Flexible spending accounts, or FSAs, allow employees of companies that
offer the accounts to set aside pre-tax money from their paychecks for out-of-pocket healthcare or dependent care expenses. Almost 25% of FSAs require account holders to spend all the money by the end of the plan year, forfeiting their funds if they miss the deadline, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
The rest offer some wiggle room, with 42% of FSAs permitting employees to roll over a certain amount of unused funds to the following plan year and 36% offering a grace period of 2.5 months to use up the money. For FSA plan years that ended December 31, 2022, and have a grace period, you have until March 15, 2023, to spend the funds. And depending on your plan, you may have until March 31 to file claims for reimbursement of eligible purchases that you made before your FSA’s spending deadline.
Spending down your FSA. If your health care FSA has a grace period and you still have 2022 dollars to spend, review your options among qualifying purchases.
Health insurance co-payments and deductibles and prescription drugs are common ways to spend FSA money. But many other products qualify, too. “FSA eligibility is much broader than most people realize,” says Rachel Rouleau, chief compliance officer at Health-E Commerce, the parent brand of FSA Store, a seller of FSA-qualifying products. “FSA Store estimates that the average household spends $1,600 a year on everyday health products that are FSA-eligible.”
What are FSA eligible purchases?
Don’t overlook items that have become newly eligible in the past few years.
Thanks to a 2020 law, over-the-counter medications such as pain relievers, cough suppressants, allergy medicine, and heartburn medications qualify, as do certain menstrual-care products.
As a result of the pandemic, the IRS has also deemed eligible at-home COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment including face masks, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes. More recently, a 2022 Food and Drug Administration ruling opened the door for consumers to buy hearing aids without a prescription and (just as with prescription hearing aids) you can use FSA money to buy them.
You can get a range of medical equipment and devices with FSA funds, from canes, crutches and walkers to blood-pressure monitors, support braces for injured muscles or joints, and CPAP machines and accessories.
First-aid kits, bandages and thermometers also qualify, as does a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher — that also includes facial moisturizers and lip balms containing SPF. And don’t forget that vision and dental expenses such as prescription eyeglasses and contact lenses (as well as lens solution and cases), reading glasses, and orthodontic braces and aligners are all eligible.
For more ideas, check out the FSA Store's list of FSA-eligible items. If you find yourself scrambling to buy FSA-qualifying items because you overfunded your account and you expect to have similar medical expenses in the coming years, consider dialing back the amount you contribute to your FSA.
Lisa has been the editor of Kiplinger Personal Finance since June 2023. Previously, she spent more than a decade reporting and writing for the magazine on a variety of topics, including credit, banking and retirement. She has shared her expertise as a guest on the Today Show, CNN, Fox, NPR, Cheddar and many other media outlets around the nation. Lisa graduated from Ball State University and received the school’s “Graduate of the Last Decade” award in 2014. A military spouse, she has moved around the U.S. and currently lives in the Philadelphia area with her husband and two sons.
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