How to Open a Health Savings Account (HSA) Outside of Open Enrollment

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If you’re qualified, you can open an HSA account anytime. Once you have an HSA, you can contribute pre-tax money, grow your investment tax free, and use funds for qualified medical expenses tax free.

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Editor’s note: We recently updated the contents of this blog post to reflect more current information. This blog post was originally posted on December 20, 2017.

If you’re looking to save money on healthcare expenses, a Health Savings Account (HSA) can be a valuable tool. If you’re qualified, you can open an HSA account anytime.

Once you have an HSA, you will have a triple-tax advantaged account. That means you will be able to:

  • Contribute pre-tax or tax deductible contributions
  • Grow your investments tax free
  • Use funds for qualified medical expenses tax free

It’s one of the reasons HSAs are so great for people looking to save money on healthcare costs and income tax.

Make Sure You Qualify for an HSA

Before you shop for and open an HSA, it’s a good idea to make sure you qualify. To be HSA qualified, you must enroll in an HSA-eligible high deductible health plan (HDHP).

Under 2020 and 2021 federal regulations, HDHPs that qualify must have deductibles of $1,400 or more for an individual and $2,800 for a family. Additionally, the annual out-of-pocket maximum on plans in 2021 is $7,000 for self-only coverage and $14,000 for family coverage.

There are a few other requirements you must meet to be HSA qualified. You can’t have any other health insurance coverage besides your HDHP. You can’t have or use a General Purpose FSA. You can’t be a dependent on someone else’s tax return. And finally, you must be between age 18 and age 65, and you can’t enroll in Medicaid or Medicare.

Research and Choose the Best Option for You

You have many options when choosing an HSA provider. Most banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions offer HSAs. You can do some research online to figure out their features and decide which one is right for your needs.

Here are some questions to ask yourself when choosing an HSA provider:

Are there fees? How much are they?

There are myriad fees that some HSA providers may charge. Some of these include account opening fees, maintenance fees, fund transfer fees, and debit card fees. It’s important to understand any and all fees you may come across, so you aren’t caught with any surprises down the road.

Consider looking for providers who don't have any fees for at all. Ask the provider for a "fee schedule". This is a list of fees that the provider will charge.

Does the account come with investment options?

Many HSA providers give you the option to invest the money in your HSA. This can be a good option if you are looking to save for retirement and grow your account over time.

As with all investment accounts, make sure you research brokerage fees, transaction fees, and expense ratios for these offerings. FDIC insurance only applies to HSAs if they are not invested. Make sure you understand the risks and possible rewards of investing. If you’re not sure what the right option is for you, it’s always a smart idea to consult a tax advisor.

Is it easy to spend HSA funds? What about getting reimbursed by my HSA?

Some HSA providers will issue debit cards for you to pay for qualified medical expenses. This can be a convenient way to use HSA funds, especially if you incur a lot of expenses.

There's also the option of reimbursing yourself with your HSA. In the event that you ever forget your card at home, you can always log an out-of-pocket expense to reimburse yourself later.

Can you manage your account online or with an app?

Some HSA providers offer apps or robust online portals for you to manage your account. This can be a convenient way to manage your contributions and spending. The best apps will also help you track your investments and growth as well. Most of the time, all you’ll need to sign up is an email address and your healthcare information.

This is especially important if you are saving for a particular goal or if you want to check in to make sure you don’t go over annual contribution limits.

Open Your New HSA

As soon as you know you are or will be eligible for an HSA, you can start the process of opening an account. Some employers will offer one to you, or you can open one on your own.

Unlike Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs), you do not need to wait until open enrollment to sign up for an HSA. You can open up an HSA at any time.

With most providers you can open your account online, from the comfort of your own home. But if you prefer, you can also do it over the phone or in person at some institutions. Make sure to have your personal info and insurance plan details at the ready.

It's important to note that you actually won’t be able to contribute until the first day of the first full month you are HSA eligible. For example, if you enroll in a HDHP on January 15, you can start contributing to your HSA on February 1.

You can open an HSA anytime, as long as you’re qualified. After you open your new account, this is also a good time to roll over any funds you may have in another HSA, if applicable.

Take Advantage of HSA Benefits Today

A major benefit to opening an HSA is to invest your funds for the future. Investing your HSA dollars is a great way to save money for future healthcare costs or retirement. Plus, you can use HSA funds on qualified expenses anytime after you establish your HSA.

Even if you don’t have enough money at the time, you can wait and reimburse yourself for qualified expenses in the future when you do have the funds. This great feature makes it even more important to open your HSA and start saving today.

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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