How to Spend Your Leftover FSA Money

Use the last of these funds before time runs out and you lose them

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A flexible spending account (FSA) is a benefit offered by some employers that allows people with workplace health insurance to set aside up to $2,750 in pretax dollars each year that can be spent on certain medical expenses. This year you might have a little more money than usual left in your FSA.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by the end of July this year, about a third of all adults in the U.S. had skipped or delayed routine medical care because of concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. If you’re in that group, then you may have spent less than you expected to on copays, deductibles, and other medical bills.

The money in your FSA is use it or lose it, so you need to spend it by your plan’s cutoff. Many FSA plans have a hard deadline of Dec. 31, while others might allow you an additional two and a half months to empty the account or let you carry over up to $500 to the following year. If you’re unsure of your plan’s rules, check with your employer.

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This year there are also some major new additions to the list of what you can spend your FSA dollars on, thanks to changes in the rules for these accounts embedded within the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was passed earlier this year.

Here, some new items that can be reimbursed with FSA dollars this year, and other key products to consider buying with your leftover FSA money. Be sure to check the details of your company’s plan to confirm what’s covered. And keep your receipts so that you can submit them for reimbursement.

New This Year: Menstrual Products
Tucked into the CARES Act is a provision that allows people to use their FSA dollars for menstrual products. That includes tampons, pads, liners, sponges, and menstrual cups. That’s good news for anyone who menstruates, and you can use your FSA dollars to stock up.

Reinstated This Year: Over-the-Counter Medications
Up through 2010, you could use your FSA money to purchase medications over-the-counter (OTC), such as cold medicine, ibuprofen, fever remedies, and any other medications you usually purchase without a prescription. The Affordable Care Act changed that rule, so that starting in 2011, you needed a doctor’s prescription in order to use your FSA for OTC drugs.

Thanks to the CARES Act, that’s no longer the case. So you can now reimburse yourself from your FSA for purchasing your allergy medicine, the acetaminophen or ibuprofen you use to treat a headache or lower a fever, and more.

Blood Pressure Monitors
Consumer devices meant to diagnose disease are usually approved for FSA reimbursement, and that includes blood pressure monitors. If your doctor has recommended that you use a blood pressure monitor—to keep an eye on the effect of blood pressure medications, for example—consider using your FSA dollars to buy one. Here are a few of our top-rated ones.

Pulse Oximeters and Thermometers
This year the COVID-19 pandemic caused an uptick in sales of pulse oximeters, devices that measure the amount of oxygen in your blood. For people diagnosed with COVID-19, your doctor may want you to monitor your oxygen levels at home, and a pulse oximeter—which can generally be purchased with FSA money—is the method to use. (See our article for more on how consumers are using pulse oximeters during the pandemic.)

Thermometers, which can help monitor fever, are covered, too. If you purchased a pulse oximeter or thermometer this year or have either on your shopping list, you can be reimbursed for these devices from your FSA.

Hearing Aids
The cost of hearing aids isn’t necessarily covered by insurance, including Medicare. But you may be able to use FSA dollars to help with at least some of the costs of aids if you need them. Members can check out our ratings to find the best hearing aid brands.

Eyeglasses and Contact Lenses
If you have vision insurance, your policy may cover at least part of the cost of eyeglasses or contact lenses. But if the specs you want cost more than that or you want to buy a backup pair, you’ll have to make up the difference. And Medicare doesn’t cover any of the cost for eyeglasses or contact lenses unless they’re for corrective lenses following a cataract surgery and implantation of an intraocular lens. But you’ll likely be able to use your FSA account to pay for glasses or contacts. CR members can view our ratings to find the best stores from which to buy eyeglasses and contact lenses.

Dreaming of a warm getaway at some point in the future? You may be able to use your FSA to buy the sunscreen that will protect you from the sun's rays. Opt for a product with at least 30 SPF, and see some of our top-rated picks, below.

Items Related to Pregnancy and Fertility
Certain items related to birth, pregnancy, and infant care can usually be purchased using FSA dollars. These include pregnancy test kits, breast pumps, and other lactation accessories (though not the cost of extra bottles for storage). The account can also be used toward the cost of fertility treatments.

First-Aid Supplies
Take a look at the first-aid kit you keep inside your home or car. Does it need to be restocked? You may be able to use your FSA to pay for bandages and other first-aid items.

Catherine Roberts

As a science journalist, my goal is to empower consumers to make informed decisions about health products, practices, and treatments. I aim to investigate what works, what doesn't, and what may be causing actual harm when it comes to people's health. As a civilian, my passions include science fiction, running, Queens, and my cat. Follow me on Twitter: @catharob