Typically, you must spend most of the money in your health care flexible spending account (FSA) before Dec. 31. You can only carry over a small portion of the funds — $550 of the $2,750 maximum contribution — into the next year.
That’s not necessarily the case this year thanks to a federal law permitting employers to allow employees to carry over unused FSA funds from this year to the next. But employers aren’t required to make this change, and many haven’t.
If most of your health care FSA balance will evaporate this New Year’s Eve, you have some shopping to do. Fortunately, many health and wellness expenses are eligible for FSA reimbursement.
FSA-Eligible Expenses and Approved Items
Note that some FSA-eligible expenses are also health savings account-eligible. But health savings account balances have no expiration date and can grow tax-free indefinitely. So you should always choose your FSA over your HSA when you have the option.
You shouldn’t have trouble spending down your FSA account, but you need to get moving. These are the most common FSA-eligible expenses allowed under existing law.
1. Eye Care & Eyewear
If your health insurance doesn’t include vision coverage, your FSA is likely your best option to reduce out-of-pocket eye care and eyewear expenses. So schedule an eye exam, especially if you know your prescription has changed.
But that doesn’t mean you should splurge on eyewear. You can get affordable, stylish eyewear products at online retailers like GlassesUSA.com.
GlassesUSA.com offers prescription eyeglasses, nonprescription lenses, sunglasses, and contact lenses for kids and adults. It also carries specialty glasses, such as multifocals, sport glasses, and clip-on and polarized sunglass lenses.
Before you choose from the more than 9,000 frames in stock, use GlassesUSA.com’s frame sizing and virtual try-on tools. Or take the fun find-your-frame quiz to find the perfect match.
2. Over-the-Counter Medication
Federal COVID-relief legislation greatly expanded the list of FSA-eligible medications. This year, it feels like the entire pharmacy aisle is up for reimbursement:
- Nasal sprays for cold, allergy, and general congestion
- Over-the-counter pain relievers and fever reducers like ibuprofen and acetaminophen
- Oral allergy medication
- Heartburn medication
- Cough and cold medication, including cough syrup
- Flu medication
- Anti-nausea medication
- Anti-itch cream and other topical ointments
3. First-Aid Supplies
Many common over-the-counter first-aid supplies are eligible for FSA reimbursement as well. That includes:
- First-aid kits for your home and car
- First-aid accessories, like finger splints and slings
- Wound care supplies like sterile bandages, gauze, and tape
- Antibiotic and antiseptic solution
- Medical gloves and masks
4. Travel Products
Some common products you’re apt to pack in your travel bag are eligible for FSA reimbursement. In addition to motion sickness medication (anti-nausea pills), which are covered under over-the-counter medications, FSA-eligible travel supplies include:
- Sleep masks
- Neck pillows
- Wrist-support devices
- Motion-sickness bands
- Heating and cooling pads
5. Alternative Medicine
Some employers disallow FSA reimbursement for treatments that qualify as alternative medicine, such as acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, and therapeutic massage.
But if yours allows it, you have even more FSA flexibility. Just check your employer’s alternative medicine rules and ensure your preferred treatment provider accepts FSA money.
6. Baby Products
If you have very young children, one of the easiest ways to burn through your FSA money is to stock up on baby products.
Some of the most common baby products, like disposable diapers and baby wipes, are ineligible. But plenty of others are, including:
- Diaper rash ointment
- Nursing pads
- Teething medication
- Breast milk storage bags
- Ear drops
- Baby sunscreen
7. Dental Procedures
Most services and procedures that prevent or treat dental disease are eligible for FSA reimbursement. That includes all diagnostic and preventive work, including routine dental cleanings. It also covers more invasive dental work, such as:
- Tooth extractions
- Gum treatments and procedures
- Oral surgery
- Gingivitis treatment
8. Skin Care
Many FSA-eligible items fall into the skin care category, which includes a slew of nonprescription skin and lip treatments:
- Medicated lip balm
- Acne washes and creams
- Eye creams and dry eye relief medications
- Medicated facial cleansers and pads
- Moisturizing lotion
This category also includes many products more commonly thought of as over-the-counter medications, such as anti-itch cream, rash cream, and wart treatments.
9. Foot Care
FSA-eligible foot care products overlap somewhat with FSA-eligible skin care products, over-the-counter medications, and first-aid supplies. But they’re specifically for foot care. The list includes:
- Medicated foot powder
- Topical creams and ointments for athlete’s foot
- Epsom salts for foot baths
- Orthopedic insoles
- Arch support bands
- Heel cups
- Sole pads
- Foot sleeves
- Toe cushions (toe straighteners)
- Corn and callus planes
10. Sleep Aids
FSAs don’t cover prescription sleep medication. But some over-the-counter medications that can promote sleep are eligible, including antihistamines (allergy medications) and melatonin. Your FSA plan may require a letter of medical necessity from your doctor.
Some nonmedical sleep aids are eligible for FSA reimbursement as well. These include:
- Diffusers and vaporizers
- Bed warmers
- Sleep masks
11. Feminine Hygiene Products
Feminine hygiene is a broad, popular FSA reimbursement category. You can use your FSA money to buy common products like:
- Menstrual pads
- Menstrual cups
- Anti-chafing medications
- Anti-itch medications
- Medicated vaginal suppositories
- Medicated pads and wipes
- Antifungal gels
- Urinary health medication
- Menstrual pain medication
12. Family-Planning Products & Services
Family planning is one of the broadest FSA reimbursement categories. To start, it covers a wide range of birth control options:
- Spermicidal creams
- Oral contraceptives
- Contraceptive patches
- Vaginal birth control rings
- Intrauterine devices (IUDs)
Other FSA-eligible items that fall under the family planning header include:
- Pregnancy tests
- Hormone and ovulation tests
- Fertility tests
- Egg donor fees
- Fertility treatments, including in vitro fertilization
- Surrogacy fees
- Near-term egg and embryo storage fees
- Hormone replacement therapy
Finally, many pregnancy-related products and services are FSA-eligible:
- Prenatal care, including checkups and ultrasounds
- Baby movement monitors
- Medically certified doula and midwife services
- Prenatal vitamins
- Birthing and baby care classes
- Belly support bands and wraps
13. Medical Equipment & Accessories
Many types of durable medical equipment and accessories are eligible for FSA reimbursement. That includes equipment meant to treat or manage temporary conditions like postpartum nursing and chronic conditions like diabetes. For example, it covers:
- Breast pumps
- Blood sugar monitors (glucose monitors)
- Glucose test strips
- Portable oxygen and other oxygen equipment and accessories
- CPAP machines
- Pulse oximeters
- Stretcher beds
14. Preventive Care Screenings
Your FSA plan could be an asset in your fight to get affordable medical care without health insurance. Many routine health care expenses are FSA-eligible, including physical exams (checkups), prescriptions (including prescription co-pays for patients with insurance), lab tests, and blood work.
15. Smoking Cessation Products
Your FSA can’t force you to quit smoking. But it can help cover the cost of doing so when you’re ready.
Smoking cessation programs and therapies are generally eligible for FSA reimbursement, as are smoking cessation products like prescription medications, nicotine patches, and nicotine gums. However, nicotine vaporizers (electronic cigarettes) aren’t.
Vaccinations and immunizations fall under the preventive care umbrella and are generally eligible for FSA reimbursement.
That includes routine childhood immunizations for illnesses like measles, mumps, pertussis, tetanus, and diphtheria. It also covers recurring or periodic vaccinations like the annual flu shot and COVID-19 shot. It even covers vaccinations and prophylactics you may be encouraged or required to get before international travel.
17. Health Insurance Co-pays & Deductibles
Your FSA plan doesn’t cover your health insurance premiums. You still need to pay those out of pocket or through payroll deductions.
But some health insurance expenses are FSA-eligible — specifically, co-pays and deductibles on eligible medically necessary services. Those include prescriptions, office visits, and inpatient care.
If you’re planning to file an insurance claim for medical care before the end of the year, you still have time to file an FSA claim as well.
Your pretax FSA dollars cover a wide range of eligible out-of-pocket expenses, from stylish eyewear and necessary dental procedures to baby products and at-home medical equipment.
But it pays to know which expenses are ineligible for FSA reimbursement. And these exceptions don’t always make sense. For example, medical co-pays and health insurance deductibles are FSA-eligible, but health insurance premiums aren’t.
Likewise, many common medical expenses are ineligible for FSA plan reimbursement but are covered by health reimbursement accounts and traditional health insurance, including lower-cost options like high-deductible health plans.
Still, if you get started now, you should have no trouble spending down your FSA before the deadline — even if it means stocking up for the coming year.