Setting Up HSA at Elements Financial

Elements Financial, formerly Eli Lilly Federal Credit Union (Elfcu), offers the best HSA for investing HSA money. I completed my HSA setup at Elements. Here’s a walkthrough of the timeline.

Apply Online

Day 1: I did the online application. You can join the supporting organization Tru Direction in the online application.

As it’s common in online applications, I was asked ID verification questions based on information from my credit report, such as selecting where I lived previously and where I got a car loan before.

The ID verification system cleared me without any additional steps. One reader was asked to submit a copy of the driver’s license and utility bills. Another reader was asked to visit a branch in Indiana. The ID verification system is pretty much a black box. If the system mandates certain actions, the financial institution has to do it. Blame the trouble on laws and regulations.

Register Online Access

Day 2: I received a welcome email with my member ID and account numbers. With those numbers, I registered for online access.

As many small credit unions do, Elements uses third-party hosted systems because they lack their own IT resources. Online banking (“eBranch”) and HSA administration are hosted on two separate systems. You register and log in separately.

You switch to paperless statements on the online banking side. You do your HSA-specific functions on the HSA administration side.

Transfer HSA

Day 3: I mailed the HSA Transfer form to Elements. My outgoing HSA provider doesn’t charge a transfer-out fee. If yours does, consider doing a rollover instead. See How To Rollover an HSA On Your Own and Avoid Trustee Transfer Fee.

Day 9: The HSA account disappeared from online banking at my previous HSA provider.

Day 16: Online banking (“eBranch”) at Elfcu showed a balance in my new HSA. The transfer completed.

The HSA administration side still showed zero, because it’s always one business day behind. It wasn’t possible to enroll in the investment program just yet.

Open TD Ameritrade Account

Day 17: The HSA balance showed up on the HSA admin site. I followed the instructions in the HSA welcome kit to open a TD Ameritrade account.

Make sure you copy down the TD Ameritrade account number you get at the end. You need it and the PIN you gave during enrollment to create a TD Ameritrade user ID and password. If you already have a TD Ameritrade user ID, you may want to try linking the new account number to your existing login.

After I logged in to TD Ameritrade, I enrolled in the commission-free ETF program (under Research & Ideas -> ETFs -> commission-free ETFs). I also enabled paperless confirmations and statements (under Client Services -> My Profile -> General, otherwise possibly $2 fee). Also be sure to sign the exchange agreements for real time quotes (under Client Services -> My Profile -> General). Otherwise you only see delayed quotes until the very last step before you place a trade.

A disclosure document in the TD Ameritrade account shows a $12.50 quarterly maintenance fee. A rep from TD Ameritrade’s Participant Services told me that fee doesn’t apply to the Elfcu program.

It was not possible to transfer money to TD Ameritrade yet. The HSA admin site needed an update from TD Ameritrade for my account number.

Invest HSA Money

Day 17: Even though it said it could take up to 3 business days to complete the setup, the Transfer Money function on the HSA admin site became available to me only after a few hours. I requested to have the entire balance transferred to TD Ameritrade. The transfer would take two business days to complete.

Update: Elements now charges $24 for each transfer to TD Ameritrade. It’s best if you fund the HSA in full and transfer to TD Ameritrade once per year. See follow-up post Elements Financial HSA Still The Best Despite New Wire Transfer Fee.

Day 19: My TD Ameritrade account showed a balance. I placed a trade for Vanguard Total Stock Market Index ETF (ticker VTI). No commission was charged, as expected.

I was left with a little bit of cash not enough to buy a full share of VTI. I decided to leave it at TD Ameritrade. If I want I can also request to have it transferred back to Elements.

That’s all. It took 3 weeks to open new accounts, transfer the HSA money and invest it. It will be simpler next year.


If you are easily discouraged by filling out online forms and dealing with different systems, this is not for you. Keeping the money in the HSA chosen by your employer would be the easiest.

The next easiest would be having the HSA at a bank or credit union where you already have an account. You don’t have good investment options but you won’t have 3 sets of login, password, and security questions for your HSA either. Do this only if you really want to invest the money.

To those who have the HSA at HSA Bank or elsewhere, how does this process compare?

[Photo credit: Flickr user webbyclare]

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  1. David Wilcox says

    An article I would love to see is the best ways to maintain a work HSA account and an investment HSA account. I’d love to know best practices when forced to have two accounts.

    My work HSA account has horrible investment options. All options have loads and expense ratios of about 2%. So, I don’t want to keep money there long-term. However, my work deposits money into this account, and it’s what I have available integrated directly through my health insurance provider. I’d love to know the best ways to transfer money from my work HSA to Eli Lilly, what restrictions there are, what restrictions HSA providers are allowed to create, etc.


  2. Erik says

    1) If you previously had your money in HSA Bank + TD Ameritrade investments before making this move, is it safe to assume you first sold your investments in TD-A and transferred everything back into the HSA Bank account before mailing the HSA transfer form to Elfcu?

    2) Did HSA Bank charge you the $25.00 closing fee, and did that come out of your HSA balance or pocket? If so, is that the only cost you incurred by doing this (previous article says you already joined Tru Direction for $5)? Was the account closing with HSA Bank clean and uncomplicated?

    3) With Elfcu, to invest 100% of your funds with TD-A, is it true that you simply need an initial minimum deposit into your Elfcu HSA of $2,500, and then you can transfer it all over to TD-A?

    4) Overall, this process sounds very similar to when I joined HSA Bank by transferring from my local bank’s HSA. I’m considering moving to Elfcu, but I have new investments through HSA Bank + TD-A that I need to hold for at least 30 days to avoid commission as a “long term investor”).

    • Harry says

      @Erik – 1) My previous HSA was at Alliant Credit Union, not HSA Bank. I would assume that would be how it works. Money has to come back to the bank side before it can be transferred.

      2) I joined Tru Direction when I opened a reward checking account some time ago with a different credit union, which happens to also use Tru Direction as a supporting organization. I have no experience with closing an HSA Bank account.

      3) Yes it’s true. See Day 17 to Day 19.

  3. alanb says

    I’m in the middle of this at the moment with Health Savings Administrators. It is taking a bit longer than Harry’s experience.
    Health Savings Administrators uses HSA Bank for the cash/debitcard component of the account, so first they transferred my balance from their Vanguard funds to HSA Bank, then a few days later the cash account balance was $0. Now I wait for ELFCU to deposit to my new HSA.

    On a side note, my ELFCU savings account now has a balance of $5. I assume this was the contribution to Tru-Direction? I’ve made no other deposits.

    • Matt says

      Yes, my understanding is that the $5 in the savings account is related to the Tru-Direction “contribution”. You can get this “contribution” back if you choose to close your HSA. Otherwise it sits in the savings account during the length you have your HSA with ELFCU.

      If you have a moment, could you comment as well on your experience closing your HSA Administrators account…I am trying to determine the best way to do that. Were you stuck paying their $25 transfer fee?

    • Erik says

      So does the $5 appear as a contribution? Say you’ve maxed 2014, will you appear as $5 over the limit now?

    • Harry says

      The $5 in the member savings account is a gift from Elfcu. It’s not a contribution to your HSA nor the donation to Tru Direction.

  4. Lynneny says

    This is so helpful! I need to keep my work HSA, so my contributions are pre-FICA, which only happens through payroll deductions. But our Aetna/Chase HSA offers no index funds, so it sounds like setting up a second HSA with better/cheaper investment options and doing an annual rollover is the best option.

    A quick question before embarking on all that paperwork: Does anyone happen to know if an employer can get Chase to improve our HSA investment options if they wanted to? I’ve had pretty good luck getting our company to add index funds to our 401(k) at Wells Fargo, and broaden our brokerage window with Schwab to add ETFs. But my pleas to add index funds to our HSA at Chase have fallen on deaf ears.

    So I’m wondering if Chase just isn’t flexible and my employer can’t do anything about the HSA investment options, or if my employer does have the power to add better funds, and I should just keep pestering. Improving our existing HSA would also benefit all my co-workers.

    Does anyone know? Thanks.

  5. Matt says

    Great series of articles about the ELFCU HSA. I’m pretty motivated to move from HSA Administrators to ELFCU. It seems like if I “transfer” the funds I would face a $25 transfer fee through HSA Administrators. Really not a huge deal. I see HSA Administrators also charges a $25 closure fee to close an account. Is there a way to “rollover” the money and avoid this $25 fee? I can’t claim a “withdrawal”, because this is not for a qualified medical expense. Is there a way to get my money out of HSA Administrators and avoid these fees with an HSA rollover?

    Perhaps I am confused about the logistics of the “rollover”…am I understanding a “rollover” correctly? Step 1) Call up HSA Administrators to mail me a check for the complete amount of funds in my HSA (however, doesn’t this effectively “close” the account and incur the $25 fee?) Step 2) When I receive the check I would deposit into my personal, “non-HSA” checking account and then promptly write a personal check to ELFCU for the exact same amount to be deposited into the new HSA?

    • Erik says

      If I understand rollovers correct (never done one yet), you simply write a check from your HSA checkbook to the second HSA provider. That’s where the original HSA provider tells the IRS you had a distribution. They could probably figure it out, but their records don’t see it as an HSA-to-HSA transfer; they see it as you paying for medical expenses (the withdrawal you mentioned not qualifying for), which is why you fill out 14a and 14b on form 8889 during tax time to tell the IRS that the money rolled over to an HSA and didn’t go to pay medical expenses.

      I could be wrong, but I doubt HSA providers close an account when the balance is zero, because they most likely have some people that use up their HSA every year instead of investing like we are all interested in doing. But you are likely to face a monthly fee for having a low balance if you don’t already pay a maintenance fee, so you’d be better off closing the account and paying the closing fee instead of paying an ongoing low balance fee. However, if you have an employer providing the original HSA account, they probably pay maintenance fees for you, and you could maintain a zero balance there while moving your money each year to your preferred HSA.

    • alanb says

      I filled out the transfer form from ELFCU, emailed it to them and they took care of it from there. This avoids any distribution and possible subsequent tax issues.
      I believe the transfer fee is unavoidable. I also had to pay one when I transferred money out of my employer’s HSA.

    • Harry says

      If the transfer fee and closure fee are two separate fees, you can avoid the transfer fee by doing a rollover but you can’t avoid the closure fee.

  6. Mehul says

    I have a US Bank HSA from a previous employer that I am not using. I am not >65 y/o. It has 2 components – a ‘cash’ account that has to keep a certain value and an investment account. If I roll over to another HSA, e.g., elfcu, do I have to keep the same ratio or can it be all in investments? Is the best way also by cashing out the whole account, getting a check and then sending to elfcu?
    I am not too thrilled about the investments choices I currently have.
    Also, is the beginning of the year (January) the best time to do this type of a rollover or you can do it whenever?

  7. harry @ 4HWD says

    I’m about ready to close out my HSA Bank and open ElfCU but I too am trying to avoid the $25 closure fee. I don’t believe there is a fee to transfer out of HSA Bank but I wonder what will happen if I have $0 after the rollover to ElfCU. Will I be charged a low balance fee even if I have $0 in the account?

    Anyone tried a rollover from HSA Bank to ElfCU yet?

    • Erik says

      If you keep your HSA Bank account open with a $0 balance (or anything below $4,925) to avoid the closing fee, you’ll still be charged the $2.50 monthly maintenance fee. If you never plan on putting money back into HSA Bank, it seems best to just pay the closing fee before incurring any monthly maintenance fees.

  8. Dave R says

    Thanks for posting this. I’m at Day 18 and I’m still waiting for the funds to transfer from my old HSA to ELFCU.

  9. linda says

    I received a welcome email with my member ID and account numbers as well.
    But the website said it can not locate my account information…

  10. Heather says

    Here’s my experience signing up. I didn’t have any issues with the online application. On the last screen I got a Welcome and I received an automatic email with the subject “Elfcu Health Savings Account Application Confirmation” that also said Welcome and had my new account numbers. I waited a day and tried to apply for online access, but I kept getting error messages, so I did live chat with a customer representative. It turns out the first email is a computer generated email, and you have to wait for a SECOND email with the subject line “Welcome to Elfcu”. A snippet from our chat:
    “I am actually showing that we have not finished processing your application. The email you got is automatically generated. There are still a few things we need to do on our end. You will be getting another welcome email from us once we have completed your application.” Also, according to the chat representative, the online agreement is usually generated in the overnight cycle. So once you receive the SECOND email, you still have to wait one night to be able to apply for online access. Here’s how it worked for me: Day 1 – received computer generated email; Day 2 – received welcome email; Day 3 – was able to apply for online access. Hope this helps others!

  11. Heather says

    Also, when I spoke with another live chat representative this morning, she said you could email forms too (instead of mailing them). I’m doing a rollover, so I have to mail a check, but if you’re doing a transfer, you could potentially email the form and cut down further on the time it takes to do the transfer.

    • Jon says

      I emailed the transfer form, and it took about two weeks for the funds to disappear from my old HSA account (at HSA Administrators).

  12. Roman says

    “Quarterly Account Maintenance Fee $12.50” in fee schedule.
    Is it applicable to our HSA account at TD Ameritrade?

  13. john says

    Thank you Harry for the extremely detailed guide. I have completed my rollover to ELFCU and then to TD Ameritrade.

    A quick question regarding HSA ETFs purchased via TD Ameritrade. Are these accounts treated like Taxable or Tax deferred?

    • Harry says

      Tax deferred, as part of the HSA. A handful of states (Alabama, California, and ??) don’t recognize HSA as tax-deferred. For the state income tax in those states, the HSA (both the bank and brokerage parts) are treated like a taxable account.

  14. Danny C. says

    Thanks for the great information, the comments section has been really helpful too. I’m on Day 10 of transferring and everything has gone fairly smoothly. Initially I wasn’t aware of the separate site that you need to register separately for, so there was a further delay for that account to populate so that I could enroll in TD Ameritrade.

    But it still looks like it’s gone pretty quickly. I’ve enrolled at Eli Lilly, transferred HSA funds, enrolled in TD Ameritrade, and initiated a transfer to the investment account and am waiting for that transaction before I can initiate a trade.

    I think the transfer waiting periods will be what I will need to get used too. Transferring from personal checking to Eli Lilly then to TD Ameritrade before putting those dollars to work will likely take a week each time.

  15. Warren says

    I am thinking of carrying two HSA accounts. The HSA Bank to continue the matching monthly contributions from my health insurance provider (GEHA), and the the Eli Lilly FCU. How do I process a partial transfer?

    • Harry says

      The transfer form linked under Day 3 has a partial transfer option. Also see the rollover option in the linked article there.

  16. Barbara says

    It’s helpful to get the insights of a real customer, not just the marketing propaganda of ELFCU or AmeriTrade. Thanks for taking the time to do this article.

  17. alanb says

    ELFCU now says they charge a $24 wire fee for outgoing transfers to TD Ameritrade. This makes this HSA far less attractive to me. I’ll have to make my full annual contribution all at once to minimize this fee.

    • Harry Sit says

      There will be a new blog post on Monday about this. Which HSA is more attractive to you in light of this new fee?

    • harry @ pf pro says

      Ah man this is horrible news haha. What gives?! Guess they can’t do an ACH for free?

      Will look forward to your post on Monday.

    • Erik says

      Well, that stinks. I’m still with HSA Bank but was thinking of transferring later this year. I await your Monday blog post about which HSA is now more attractive.

  18. Lily says

    I am wondering if anyone else had an issue with the application through ELFCU? I got all those emails saying Welcome and I was able to login and create an username/password within the first few days. On the second day, I got a request for my driver’s license and ID. 5 days later, I got an email saying my account was denied unless I wanted to come to the office in person. Unfortunately, I am not near Indiana so that’s out of the question. A few days later, I got a bank card and PIN! It was very confusing and strange.

    I asked about applying again but now I am a little burned by the customer service.

    So besides ELFCU, HSA bank seems to be the second choice? I think even with the new wire fee the options are close. Or does anyone else have a second option they like?

    • Harry Sit says

      A few other readers also ran into a problem with ID verification. I mentioned it under Day 1. There isn’t much you can do about it except maybe clarifying with customer service whether your account is open or not since you got as far as receiving a debit card and PIN. Saturna Capital Brokerage would be another option. See the follow-up article linked under Day 17.

  19. Adam says

    After reading all the reviews here and with the follow up posts, I opened an account at Elfcu. The process went well, I was worried I would have problems with the online sign-up as I have many peculiarities, such as my Drivers license being from a different state as my residence, etc.. But the process went easily.

    I was not sure about signing up for Tru Direction through the application but waited until the application was completed and I had received the info e-mail with my Member Savings account # and my HSA account # before I completed that portion.

    I received a debit card within days but my online access was not working properly. I phoned Elfcu and they had it up and working while I was on the phone with them.

    Mailed a check to them from my prior HSA with an HSA rollover form and it was in my account the next time I logged into the system.

    I just finished the sign-up for the TD Ameritrade portion. That went smoothly and I received an account number. Clicking on the final “next” button where I believe there was supposed to be a transfer of information from TD to Elfcu brought up a problem where the Security Certificate was out of date and continuing through that (after I had been in contact with TD), went nowhere.

    TD opened a ticket for it and I suspect that it is just a link that has not been updated. I suspect that it will be taken care of shortly. if it isn’t, I’ll report back. Otherwise, I was successful in following the directions here and I really appreciate them, as it was more helpful than the Elfcu site!

  20. John says

    How do you transfer from ELFCU to TD Ameritrade? I am on the ELFCU website and it is not apparent 🙁

  21. Elizabeth says

    Just wanted to tell you, Harry how helpful this information is on HSA accounts. Nothing I have read during my 3 day Google search comes close. They are mostly advertisements on opening up an HSA. I have recently left employment and setup an health plan with HSA option. Health plans are confusing enough without the HSA piece. Thank you!

    P.S, if you want the best mortgage/service join Pentagon Federal Credit Union aka only need to be a member on NMFA or voices for Troops for $15 tax deductible donation.

    Simply choose “Other” when applying. Also need to keep $5 in savings minimum.

  22. tomwins says

    I did a good amount of research when I needed to transfer my HSA funds to another bank. Your article made Elements sound so good, I decided it was the one for me as it met all my criteria. What is not in your article is how messy their enrollment and investment system is. After two weeks of online forms not working for days at a time, I finally was able to get into my account online. But then I couldn’t open/link an Ameritrade account because – you guessed it, the online “form” was not functional. I thought it would be like the other online issues and kept trying for a few days but that only resulted in my getting locked out of my account on day three of my attempts. So I contacted Elements and they said to go back in and act as a new user. So I went in and – Oh, YES!!!, once again, the online forms are not functioning. So from Jan 11 to Feb 5, I have spent many hours only to be blocked again. This evening, I sent an email asking for the forms to do a transfer of my funds. I need a bank that has a reliable online interface. Elements is not the one.

    • Harry Sit says

      Sorry to hear your troubles. It’s not clear to me which online forms weren’t working for you. Even when everything worked last year, it involved multiple steps. That’s why I wrote them down in this article. I still think if you are easily discouraged by filling out online forms and dealing with different systems, this is not for you.

    • tomwins says

      I am not easily discouraged and am willing to work hard to get what is of value to me. Yes, there are a lot of online forms that must be completed to set up this account and you do need to fill out the same information several times. So to clarify, the log-in issues are all related to the HSA portion of Elements website. I had no issue with the banking website. I had my HSA with Wells Fargo and wanted to move it to a Credit Union or some other small financial institution. But if the small institutions are not able to invest in infrastructure that is reliable and fully functional then that reduces the value to me. Elements tried to be helpful and had someone contact me who said they had not set up my account correctly and to go in and try it again. I was able to set up my log-in as a “New” costumer and yet when I went back in later this evening I had the same issue. I am once again unable to log in to the HSA portion of the website.
      So I feel like I’ve given them another chance because they were responsive to my problems but the website is not working for me. Now I can’t even get it to allow me to reset my password. Others may not have the issue but it keeps coming up for me. I am not challenged when it comes to using a computer in any other regard or on any other website. I often am the person other folks approach to help them solve their issues.
      Thank you for the very detailed steps of what needs to be done; it helped – but face it, Elements HSA set-up is not user-friendly or intuitive. Their process and website need serious work.

    • Harry Sit says

      I agree with you there. The setup is not streamlined. You may have noticed the online systems are hosted by third-party vendors. The banking site is on The HSA portal is on When you get to the investment part, it’s on TD Ameritrade. The credit union is piecing these together. It works when everything is set up correctly. It becomes a headache when they set you up wrong.

  23. mahesh patel says

    How do i invest in HSA if my health insurance not supporting it? Can I open it independant and add my money for healthcare expenses?


    • Harry Sit says

      Only if your health insurance is HSA-eligible. If it’s not HSA-eligible you can’t do it.

  24. David says

    Hi Harry – Thanks for the blog and all the work that you do!

    I am in the process of transferring my HSA from Chase to Elements. While Chase does not charge a transfer-out-fee, it looks like once you do so, the account is closed and there is an account closure fee. Is there any way to avoid this fee?

    • Harry Sit says

      If you want to keep the Chase account because your employer uses Chase, just keep some money in it and transfer less than 100%. If you don’t want the Chase account any more, I don’t know a way to avoid the close fee.

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