You had an accident and now you are facing a $2,000 medical bill from your emergency room hospital visit. You don’t have that kind of money to be shelling out right now.
The average emergency room visit costs $1,233. That is 40% higher than the average American monthly rent of $871. A Care Credit healthcare credit card can help you finance payments.
Before you decide to use a medical card to finance your bill there are some pros and cons you need to consider.
How is Care Credit Different?
A Care Credit healthcare credit card is not your typical credit card. This card is designed to help you and your family pay for your health and wellness in a manageable way.
Unlike a typical Visa or Mastercard credit card, a Care Credit card should only be used for medical expenses such as a doctor or hospital visit. This would make it more similar to a store-specific credit card.
How Do I Use the Card?
This card is designed to be used when paying for out-of-pocket medical expenses that are not covered by your health insurance. You then pay back the expenditures over time through different financing options.
When you receive medical services from an enrolled provider you would use your Care Credit medical card to pay. Use the card repeatedly for each medical expense just like you would use any other credit card.
What Can I Pay for With It?
You can pay for medical expenses that are not covered by insurance. Deductibles for procedures that are covered by insurance are also qualifying purchases.
You technically can use the card to pay for nonmedical expenses. Be warned these payments will incur interest charges even during the promotional interest-free period.
Primary and Urgent
Both primary and urgent care treatments qualify. This means you and your children’s regular yearly checkups qualify. If someone in your home gets the flu or need unplanned treatment you can cover that visit too.
If you need to see a specialist for treatment your medical insurance may not cover all or enough of the cost. You can use a Care Credit card for these charges.
Chiropractic services can be a grey area in most medical insurance coverages leaving you with high costs. You can put both regular appointments and especially needed adjustments to your health care card.
LASIK and other vision-related treatments are covered as a medical treatment. This is helpful since vision coverage is often not included in traditional medical insurance.
Similar to vision, dental procedures are not covered by medical insurance. If you don’t have dental insurance or your procedure isn’t well covered by your insurance a medical credit card can assist.
Hearing aids can be a hefty investment but a healthcare card can help with these costs. If you just have general ear car needs these are also covered.
Procedures such as weight loss surgery that isn’t approved for insurance coverage qualifies. Similarly, you can finance cosmetic surgery and beauty related procedures.
Spa and Skin Treatments
If all your looking for is a relaxing day at the spa or a special treatment you can finance the cost. If your treatments are less spa and more dermatological these can be financed also.
All family members are covered including the family pet. Veterinary costs qualify as a medical cost that can be financed.
Why Should I Use a Care Credit Card?
More Americans have access to health insurance these days. This doesn’t mean that they have full encompassing coverage or can afford their deductibles.
Patients charge $150 billion in medical expenses each year. Most of these charges are on regular credit cards with high interest rates.
Easy Application Process
Applying for a Care Credit healthcare card is easy with instant approvals. There is no activation fee and no need to re-apply for each medical service charged.
To apply all you need to do is call and use an automated system. You can call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
If you would rather speak to someone, you can call between Monday and Friday from 9 am to 9 pm and have a live person help you through the process.
When you call for approval there is certain information you need to complete your request for approval. Be prepared to provide your doctor’s name and how you plan to use the card.
More basic information such as your name, address, date of birth, social security number, net income, and housing information are all also required. You must be over the age of twenty-one to apply for the Care Credit healthcare card.
You have short and long-term financing options for paying off your balance. Unlike a regular credit card, it is possible for no interest to be charged.
For short-term financing, choose from 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. You don’t have to worry about paying interest if your purchase is over $200 and you make the minimum monthly payment.
You should have the amount paid off by the end of the promotional period. However, if you do not meet these requirements you will be charged interest dating back to the original purchase date.
If your charge meets the minimum and you need more time for repayment you have the option of using longer-term financing. Financing long-term is going to be 24, 36, 48, or 60 months.
When choosing long-term you will have a reduced APR and fixed monthly payments until you’ve paid in full. You need to spend a minimum of $2,500 to qualify for 60-month financing.
The APR for 60-month financing is 16.9%. If you are using 24, 36, or 48-month financing you’re interest rate will be 14.9% APR. Your purchase must be over $1,000 to qualify for financing at 24, 36, and 48 repayment terms.
Care Credit offers a convenient payment calculator on their website to help you determine what your potential monthly payment will be. A simple rule for determining the monthly payment is to take the total purchase amount and divide it by the promotional payment period.
If you decide to take the equal monthly payment option you will avoid interest. Your monthly payment amount will be greater than the required minimum.
For example, assume your original purchase amount is $2,000. You would meet the minimum spend for the long-term repayment promotional period.
Optional Equal Monthly Payments
You would pay $334 a month for a six-month repayment plan. If you choose the twelve-month plan your monthly payment is $167.
For an eighteen-month repayment plan, your monthly payment would be $112. Finally, for the 25-month repayment plan, your monthly payment amount would be just $84.
Fixed Monthly Payments
Now for the same $2,000 purchase if you decide to make the minimum payment with interest. You can expect to ultimately pay more than the initial purchase amount charge.
If you choose the 24 month repayment period your monthly payment will be $97. You’ll ultimately pay $2,326 to pay off your original purchase.
For a 36-month repayment plan, you will be required to pay $70 a month. You will pay more in total though at $2,493.
Finally, for a 48-month plan, you will have the lowest monthly payment at just $56 dollars. You will also be spending the most ultimately totaling $2,667.
What Are The Negatives?
It can be enticing to decide to use Care Credit with the zero interest rate and long-term repayment options. There are drawbacks such as hidden interest and fees that you will incur.
It is vitally important to pay off the balance by the end of the repayment period. If you don’t do this you’ll owe a large sum of surprise interest amount on the original purchase amount.
If you aren’t successful in paying off the balance in time the ultimate amount you owe will be drastically more than the initial bill. This means if any payment is late or missed you will owe all of the interest.
This makes Care Credit a potentially more expensive option. The longer repayment options have lower interest rates than regular credit cards, but if you are no diligent in payments you may not save money.
You will have a higher monthly payment as a result of the lower interest rate. Take the time to calculate how much you can realistically pay each month to ensure you can comply with the requirements.
Rates and Fees
Let’s talk further about that potential interest rate if you don’t make payment in full by the end of your promotional period. If you are a new account and make a purchase of $200 and don’t make payment in full by the end of the promotional date can expect to see an interest rate of 26.99%.
Other fees are applied to your account if you make late payments. Your first late payment in a six month period will get you a fee of $27. Every late payment after that first one in a six month period will have a fee of $37.
It’s also unclear if the APR will increase if you make late payments. Care Credit leaves it to the individual doctor’s offices to inform patients of potential interest rate changes.
Misleading Monthly Minimum
Pay attention to the monthly minimum that is required to be paid. Sometimes the monthly required minimum won’t pay off your loan in the required amount of time.
You will make your monthly payments only to have a nasty surprise at the end of your promotional period. If this is the case you need to make extra payments to ensure you pay off the loan in the required amount of time.
Most credit cards come with perks such as cash back or travel points. When you make purchases on the card you earn long-term rewards to be used at a later date.
A medical Care Credit card will not provide you with any long-term rewards for using it. If earning these rewards are important to you, a medical credit card isn’t the choice for you.
Your Credit Score Is at Risk
When you owe money for a medical bill to a doctor or hospital it doesn’t affect your credit score. The only way it would affect your score is if the bill goes unpaid and is sent to collections.
If you miss just one payment on your Care Credit card your credit score will be dinged. Just opening another credit account can hurt your score if it swings your account mix balance out of the accepted percentage.
You Paid for Treatment You Didn’t Get
Some medical treatments require multiple visits before they are complete. When you use a medical credit card the full treatment will be paid up front.
If you don’t follow through with all of the treatment visits you will still owe the full amount paid. You can pursue a refund for services not received, but this may not be an easy task.
Are You My Doctor or Financial Advisor?
There is a level of trust you have in your doctor to provide you with competent medical treatment. This trust should not be blurred or mixed with getting financial advice.
Your doctor’s office may not be capable of explaining the full financial implications and effects on your situation. Depending on your doctor’s office for this information may tarnish the relationship you have with the doctor and their office.
Your Care Credit Option
The Care Credit healthcare card could be a viable option for you if you are able to make monthly payments but cannot afford a large payment immediately.
Before applying determine a realistic feasibly payment. Look and the level of urgency of the treatment you need.
If you decide a medical card is right for you, read all of the fine print. After getting the loan make sure you make all required payments on time.
If you do decide to apply for a medical credit card, be sure to read these strategies for paying off credit card debt.