Should You Use a Credit Card to Pay for Orthodontic Treatment?

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  • Orthodontic treatment can cost thousands of dollars.
  • While you can generally charge braces and related treatments on a credit card, you may want to look at other payment options.
  • Consider payment plans, personal loans, or a health savings account, if you have one.

Orthodontics can be expensive. But is a credit card the best way to pay?

If you have a child who needs orthodontic work, or you require treatment yourself, you're no doubt aware of how expensive it can be. In fact, Oral-B puts the average cost of metal braces at $3,000 to $7,000. And you might need treatment beyond that, such as retainers and palate expanders, that only add to your total tab.

Many people don't have the money in their savings accounts to cover orthodontic treatment outright. And if that's the boat you're in, you may be thinking of putting your treatment, or your child's, on a credit card. But before you do, it could pay to explore these alternative options.

1. A payment plan through your orthodontist

Some orthodontists will let you pay off your treatment over time without charging interest in the process. It's worth seeing if your office makes this option available to patients.

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2. A personal loan

A personal loan lets you borrow money for any purpose, so you can use your loan proceeds to cover the cost of braces. The upside of using a personal loan over a credit card is that you'll generally get to borrow at a lower interest rate. Also, credit card interest can be variable, so your monthly payments have the potential to climb over time. Personal loans come with fixed interest rates, so your monthly payments are nice and predictable.

3. Your FSA or HSA

If you have money in a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), then it pays to use those funds before racking up interest on a credit card balance. FSAs actually require you to spend down your balance every year (HSAs don't), so there's no reason not to use that money for orthodontic treatment if you have it available. And while there are benefits to leaving your HSA funds alone (namely, getting to grow your money by investing it), you're better off taking an HSA withdrawal than accruing interest on a credit card balance.

Make sure to explore your options

The cost of orthodontic treatment can be significant -- especially if you're paying for it for more than one child at a time. A credit card might seem like your best means of covering that expense, but it could end up costing you a lot of money in interest. So it's best to explore alternatives that cost you less.

Either way, before you pay for orthodontic treatment, make sure to explore your insurance benefits if you have dental coverage. Many dental insurance companies offer some coverage for braces and related treatment. It's common to have a lifetime cap on treatment that may only cover a portion of your total costs -- for example, a cap of $1,200 per patient. But you might as well get that benefit if you're entitled to it.

You also shouldn't hesitate to get a consultation with more than one orthodontist in your area. While the cost of treatment may not vary so much from one office to the next, you never know when a given orthodontist might offer a lower rate. And when you're talking about spending thousands of dollars, shaving even a few hundred off of your total costs could go a long way.

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