Best credit cards for paying your medical bills
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There’s nothing quite like a big medical expense that can throw off even the best mapped-out financial plans. Even if you have coverage from health insurance — medical, dental and veterinary bills can quickly soar into the thousands and decimate emergency funds and saving accounts. So, how can you come up with a strategy for tackling these unexpected expenses?
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Financing through medical credit accounts is one way. These accounts tend to operate like store-issued credit cards and are usually linked to specific providers. Many medical, dental and veterinary offices will submit applications on behalf of patients, often negotiating 0% interest financing periods. However, typical interest rates on these accounts are likely to be higher than that of your credit cards, especially for borrowers with excellent credit.
These accounts also tend to be particularly costly for borrowers who can’t pay balances off during promotional balance periods. Balances not paid in full often face interest charges — at rates as high as 27.99% — on the full amount from the initial date of a charge. They also don’t earn rewards.
This is why you might also want to consider a traditional credit card for tackling those medical expenses. Let’s take a look at your options.
A rewards card may be your best bet
Medical bills typically don’t fit into traditional credit card bonus categories, although there is one exception. But a 0% APR offer and the chance to earn miles or cash back can make everyday spending cards a solid bet for paying medical expenses — especially for borrowers who are confident they’ll be able to pay off their bills within promotional financing windows.
Consider a cash-back card that will help you pay off statement credit charges or deposit rewards straight into your bank account. The Citi® Double Cash Card has no annual fee and offers up to 2% cash back on all your purchases (1% when you buy, 1% as you pay), making this one of the most high-earning cash-back cards out there. This card incentivizes you to pay off your charges so that you can earn the additional 1% of cash back. While this card doesn’t come with a sign-up bonus, there’s an introductory 0% APR period for the first 18 months for balance transfers (subject to a balance transfer fee of $5 or 3% of the balance, whichever is greater). Balance transfers must be completed within 4 months of account opening. After, the variable APR ranges from 13.99% to 23.99% based on your creditworthiness. If you’re using this card for balance transfers, note that you won’t earn cash-back rewards.
Furthermore, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is a worthwhile choice if you’re looking for a rewards card to pay your medical bills. It comes with a $200 sign-up bonus after making $500 in purchases within three months of opening an account. The card has no annual fee and offers a 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 15 months from account opening. If you’re a new cardholder, you’ll want to make sure you pay your balance before your intro APR offer expires, as regular interest rates on the card are a variable APR of 14.99% to 23.74%. You’ll earn 5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% on dining and drugstore purchases and all other purchases automatically earn 1.5% cash back.
If you’re over Chase’s 5/24 rule and can’t qualify for the Freedom Unlimited at this time, consider the Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards credit card instead. Also with no annual fee, you’ll earn an unlimited 1.5% cash back on all your purchases and a $200 sign-up bonus after making $500 in purchases within the first three months of account opening. This card also comes with a 0% intro APR on purchases for the first 15 months of account opening (14.99%-24.99% variable APR after that).
Or, sign up for the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to earn 60,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Every purchase earns 2x miles per dollar with an annual fee of $95. Venture miles are worth 1.7 cents each, according to TPG valuations and can be used for flights and hotels or transferred to any of Capital One’s 19 airline and hotel partners.
Prefer to avoid an annual fee? Try the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, which offers 1.25x miles for every dollar spent on the card and has no annual fee.
The Discover it Miles also has no annual fee and earns 1.5x miles for every dollar you put on the card, which you could use to take yourself on vacation to celebrate your recovery. At the end of your first year (12 consecutive billing periods), Discover will match the miles you’ve earned on the card.
The information for the Discover it Miles has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
There are various credit cards specifically catered for health-related reasons. While you’ll bypass earning any rewards on most of the cards, they do come with financing offers that can help you avoid any additional interest.
AARP Essential Rewards Mastercard
The AARP Essential Rewards Mastercard is the only card on this list that actually delivers rewards at a rate of 2% cash back on eligible medical expenses. And best of all, it covers a broad range of expenses such as dentists, orthodontists, osteopathic physicians, chiropractors, optometrists, ophthalmologists, opticians, optical goods and eyeglasses, chiropodists, podiatrists, hospitals, medical and dental labs, hearing aids, ambulance services, orthopedic goods, prosthetic devices, nursing and personal care facilities and other medical services.
The card also features a 0% intro APR for balance transfers made within the first 45 days of account opening for the first 15 billing cycles if you need to transfer over medical debt from a high-interest credit card (then a variable APR of 16.74% to 25.74% applies). The card has a balance transfer fee of 3% (min. $5).
The information for the AARP Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Wells Fargo Health Advantage® Card
The Wells Fargo Health Advantage card could be a good bet if you don’t have access to 0% financing, low-fee, low-interest balance transfers, or don’t think you’ll be able to pay off a promotional balance in time to avoid what’s sure to feel like an exorbitant interest charge.
This card comes with a 12.99% APR and offers occasional financing promotions. Once you’re approved, this card is accepted by many medical, dental, hearing, vision and veterinary providers.
The information for the Wells Fargo Health Advantage card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
CareCredit is like any other credit card but is used only for paying medical expenses. It doesn’t earn rewards, but CareCredit can be used to pay for out-of-pocket expenses at more than 225,000 medical, dental and veterinary providers across the U.S. Once you open a CareCredit account, you can use it at any provider that accepts CareCredit.
CareCredit offers 0% interest financing on transactions of $200 or more for up to 24 months with minimum monthly payments. Longer-term financing is available at rates between 14.9% and 17.9% for 60 months.
Note that CareCredit’s regular purchase APR is 26.99%. Like medical lines of credit, CareCredit uses deferred interest financing, meaning interest is charged on full loan amounts from initial transaction dates on balances that aren’t paid in full when a financing promotion expires.
The information for the CareCredit has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Loan repayment program: If you have less-than-stellar credit
The AccessOne MedCard is a patient financing program that won’t turn down borrowers due to poor credit, nor does it require a minimum credit score and doesn’t report to credit bureaus. Interest rates start at 0% and loan terms can be as long as 100 months. Patients will only need a statement from their medical care provider to get set up.
Technically, the AccessOne MedCard isn’t a credit card — it’s a loan repayment program for medical expenses. Its focus is to provide low-interest loans to anyone in need of medical care.
The information for the AccessOne MedCard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Medical expenses don’t have to drain your savings account. Several unique credit programs exist to help people deal with and finance these often unexpected bills, though they don’t bring the rewards many cardholders have become accustomed to. Alternatively, your favorite everyday spending card can earn you cash back or points toward what may be a much-needed vacation after you’ve recovered.
Additional reporting by Stella Shon and Juan Ruiz.
Featured photo by Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury for GettyImages.
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