Flexible Spending Accounts, Braces, and a Debit Card

After having maxed out our flexible spending account (FSA) last summer, we re-upped this fall during open enrollment. As I’ve noted previously, the new year also came with new options for managing our FSA. Included in this is the WageWorks Health Care Card, which is a Visa-branded debit card that lets us pay for eligible expenses directly.

We can use this card to pay a doctor, dentist or pharmacist, as well as pretty much any merchant that sells eligible health care products. While we’re still supposed to save receipts in case they want to check on the eligibility of a purchase, there’s no need to mail or fax anything in for reimbursement. This also means fewer trips to the bank.

Anyway, earlier this week I had the opportunity to try it out. My eight year old son is getting braces, and he had his first appointment just a few days ago. While we could have paid the orthodontist monthly over the course of his treatment, we were offered a discount for prepaying. Since we’re paying out of our FSA, this really doesn’t make a difference in terms of our cash flow… We can pull money out of our FSA faster than we put it in, so we can easily make a lump sum payment and then let the FSA smooth it out (we pay into it in twelve equal installments across the year). So I whipped out my WageWorks card, swiped it, and we went happily on our way. Maybe happily isn’t the right word, as I had just dropped close to two grand (it’s partial treatment), and my son had spacers shoved between his back teeth. But we were definitely out of there in a flash, and there was no need to rush home and fill out paperwork.

All in all, this makes it far easier to take advantage of a great tax break without having to worry about forgetting to submit a claim and losing money at the end of the year (FSAs typically operate on a use-it-or-lose-it basis). Not that we were ever at risk of having money left over at the end of the year… Between my eight year old’s orthodontia and my three year old’s glasses (which don’t always getting treated with tender loving care), I’m confident that we’ll spend out our account yet again this year.

4 Responses to “Flexible Spending Accounts, Braces, and a Debit Card”

  1. Strokeofg: I think that’s a great idea if you have a decent reward card. I did that last year for my wisdom teeth when I had a 5% cash back promo on one of my cards. Right now, however, we would have only gotten 1% cash back, and the $18 in savings just didn’t seem worth the trouble of filing the paperwork, waiting for a check, driving the check to the bank to deposit, etc.

  2. Anonymous

    What are your thoughts on using a CC to pay for the braces and then being reimbursed by the FSA. Just an idea that I’ve been toying with, but can’t get my hands around yet. Thanks.

  3. Anonymous

    I really love my FSA. I am using it to get LASIK vision correction this year. It is great because I may not need to purchase glasses or contacts ever again. If I get a decent price, my wife may get it this year, as well. If not, she is getting it next year (as I am the guinea pig). It really helps with keeping my adjusted gross income just low enough to still be eligible for various tax credits, including the Saver’s Credit.

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