Even with health insurance, some health-related expenses aren’t covered.
If you don’t have the cash available to pay out of pocket for healthcare, medical equipment, or services, one option to consider is a healthcare credit card.
Healthcare credit cards are special-purpose credit cards that you can use for medical procedures, equipment, elective surgery, alternative therapies, deductibles, and sometimes even veterinary care.
Many banks and finance companies offer health financing with various options and requirements.
We’ve researched three of the best-known healthcare credit cards and compared them side by side: ALPHAEON CREDIT, CareCredit, and United Credit (formerly United Medical Credit).
ALPAHEON CREDIT vs. CareCredit vs. United Credit
What Can You Use the Card For?
Healthcare credit card companies have different restrictions on where the card can be used and for what types of products and services.
You can only use your ALPHAEON CREDIT account for a limited number of services, and your provider must be part of the ALPHAEON network.
ALPHAEON CREDIT accounts are valid for:
- Plastic surgery
To know whether your doctor offers this option, you can check ALPHAEON CREDIT’s physician locator.
Your provider must be enrolled in CareCredit’s national network of providers and retailers. You can find local providers using CareCredit’s locator tool.
CareCredit works with a wide variety of providers and services for you and your pet, including:
- Chiropractic care
- Cosmetic procedures
- Healthcare specialties like allergy testing, cord blood storage, physical therapy, prosthetics, sleep clinics, and treatment for spider veins and varicose veins
- Hearing testing and hearing aids
- Medical equipment and supplies
- Primary care or urgent care
- Veterinary care
- Vision and LASIK services
- Weight-loss surgery
You can also use CareCredit to buy health-related products at certain retailers. See our research on using CareCredit at Walmart and 1-800 Contacts.
United Credit isn’t a lender and doesn’t work directly with healthcare providers. Instead, it matches customers with loans from a large network of banks and medical lenders.
You may or may not have to use an enrolled provider, depending on the lender you choose.
United Credit can match you with financing for various services, including:
- Bariatric (weight-loss) surgery
- Cosmetic procedures
- Fertility treatments
- General healthcare costs
- Vision and LASIK services
United Credit has a resource list of medical associations where you can find a doctor for the services you need.
- Financing amount: Up to $25,000
- Payoff timeline: Up to 60 months, depending on the plan you choose
- Interest: About 29%
- Promotional offerings:
- Financing amount: Up to $25,000, depending on your creditworthiness
- Payoff timeline: Up to 60 months, depending on whether you choose to take advantage of short-term, no-interest promotions
- Interest: About 27% with a minimum charge of $2
- Promotional offerings:
Note: CareCredit is owned by Synchrony Bank, formerly GE Capital Retail Bank.
In 2014, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau took action against GE Capital for deceptive and discriminatory business practices. GE Capital paid millions in penalties and refunds.
Synchrony Financial now offers specialty credit cards for various businesses, including Amazon, Walmart, and Cathay Pacific Airways.
- Financing amount: $500 to $25,000; exact amount varies by lender and depending on your creditworthiness
- Payoff timeline: Varies by lender
- Interest: Varies by lender
- Promotional offerings: Vary by lender
How to Apply
You can apply through your healthcare provider or at ALPHAEON CREDIT’s website. You’ll receive an instant pre-qualification decision.
If you don’t receive pre-qualification, you can reapply after 30 days.
You can apply for CareCredit by phone at (800) 677-0718, through your healthcare provider, or at CareCredit’s website.
You’ll receive an immediate decision when applying online or through CareCredit’s automated phone system.
You can apply through United Credit’s website. The site will match you with a lender based on your location, credit history, and the services you want to finance.
You’ll find out within one business day if your application is accepted by a lender. If you’re declined, you can reapply with a cosigner.
General Pros and Cons of Healthcare Credit Cards
There are some unique benefits to using a healthcare credit card for your out-of-pocket costs, but there are disadvantages you should watch out for too.
- Convenience: Your healthcare provider may be able to sign you up for a healthcare credit card in the office — with instant approval.
- Deferred interest: Most cards let you borrow a certain amount without paying interest as long as you pay on time.
- Flexibility: Many cards will let you add the cost of future purchases and/or procedures after the initial loan amount.
- Accessibility: Some lenders will work with you even if you have bad credit; others will let you apply with a cosigner.
- Big penalties: Any “0% financing” terms are typically deferred interest, not free interest. If you’re late with one payment or don’t pay off the balance during the promotion period, the interest kicks in — and you’ll be charged the maximum rate back to the original date of the loan, not just future payments. This may make your loan costs much higher than a regular credit card account would have charged.
- Complicated agreements: What if you make additional purchases after the first loan? Are they deferred interest too? What if you pay off the initial loan on time but not the extra purchases? Each finance company has different terms, and you’ll need to make sure you understand them before you borrow money.
- Limited options: Some healthcare credit cards are only accepted by providers in their network. If you’re starting a long course of treatment, make sure you’re happy with your provider. Finding a new one who accepts your card might be a hassle.
Tips for Using a Healthcare Credit Card
Healthcare credit cards have some unique advantages, but just like any loan or credit card, it’s important to understand the terms of your agreement before you sign it.
You should also shop around to make sure you’re getting the best interest rate and the most favorable terms.
Think through the risks and benefits of the loan term and payment requirements. Are you facing any life changes that could affect your income or make it harder for you to make regular payments?
Deferred interest agreements have strict payment schedules. You must make minimum payments before they’re due and pay off the balance before the promotion period ends.
Some healthcare credit cards offer a flat payment schedule with the same amount due every month. Others show you a minimum amount due, but those minimum payments won’t pay off the balance. Know ahead of time which type of payment you’re making.
If a late payment will slam you with retroactive interest, be sure you make payments on time and in the correct amount.
- CareCredit customer service (800) 677-0718[↩]
I have a CareCredit card. What all can I buy and where? Like what stores? Can I buy a puppy?
Hello, Mary! No, you cannot buy a puppy with CareCredit. You can use CareCredit for pet care, but cannot use it to pay a breeder or adoption fee. You can use CareCredit at a variety of medical offices, veterinary offices, and stores; see our related articles for details on using CareCredit at Walmart and Walgreens. You can also find out more about using your card in CareCredit’s FAQ. Best of luck with your purchases!