The pandemic is still raging on. Regardless of how small your circle is, it’s still very possible to contract and spread Covid-19. To help prevent this, it’s important to get tested regularly (along with getting vaccinated and wearing an N95 face mask). There are free testing sites across the country, but those pressed for time can trade in the long lines for rapid at-home Covid tests, which can provide results in 15 minutes or so. 

But with hundreds of options out there, it’s tough to know which one to buy (if they’re even in stock). Below, we’ve rounded up options—based on FDA authorization and availability—to help make the search easier. You can also now order a third round of free at-home tests from the US government (if you haven’t already). The FDA says it’s currently evaluating the ability of at-home tests to detect the Omicron variant, and all of the test kits listed below are able to detect it. Members of our team have used some, but not all, of these tests. 

Updated May 2022: We’ve added new advice on when to take an at-home rapid test, how to spot counterfeit tests, and information on extended shelf lives. 

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Save Your Receipts

Since December, the Biden administration has launched several rounds of rapid at-home tests for distribution across the US. Here’s our guide to ordering your free rapid Covid-19 tests. You’ll receive eight rapid antigen Covid-19 tests per order, bringing the total number of free tests per household to 16.

As of January 15, insurance companies (both private and group health plans) are required to cover eight FDA-approved over-the-counter Covid-19 tests per person each month. There’s no limit if the test is ordered through or administered by a health care provider after a clinical assessment (including those who need them for an underlying medical condition). 

Depending on your insurers’ network of preferred pharmacies and retailers, you’ll be able to order a test online or pick it up in-person free of charge. If your insurance plan doesn’t offer a preferred network, you can submit a claim with your receipt to be reimbursed for the full out-of-pocket amount. Order a test outside of your network and you can be reimbursed for up to $12 per test. Have a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA)? You can opt to use either to purchase rapid at-home Covid test kits.

Rapid At-Home Covid-19 Tests to Look Into

Abbott BinaxNow Antigen Rapid Self-Test Kit

Photograph: Abbott

Walgreens,Walmart ($20),CVS,Sam's Club,Rite Aid

Abbot’s BinaxNow kit provides results within 15 minutes of swabbing your nose and inserting the sample into the included test card. You can then use Navica, the companion app, to self-report your results. Those who test negative will receive a temporary encrypted digital pass they can use as official proof of their test result. With two tests in each box, the company recommends taking another one no sooner than 24 hours but no later than 48 hours. A few members of the Gear team have used this test. We cannot verify its level of accuracy, but it was straightforward to use, with clear instructions.

For travel: If you want to use BinaxNow for traveling, you can’t use the self-test kit listed above. Instead, you’ll have to purchase theBinaxNow COVID-19 Ag Card Home Test with eMed Telehealth Services. For $70, it’s more expensive than the regular version, but that price includes a virtual visit with an eMed Certified Guide to monitor the testing process.

Photograph: Target

Target ($8),CVS,Walgreens,Rite Aid,Costco (5-pack for $40) 

Unlike nearly every other test kit, you only get one test per box with FlowFlex. But unlike the others, the FDA is confident enough in this one that it doesn’t advise you to test yourself again after a few days—unless you feel new symptoms coming on. The process is similar: Swab your nose, dip the swab in the solution, and squeeze a few drops onto a small plastic test card. After 15 to 30 minutes, your results will appear. This test comes in a much more compact box and is easier to unbox and use than some tests we tried.

Warning: If you’re shopping for the FlowFlex, make sure it comes in a white box. Back in January, theFDA recalleda counterfeit version called “Flowflex SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test (Self-Testing)” that hasn’t been authorized for sale in the US. Make sure to look for tests called “FlowFlex Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test.” The misbranded version comes in a dark blue box.The FDA also issued a warning for another set of fraudulent versions being distributed in April. You can find the exact signs to look forhere.

Walmart,CVS,Walgreens,Everlywell ($25),Carewell ($24)

With the QuickVue at-home test, all you need to do is swab both your nostrils, swirl the swab in the prefilled tube of solution, and dip the test strip in for 10 minutes. If the result is positive, you’ll see both a blue line and a pink line appear on the strip. If it’s negative, you’ll only see a blue line. This kit comes with two tests, so you can take another one within three days. I have used this test—it’s easy to administer and understand.

Intrivo Diagnostics On/Go Antigen Test

Photograph: Intrivo Diagnostics

Amazon,Walmart ($25),Walgreens ($24),On/Go ($24),Ro ($24)

On/Go’s at-home kit comes with a connected app that helps guide you through the process. Once you create an account, you’ll use the test cassette, extraction vial, vial cap, and nasal swab included in the box to collect your sample. After 10 minutes, you’ll be prompted to upload a photo of your result, and the app will confirm whether it is positive, negative, or invalid (at which point you can try again). Of all the at-home rapid tests I’ve tried so far, this was the easiest to use. The steps are simple enough that I’m not reaching for the instructions every single time—something I can’t say for the others. The standard version comes with two tests per box, but you can also purchase a single pack for $9.

Amazon,Wyze ($14),iHealth

The iHealth Covid-19 kit comes with a nasal swab, solution, and a test card. After collecting your sample and soaking it in the solution, add three drops of it to the test card. In 15 minutes your result will appear on the card, and you can then upload it to the companion app. If you test negative, you’ll get access to an iHealth Pass to use as digital proof. The Covid-19 Test Card inside the foil pouch should be used within one hour of opening it.

Warning: In May, theFDA issueda warning for counterfeit versions of the iHealth Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test kits that haven’t been authorized for sale in the US. The images on the Instructions for Use pamphlet included with some counterfeit versions differ slightly from the authentic version. Both iHealth and the FDA are currently in the process of finding additional identifiable signs to look for. 

For travel: You can go directly through iHealth for supervised testing. If you already have an iHealth rapid test kit, you can purchase asingle verified session for $20. But you also have the option to purchase one ofthe bundles. 

BD Veritor Digital Test Kit

Photograph: BD

Amazon, Everlywell ($35)

Rather than interpreting lines on a test card, the BD Veritor uses a companion app to provide you with digital results. After collecting your sample and waiting 15 minutes, you’ll have to scan your test card via the Scanwell Health app to see whether your result is positive or negative. From there, you can store encrypted versions of your results on your phone. 

Warning: An app is required to use this test, so you shouldcheck if your phone is compatible.

Photograph: Walmart

Walgreens,Walmart ($20)

InteliSwab looks different from the standard at-home Covid test kit, and it also requires the longest wait time. Instead of a separate nasal swab, this one comes with a flat pad attached to the result window. Once you swab both nostrils with the flat pad, insert the pad into the tube of solution and wait 30 to 40 minutes for your results to appear.

Target,CVS ($39)

Ellume’s test sets itself apart from others on this list for multiple reasons. For starters, the cassette comes equipped with Bluetooth and connects to your phone via a companion app. Then there’s the swab—rather than the standard nasal swab found in most tests, Ellume uses a patented flock-tip that requires going deeper into your nostrils to collect a higher viral concentration. The higher the concentration, the more accurate the diagnosis. 

I wasn’t able to stick the swab as far up my nasal passages as I had to (I only made it about halfway), but that’s probably not the case for everyone. Ellume’s analyzer has a mechanism that detects if a sufficient amount was collected to help reduce the chance of false negatives. I received my results via the app with no issue.

It’s worth noting that we previously listed Ellume as an “At-Home Covid Test to Avoid” because it was recalled due to “higher-than acceptable false-positive test results” for Covid-19 back in October and November of 2021. In December, security researchers found that they were able to fabricate positive or negative test results through Ellume’s Bluetooth-enabled test device. But an Ellume spokesperson says that all affected tests have been pulled from store shelves and online retailers since then. Ellume tests currently available for purchase are safe to use and weren’t impacted by the recall—the connected app won’t let you proceed with the test if it’s the version that was recalled. As for the hack, Ellume says it has fixed the issue.

You’ll receive a “Test Error” result if the test is damaged, including by exposure to extreme temperatures or humidity.

Warning: An app is required to use this test, so you shouldcheck if your phone is compatible.

Photograph: Siemens Healthineers

Amazon

The Clinitest Rapid Covid-19 test is technically pricier than the ones listed above, but that’s because it comes with five tests per pack. For each test, you’ll have a sterile swab, test cassette, prefilled extraction tube, and dropper tip. Swab both nostrils five times each, mix the swab within the solution, add four drops to the cassette, and wait 15 minutes. If the test is positive, you’ll see two pinkish red lines appear—one at the “C” (control) line and another at the “T” (test) line. If it’s negative, you’ll only see one line next to the “C” on the cassette. I’ve used this test and it’s easy to conduct and understand. 

More Accurate (Expensive) Tests

In addition to at-home antigen rapid tests, you can also opt for an at-home molecular test. Antigen tests (rapid tests) detect proteins on the surface of the virus, while molecular tests (typically known as PCR tests) detect the virus’s genetic material—making it typically more accurate. But since PCR tests require a laboratory and a few days to receive results, they’re not as convenient as 15-minute rapid tests.

The molecular tests below use central hubs equipped with lab-quality technology. With the help of a few other accessories, these tests can provide PCR-like results within 15 minutes. It’s more helpful for those who travel often and/or work in industries that require being around large groups of people. 

Cue Health’s molecular at-home test is perhaps the most luxurious on the market (a sentence I never thought I’d say). If it weren’t for its extremely steep price (a Cue Reader and 10-pack of swabs will set you back a whopping $854)—even if you opt for one of its membership tiers with subscription pricing)—I’d easily recommend it solely for its ease of use (plus the 97.8 percent accuracy). No solution, tubes, cassettes, or test strips are required. Simply open the connected app, insert a cartridge into the Cue Reader, swab your nose, and insert the swab into the cartridge. After 20 minutes, you’ll receive results on your phone. The company says its test has an accuracy rate of 97.8 percent.

Warning: An app is required to use this test, so you shouldcheck if your phone is compatible.

For travel: For supervised testing with Cue, you’ll need to sign up forCue+ Complete. For $75 per month, you’ll have access to supervised testing available 24/7 worldwide. The membership also comes with 20 Covid-19 tests, a discounted Cue reader for $149 (down from $249), and more.

For a more affordable option (compared to the Cue), there’s also the Detect at-home rapid test. You can opt for the starter kit—which comes with a Detect Hub and a Covid-19 test—or purchase the test ($49) and hub ($35) separately. The hub is reusable, but you’ll have to purchase additional tests each time. Detect uses a companion app to guide you through step-by-step instructions and deliver your results. But the cheaper price does come with a few caveats—the process requires a lengthy number of steps, and you’ll also have to wait an hour for results, versus 15 to 20 minutes for other tests. The company claims its test has a 97.3 percent accuracy.

Detect also offers a service called “Test to Treat at Home” in partnership with health care provider Carbon Health. If you test positive for Covid-19, you can use the Detect app to schedule an appointment with Carbon Health’s telehealth service or in-person clinic (depending on your location). If eligible, you’ll receive an antiviral prescription—such as Molnupiravir or Paxlovid—with the option to choose between same-day pickup or delivery with a nearby pharmacy. The service is covered by most major health insurance plans. But for those without insurance, a telehealth visit will cost $69. 

For travel: Detect offersa voucher codethat you can purchase for $20. Video sessions are available 24/7, but the voucher will only work for one session. You’ll need both the Detect Hub and Detect Covid-19 test. You can also schedule a sessionthrough Azova.

Rapid Covid-19 Tests to Avoid

These two at-home rapid tests were recalled. According to the FDA, these tests have been distributed “with labeling indicating they are authorized by the FDA, but neither test has been authorized, cleared, or approved by the FDA for distribution or use in the United States.”

How to Identify Counterfeit Covid-19 Tests

You can check for a current list of counterfeit at-home Covid-19 tests through the FDA’s site here. But if you’re unsure, you can check for a few signs. The packaging might include spelling or grammatical errors, poor print quality of text and images (as well as on the instructions inside the box), a different label or trade name than the one listed on the FDA’s site, or missing information on the box (like the expiration date, lot number, or QR code). On the inside, you should look for any missing supplies—including unfilled components, like the tube of solution.

If you find that your at-home test kit is counterfeit, you shouldn’t use it. You should also contact the store you purchased it from and the manufacturer/distributor of the authorized test. Then, follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to properly dispose of or return the test. The FDA also encourages reporting the problem via the MedWatch Voluntary Reporting Form.

Retailer At-Home Covid Test Kit Pages

Depending on where you’re located, at-home rapid Covid tests might be sold out. If you want to continue browsing for availability, below is a list of retailers selling kits. 

Delivery Apps That Offer At-Home Covid Test Kits

If you’ve been experiencing symptoms or don’t want to leave your house, you can order an at-home Covid test through a food delivery service app for same-day delivery (if the app is available in your area). Below is a list of apps that offer test kits.

If you want to make sure you always have a steady supply of at-home Covid tests, you can also sign up for a subscription service. With GetTests.com, you’ll have eight test kits delivered to your home each month. Your reimbursement claim will also be filed automatically each month to your insurance provider through Reimbursify. The service is currently sending subscribers the FlowFlex Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test.

How Accurate Are Rapid At-Home Covid Tests?

The FDA has granted each of the rapid at-home tests below “emergency use authorization,” (EUA) but these tests aren’t 100 percent accurate. Most at-home rapid antigen tests have a sensitivity of roughly 85 percent (varies by test), according to the FDA. There is a chance you could end up with a false positive or a false negative. Nearly every kit comes with two tests for repeat testing, so you can double-check your results.

When Should I Take an At-Home Covid Test?

It depends. According to the CDC, those who are feeling Covid symptoms should test immediately. If you were in close contact with someone who contracted the virus, you should test yourself at least five days after exposure. 

If you test negative:Experiencing Covid-19 symptoms but got a negative test result? Take another test, following the manufacturer’s instructions (usually within two to three days). The same goes if you test negative and aren’t experiencing any symptoms—especially if you’ve been to a gathering with several people. As per the CDC, it’s possible the sample was collected too early in the infection and may show up positive after a few days. If it’s still negative when you retest, then it’s possible any symptoms you have aren’t Covid-related.

If you test positive: Take another test to verify the result. If both results are positive, you should quarantine for at least five days and wear a mask around other people. (You can pick up free N95 masks at pharmacies and health centers across the US.) Make sure to contact your primary care physician, as well as friends and family who may have been exposed. Those experiencing severe symptoms should seek medical attention as soon as possible. Many of these tests rely on the honor system—mask up and stay home. 

There’s a chance your test result may show up as invalid. This means the test didn’t work. If this happened with your first test, you can try again with the second one in the box (though you’ll need to buy another pack to test again).  

How Should I Store At-Home Covid Tests?

As you’re stocking up on tests, it’s important to make sure the kits are stored properly to avoid false-negative results. Most at-home rapid tests should be kept in a dry location (out of direct sunlight) where the temperature is between about 35 degrees and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. But you can find instructions for specific tests you’re using via the manufacturer’s instructions that come with each kit. 

According to the FDA, “the test performance will remain stable when tests are stored at various temperatures, including shipping during the summer in very hot regions and in the winter in very cold regions.” However, you shouldn’t use a rapid test if it’s still cold after being exposed to freezing temperatures. Instead, bring it inside and leave it in an area at room temperature for two hours before opening it. 

Make sure rapid tests are kept out of children’s reach too, since the small vial and cap can be choking hazards. Additionally, as per the National Poison Control Center, the solution found in the vials included with a lot of rapid antigen kits (such as BinaxNow, Flowflex, and BD Veritor) uses sodium azide as a preservative agent—which can be toxic if ingested in low doses. While the amount of sodium azide in rapid tests is too low to be considered poisonous, it can still cause irritation when exposed to the eyes, nose, or skin (including chemical burns).   

Check the Expiration Dates

It’s important to pay close attention to the expiration date of at-home rapid test kits. Typically, this is found on the outside of the test’s packaging, labeled “Exp” or with an hourglass icon. But since some tests have been granted an extended shelf life by the FDA, the date you see on the packaging might no longer be accurate. Below, we’ve listed which tests now have a longer shelf life and their new expiration period. The new shelf life of each test is only applicable if they’re stored properly (as noted above).

  • Abbott BinaxNow Antigen Rapid Self-Test Kit: Expires after 15 months; Check the new expiration date according to your lot number here.
  • FlowFlex Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test: Expires after 16 months; Check the new expiration date based on the printed date here.
  • Intrivo Diagnostics On/Go Antigen Self-Test: Expires after 12 months; Check the new expiration date according to your lot number here.
  • iHealth Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test: Expires after nine months; Check the new expiration of your test kit by typing in the lot number here.
  • BD Veritor Digital Test Kit: Expires after 10 months; Check the new expiration date here.
  • Detect Covid-19 Starter Kit: Expires after eight months; Check the new expiration date here.

It’s also worth noting that, while the Ellume Covid-19 Home Test expires after 15 months, the company says a 21-month shelf life is currently under review.

Do These Work as Proof for Air Travel?

If you’re traveling internationally into the US, you’ll need to take a rapid test (even if you’re fully vaccinated or a citizen) no more than one day before returning. Those traveling internationally from the US can check travel restrictions by destination here

You can use an at-home rapid test, but there are a few requirements: The test must have emergency use authorization from the FDA, and it must include a telehealth service that allows for remote supervision while taking the test (someone who will confirm your identity and test result). You’ll then have to present your negative result to the airline (and US officials or local/state health departments if necessary). 

We’ve specified which at-home tests on our list offer a telehealth service. A majority of them use a telehealth platform called Azova to administer supervised tests. You can purchase a video session for a specific test kit here. If a brand uses a different telehealth service than Azova, we’ve noted it below. Check out our guide to international travel during a pandemic for more tips. 

If you’re traveling domestically throughout the US, you’re not required to show proof of a negative test. However, the CDC recommends delaying your trip until you’re fully vaccinated or getting a viral test no more than three days before traveling. You should also check to see if the location you’re traveling to has specific travel restrictions in place, in addition to checking the airline you’re traveling with. Check out our guide to safe travel within the US for more detail.