Your flex spending account: What can you get and when does it expire?

Your flexible spending account may be more flexible than you think.

There some surprising ways you can use the money you set aside all year.

Alight Vice President of Health Strategy and Solutions Karen Frost says, on average, an employee sets aside about $1,200 to $1,400 a year in a flexible spending account – or FSA. The funds are typically used to cover co-pays, prescription drugs and various medical bills.

“It’s taken out of your paycheck on a pre-tax basis and then put in an account where you can be reimbursed,” Frost said. “When I talk about flexible spending accounts the number one thing I say is it’s a budgeting device. And it helps the average person have money. They put it aside, and when those expenses pop up, they have a way to pay for them.”

What’s popping up may surprise you. In 2020, many over-the-counter items were deemed FSA eligible. Amazon, Walgreens and CVS earmark the possible purchases.

Your flex spending account: What can you get and when does it expire?

“So easy things you might think of like cold medicine, pain relievers, allergy medication,” Frost said.

Everyday supplies like contact lens solution and sunscreen make the list, even some at-home medical equipment.

“Things like a digital scale if you are a new parent,” Frost said. “Maybe you need a digital thermometer that would help you … a blood pressure cuff — those kinds of things that help you with broad health and wellbeing.”

From heating pads to hearing aids, maybe a Theragun is on your Christmas list. There are national standards in place to determine eligible expenses, but employers can customize their plans. Typically, the money must be spent within the calendar year – use it or lose it. But not during the pandemic.

“The extension is up to 12 months, so you really want to check your plan to know if you have a carry over or a grace period and how long it lasts,” Frost said. “Don’t panic.”

It’s estimated Americans leave about 400 million dollars behind in FSA accounts during a typical year, but check your plan’s grace period in effect during the pandemic. Experts say if you plan ahead, you’ll use up every dollar.

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