ensure families can find the most popular FSA-eligible items purchased during flu season. In response to the growing pressure of the broader market, we have taken further steps as advocates of our tax-free health community to make virus preparedness our top priority.

Here's how:

  • We will donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of each product found on the Virus Preparedness page to the CDC Foundation to support their response in combating COVID-19.
  • Our Fair Price Pledge: During the public health emergency in the US caused by the 2019 coronavirus, we pledge to provide fair price protections for all items in our Virus Preparedness category. We will make every effort to keep a steady supply of these items available to our customers at current prices. Prices may increase, however, if market conditions require it, such as paying a premium to secure product during a supply shortage, expediting product shipments to our warehouses so you can receive them quicker or other similar situations.
  • With millions of Americans struggling with the unexpected financial burden brought on by the coronavirus outbreak, FSAstore.com is looking to the IRS to clarify the eligibility status of key items like hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes and more. It's our hope that the IRS will provide guidance so that FSA users will be able to confidently use their tax-free funds to cover these much-needed items.
We'll be providing all updates on the current crisis and any further news developments right here in the FSA Learning Center, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
popular

Coronavirus Preparedness and Your FSA

With coronavirus cases surging around the globe and the United States beginning to see its first cases, this public health crisis has everyone taking a closer look at their state of health, hygiene and preparedness for a potential pandemic.

Here at FSAstore.com, we've already seen an uptick in interest in thermometers, respiratory therapy, vaporizers and nasal decongestants. The fact is, your flexible spending account (FSA) could be a great help in a time like this, and we want to give you all the tools and know-how you need to take full advantage of your tax-free healthcare benefits to safeguard you and your family's health.

What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Coronaviruses are a classification of respiratory viruses that were discovered in the 1960s and include conditions ranging from the common cold to more serious conditions like severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS). The current strain that is causing issues all over the globe, COVID-19, is similar to the aforementioned strains but has unique qualities that are making it a uniquely difficult disease to prepare for, and we're still learning more and more about the virus each day (APIC).

Are virus preparation products FSA-eligible?

Some! FSAs are designed to help individuals and families cover the cost of qualified medical expenses, and there are a number of products available that can help you or your family get prepared. Many of the same items that can help ward off and treat seasonal flu viruses can be very handy in any virus preparedness plan.

We have created a Virus Preparedness page to help you get started.

How does coronavirus spread?

COVID-19 is spread person to person and through contact with infected surfaces and objects. However, the CDC warns that while it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads (CDC).

How do I protect myself from catching coronavirus (COVID-19)?

It's still flu season in much of the United States, and many of the same steps that we all take to avoid catching the flu can apply to coronavirus preparation - just a bit more top of mind and built into your daily routine. Here are a few ways to get started:

  1. Wash your hands! The risk of any virus can be reduced (sometimes by as much as 50%) by proper hand hygiene. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Can't wash your hands? Use a hand sanitizer. While not as effective as hand washing, in a pinch, a vigorous hand rub with sanitizer is better than nothing. APIC recommends an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
  3. Keep surfaces clean. Antibacterial wipes and sprays are a good start to keep your home's surfaces germ-free, and it may be smart to keep some in your backpack or purse when you're heading out. If you're looking for a DIY solution, a 1:10 bleach solution works in a pinch.
  4. Keep commonly used devices clean. How often are you washing your phone or keys? Use the aforementioned antibacterial wipes or a bottle of alcohol and cotton balls to do the trick.
  5. Keep tissues on hand. When you feel that sneeze coming on, direct it into a tissue or your arm to help prevent community spread. And be sure to dispose of those used tissues and wash your hands afterward at the first opportunity.
  6. Stay home if you're not feeling well. Don't risk it! If you feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, and have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19, or if you live in or have recently traveled from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19., the CDC suggests calling your healthcare professional.

What are smart FSA-eligible purchases for coronavirus preparation?

Your FSA can play an important role in helping to boost your current state of health and treat virus-like symptoms should they arise. Here are few suggestions to keep in mind that are useful in any virus preparedness plan:

Thermometers

Every home needs a good thermometer so you can stay on top of temperature readings for you or your loved ones and plan your treatment plan accordingly. With in-ear, forehead, infrared and more, there are plenty of options out there to suit your budget.

Vaporizers

COVID-19 is a respiratory condition, as is seasonal influenza that can result in painful coughing, aches and pains. Vaporizers deliver targeted steam therapy to your breathing passages to clear mucus, soothe discomfort from coughing or a sore throat and clearing away environmental pollutants that may be present. If you're looking for something less time-consuming, saline sprays can work in a pinch.

Nasal Irrigation

Nasal irrigation with Neti pots and saline sprays are great options to have on-hand from common colds to more advanced conditions. Nasal irrigation is also extremely helpful in treating upper respiratory conditions to help clear breathing passages, remove environmental pollutants and ease inflammation.

Over-the-counter (OTC) Medications

Finally, while OTC medications require a prescription from a doctor to purchase with an FSA, it may be wise to pick up a few items to err on the safe side. Pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen, cold & allergy medicines like decongestants and expectorants will be great to have on-hand throughout cold & flu season.

Finally, if you do become sick, there are a few items you may be happy that you picked up in advance. Dual hot and cold packs for treating pain and inflammation, first aid kits for any emergencies and saline wipes are great options to help you ride out the worst of your illness.

Am I ready?

We encourage our readers to visit the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) website often for the latest updates on COVID-19 and the best actionable information you can use to safeguard your family.

COVID-19 is a definite concern and it's spread will be generally disruptive, difficult and possibly dangerous for some at-risk groups. But taking real steps to mitigate the effects it will have on you or your family isn't an overreaction — it's a responsible choice that your FSA can help you achieve.

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

That's Eligible?! Using FSA dollars for eye care

Considering nearly two out of every three Americans wear prescription glasses, it's surprising there's so much confusion around the FSA eligibility of eye wear and vision care. What's even more surprising is why more Americans aren't using their tax-free funds to pay for the products and services necessary to maintain proper eye health. And we're not just talking eyeglass repair kits and lens wipes -- there are some seriously surprising eye care items on our Eligibility List.

Since this winter is just getting started let's get ahead of your eye care and protection so you can make the most of the outdoors in the months ahead.

Contact lenses? Yes!

Let's be clear: there are plenty of places to buy contact lenses. But how many of them allow you to choose from a huge range of brands, entirely with your FSA, without wondering if the ones you want are eligible. Maybe we're a little biased, but we think you'll enjoy buying your contacts this way. (Oh, and when you pay with your FSA card, you can skip the receipts process!)

Prevention starts with protection…

No, we're not talking about high school health classBut the same thinking applies. According to a survey from The Vision Council, 75% of American adults in a survey are concerned about UV eye exposure, but only 31% report wearing sunglasses when going outside.

And cloudy days aren't much safer than sunny ones; you can still do some damage when it's overcast, because UV rays break through clouds and can damage unprotected eyes. Prescription sunglasses are FSA-eligible, so what's stopping you from being smarter than the 69% of people who leave their eyes unprotected?

Some lesser-known eye care options

We've used plenty of digital ink showing how laser eye surgery (more commonly known as LASIK) is completely eligible for FSA and HSA reimbursement. And we hope people are realizing that LASIK surgery is often inexpensive enough to cover entirely with their flexible spending funds.

It's not limited to LASIK, either. Medically necessary treatments and routine eye exams are all part of FSA eligible vision care.

Now, for arguably the most surprisingly eligible vision care expense of all -- guide dogs. The National Federation of the Blind has a list of guide dog schools that can connect you or your loved ones with the right service animal, should you need assistance getting around because of visual impairment or blindness.

Other eligible eye and ear care


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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

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.

Basics

Asked and Answered: What happens to lost FSA money?

As you probably know from looking around our site, the 12/31 deadline is just about here. It's an exciting time for us, of course. But it's also an exciting time for FSA owners who have the chance to make the most of their tax-free funds, rather than forfeiting them due to the "use it or lose it" rule.

Whether we're reminding FSA holders of upcoming deadlines, or just sharing some information about these tax-free accounts, "use it or lose it" has become a tagline for our entire team. And, because we offer a growing selection of 4,000+ FSA-eligible products, people usually don't have any trouble using their FSA funds.

Still, with the deadline here, we thought it would be a good idea to revisit the most common questions about FSA funds -- what happens to the money that does get lost? No one likes losing money, no matter the amount. So we thought it was a good idea to remind people of what happens if they end up on the wrong side of the "use it or lose it" rule.

Let's cut to the chase…

You may not like this answer, but your unused FSA money returns to your employer. These funds can be used in a variety of ways, which we'll get to in a bit. Now, before you and your coworkers march down the hall with flaming torches, realize they're not the "bad guys" in this scenario. In fact, they're on your side, and are even taking some risks to make FSAs available to employees.

See it from your company's perspective

It's true -- your employer assumes a good amount of financial risk when you sign up for an FSA. That's because even though you get to contribute to your account little by little, through regular paycheck deductions, you actually have access to the entire year's allocation, right from the beginning of the plan year.

Who's fronting that money? You guessed it, the employers. And they're on the hook for any losses if you leave the company before making a full year's contribution.

In other words, if your plan year begins on January 1, and you opt for an expensive FSA-eligible procedure that week, you can use the entire year's allocation to pay for it tax-free. But if you quit a month later, your company is forced to eat that balance.

So, lost FSA funds from other employees can be used to offset these losses. It's not what your employers want to do. But it's certainly better for them than having to absorb the entire loss.

So where does it go from there?

While we certainly can't fault companies for wanting to protect themselves from potential financial losses, some choose to reinvest this "found" money into its people. No, they can't just refund you the exact amount you lost. But there are several ways they can share the wealth and ease the sting of lost funds.

1. Pooling

Though it's rare, companies could choose to give the money back to its employees directly. It's not as simple as refunding the exact amount lost to each person with an FSA, but employers might opt to pool the collective losses and distribute back to plan participants in a fair, uniform way.

(To be clear, any money returned to participants must be distributed to ALL participants -- not just those who lost funds that year.)

2. Administrative fees

Companies may choose to save these excess funds and use them as a way to offset the costs and fees involved in providing FSAs. By doing so, they can make it easier to offer these accounts to employees.

In this "worst case" scenario, your money ends up used in a way we outlined above. There is good news though -- your employer may offer a few options to help extend your funds and avoid losing them altogether.

1. Grace period

Many employers offer an FSA grace period -- something we've discussed quite a bit in our Learning Centers -- which gives you an extra 2.5 months to use their funds from the previous plan year. For example, if your plan year ends on December 31, you have until March 15 of the following year to use those funds before risking a loss.

2. Rollover

Another common FSA feature is the rollover option, which allows you to carry up to $500 of your FSA dollars to the following year, eliminating any last-minute rushes or lost funds.

Like we said at the beginning of the article, no one likes losing money, which is why we encourage users to create a budget and spend accordingly to meet your family's health care needs. But on the off chance you miss your FSA deadline, know that the money is safe, and might even find its way back to you before long.

Adventure Medical Mountain Weekender First Aid Kit

$51.99

NeilMed Naspira Filter Replacements - 30ct

$5.99


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

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!

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.

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.