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The CareCredit Card, issued by Synchrony, is designed to provide financing for consumers who are faced with medical expenses that aren’t covered by insurance. Medical bills are a big issue for Americans — according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, 17.8% of individuals in the U.S. had medical debt in collections in June 2020.
The CareCredit Card is accepted at more than 225,000 providers, but it’s not a general-use card that you’d also reach for when making nonmedical purchases.
Here are five things to know about the CareCredit Card.
1. You can use it only on certain health care purchases
You can use the CareCredit Card at health care and wellness providers that have enrolled in CareCredit. While a wide variety of providers and businesses accept the CareCredit Card, your preferred doctor may not. If you’re anticipating a medical expense that you’d like to finance, you can search for providers in your area that accept the CareCredit Card.
Enrolled providers include, but are not limited to:
Medical specialists, dentists, eye doctors, dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons.
Hospitals, surgical centers, medical imaging and lab work.
Medical equipment, supplies and pharmacies.
Fitness equipment and spa treatments.
Routine and emergency veterinary care.
2. It’s a deferred interest card ...
Deferred interest cards like the CareCredit Card offer a no-interest promotional period, but there’s a catch. If you haven’t paid the balance in full by the end of the promo, you’ll owe interest on the entire original borrowed amount, not just the remaining balance.
The CareCredit Card offers these short-term financing options: no interest for 6, 12, 18 or 24 months on purchases of $200 or more. If you don’t pay the balance back on time, you’ll pay a jaw-dropping 26.99% annual percentage rate (as of this writing) on every cent you financed in the first place.
3. … and it can also be a low-interest card
For larger medical expenses, you can opt for longer-term financing at a lower interest rate, without a 0% intro APR promo. As of this writing, purchases of $1,000 or more can qualify for:
14.9% APR for 24 months.
15.9% APR for 36 months.
16.9% APR for 48 months.
Purchases of $2,500 or more may be eligible for a 60-month loan at 17.9%. For all of these financing options, fixed monthly payments are required until you’ve paid your balance in full.
4. Your account is available immediately upon approval
You can’t always predict when you’ll be subject to a big medical bill, but you can use a new CareCredit Card account the moment your application is approved, even if your physical card hasn’t arrived in the mail yet. That means you can apply from the doctor’s office and use the card to pay your bill.
5. It’s one of several ways you can pay for medical expenses
The CareCredit Card is certainly an option for large medical expenses, but depending on your situation, you may want to consider other choices.
First, explore ways to lower costs. You may be eligible for discounts on certain procedures, health care products and wellness programs through your health insurance plan. Also, before you pay a medical bill, make sure you’re being correctly charged, as errors can cost you. You may be able to negotiate a reduced cost with the provider as well.
Once you have your final bill, here are additional ways to pay:
A payment plan. You may qualify for a monthly payment plan directly through your provider, possibly without fees or interest. Contact your provider to discuss your eligibility.
A credit card with a 0% APR promo. For planned medical expenses, a credit card charging 0% interest on new purchases can give you time to pay down a balance. And unlike the CareCredit Card, these kinds of cards won’t charge you interest on the original amount borrowed if you don’t pay off your debt in time. Instead, you’ll owe interest only on the remaining balance.
A balance transfer credit card. If you already charged a medical bill to a credit card, you can move your debt to a balance transfer credit card charging 0% interest. You typically need good or excellent credit to qualify and you may pay a transfer fee. However, again, if you have a balance left after the 0% APR promo ends, you’ll owe interest only on that balance, not on the total original transferred amount.
Flexible financing options from an existing credit card. Some large credit card issuers now allow you to either turn your available credit line into an installment loan (at a lower ongoing APR), or break up an individual card transaction into predictable monthly payments.
A personal loan. The CareCredit Card offers longer loan terms for lower interest rates, but depending on your credit history and financial situation, you may qualify for even better rates with a personal loan.
» MORE: 3 medical debt mistakes to avoid