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FSA Eligible Purchases for the End of the Year


We’re coming up on the end of the plan year for many FSA participants. If you have unused FSA funds, it can be a somewhat stressful time with the “use it or lose it” concern looming ahead. But it doesn’t need to be. There are plenty of FSA eligible items you can stock up on to defend against seasonal illnesses like the flu and common cold. If your medicine cabinet is already full, there are other options and you may not need to rush to spend unused FSA funds. Check with your employer to determine if a rollover or an extended grace period are permitted. We’ll expand on those options later.

First, here are a few end-of-year purchase suggestions to help you spend down your election on FSA eligible items.

A. Understanding what is FSA Eligible

FSA eligible items from a Medical, Dental or Vision Provider
  • Get those visits in. There is still time to schedule appointments for qualifying services. Copays, coinsurance payments, deductibles for dental, medical and vision coverage are all FSA eligible. Check out a Guide to Eligible Medical Items.
  • Update your look (and see a little clearer). Purchase contact lens solution or a new pair of reading glasses. Many vision providers will provide specials and discounts at the end of the year to encourage you to spend your remaining FSA funds.
  • Time for a cleaning. If you have been putting off dental work or just a cleaning, it is a great option to avoid use it or lose it.
Over-the-counter FSA eligible items from an IIAS or 90% merchant1

Using your remaining FSA funds to purchase over-the-counter items is certainly a convenient option. For example, BRI provides a convenient eligible expense list to help you quickly identify and purchase eligible items. Here are a few of the top items for cold and flu season.

For you…
  • Flu shots and immunizations
  • Neti pot
  • Medicine dropper/spoon
  • Heating pads and wraps
For the kids…
  • Nasal aspirator
  • Saline nasal spray
  • Heating/cooling packs
  • Vapor rub
  • Thermometers

B. When FSA funds must be used

Plan-year end dates, rollovers and extended grace periods

Before you rush off to make every appointment possible in an attempt to burn through the remainder of your election, make sure you understand what happens to your FSA funds at the end of the plan year. There are generally three things that can happen. Check with your employer to see what option they use. BRI Participants can also check their Plan Highlights by logging into their account.

Plan year cut-off: If your employer is using a plan year cut-off, you will need to incur all expenses by the plan year end date (e.g. December 31 for calendar plan years). You will have a run-out period in which you can submit claims, but the expenses must be incurred by the end of the plan year.

Rollover: If your employer offers a rollover option, it means that you can roll over unused FSA funds into the next plan year. If BRI is administering your FSA, rolled funds will be made available shortly after the completion of the run-out period to ensure you have the ability to submit claims against prior year expenses. Check your plan highlights for specific details regarding how much can be rolled over and when the run-out period ends. Participant Services is available at 1-800-473-9595, Monday-Friday, 8am to 8pm, with any questions you may have.

Extended Grace Period: If your employer offers an extended grace period, you will have an additional two and a half months to use your FSA funds from the prior plan year. Assuming your plan year ends December 31, you would have until mid-March to use your funds on FSA eligible items. Caution: If you plan to contribute to an HSA in the new plan year, you will want to have a $0 balance at the end of the plan year. Learn why.

In order to ensure expenses are properly attributed against your prior year balance during the grace period, it is recommended that you use another form of payment (e.g. credit card) and submit a claim for reimbursement.

With so many FSA eligible items, why stress?

Once you’ve looked into all your options, determined what FSA eligible items you can buy and if you have alternative options like a rollover or extended grace period, it is easy to avoid forfeiting your FSA funds. No need to stress over use it or lose it this year.

Stay ahead for next year and estimate your FSA election with our calculator tool.

1 An IIAS merchant has an Inventory Information Approval System (IIAS) that can automatically identify eligible medical expenses. A 90% merchant has registered with a national organization, certifying that 90% or more of its revenue is from the sale of eligible medical items.