Let’s be honest – wouldn’t it be great to stretch your dollar farther when it comes to health and medical expenses?
That’s where a Flexible Spending Account (or Arrangement) – commonly known as an FSA – is an excellent benefit to take advantage of. For those who have an employer that offers them, FSAs let you allocate pre-tax dollars to use on eligible expenses.
Here are the benefits and details you should know about if you’re thinking of using an FSA.
How to Get an FSA Card
An FSA is tied to employee benefits – a company must specifically offer FSAs in their benefits package. If your employer does offer an FSA, consider using it as a way to offset medical costs.
You’ll need to opt-in to setting up an FSA, so make sure to review and confirm your benefits each year. You’ll be asked how much you want to put towards an FSA card. For 2019, you can allocate up to $2,750.
What’s great about FSAs is that all the money you allocate will be available right away, but it will be taken out of your paycheck in regular intervals. So if you need the funds to pay for a medical expense early in the year, those funds will be available to you upfront.
What You Can Pay for with an FSA Card
FSA cards can only be used to pay for certain qualified expenses – things you pay for out-of-pocket that aren’t covered under your insurance plan. The IRS provides a complete list of approved expenses so you know ahead of time what’s covered.
Some of the eligible services and products include things like:
- Ambulance services
- Fertility treatments
- Psychiatric care
- Contact lenses and eyeglasses
- Prescription drugs and medicine
- Breastfeeding supplies
- Blood sugar monitors
You can visit websites like the FSA Store to easily browse and purchase additional eligible items.
Claims & Reimbursement
It’s important to remember an FSA can only be used for covered expenses. If you try to use your card to pay for other types of services and items, you can get denied upfront or you’ll be asked to provide documentation what it is you used the card to cover.
Even when you do use your FSA card to pay for an eligible expense, it’s still good practice to save receipts.
In case you forget to use your FSA card at the time of payment, there’s also a way to request reimbursement. Just save your receipts and submit them to your FSA administrator afterwards to get reimbursed.
FSA Limits and Carryover
One important factor with your FSA is that it has a “use it or lose it” rule. That means you must spend the money in your FSA by the end of your plan’s year, or else you’ll lose whatever amount hasn’t been spent.
Some plans do allow a rollover of up to $500 into the next year and/or a grace period that provides an extension for you to use up your FSA – usually up until March 15. However, this is not always the case, so make sure to check your plan to confirm if you have a rollover option or an extension.
As you think about allocating funds towards an FSA, consider your family’s medical needs. Think about the items you may consistently purchase – like first aid supplies, contact lenses, or prescription medicine. Then consider potential medical needs for the upcoming year - such as braces, breastfeeding supplies, or surgeries.
Based on what you expect to pay for health and medical expenses, allocate the amount you feel comfortable with. And remember, you can always use your FSA card to stock up on items like band-aids, ibuprofen, and even sunscreen so that you don’t lose leftover funds.