How to Use Your HSA or FSA for Travel Expenses

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Learn how to use your HSA or FSA funds to pay for eligible travel and transportation expenses. Get reimbursement for your qualified expenses and save money. Take advantage of this unique feature of HSAs and FSAs.

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Are you making the most of your FSA or HSA? If you have a Health Savings Account (HSA) or Healthcare Flexible Spending Account (FSA), you know you can use them for common medical expenses. This includes copays, medical equipment, and prescription costs. You also know you can't use these account to pay for premiums or for non-healthcare expenses. But did you know that you can also use them for some healthcare-related travel expenses?

It’s true! You can use your HSA or FSA funds to pay for eligible medical-related travel expenses. This is a unique feature of HSAs and FSAs. You cannot use a Dependent Care FSA or a Limited Purpose FSA to pay for healthcare-related travel.

FSA and HSA Eligible Travel Expenses

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There are three things to ask yourself when thinking about healthcare travel expenses:

  1. Is this treatment "necessary"?
  2. Is this treatment "reasonable"?
  3. Is this treatment "eligible"?

The definition for "necessary" is pretty self-explanatory. That means your travel is for a needed medical treatment. This treatment is a must-have, not a nice-to-have.

"Reasonable" means you aren’t taking a private plane to the best hospital in the country. It’s more like you’re taking a Lyft to Urgent Care or driving an hour to a specialist one city over.

"Eligible" means the IRS determines it is an eligible and qualified expense. You can check IRS Publication 502 for more information on what is eligible.

There are a few different types of travel-related expenses that may be eligible under your HSA or FSA. Remember, all transportation expenses are relevant to you receiving health care. The primary purpose for eligible travel must be for receiving medical care. You can use your FSA or HSA to pay for qualified travel costs associated with a dependent's care.

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Some common eligible travel expenses include:

  • Rideshare apps, public transportation, taxis, trains, ferries, and rental cars
  • Tolls, if a toll route is the only way to get to the facility
  • Parking fees
  • Fuel costs from driving your personal vehicle

Here are some travel expenses that are NOT eligible:

  • Vehicle maintenance, repair, or depreciation
  • Personal expenses, like meals on the road
  • Auto insurance
  • Tickets or other penalty fees charged
  • Anything not related to getting medical care. You cannot get reimbursed for a vacation where you happen to go to the doctor. Your travel must be for, and essential to, medical care.

How to Receive a FSA Travel Reimbursement

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You can’t use your FSA debit card to pay for travel like you can for other eligible expenses. You must pay out of pocket and save your receipts to submit for reimbursement. It’s a good idea to use a debit or credit card so you have a detailed record of that transaction. Make sure your receipts show the provider, date, and amount you paid -- and don’t lose any! If you don’t have the proper documentation, you likely will not receive reimbursement.

To receive reimbursement for fuel costs, keep a mileage log with receipts for gas. You can either work out your exact fuel costs for miles driven or you can use the IRS’ standard mileage deduction.

As of January 1, 2020, mileage for travel to and from eligible healthcare services receive reimbursement at $0.17 per mile. Google Maps or other map services on your phone can be a great way to document and calculate your miles.

How to Use Your Hsa for Travel Expenses

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If you have an HSA rather than an FSA, you can still use it for the eligible travel expenses discussed above. The process for using the funds may look a little different.

With FSAs, you can only use your plan debit card in limited places. So you have to gather receipts and submit them for reimbursement. With HSAs, you own the account, not your health plan. Because of this, you can use the associated debit card at more places. It is possible that you’ll be able to pay for eligible travel expenses with your debit card.

If you can't use your HSA debit card, pay for the expense out-of-pocket. Save your receipts so you can reimburse yourself through your HSA later. Make sure you keep your receipts handy. In the event you're ever audited by the IRS, you will need proof that your expenses are eligible.

Other FSA and HSA Eligible Expenses You May Not Know About

Here are some other less common expenses that you may not be aware are healthcare FSA or HSA eligible:

  • Guide dogs: This includes the costs of buying, training, and maintaining a guide dog.
  • Braille books and magazines: You can use your HSA or FSA to pay for the difference in cost between the regular version and the braille version.
  • Drug addiction treatment and counseling: This includes detoxification, counseling, and self-help groups.
  • Certain at-home test kits: This includes fertility tests, hearing tests, and more.
  • Nursing home: Many types of skilled nursing facilities are eligible.

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And a few that are NOT eligible:

  • Diapers and diaper services: This service isn't eligible for reimbursement unless used to treat a specific medical condition caused by a mental or physical disability.
  • Weight loss programs: You must have a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) for this to be eligible.
  • Special food: You must have a Letter of Medical Necessity (LMN) for this to be eligible.
  • Health club dues: This expense is not eligible for reimbursement unless used to treat a specific medical condition.

Make the Most of Your FSA and HSA

Using your FSA or HSA to pay for eligible travel-related expenses is a good way to get the most out of your account. Since you are using pre-tax funds, you are lowering your out-of-pocket costs.

Ensure you are getting the most out of your tax advantaged accounts. If you travel for medical reasons and don’t use your FSA or HSA to pay for expenses, you could be missing out on major savings.

Disclaimer: the content presented in this article are for informational purposes only, and is not, and must not be considered tax, investment, legal, accounting or financial planning advice, nor a recommendation as to a specific course of action. Investors should consult all available information, including fund prospectuses, and consult with appropriate tax, investment, accounting, legal, and accounting professionals, as appropriate, before making any investment or utilizing any financial planning strategy.

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