5 Things to know about Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs)

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Your FSA checklist

  • Check your FSA guidelines to understand what purchases qualify.
  • Premium optical retailers, like LensCrafters, fill up fast, so you’ll want to schedule an appointment early.
  • You may need to provide receipts, so hold on to necessary paper work.

Tips provided by:
All About Vision

With health care costs on the rise year-over-year,1 employers and the government alike have created ways to help families manage medical expenses. One particularly popular program is known as a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). You might also hear it referred to as a Flexible Spending Arrangement.

Either way, FSAs allow you to funnel pre-tax dollars into an account to be used for qualifying health expenses, like copays, deductibles and most prescriptions – including glasses and contacts. The rate of allowable deductions is set by the IRS and may vary by tax year; for 2019, it’s $2,700.2 Plus, you can apply extra discounts to qualifying FSA purchases to save even more.

While FSA seems simple, understanding the ins and outs can help you get even more out of the program.

  1. How do FSAs work?
  2. At the beginning of your plan period, you’ll set how much you want to contribute to your FSA. Some employers choose to contribute to FSAs, too. Check with yours to see what’s available.

  3. What counts as a medical expense?
  4. Qualifying expenses vary by plan, so you’ll want to start there. Broadly, medical expenses are defined as the costs of prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease affecting any part of the body.3 Beyond medical services, they may encompass necessary costs for equipment, supplies and diagnostic devices.4

    For vision, this may include:5

    • Eye exams and prescription glasses (even name brand frames like those carried at LensCrafters®)
    • Contact lenses and maintenance materials (like saline solution)
    • Eye surgery to treat defective vision (think Lasik)

  5. Can I use my FSA dollars for everyone in my family?
  6. Yes. You may use FSA dollars for yourself, your spouse and dependents you’ve claimed on tax returns (visit IRS.gov for the run down).6

  7. Does FSA money roll over from year-to-year?
  8. Generally, FSAs are use it or lose it, though some arrangements can include a grace period up to 2 ½ months after the end of the year, or a $500 reimbursement for the following year.7 They may not include both. It’s also not required of employers, so confirm your specific arrangement.

  9. What about receipts?
  10. Many FSAs provide debit cards to use when making your qualifying purchases. This makes it helpful to keep track of how much you’ve spent. Make sure to keep your receipts, though, as the IRS may ask for them.

With FSA, don’t delay

There’s always an end-of-year rush to use FSA dollars, which means your favorite optical shops will probably fill up fast. If it’s time for your eye exam or you need a new pair of glasses or contacts, make sure to schedule your appointment as soon as possible. And don’t forget to check around for last minute deals and savings to maximize your FSA even more.


Learn more about Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs):
man holding black sunglasses What’s the difference between an HSA and FSA?
HSAs and FSAs are both great opportunities to save money on vision care that use your pre-tax dollars.
Read more ‣
woman trying on glasses in a store 5 ways to use your FSA for vision care
If you have a Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you’re ready to save a boatload on glasses and much more.
Read more ‣
woman working on her laptop How do I contribute to my FSA?
You’re almost ready to start saving on eligible health expenses thanks to a flexible spending account (FSA).
Read more ‣
smiley woman in glasses How do I redeem my FSA dollars?
When it comes to flexible spending accounts (FSAs), “use it or lose it” is the name of the game.
Read more ‣

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  1. Historical. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, https://www.cms.gov/. Accessed October 2019.
  2. 2018 FSA contribution cap rises to $2,650. Society for Human Resource Management, https://www.shrm.org/. Accessed October 2019.
  3. Publication 501 (2018), Medical and Dental Expenses, Internal Revenue Service, https://www.irs.gov/. Accessed 2019.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Publication 502 (2018), Medical and Dental Expenses. Internal Revenue Service, https://www.irs.gov/. Accessed 2019.
  6. Publication 969 (2018), Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans. Internal Revenue Service, https://www.irs.gov/. Accessed October 2019.
  7. Publication 969 (2018), Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans. Internal Revenue Service, https://www.irs.gov/. Accessed October 2019.