If you have money left in your health care flexible spending account (FSA), it's time to "use it or lose it." Although rules vary depending on your employer, typically you must spend all your FSA money before the end of the calendar year or forfeit the funds. To use FSA money before year-end, purchase eligible medical products and schedule medical appointments and procedures before December 31st. Here are 22 ways to spend your FSA balance.
How Does Your FSA Work?
Before strategizing your FSA spending, understand how your company's plan works.
Can You Roll Over Money?
Some employers let you roll leftover funds into the following year (for 2022, the maximum rollover is $570). In 2021, employers could let FSA participants roll their entire FSA balance into 2022, but that option doesn't apply to 2023.
Is There a Grace Period?
Employers can give you up to two and a half extra months to spend FSA money from the prior year. Check with your employer for a specific deadline.
Employers can offer either a rollover or a grace period, but not both, and don't have to offer either option.
What Medical Expenses Qualify?
To avoid taxes, you must use FSA money for qualified medical expenses health insurance doesn't cover. You can't use it for insurance premiums, but you can use it for copays, coinsurance and out-of-pocket costs. IRS Publication 502 contains guidance on qualifying FSA expenses, but your employer makes the final decision; check with them before spending FSA money.
Qualified medical expenses include those for:
- Your spouse
- Any dependents you claim on your taxes
- Anyone you could have claimed as a dependent, except if:
- The person filed a joint return or had a gross income of at least $4,300
- Someone else could claim you or your spouse (if you file jointly) as a dependent
- Your child is under age 27 at the end of your tax year
Because FSA expenses must be medically necessary, some purchases require a letter of medical necessity (LMN) from your doctor to qualify. The Amazon FSA/HSA Store and the FSA Store offer convenient ways to shop for FSA-qualified products in one place. Let the following ideas guide your shopping spree.
1. Get Expert Help
Sometimes medical care requires traveling to distant specialists or hospitals. An FSA can pay travel expenses related to medical care, including airfare, fuel, mileage, parking fees, bus fares and lodging for you and a companion.
2. Battle Addiction
FSA funds can cover treatments for smoking cessation programs; products to help you stop smoking, such as nicotine gum; substance abuse programs; and treatment for gambling addiction.
3. Get Pregnant
Ready to have a family? Tap FSA money for pregnancy tests, infertility treatments, in vitro fertilization (IVF), vasectomy reversal, Viagra, prenatal vitamins and fees for egg donors, egg recipients and egg and embryo storage.
4. …Or Don't
FSA accounts can be used to buy contraceptives and condoms; have a tubal ligation or vasectomy; or pay for the morning after pill or legal abortions.
5. Care for Baby
Once your baby arrives, FSA funds can help foot the cost of breast pumps and accessories, lactation consultants or breastfeeding classes, baby bottles, baby rash ointment, children's sunscreen, baby breathing monitors and infant formula (with an LMN).
6. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Schedule your family's dental checkups before year-end and use FSA funds to pay for them. Need dental work? Tap your FSA for procedures such as dentures, veneers, bridges, implants, reconstruction, sealants and wisdom teeth extraction. FSA funds can even cover orthodontia, including Invisalign treatments, if you pay the full cost of treatment before year-end.
7. See Clearly
If your health insurance excludes vision care, your FSA can fill the gap. Schedule optometrist or ophthalmologist appointments before December 31, 2022. You can use your FSA for prescription eyeglasses, prescription sunglasses and non-prescription reading glasses or blue-blocker glasses. Contact lenses and supplies, such as cleaning solution and lens cases, qualify, as do cataract surgery and laser eye surgery.
8. Listen Up
FSA funds can pay for hearing aids, aid batteries and maintenance. They can buy telephones for the hearing-impaired, as well as ear cleaners and ear wax removers.
9. Try a New Treatment
Considering non-traditional medicine? Acupuncture, chiropractic care, holistic healers and homeopathic medicine are qualifying FSA expenses.
10. Manage Your Mental Health
You can use FSA funds to visit a psychologist or psychiatrist, undergo psychoanalysis or have transgender counseling.
11. Deal With Emergencies
Do you debate calling an ambulance or heading to the ER for fear of a huge copay? Ambulances and ER visits qualify as medical expenses for FSA purposes.
12. Lose Weight
Weight-loss surgeries, such as gastric bypass or lap-band surgery, qualify for your FSA. The cost of joining a gym or weight-loss program may also qualify if your doctor provides an LMN.
13. Prepare for Your Period
Sanitary pads, tampons, menstrual pain relievers and other menstrual supplies all qualify as FSA expenses.
14. Arm Yourself for Cold, Flu and COVID Season
COVID-related products such as face masks, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes qualify for FSA reimbursement. So do over-the-counter cold, flu and allergy medications, so check your supplies and stock up for fall and winter.
15. Sleep Tight
FSA accounts can be used for CPAP machines, masks, headgear, cleaning products, hose holders and pillows; snore guards; over-the-counter sleep medications; and mouth guards to prevent teeth grinding.
16. Get It Checked Out
Preventive screenings like body scans, heart scans, cancer screenings, HIV screenings and CT scans qualify as FSA expenses, so if you need tests done, schedule them now.
17. Monitor Your Health
Equipment to manage chronic conditions can add up. Fortunately, your FSA account can pay for asthma oxygen flow monitors, blood sugar test kits, blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeters and more.
18. Put Your Best Foot Forward
Soothe your aching feet by using FSA money for orthotics or arch supports, foot care products, corn removers and other products for healthy feet.
19. Gear Up for Fitness
Use your FSA to purchase athletic tape, athletic braces and bandages, athletic mouth guards and other products to prevent injury during sporting activities.
20. Get Comfortable
Ease your aches and pains with carpal tunnel supports, back braces, heating and ice pads, physical therapy and massage devices, all of which qualify for your FSA.
21. Breathe Easy
With a LMN from your doctor, your FSA can purchase an air conditioner, air filter or air purifier.
22. Deal With a Disability
Tap your FSA to retrofit your home for disabilities and mobility problems. Add wheelchair ramps, widen doorways, install grab bars, lower kitchen cabinets and counters, modify stairways or add lifts (including home elevators). FSAs can also pay for mobility scooters, wheelchairs and their repairs, crutches and artificial limbs.
One caution regarding FSA funds: The IRS recommends limiting purchases to the number of items you can realistically use by year-end. While that varies depending on household size, generally, purchasing more than three of anything could qualify as stockpiling, making the expense ineligible.
Cut Health Care Costs With an FSA
An FSA lowers health care costs by covering medical expenses with tax-free money. This could make it easier to pay your medical bills, potentially protecting your credit score. Have more left in your FSA than you can use? Consider adjusting next year's FSA contributions so you don't lose money at the end of 2023.