Warning: Your at-home COVID-19 test expiration date might not be accurate

Nov 22, 2021

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated


Since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began allowing inbound travelers to fly into the United States with a negative result from an at-home instant COVID-19 test in May, just two tests have been approved for use — Abbott’s BinaxNow COVID-19 Home Test and Ellume’s COVID-19 Home Test.

On Oct. 1, Ellume voluntarily recalled more than 2 million tests, citing “higher-than-acceptable false-positive test results” falsely indicating that a user had tested positive for the coronavirus.

“Upon determining that a portion of our test kits were reporting higher than expected false-positive test results, we worked quickly with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to voluntarily recall the problematic test kits and correct the issue,” Ellume founder and CEO Dr. Sean Parsons said at the time. “In this case, we noted that some tests from specific lot numbers may provide an incorrect positive result at a higher rate than was observed in clinical testing. Following a thorough investigation, we isolated the cause and confirmed that this incidence of false positives is limited to specific lots.”

Many travelers have continued using the BinaxNow test as their go-to at-home option for travel, including TPG staff and readers, who have reported favorable experiences overall, despite hours-long wait times in August due to an increase in international travel. Although wait times appear to have decreased, there’s a new issue regarding expiration. Some of us have received tests for future use, only to find an expiration date that’s already passed.

It turns out these tests are likely not expired, so don’t be fooled by the expiration dates.

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In This Post

All Abbott tests have a 12-month expiration

Although your at-home test may not actually be expired, you should know that they do expire, and that information should be clearly identified on each box.

(Photo by Nick Ewen/The Points Guy)

Earlier this year, Abbott received approval from the FDA to extend the shelf life of its tests to 12 months. While this was good news for the longevity of the tests, it meant that the expiration date written on tests distributed before this approval may no longer be accurate.

Related: Travelers can now buy CDC-approved at-home COVID-19 tests for just $50

Therefore, Abbott began including notes with their testing kits informing customers that their tests were not actually expired. Be sure to look out for the below note about calculating a test’s expiration date, which directs you to add an additional three months to the date listed.

(Photo by Nick Ewen/TPG)

“I purchased three of the Abbott tests through eMed earlier this fall for my first international trip in two years, and when I received them, there was an insert with news of the extended expiration dates,” said TPG senior editor Nick Ewen. “Essentially, this meant that I have an additional three months to use them — so rather than expiring Sept. 28, 2021, (which would’ve been prior to our trip), they now expire on Dec. 28, 2021. The insert was very clear as to how to calculate the updated date.”

Related: Top questions on vaccination/travel requirements to the U.S. and Europe

You may or may not receive a note

If you don’t see a note in your delivery box informing you of this extension, you are not alone.

(Photo by Summer Hull/TPG)

“I just got a box this week and the expiration dates in there are Nov. 11, 2021, with no note about extension in the box,” said TPG travel content director Summer Hall. “So, if you didn’t know then you might be in for a shock!”

If this happens to you, we suggest checking with the testing company. Abbott did not respond to a request clarifying why some people are not receiving the note.

For example, TPG senior editor Clint Henderson received several BinaxNow tests with an expiration date of Oct. 15, 2021. Upon calling the company, he was told that all expiration dates had been extended for an extra three months.

Bottom line

(Photo by Clint Henderson/TPG)

This test remains a great option for international travelers looking for a convenient way to take a COVID-19 test to come to the U.S. since it is supervised and administered remotely via Zoom. So, the next time you are planning on using your Abbott at-home test, you might need to add three months to the expiration date listed to ensure it is still valid.

Related: 5 things to know about at-home COVID-19 tests for travel

Featured photo by Circle Creative Studio/Getty Images.

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