Posted in Offering health benefits | by: Elizabeth Robinson

What Your Team Should Do with Their FSA Money Before It Expires

The perks of being an employer—at year’s end, you can guide your team on how to fill their carts with all kinds of useful FSA-eligible expenses. Why’s that? Because many employees have a surplus of FSA funds they could be on the verge of losing when December 31st rolls around.

FSAs, or Flexible Spending Accounts, are employer-sponsored accounts that allow your team to contribute pre-tax dollars (up to $2,600 in 2017) for health care expenses. While Health Spending Account (HSA) funds usually roll over every year, FSA funds are a use-it-or-lose-it kind of benefit, and expire on December 31st of each year. Some company plans do allow employees to roll over $500 to the following year, or to defer the spending deadline to March 15th. However, policies vary. Therefore, it’s good to be familiar with the details of your specific plan so you can help your employees get the most out of their FSA cash.

So how can your team avoid losing their FSA money? Easy. They just have to spend it before January 1st. That makes November and December the perfect time for employees to splurge, cross off potentially expensive health-related to-dos, and prep for a healthy (and well-stocked) new year. While most FSA-eligible items require prescriptions, there are also a lot that don’t. Here are a few surprising and creative ways you can advise employees to spend their precious FSA cash:

7 surprising FSA-eligible items

1. New specs and other eyewear stuff

Employees can upgrade their prescription and refresh their look with their handy stash of FSA funds. From fashionable frames to sunglasses, most prescription eyewear is reimbursable up to a certain amount. Annual eye exams can be covered, too. As for contact lens wearers, they can stock up on lenses, solution, and cases for the new year, all compliments of their FSA. And if an employee is ready to ditch glasses or contacts altogether, the LASIK procedure for vision correction is another creative option. Help your team find their dream specs at:

2. Fitness classes and devices

For a fitter, healthier new year, employees can spend FSA cash on some surprising health-related products and services. In many cases, they can use it to purchase select fitness device trackers (hello, stocking stuffers!), workout machines, fitness programs, and even health club memberships if they qualify. Check out the FSA Store for a full list of items covered, and for details on which of these purchases require a special health condition or a doctor’s Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN). Pick up a:

3. Goodies for parents

From thermometers to sunscreen, there’s a long list of FSA-eligible items perfect for the practical family. Parents can stock up on nursery items like diaper rash ointment, baby breathing monitors, infant thermometers, and breast pump supplies. For toddlers and older kids, FSA cash can be spent on bedwetting aids, kids’ sunscreen, kids’ Band-Aids, and more. Parents-to-be are also in luck. Breastfeeding classes and even cord blood banking may be partially or fully reimbursable through their FSA plan. Even those thinking of becoming parents can enjoy some coverage perks, like pregnancy tests, fertility kits, and other family-planning supplies. Your team can try:

4. Emergency kits

Okay, so a emergency readiness pack is not quite as cool as a massager. But getting first aid and emergency supplies in order can be an excellent way to prepare for anything 2018 brings your way. First aid kits, aspirin, bandages, allergy medicine, ongoing prescriptions, and dust masks are a few of the emergency essentials covered under FSAs. Just add water, food, matches, and portable lighting and your team is all set for the next zombie apocalypse. Help your team prepare with a:

5. Pampering splurges

Winter is upon us, and using health benefits like your FSA for self-care and relaxation is a great way to end the year on a high note. For employees in search of some fun and indulgence, foot massagers and shoe insoles can help them use that FSA cash to pamper their feet. Acupressure mats, face massagers, and relaxation eye masks are a few other potential holiday-season indulgences. Others can take it a step further with health-boosting services like acupuncture or chiropractic support. Yup, many alternative medicines also make the list of FSA-covered items. Your employees can shop for:

6. Dental must-dos

Using remaining funds to tackle dental procedures or upkeep is a smart way for your team to get the most bang for their FSA bucks. Sealants, fillings, checkups, X-rays, and even veneers for some conditions are covered under most FSA plans. Your team can also stock up on select dental basics. And guess what? Even transportation to and from appointment are reimbursable under FSA guidelines.

7. Travel essentials

Travel season is here, and employees’ FSA surplus can be put to good use buying supplies for their upcoming trips. Tell them to grab some travel-sized headache medicine, pick up carry-on-size first aid kits, buy motion sickness medications or bands for flights, and stock up on sunscreen for tropical getaways. For further destinations, orthopedic neck pillows are a life saver (and covered). Many online drugstores outline which products are FSA-eligible at this time of year, making it even easier to shop. Your team can stock up on:

Although many employees take advantage of flexible spending accounts, not all have mastered the art of allocating the right amount of money for the year. Thankfully, you can help your team use their reserves before they lose them, while encouraging a little retail therapy along the way. Sure, not everything is an FSA-eligible expense, but a surprising number of services and supplies are. So give your team a heads up about the upcoming deadline, and inform them about some of the surprising ways they can put their hard-earned cash to good use.

Does your company offer an FSA? Learn more about how to get better employee benefits with Gusto

About Elizabeth Robinson

Elizabeth is a copywriter with a long history writing for tech and finance. She has an MFA in poetry, a keen eye for misplaced modifiers, and a soft spot for shar-pei mixes like her sidekick, June.