Don’t Leave Money on the Table: How to Spend Your FSA Before It Expires
Image via UnSplash: Giorgio Trovato
There’s so much to do before the end of the year. And so much of it seems to zap your bank account. Hosting Thanksgiving? Holiday shopping? Decorating and decking the halls? All of it costs money. But there's one way to get some money back before the close of the year — your FSA. Just make sure you don’t miss the deadline.
That’s right, the FSA deadline is coming up. And if you haven’t drained that FSA account dry, you’re leaving money on the table. So what are you waiting for? Get those reimbursement dollars and put some money back into your pockets this season for a change.
Not sure where to start? Here’s the 411 on FSAs and everything you should be buying with your remaining funds.
What is an FSA?
An FSA, aka Flexible Spending Account, is an employee benefit that lets you stash away pre-tax income for later use on your medical expenses. The amount varies based on whether you have dependents or if you’re married, etc. Check your benefits portal or contact HR if you’re not sure if you have one or how to access it. About 43% of employees have an FSA allowance, so take a look.
Since it’s tied to your employer, it’s definitely something you want to use. Wasting your FSA allowance is like throwing a portion of your salary away. You worked hard, you earned it. So use it before you lose it.
How does an FSA work?
From the day your plan is active each year, you can withdraw your funds to pay for a ton of different health services and products. From medication to co-pays. Covid-related supplies, and even menstrual products anything for the good of your health is fair game. Some more niche FSA-approved purchases include deep massage guns and even some of the costs of buying and maintaining a service animal.
To get your benefits, you can either withdraw funds or save your receipts and get reimbursed later.
What is the difference between FSA and an HSA?
A Health Savings Account (HSA) lets you set aside pre-tax and tax-exempt money to pay for qualified medical expenses. Like a savings account, it stays there until you use it – and many even earn interest, like an investment account. Your HSA also doesn’t expire, so no deadlines. Instead, your funds roll over. And since it’s not tied to your employer, you can carry HSA funds from job to job — even after you change health insurance plans or retire.
When is the FSA Deadline?
For most employees, the deadline to use your funds is December 31st. Employers have some leeway, so make sure to double-check. But for most of us, it’s go time.
And while there was a rollover grace period during the pandemic, now, the leniency of the deadline depends on your employer. So make sure to make your FSA-eligible purchases, or request your reimbursements now!
Before the deadline passes, make sure to stock up on essentials and even get your money back from past purchases (if you have your receipt!). And if you’re looking to discover some exciting FSA-eligible purchases to make before New Year’s, here are a few we’re shopping:
All products featured are independently selected by our editors. Things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.
If your FSA is buying, it’s easier to justify splurging on suncare. This 2-in-1 Bask Suncare kit comes with a spray and lotion sunscreen. I’ll be buying this in bulk. Sunscreen is a must, even in the winter!
Glasses, contacts, and even your annual eye exam are covered under your FSA. I get all three taken care of at Warby Parker for stylish specs and updated prescriptions.
Stress relief is covered under FSA guidelines, including acupressure mats and pillows. This WTHN mat targets stress and tension — while also being aesthetically pleasing. I’ve been eyeing it on Instagram for ages and I finally get to take the plunge.
Get pointed pain relief with heat and pressure with this state-of-the-art device. It comes with multiple attachments for personalized, customizable treatments each time you use it.
HoMedics® Shiatsu Air Pro Foot Massager with Heat in Silver
Spend all day on your feet? That could have adverse health effects. But don’t worry, foot relief tools like home pedicure stations and massagers are all covered by your FSA. This heated Shiatsu massager is the answer to all your foot-pain problems.
Dyson Pure Hot + Cool Link™ HP02 purifier heater (Black/Nickel)
Got allergies? You might be able to get your air purifier covered. This one might take a doctor’s note, but it’s worth the try.
Mighty Patch Original from Hero Cosmetics
Amazing! Acne treatments are covered under your FSA — and my hormonal breakouts could not be happier to hear it. I can finally justify spending on these viral Mighty Patch pimple patches.
Looking for a job? In addition to encountering those annoying never-ending job interviews you may find yourself face-to-face with an artificial intelligence bot.
Companies worldwide increasingly use artificial intelligence tools and analytics in employment decision-making – from parsing through resumes and screening candidates to automated assessments and digital interviews. But recent studies claim that AI does more harm than good.
While AI screening tools were developed to save companies time and money, they’ve been criticized for placing women and people of color at a disadvantage. The problem is that many companies lack appreciable diversity in their data set, making it impossible for an algorithm to know how people from underrepresented groups have performed in the past. As a result, the algorithm will be biased toward the data available and compare future candidates to that archetype.
The City’s Automated Employment Decision Tools (AEDT) law is designed to offset the potential misuse of AI and protect job candidates against discrimination. It was enforced on July 5th, 2023 in New York City - with other cities and states expected to gradually follow suit. Employers must now inform applicants when and how they encounter AI. Furthermore, companies have to commission a third-party audit of the AI software used, and publish a summary of the results to prove that their systems aren’t racist or sexist. Job applicants are able to request information regarding what data is collected and analyzed by the AI. Violations of the law can result in fines of up to $1,500.
Replacing Human Hiring Decisions
However, should a job applicant want to opt-out of such impersonal judgement by a bot, the new law's scope is quite limited.
While the law specifies that instructions for requesting an alternative selection process must be included in the AI screening disclosure, companies aren't actually required to use other screening methods. Not to mention that the law only applies to AI in hiring and not any other employment decisions. It also wouldn't apply if the AI, for example, flags candidates with relevant experience, but a human then reviews all applications, making the ultimate hiring decision.
Some civil rights advocates and public interest groups argue that the law isn’t extensive enough and that it’s even unenforceable. On the other hand, businesses say that it’s impractical, costly, and burdensome, and that independent audits aren’t feasible.
Responsible use of AI in hiring
Although this law may be a good first attempt to assign more regulatory guardrails around AI, it remains to be seen if it ensures the responsible use of AI in hiring processes. At the end of the day, perhaps recruiting talent should remain a human-made decision.
The good news is that AI can help companies without harming potential job candidates in many ways – such as connecting new employees with internal organizational information and company benefits during onboarding. Or helping employees to do their jobs more effectively rather than replacing them.
There’s all this talk about solo travel. And for good reason — no wasting precious time waiting for others to get their act together, take the plans out of the group chat and actually buy the tickets. Going solo, you can be spontaneous. You can plan your trips according to your precise tastes. You can hop on any flight and fly awayyyyyy.
But what if each time you flew you’d get a free ticket? That’s what you get with the Southwest Companion Pass.
Award status, upgrades, lounge access — there are many perks in the frequent flier game. But one of the coveted holy grails is the Southwest Companion Pass.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Companion Pass is part of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. You get to choose one person to be your “companion,” and they fly with you for free (plus some taxes and fees) on every flight. That’s right. Two for the price of one. That’s half off each ticket if you split it! Whether you’re flying with a partner, family member, friend, or anyone else, they can tag along for free.
And it gets better: once you earn the pass, you can reap the rewards for that full calendar year … AND the next. That’s why people go mad trying to earn a companion pass during the early months of the year. The sooner you qualify, the longer you can use it.
There are also no blackout dates. There are no limits. And if you didn’t purchase the ticket (think: work travel, your companion, or a generous benefactor), there are no restrictions! As long as you’re the one on the plane, your companion can also … be on the plane.
You can also switch out your designated companion 3x a year. So, no need to stay in a relationship simply to get the most out of your companion pass! Ghost and fly away — with a whole new companion!
If this sounds too good to be true — it’s not. But there is one small catch. It’s kinda tough to earn this mega reward.
How to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass?
You can qualify for the pass in one of two ways:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights
- Earn 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.
Clearly, this is no small feat — especially if you’re trying to qualify ASAP.
So how do you actually earn the Southwest Companion Pass?
Don’t worry, there’s a path to earning this amazing reward without climbing on 100 flights or spending an exorbitant amount of money.
Earning 135K reward points may seem completely impossible, but it’s easier than it sounds. Simply sign up for a Southwest Credit Card and turn those spending habits into a rapid rewards account. Through the Rewards Priority Credit Card, earn points when using local transit and commuting, plus score major points and miles whenever you spend.
Stay with me here. This is not some scheme to get you into credit card debt. Many airline cards come with potential savings, giantic rewards, awarding you points, and cashback with every purchase you make that can be redeemed for travel. And often they can come with passive sign-up bonuses. If you spend a specific amount of money within a certain timeframe of opening the card, you can be in for a windfall of points.
Now that’s where the companion pass comes in:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest has three personal cards and a business card. Each of these cards offers rewards between 30K-80K points. In the past, people could open two cards and get a bonus that granted enough points to almost meet the minimum. However, with new restrictions on personal cards, you can only get one bonus every 24 months. Boo!
However, this doesn’t apply to business cards. If you’re eligible, have good credit, and not likely to spiral into insane credit card debt, you can open a business card and a personal card, and accrue 100K+ points. The Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card will get you points after you spend money in no time.
Now to earn the rest of them.
The secret to gaining these credit card points is to plan your card sign-ups around big purchases. Just before a recent move, I opened a card . . . and the rewards came rolling in — a small balm to ease the pain of how exorbitant moving can be.
Put everyday spend — especially big purchases or bulk items — on your Southwest credit card and watch your award points quickly add up. Typically, you earn 1 point per $1 spent on your Southwest card and 2 points per $1 on actual Southwest purchases.
But there are other ways to earn points, including:
- Flying Southwest: Booking travel on Southwest earns more points. The cost of this travel will be worth it with your companion pass
- Shopping from Rapid Rewards Partners: Purchases with Southwest’s “Home & Lifestyle” and “Shop and Dine” Partners also earn Companion Pass qualifying points. While you shouldn’t make gratuitous purchases, browse Southwest’s partners to see if you could earn extra points for items you'd be purchasing anyway. All this, simply from enrolling in their Dining Program and shopping with their partners.
So there you have it! And since it’s almost Spring, get to earning and soon you’ll be flying two for the price of one!