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Medical Credit Cards: Are They Worth Using?

Medical Credit Cards: Are They Worth Using?

*Editorial Note: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Sep 13, 2018, but some terms and conditions may have changed or are no longer available. For the most accurate and up to date information please consult the terms and conditions found on the issuer website.

Medical costs can be steep, especially if you haven’t reached your deductible or your insurance doesn’t cover your care. You may have heard of medical credit cards that offer interest-free periods that you can use to finance health care expenses. While these cards may seem like a good idea and have the potential to save you money, there are drawbacks that you should consider before using one.

In this review, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of using a medical credit card to pay for health care services and provide some alternatives.

Medical credit cards often offer interest-free financing

Medical credit cards often provide special financing, where you can avoid paying interest on eligible medical expenses during a promotional period. If you’re unable to pay for an upcoming medical procedure — because you haven’t reached your deductible or your insurance won’t cover the cost — you could use a medical credit card to your advantage.

Here are the special financing options available with two medical credit cards:

CareCredit

Purchase Amount Financing Period Promotional APR Regular Purchase APR
$200 – $999 6, 12, 18 or 24 months 0% APR 26.99% APR
$1,000 or more 24, 36 or 48 months 14.90% APR* 26.99% APR
$2,500 or more 60 months 16.90% APR* 26.99% APR

*Fixed monthly payments are required for these financing options until your balance is paid in full.

Wells Fargo Health Advantage® Credit Card

Financing Period Promotional APR Regular Purchase APR
6 – 18 months 0% APR 12.99% APR

Why you may not want a medical credit card

While medical credit cards can provide benefits for some, they aren’t for everyone. There are a few reasons why you may not want to use a medical credit card, and we detail some reasons.

Your medical provider might not accept the card

Some medical credit cards can only be used at certain providers. For example, CareCredit must be used at enrolled providers  — currently 200,000 across the nation. That means your medical provider may not accept your medical credit card and you’ll miss out on the benefit of a special financing offer.

Before applying for a medical credit card or using one, check with the credit card issuer and medical provider to verify whether you can use your card.

You may be hit with deferred interest

The interest-free periods offered by medical credit cards typically come with deferred interest terms. Deferred interest takes effect if you’re carrying a balance once the special financing period ends. It could mean you’ll be hit with interest you accrued during the promotional period. That can add up to a lot of interest, especially if you opted for a long interest-free period, such as 18 or 24 months.

Here are the deferred interest terms for CareCredit and the Wells Fargo Health Advantage® Credit Card:

CareCredit

“With shorter-term financing options of six, 12, 18 or 24 months, no interest is charged on purchases of $200 or more when you make the minimum monthly payments and pay the full amount due by the end of the promotional period. If you do not, interest is charged from the original purchase date.” The interest rate is 26.99% APR.

Wells Fargo Health Advantage® Credit Card

“No interest if paid in full within promotional period with regular monthly payments. This is a deferred interest promotion. This means that if you do not pay off the purchase balance in full within the special terms promotional period, interest will be charged to your account from the purchase date at the regular APR for purchases rate of 12.99%

Additionally, Wells Fargo adds another disclaimer describing deferred interest:

“Important reminder: For no interest if paid in full promotions, you will have to pay interest that accrues at a 12.99% APR from the date of purchase if you do not pay the purchase balance in full within the special terms promotional period.”

As a result, we strongly encourage you to pay off your entire medical expense before the end of the interest-free period. This way, you’ll avoid deferred interest charges and can benefit from the special financing offer.

If you think there’s a chance you won’t be able to pay your balance in full before the interest-free period ends, consider alternative payment options.

Alternative interest-free offers: Intro 0% APR cards

An intro 0% APR card is a great way to pay for medical expenses, and cards from major issuers don’t come with deferred interest. With an intro 0% APR card, you won’t pay interest on purchases or balance transfers for a set period, which can range from six to 21 months.

If you continue to carry a balance once the intro period ends, you won’t be hit with accrued interest from the introductory period — you’ll just be charged interest on your existing balance (as long as your card’s terms and conditions have no deferred interest terms).

For upcoming medical expenses, we recommend cards offering 0% intro periods for purchases. These cards won’t charge interest on new purchases for up to 18 months and can be a great way to finance purchases in general.

Here are some of our favorite cards offering 0% intro periods for purchases:

  • Get a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically*

  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter up to the quarterly maximum, when you activate*

  • Any amount, any time. Cash back rewards never expire*

Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Discover it® Cash Back

More Info

For medical expenses you have already charged to a different credit card, a balance transfer card is a great way to get out of debt. You can save money by transferring debt on a high-interest credit card to a card offering an intro 0% APR on balance transfers. Just be aware that balance transfers can’t be done between cards issued from the same bank.

Here are some of our favorite cards offering 0% intro periods for balance transfers:

  • Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay

  • 0% for 18 months on Balance Transfers*

  • 15.49% - 25.49%* (Variable)

Highlights
  • Earn $100 cash back bonus after $500 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Cash back bonus is not available if you have had Citi® Double Cash card opened or closed in the past 24 months
  • Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay
  • No Annual Fee

See additional details for Citi® Double Cash Card – $100 Cash Back Offer

More Info

  • 0% for 18 Months*

  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter up to the quarterly maximum, when you activate*

  • 13.99% - 24.99% Variable*

Highlights
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com and more up to the quarterly maximum, each time you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • 100% U.S. based customer service.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
  • See Rates & Fees

See additional details for Discover it® Balance Transfer

More Info

Read our guide on the best balance transfer credit cards.

Bottom line: Are medical credit cards worth it?

While a medical credit card can help you finance health care expenses, the deferred interest terms are too big of a risk to make the interest-free period worthwhile. You’ll be better off with one of the alternative intro 0% APR cards that can provide no interest for up to 18 months on new purchases and up to 21 months on balance transfers. These cards typically don’t have pesky deferred interest charges.

If you decide to open a medical credit card, make sure you understand the terms associated with the special financing offer. You’ll want to know exactly when the interest-free period ends so that you can be sure to pay off your balance before that date. You should also verify that you can use your medical credit card at your chosen medical provider.


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