An HSA, or health savings account, is one of the most versatile and tax-advantaged accounts detailed under the IRS tax code. Using an HSA can save you on income tax, FICA tax, and capital gains tax, and you can often withdraw funds from the account tax-free as well. That's why it's my top priority when saving for retirement.

In order to use an HSA, you need to have a qualifying high-deductible health plan. The idea is to give people who have to cover substantial costs before their insurance kicks in an additional incentive to save for when those expenses occur.

If you're eligible for an HSA, be sure you're making the most of it. Here are three HSA secrets you can use to maximize its benefits.

Person in white coat with stethoscope around neck holding a piggy bank.

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1. Move your HSA to a better provider

You may fund your HSA through your employer, and your employer will set up an account for you at a provider of its choice. But you don't have to stick with that provider. Once the funds are deposited into your account, they're yours. There's nothing stopping you from moving those funds.

Your employer's default provider may charge fees and limit your ability to invest your funds. You can perform a simple HSA transfer to a provider with no fees and plenty of investment choices in order to get more out of your account.

Just be aware, though, that your provider may charge a fee to transfer your funds to a new account. Be sure to limit your transfers in that case and be sure that the fee is worth it. You may be able to ask the new provider to reimburse the fee.

2. Open an HSA even if you don't have the money right now

An HSA with $0 in it can still be surprisingly useful.

Once you have an HSA open, any medical expense you incur from that point forward can be reimbursed by funds you eventually deposit into the account. All you have to do is save the receipt from the expense, and use that receipt to make a withdrawal against it at some point in the future.

It's also worth noting you have until your tax deadline to contribute to an HSA for the previous year (if you were eligible). But you have to have had an opened account in the prior year and participated in a qualifying health plan in order to make a prior-year contribution.

So, even if you don't have the money right now, it can pay to open an HSA. As long as there's no fees or account minimums, there's no harm in doing so.

3. Contribute while on your parents' plan

Young workers may be eligible for an HSA while staying on their parents' health insurance. If you can't be claimed as a dependent and you participate in your parents' qualifying high deductible health plan, you can contribute to an HSA.

In order to use an HSA, you'll have to open your own account directly since you're not going through your employer. Because you're technically on a family insurance plan, you can deposit an amount up to the family contribution limit for the year ($7,300 in 2022). You don't even need earned income to contribute to the HSA, so you might have other sources of cash you could use to contribute, like a windfall or gift.

Importantly, your contribution will not preclude your parents from also contributing to an HSA, so feel free to contribute as much as you can.

Make the most of your HSA

An HSA is extremely versatile and can save you a lot of money on taxes. You can use it for long-term savings goals like retirement, but it can also save you money in the short run on your medical care. If you know how to use it, you can come out way ahead of those who don't.