HSA vs. FSA accounts: how do you choose the right one for you?

1 min readLast updated March 28, 2024by Unbiased team

Uncover the key differences and similarities between HSA and FSA accounts and determine which one is best for you and your circumstances.

Summary 

  • Flexible Savings Accounts (FSAs) are tax-efficient health savings accounts that are linked to employee benefit plans. 

  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are long-term health savings accounts that can be accessed and contributed to outside of employment status. 

  • The main differences between HSA and FSA accounts relate to tax, investment opportunities, and the length of time account holders have access to them. 

  • A financial advisor can help you decide whether an HSA or FSA will be most beneficial to your circumstances. 

What is an FSA account? 

Flexible Savings Account (FSA) is a variation of a regular health savings account that provides account holders with unique tax advantages.  

Your employer owns your FSA, and you can contribute a limited portion of your regular income directly toward health-related costs. This amount is decided at the beginning of the year and cannot be changed.  

As the money is deducted from your earnings, it does not qualify for payroll taxes.  

Therefore, the money you contribute to an FSA can lower your income tax bill every fiscal year. Plus, any funds a person withdraws from an FSA to cover verified medical expenses are also not taxed.  

The main advantage of having an FSA account is that you can cover your medical expenses at a lower tax rate than a regular HSA.  

However, as FSAs are specifically tied to employment plans, any funds in them must be used up before the end of the plan year. Any funds not used within the set annual period will become null and void at the beginning of the next period.  

What is an HSA account? 

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a type of savings account that can be contributed to by an individual or their employer. This makes it more available to people with all kinds of employee benefit plans.  

There is a limit to how much can be contributed to a HSA each year, but there is no limit to how long a contributor can add funds to it.  

Therefore, one of the biggest differences between an HSA and an FSA is that an HSA can grow much bigger and for a longer period of time.  

The main advantage of an HSA is that its lifespan is open-ended, allowing for more growth potential. It can also be used to make investments, driving up its compound interest over time. 

There is a limit to how much can be contributed to it each year; however, this limit is higher than that of FSAs.  

Some of the healthcare expenses that a HSA account can cover include dental, medical, vision, and prescription medication.  

What is the difference between an HSA and an FSA account? 

HSA and FSA accounts are both effective accounts for saving up and covering healthcare expenses.  

However, there are some key differences between HSA and FSA accounts. These include: 

  • Carryovers: Unused HSA funds can be carried over into the next year, whereas FSA funds must be used up on a yearly basis; otherwise, they become inaccessible.  

  • Investing: HSA funds can be used to invest, and FSA funds cannot. This heightens the growth ceiling for HSAs.  

  • Tax advantages: While HSA accounts are still considered tax-advantaged, FSA accounts are even more so. FSAs are also more accessible than HSAs because anyone can contribute to them so long as they are eligible and their employer has offered them the option.  

Can you have both an FSA and an HSA account? 

If you have a HSA account, you cannot open a typical FSA account.  

However, you can open an LPFSA.  

An LPFSA is a Limited Purpose Flexible Savings Account. LPFSA accounts will cover expenses that are not covered by your health plan, such as vision care and dentistry.  

HSA vs FSA accounts: which is better? 

If you qualify for both an HSA or FSA, weighing up the pros and cons of each before choosing which one to open is important.  

Ultimately, the debate over which one is “better” is a personal one that depends on your financial circumstances and healthcare needs. However, there are some ways to determine if an HSA or FSA will be more advantageous for you.  

For example, if you are already enrolled in an FSA plan through your employer, this flexible type of account may be in your best interest. If your contract is multiple years long, the fact that FSA funds can’t be carried over year over year won’t matter.  

If your employee benefits package does not include an FSA, getting an HSA might be a better option. It is also a good option for people who want to save general healthcare funds over the long term.  

If you need more clarity before deciding between an HSA vs FSA account, speak to a financial advisor for expert guidance and support. This will ensure that you get the best possible care for your money and that your needs are adequately covered.  

Get expert financial advice 

Despite the differences between HSA and FSA accounts, they are both secure ways to save money for your and your family’s healthcare, especially as you approach retirement.  

When making any big financial decision, it’s important to get expert advice. This will ensure that you get the best advice for your needs now and in the future.  

Unbiased can match you with an SEC-regulated financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs. Answer a few simple questions about your needs, and we’ll do the rest.  

Find your financial advisor now.   

Writers

Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.