CareCredit review: A medical credit card with potentially low rates

Woman sitting at her desk at work, reading a CareCredit review on her phone Image: Woman sitting at her desk at work, reading a CareCredit review on her phone

In a Nutshell

The CareCredit credit card lets you pay for healthcare costs over a fixed period of time. It offers introductory financing as low as 0% APR, depending on your eligibility and terms. But you’ll have to use a medical provider that accepts CareCredit.

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Pros Cons
Fixed terms available for repayment Interest rates can be high if you don’t pay off debt during the introductory period
Introductory APR offers could save you a lot on interest If you miss minimum payments, you could lose your promotional interest rate offers
Available for medical, dental, vision and pet health costs Not all healthcare providers accept CareCredit or offer introductory APR promotions

What to know about CareCredit

If you need to undergo a medical procedure that won’t be fully covered by insurance, the CareCredit credit card can help you spread out your payments over time. That can be helpful if you don’t have all the cash you need to pay upfront.

The CareCredit credit card works a little differently than the typical credit card you may have in your wallet. Instead of an open-ended date to pay off your debt, CareCredit offers cardholders the ability to pay off their debt with fixed monthly payments over a set term ranging from six months to 60 months. CareCredit may also offer a promotional financing rate for that period to help you avoid overbearing interest payments.

Promotional financing that can start at 0% APR

If your monthly budget can handle additional costs, the CareCredit credit card could be an appealing way to pay off a medical procedure. Its shorter terms — six, 12, 18 and 24 months — come with a 0% purchase APR, with a minimum purchase of $200 if you qualify. The regular variable purchase APR on non-promotional purchases is 26.99%.

These promotional financing offers can be appealing if you can’t afford — or don’t want — to pay your entire bill at once.

But CareCredit’s longer terms — between 24 and 60 months — have rates that are more in line with the national average for credit cards, based on Federal Reserve data. For example, a purchase of $1,000 could come with a 24-month repayment period that includes a 14.9% variable purchase APR.

And take note that not all medical providers offer promotional financing, so make sure to check for availability before you apply for the card.

Expensive rates if you can’t pay on time

While CareCredit’s payment structure can be helpful in some situations, it can also be especially expensive if you can’t afford to pay back your debt by the end of the promotional period.

If you don’t pay your full balance on purchases over $200 by the time your promotional term ends, or if you miss a minimum monthly payment, you’ll face a high 26.99% variable purchase APR that could put you deeper into debt.

Plus, you won’t just pay interest on your remaining balance. CareCredit will apply deferred interest to your account, which means you’ll be charged interest that would have accrued from the purchase date if the promotional rate hadn’t been applied — even for the amount you’ve already paid off.

Not accepted by all medical providers

CareCredit notes that its financing is accepted at more than 225,000 providers across the U.S. But if your preferred provider doesn’t accept this credit card, that extensive network won’t do you much good.

Before applying, we recommend searching the CareCredit website to see if your provider accepts the card. You can sort by practice name, location or specialty.

More details about CareCredit

If you’re considering a CareCredit card, there are a few other things you should keep in mind.

  • Not for non-medical procedures — If you want to use the CareCredit credit card for many different types of purchases, you’re out of luck. The card is not part of a commonly accepted payment network, and it won’t work outside of participating medical providers.
  • Joint applicants allowed — Applying with a co-signer may help you qualify or receive better terms if your co-signer has stronger credit. But co-signing comes with plenty of risks, so consider if it’s really right for you before adding a co-signer to your account.
  • Late fee — The CareCredit credit card comes with no annual fee, but it does charge a late fee. It starts at $29 but rises to $40 if you’ve been late on another payment in the past six billing cycles.
  • Pets welcome — In addition to medical, dental and vision expenses, CareCredit can help you pay for your pet’s healthcare costs if your vet or surgery center accepts it.
  • Available for multiple uses — If another medical cost comes up in the future, you can use your CareCredit credit card again. But keep in mind that if your introductory promotional period is over, you may have to pay a higher APR than you did on your previous medical bills. CareCredit also says you must use your card at least once a year to keep it active.
  • No perks — Unlike some other credit cards, you won’t get perks like cash back rewards with CareCredit. If that’s important to you, you may want to look for a rewards credit card that also offers a promotional interest rate.

Who is CareCredit good for?

A CareCredit credit card may help you afford a medical procedure not covered by insurance, or pay for a needed surgery.

If you’re confident you can pay off your medical bills within CareCredit’s promotional period, applying may be worth it so that you can stretch out your payments over time. That may help you conserve cash for other uses. But make sure the payments fit into your monthly budget — if you don’t pay off your full balance before the promotional period ends, you could be looking at hefty interest payments over time once the deferred interest kicks in.

Before you apply for a healthcare credit card, you may want to explore other options. First, see if you can negotiate your medical expenses. Your provider may have a no-interest installment option you don’t know about. And if you’re truly pressed to pay, see if you might qualify for financial assistance.

Not sure this is the card for you? Consider these alternatives.

  • Prosper Healthcare Lending: If you’d rather apply for a personal loan than a credit card, a Prosper medical loan may be a good option. The company offers loans for cosmetic dentistry, bariatric surgery, plastic surgery and fertility clinics.
  • Alphaeon Credit: If you want another option for a medical credit card, Alphaeon Credit also offers promotional financing for dentistry, dermatology, ophthalmology and plastic surgery.

About the author: Erin Dunn is an editor at Credit Karma who specializes in personal loans and is passionate about financial literacy and budgeting. She’s an award-winning business journalist and editor w… Read more.