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Home » Health Insurance, HSA's

Choosing the Best HSA Account Administrator (& Yes, you CAN Choose)

Last updated by on 48 Comments

I’ve been on a big HSA kick, since I made the move to an HDHP.

Tax-free (pre-tax) contributions and withdrawals for qualified medical expenses, employer contributions, and growth through investments for the win!

Unlike FSA’s, HSA account contributions roll over from year-to-year, and they are portable, meaning you can take them with¬† you from one employer to another or to self-employment. YOU are the owner of your HSA account and your employer can’t take the funds away from you.

Later on, if you don’t use the funds, you can even withdraw funds from HSA accounts in retirement like an IRA, without penalty and for any reason, starting at age 65.

When I first signed up for an HSA, I wondered how married I’d be to a particular HSA account. Could I switch if I didn’t like mine, just like an IRA? I’ve since done a lot of research on this topic, and here’s what I found…

Can you Switch HSA Account Administrators?

HSA account administratorsHSA’s are fairly new to the health insurance and investing worlds. They weren’t established until 2003. As recently as 2008, only about 6 million American’s had one. But that number has more than doubled since, and its projected that 13.5 million Americans had one in 2012.

2.5 million Americans are covered by HSA/HDHPs purchased in the individual market, outside of an employer.

The HSA marketplace is young, but quickly growing.

HSA accounts can be started with banks, brokers, credit unions, and insurance companies. Any company that offers an HSA is referred to as and “administrator” or “custodian”. HSAs were originally designed for modest deposits through payroll, followed by frequent small withdrawals. This is why most started and are still through banks and credit unions (unfortunately, if you’d like to invest).

If you or your employer have picked a poor HSA admin, the good news is that you are not stuck with them. Just as with IRA’s, you can switch if you aren’t happy with your administrators policies and fees. A person contributing to an HSA is under no obligation to contribute to his or her employer-sponsored HSA. Employers, however, may require that direct payroll contributions be made only to the sponsored HSA plan.

As with most things, it definitely pays to shop around. In this post, I’ll do some of the heavy lifting to get you started.

Best HSA Account Administrators List

There are far more HSA administrators out there than there are IRA brokers. The rub is that most are through banks and very few of them allow you to invest your savings in anything outside of their own money market accounts, CD’s, and other in-house financial products. And with bank rates as low as they have been, with low borrowing rates, those yields are not helping you much.

That’s key. If you can’t invest, as you would in a 401K or IRA, your HSA contributions are just sitting there, eroding with high health care inflation every year.

Unfortunately, most online brokers do not offer an HSA account option.

So here is a list of some popular HSA account administrators. All offer a debit card included.
HSA AdministratorAnnual or Maintenance FeesSetup FeesOther FeesInvestment Options
HSA BankMonthly account maintenance fee: $2.50 (waived on daily HSA balances of $4,850 or more)NoHSA Bank feesSelf-directed through TD Ameritrade. Trading fees apply. Or, pre-selected funds with no trading fees ($24 annual fee).
Health Savings AdministratorsAnnual administration fee: $45.00NoHealth Savings Administrators feesChoice of 22 Vanguard Funds.
Health EquityMonthly account maintenance feee: $3.95 (waived if HSA balance is over $2,500)NoHealth Equity feesChoice of 39 mutual funds. No purchase fee.
Millennium TrustAnnual account fee: $35$10Millennium TrustSome no transaction fee funds. Otherwise, trading fee of $15 plus commission in self-directed account.
Alliant Credit UnionNone with basic account. Investment account monthly fee: $5.95NoAlliant Credit Union1.25% dividend rate, or self-managed investment options
Wells FargoMonthly maintenance fee: $4.25 (waived if the combined deposit and investment balance in your HSA on the last day of the month is greater than or equal to $5,000)Not if done online, otherwise $10Wells FargoChoice of 17 Wells Fargo funds.
Lake Michigan Credit UnionNoNoLake Michigan Credit UnionHigh interest savings interest, but no equity investing.
US BankMonthly maintenance fee: $3.25 (waived if account balance exceeds $2,500)NoUS BankChoice of 20 mutual funds when monthly balance exceeds $2,500.

Remember, you must have an HDHP to get and continue contributing to an HSA.

For more basics on HSA’s, check out the previous links and the IRS HSA guidelines.

Best HSA Account Discussion:

  • Who is your current HSA account administrator and what are their fees, policies, and investment options?
  • Have you invested within your HSA account?

Related Posts:


About the Author
I am G.E. Miller, & this is my story. My goal is financial independence ASAP. If you share that goal, join me & 7,500+ others by getting FREE email updates. You'll also find every post by category & every post in order.


48 Comments »
  • Carlos says:

    Hello G.E.

    I’ve been following your blog for several months. Great Job on it! Im probably not as optimistic as you are on HSA’s. I currently have one with my employer through Fidelity. This part I like; Fidelity already handles my 401K so this is convenient. My employers contribution as well as my own go into a money market account and from this I can withdraw (via debit card) for medical expenses or invest in anything Fidelity has to offer. Now my gripes. At this point only $3100 contribution is allowed per year which means no mutual fund investing at least for the first year until one accumulates enough cash. stock investing with high commisions and low investment amounts is pretty much out as well. What Ive resorted to is their commision free ETF’s (i-share I think they’re called) these are limited to a handful but I stick to index ETF’s. My biggest gripe of all with HSA’s is that they only work if 1)You never ever get sick or 2)You get sick all the time. If you are in between like most of us, one or two doctor visits a year with a couple of tests will easily wipe out your year’s contributions; all out of pocket of course because the annual deductibles are so high. Philosophically, my issue is that these accounts force one to make a decision between going to the doctor or saving for investment and this leads in my opinion for many to forego necessary doctor visits

    • Dave Pak says:

      I think honestly, this is not the “correct” perspective.

      The goal of the HSA is for you fund your medical costs with pre-tax dollars.

      The investment part is a perk, not the goal.

      Sure, its a nice perk, but if you want better investment options, get some investment accounts – that’s their job.

      If you don’t want to get taxed on any money you might spend on medical costs, and you get to keep unused money from year to year (and can even invest some of it!) than THAT is what the HSA is for.

      I have an ira, investment accounts (because I max my ira) and my HSA. Each has a different role…

      best of luck!

      • Chris Koffend says:

        I hear what you are saying, but at the same time, the article is very correct in espousing a key benefit of the HSA accounts for investment/saving purposes.

        There are a lot of responsible people preparing and saving for retirement. There are caps in the amount of money you can save while using an IRA or Roth IRA. These limits are quite low and really not sufficient if they are your only options.

        401Ks (and 403Bs)allow for more savings than the IRAs, but there too are limits that are not always clear. For example, if one works for a small business and holds a certain higher level position within said business – you may be limited in what percentage of what you can contribute to your 401K based on what the average company employee contributes (measured as a percentage of their compensation/pay). So if the average employee puts 5% of their pay into their 401K, you in a senior position cannot put 12% or 15%. I believe the “rules” or laws in this case, would limit you to 7.5% (2.5% higher than the average, but the specific number I do not recall).

        I max out my Roth. Last year, I found out that I was being forced to take back money that was put into my 401K because my selected percentage of my pay designated to my 401K exceeded the company “average” by too great of a percentage. I was refunded that money back to me, after taxes were taken out and the fee for performing those services by the 401K administrator was taken out.

        To me, an HSA is to serve two purposes:

        1: to serve as an additional retirement account where my money goes in pre-tax and grows tax free, available at age 65 or later without penalty and for any use.

        2: to be there in the event of a major medical bill – cancer, car accident, etc. . .

        I don’t need the HSA to pay $80, $150 bills, etc. . . I’ll pay that out of my regular savings/checking so that I can leave my HSA money alone and let it grow. Now give me a $3,000 bill and maybe I’ll us my HSA money, or a combination of HSA money and cash.

        Best of all, I am keeping my money, away from the useless, irresponsible politicians who will just waste it. I am sure that I will be able to find a need for it when I retire, even if that just means leaving it to my children or grand children.

  • Ron Ablang says:

    I am also a huge fan of the HDHP w/ HSA. Some of my co-workers have complained about their massive monthly premiums, while my monthly max contribution ($6150/yr divided by 12) is still less than that.

  • Natalie H says:

    My husband’s employer allows automated contributions from his paycheck and partners with Optumhealth Bank. I’m not very fond of this bank, but making contributions directly from his paycheck has at least one *huge* advantage. FICA is calculated /after/ withdrawing his contribution. This means we don’t pay Social Security or Medicare on the amount we contribute (just like health insurance premiums) which saves us another 7.65% in addition to the federal tax break. It also lowers the gross amount shown on our w-2 and tax return each year. Since our household income is a little lower than average (with me as a SAHM) it helps us qualify for lower payments on my student loan and other programs based on income, like the Earned Income Credit. Even knowing I could get better service or better investments elsewhere, I won’t give up that guaranteed 7.65% return from having it withdrawn from our paycheck. If your employer offers this, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity!

  • David says:

    I have HSA coupled with a HDHP and it’s great. I also get a match from my employer of $375, and hopefully I’ll be able to max it out this year. I have it through Health Equity, and you can invest any amount of your balance over $2,000. The have one Vanguard fund (low ER) so I’ll invest in that when my balance gets over $2k.

  • Mark says:

    Lake Michigan Credit Union appears to require another account/membership with their bank. Why did you list them?

    • G.E. Miller says:

      It’s a credit union. That is to be expected.

      • sarah says:

        Correction about Chase, they do not charge me a monthly maintenance fee but the $2.50 fee is if you also open up an investment account.
        It’s through my employer so i am not sure if that makes a difference.

        • Sandra says:

          Could someone tell me why there are investment options listed with HSA’s. I didn’t think any of these financial institutions would pay me interest or dividends (although I see if you have large amounts in the account maybe they do that. So why do I have to choose where the money goes? Or did I answer my own question that if I raise the amount in my account the decision on where to invest has already been made.

          I need an HSA because I just chose an HDHP for my family (I freelance and my husband opened his own firm) so we don’t have employers. I want low monthly fees, but I will put in less than $5,000. It seems the money roll over, but you don’t get it back out either, right? And generally, can you just keep adding to the account without problems (fees, etc) as long as you don’t go over the allowable amount per individual/family? Thank so much!!

          • Miike says:

            Many HSA administrators offer mutual funds or self directed brokerage accounts to attract customers with large HSA accounts. Some people treat their HSA as a retirment account. If you are thinking of your HSA as a retirement account then you want to invest in a mix of stocks and bonds. If your employer offers an HSA and you have maxed our your ROTH IRA, your employer’s retirement plan, and you still have cash flow; then you can pay your medical expenses out of pocket. Unreimbursed receipts can be treated as an emergency fund. If you get laid off you can always reimburse yourself. Don’t lose the receipts as the IRS may want proof of your health expenses. You might also think of your HSA as a retirement account with a 7.5% employer match. Employer contribution to your HSA bypass social security and medicare taxes. When you turn 65 non-health expense withdrawls from your HSA will be penaly free but will count as income when you file your tax return. A HSA is not subject to manadtory withdrawl rules like a traditional IRA. An HSA inherited by your child will be taxed upon iheritance; unlike a IRA or 401-k. A HSA inherited by a spouse will become your spouse’s HSA.

      • sandra says:

        I very much appreciate the inclusion of the credit union. The $5 additional account required to be a member is not a burden considering the fee free environment the HSA has. Thank you for listing it.

        • G.E. Miller says:

          Also – if you decide to close a credit union account, you get that money back. It’s not a fee. Just a minimum deposit that you get back.

          • Ev says:

            I checked both credit union websites listed and both seem to have very strict rules for membership. I did not see anything referring to a $5 fee to join. Could you please elaborate on that option and which of the 2 credit unions listed you are referring to. Thank you.

  • Sandy says:

    Good post but it ignores the fact that most employers make a HSA contributions to their employees’ accounts so the notion of shopping around and choosing your own HSA would require two HSAs which seems like a hassle.

  • Ed says:

    I am new to HSAs but as you say they are a no brainer and I am also a fan. I have tried to determine what the max 2013 family plan HSA contribution is consdiering that my wife and I are both over 55 and not on medicare. I believe that it is $6450 + $1000 + $1000 = $8450. Its seems like a lot of sites do not understand that the catch up contirbution of $1000 applies to both individuals like IRAs.

    Do you agree with me that $8450 is the max for my case?

    Thanks

    Ed

    • Teresa says:

      Hi Ed,

      Thank you for your comment, it made me check into it or I wouldn’t have known that. According to the HSA Bank website, “Authorized Signers who are 55 or older must have their own HSA in order to make the catch-up contribution.” So both you and your spouse must have your own HSA account.

      Thanks!
      Teresa

    • Teresa says:

      Hi again,

      This is the website:
      http://www.hsabank.com/hsabank/education/irs-limits-and-guidelines

      It also says you can do a one-time rollover from an IRA (Traditional IRA makes the most sense), and it means you wouldn’t have to come up with outside money to fund it. It would be like allocating part of your IRA to health care expenses and be able to use it before you are 59 and a half without penalty.

      However, from other sites, including the gov website, I think the rollover choice starts a 12-month “qualification period” where you must still qualify by having a HDHP or you have to prorate the contribution, pay taxes on part, etc. So in my case, if I change jobs in a few months to one where the HDHP doesn’t make sense (or lose my job), I’d be screwed. I’m not totally sure about that, though, the wording is very confusing.

      Thanks again!

      Teresa

  • Paul says:

    It looks like this is already outdated as HSA Bank has increased their min. balance to ~$4800, and has other fees now as well.

  • Shannon says:

    I’m so grateful for this article – thank you for taking the time to share (your thorough research saved me hours of headache) and update!

  • David says:

    I came across this post while looking for a replacement for Chase HSA. The comparison of management fees and investment options is nice, but the reason my wife and I want to switch is that Chase customer service is horrendous, and their web site is something out of 1996.

    Any recommendations for HSA administrators that have good customer service and a modern, usable web site?

  • Paul says:

    I’d recommend Health Equity or HSA Bank. Key differences are:

    - Health Equity has lower minimum required balance and general lower fees.
    - HSA offers more investment options through TD Ameritrade with ability to hold equities or bonds, etc (Health Equity only offers funds).
    -Both have great customer service
    -I had trouble opening a Health Equity account because they want to verify you have a HDHP plan, instead of letting the burden fall on you. Even having insurance with their sister wife insurance carrier Select Health it was near impossible.
    - See what your employer can do with payroll. My employer will only let me contribute to HSA bank pre-payroll, not Health Equity because they have HSA Bank integrated with payroll.
    - For me HSA Bank has higher fees, but I figure I’m saving ~7% in payroll taxes, which over $3300 per year adds up.

    Hope that helps!

  • Jah says:

    I would recommend Optum Bank.

    -Lower fees than all the Banks mentioned above ($1 Monthly fee if below $500 balance)
    -Opportunity to invest
    -Optum doesn’t verify if you have an HDHP, the burden is on you
    -Great customer service

    Hope this helps!

    • Melissa says:

      I read your comment on optum bank’s HSA…my husband is being forced to go to an HDHP with optum as the HSA Bank. You are one of the few with a positive comment on this bank. Can you tell me how long you have been with them?

      I have heard they take forever to get out the debit card and their system doesn’t update your current funds very often and customer service is terrible. We don’t really have any local options. is their customer service base in the USA? any advise or tips are greatly appreciated.

      Melissa :)

  • Silver says:

    I just called Health Equity and the minimum balance requirement under which they charge a $3.95 monthly fee is $2500, not $1500. Just fyi…

  • Dawn says:

    Thank you so much for this great article! My husband and I just enrolled a HSA qualified family plan for the first time. I want to open a HSA account mainly to pay for the high deductible. Do we each has to open an account, or can I use my HSA to pay for my husband’s medical expenses? Thanks!

  • Paul says:

    Dawn,

    It really depends on what your health policy is (for ex. employee only vs. employee + spouse etc). The federal government has set up contribution limits whether if you are single or married, but they interact with the type of health policy you have. It’s a little tricky. Call my expert at Bernard Health at 800-505-0750 and they will help you for free.

    Good luck!

    Paul

  • Han says:

    Chase changed their monthly maintenance fee to $4.00 per month (ridiculous!). So, now I’m moving my account over to a different bank.

  • Han says:

    Here’s some “no fee” HSA’s that I’ve found so far. Have not researched these thouroughly yet, but they seem like good deals at first look.

    1. Saturna = no account maintenance, set up fees, or commissions if ALL the money in your Saturna HSA account in invested in their various Saturna mutual funds. As another option instead, you can setup a Saturna Brokerage account to trade any non-Saturna mutual funds, stocks & ETFs, or covered call options — but their brokerage commissions are fairly hefty ($14.95 for online Stock or ETF trades; $19.95+ for options), so unless you place only 1 or 2 trades in a year, it’s probably a bad idea to do the brokerage option.
    http://www.saturna.com/hsaesa/hsa4.shtml

    2. Not totally free, but your $36 annual account fee does include almost every fee you can think of at American Health Value HSA w/ an optional mutual fund option.
    http://www.americanhealthvalue.com/health_savings_accounts/value-added_hsa/fees/
    https://ahvthebancorp.mybankingservices.com/investment-account-information/

    3. If you want to join ELFCU (has some account requirements that come with this credit union, such as opening a savings account with them with some activity in it), but it appears they have no other HSA maintenance fee. Their HSA savings account currently pays a decent 1.00% interest, AND if you have at least $2500 more to spare you can move that extra into a TD Ameritrade account and pay standard TD Ameritrade brokerage fees.
    http://www.elfcu.org/solutions/deposits/health-savings-account/

  • shane says:

    Here is something I learned the hard way, yesterday, about HSA bank. I spent most of the day in a hospital in Bangkok getting a comprehensive physical. When it came time to pay I presented my HSA debit card for payment, which was declined. I showed the manager the balance in my account online via my iPhone so he knew I had the money in my account. I was allowed to leave the hospital without paying. I could not contact HSA bank from the hospital due to the 12 hour time difference and operating hours of the banks customer service of 7am to 10pm. When I returned to my apartment I contacted HSA bank to be told that my debit card would no longer work outside of the United States due to the “funding of terrorism” with Health Savings Accounts debit cards outside of the United States. So choose your bank’s wisely.

  • Paul says:

    Hi Sandra,

    The reason that there are investment options with HSA’s is because most HSA-eligible health insurance plans have a high deductible of about $3,000 – $5,000. This year I contribute $3,000 but didn’t use any of it. Well the next year I still have the same insurance plan with a $3,000 – $5000 deductible, and I contribute $3,000 again. There is now $6,000 in my account.

    Now, I don’t really need that extra $3,000 in my account, because my insurance will kick in after my deductible, but it’s a nice tax write-off. I put that extra $3,000 into investments and put compound interest to work for me with investments.

    After I do this for 30 years, I have a nice nest egg that I can cash out when I am 65 and use for retirement. I only pay taxes on money I take out for “play money” (I will probably be in the lowest tax bracket at 65), and pay no taxes on any medical expenses ever.

    Also, there is no problem is contributing more than the IRS allowable amount (~$3400 indiv/ ~5k family) you just aren’t receiving any tax advantage at the point and must pay normal income tax on that money above the allowable limits, and properly record it to the IRS.

    Hope that helps!

    Paul Fischer

  • Ann says:

    What you fail to mention here is that by choosing an alternative HSA administrator, there is a tax hit because we won’t get the Medicare (1.45%) and SS (6.2%) tax savings. For someone like me, maxing out family at age 55 and older ($7550), than means by choosing an alternative administrator I miss out on $578 in tax savings.

  • Jason says:

    Another one that might be worth adding to the list is BMO Harris:
    https://www.bmoharris.com/us/personal-finance/checking-accounts/health-savings-account#page=page-2

    While there’s no investment option, there’s also no monthly maintenance fee. It’s where I parked my HSA funds after switching employers a couple years ago. I couldn’t add money to it under the new employer’s health plan, and didn’t want to be losing money to fees in the meantime. They do charge $25 to transfer out.

  • Kathleen says:

    Consider Vanguard. They do have a $45 yearly fee, but you can invest your HSA funds in 22 Vanguard funds, all with very low expense ratios and excellent returns. You choose the level of risk to assume with the funds.

  • Kathleen says:

    Oops! That was one of the options on the chart…

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