When it comes to financing in vitro fertilization, most patients can’t afford to pay for the procedure in full out of pocket.
According to data collected on 3,192 IVF patients and provided to NerdWallet by FertilityIQ, an online resource for those seeking fertility treatments, the national average cost for one IVF cycle was $19,857. Of those surveyed, 28% had 76%-100% of treatment costs covered by insurance. But 56% had zero coverage, and the remainder of patients had only partial coverage. (Disclosure: NerdWallet CEO Tim Chen is an investor in FertilityIQ.)
Making financial tradeoffs and saving for IVF is the best case scenario, says Shane Sullivan, a certified financial planner with United Capital in Austin, Texas. But for those eager to move forward without adequate savings, financing may be the answer.
If you’re seeking IVF treatments, here are some of the best ways to pay for it.
Some lenders focus specifically on fertility financing and typically partner with doctors’ offices. Fertility-specific lenders may have higher interest rates than other types of lenders, but the doctor’s office typically coordinates with the lender and receives the funds directly, removing some of the headache patients may face obtaining financing on their own. One of the best-known fertility lenders is CapexMD, which offers loans through participating fertility clinics and preapproves patients within 24 hours.
Credit union loan
Many banks no longer offer personal loans, but credit unions typically still do. These personal installment loans have fixed rates with monthly payments. Credit unions usually have the lowest interest rates available on personal loans, even for borrowers with less than stellar credit. Rates at federally chartered credit unions are capped by law at 18%.
The downsides: Credit union loans usually require a lot of paperwork and documentation, and they can take longer to get approved and funded than loans from online lenders. Additionally, credit unions often require a hard credit check in the application process for you to see your rate, which can temporarily ding your credit. But if you’re able to wait and your credit score can take a minor bump, the lower interest rates can be worth it.
Who it’s best for: Patients who prioritize a low interest rate over speed or patients who have credit issues
Amount you can borrow: Varies by credit union
APR: Typically from 7% to 18%
Term options: Vary by credit union
Fees: Some credit unions require an application fee
Online personal loan
If you can’t get a loan through your local credit union, or if you’re in a hurry to pay for IVF treatment, online installment loans are approved and funded faster than credit union loans, sometimes within one day. Another perk: Online loans may have more options than credit unions when it comes to term length and the amount you can borrow. Interest rates are fixed and can be low for those with excellent credit. Patients with credit issues may face steep annual percentage rates. Additionally, some lenders charge percentage-based origination fees, which are based on your credit (the better your credit, the smaller the fee).
Some lenders with experience offering loans for fertility treatments include Prosper, Lending Club and LightStream. Below is a comparison of each. Numerous other online lenders offer generic personal loans you can use for fertility treatment, and all online lenders have varying terms and underwriting requirements. NerdWallet recommends you compare offers from multiple lenders before signing an agreement. The easiest way to compare rates from online lenders is to shop online.
Who it’s best for: Those looking for approval and funding within days or patients with excellent credit
» MORE: Check your credit score
This marketplace lender offers loans online that anyone can apply for, but it also offers loans through participating doctors’ offices. Its loan product and interest rate are the same whether you apply online yourself or through your provider; in the latter situation, your doctor’s office is your point of contact and handles logistics, which can make the process a little smoother. But if your doctor doesn’t use Prosper, you can apply online for a general personal loan to put toward treatment costs.
Amount you can borrow: $2,000 to $35,000
APR: 5.99% to 36%
Term options: 3 years or 5 years
Fees: Origination fees of 1%-5% depending on your credit
Minimum FICO score: 640
Some doctors partner with Lending Club through a program called Patient Solutions. You can apply online or through your doctor, and these loans may have slightly lower APRs than Lending Club’s regular personal loans since the doctor’s office covers administrative costs that you’d normally pay as the borrower. If your doctor isn’t partnered with Lending Club Patient Solutions, you can apply for a general personal loan online through Lending Club. Terms and rates are based on your financial health, not the loan purpose.
Amount you can borrow: $1,000 to $40,000 for personal loans; $2,000 to $50,000 for Patient Solutions loans
APR: 5.99 to 34.34% for personal loans; 3.99% to 24.99% for Patient Solutions loans
Term options: 36 months or 60 month for personal loans; 24 to 84 months for Patient Solutions loans
Fees: Origination fees of 1-6% depending on your credit for personal loans; no origination fees for Patient Solutions loans
Minimum FICO score: 600 for personal loans; N/A for Patient Solutions loans
An arm of SunTrust bank, LightStream differentiates itself from other online lenders by having no fees. LightStream’s interest rates and terms vary by borrowing purpose, and loans for fertility treatments can be as large as $100,000 — a higher credit limit than most competitors offer. Patients apply directly on LightStream’s website.
Amount you can borrow: $5,000 to $100,000
APR: 5.99% to 15.59%
Term options: 24 to 84 months
Fees: No fees
Minimum FICO score: 680
If you can’t qualify for a credit union or online personal loan, or if you need to finance only a small portion of IVF treatments, credit cards could be an option. Credit cards typically have lower credit limits than the amount you could borrow with a loan, and you won’t know your credit limit until you are approved. Additionally, interest rates can be lofty — especially if your credit score is low — and carrying a high balance can hurt your credit.
If you qualify, zero-interest cards can be an ideal way to help fund at least some of your fertility treatments, especially if you need to borrow a few thousand dollars to meet an insurance deductible, Sullivan says. Some cards are available with no interest for up to 21 months, giving you time to pay the balance before interest kicks in.
Who it’s best for: Patients who need to finance only a portion of treatment or can get a 0% card and pay off the balance before the interest-free period is up
APR: As low as 10% for cards from credit unions, or 11% to 24% for cards with big issuers
Fees: Some cards have annual fees
Minimum FICO score: Typically a score of at least 630 is needed
Health Savings Account
If you can afford to pay for fertility treatments without borrowing money, using a health savings account presents tax advantages worth considering, Sullivan says. They reduce your taxable income, the money in the account grows tax-free and you pay no taxes when you pay for eligible medical expenses. This can even include ancillary costs related to IVF treatments, Sullivan says.
You can qualify for an HSA if you have a high-deductible health insurance plan as defined by the IRS. For 2017, that means an individual plan with an out-of-pocket maximum of $6,550 and a minimum deductible of $1,300. For family plans, the out-of-pocket maximum is $13,100 and the minimum deductible is $2,600.
There’s a limit to how much you can set aside each year. For individual plans for 2017, the most you can contribute is $3,400, and for family plans, it’s $6,750. If you’re over 55 years old, you can add an additional $1,000 annually. Unlike flexible spending accounts, HSAs roll over each year.
Most health insurance providers offer HSAs, but if yours doesn’t, you can get one through most financial institutions. If you have an HSA through your employer, you can set up automatic contributions directly from your paycheck.
Who it’s best for: Patients who can afford to pay with cash and have high-deductible health insurance plans
Emily Starbuck Crone is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
FertilityIQ Methodology: FertilityIQ’s data was collected between July 10, 2015 and February 19, 2017 via a survey of 3,192 patients who underwent at least one complete IVF cycle in the United States. The total number of IVF cycles completed by all patients was 7,141.
Updated May 1, 2017