What's the Best Way to Finance Your Pet's Medical Care?

by Christy Bieber | April 25, 2019

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Black dog sitting on a pile of money.

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When you have a pet, your animal becomes part of the family. This can put you in a tough situation when your pet gets sick. After all, you want your furry friend to get the best care possible, but unfortunately this can sometimes come at a very big price tag.

The good news is, there have been many advances in animal care and pets can have many of the same procedures that humans can have, from chemotherapy to kidney transplants to pacemaker implantation. The bad news is, these procedures can cost tens of thousands of dollars, leaving you wondering how to cover the costs of care.

If you find yourself in a situation where you’re not able to pay out of pocket for care your pet needs, it’s important to explore all your options. Here are a few possible sources of financing worth considering, along with the pros and cons of each option.

Pet insurance

If you have a pet insurance policy and get your insurance to cover your pet’s care, this is ideal. Unfortunately, you’ll need to have a pet insurance plan in place before your pet gets sick. Pet insurers can and do exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions so if your animal already needs medical care, you will not be able to buy a policy and get covered after the need has arisen.

If you do buy pet insurance, make sure to understand exactly how your policy works. Find out if there are limits on what the insurer will spend per condition or in your pet’s lifetime. Also make sure to see if you’ll have to pay up front and get reimbursed afterwards for the bills. Many pet insurance policies are structured this way, but it can be a challenge to come up with thousands of dollars of cash to pay for treatment up front even if you will get reimbursed through your insurer eventually.

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CareCredit is a credit card specifically intended to pay for healthcare needs, including medical services for animals. More than 200,000 locations nationwide accept CareCredit, but you’ll need to check with your chosen vet to find out if they are a participating provider.

While CareCredit’s standard APR is high at 26.99%, it has certain financing options that are much more affordable. For example, you may be able to qualify for a deferred interest plan if you’re paying $200 or more for your pet’s care. With a deferred interest plan, interest starts accruing from day one but you aren’t charged the interest if you pay off the balance during the promotional period -- which usually lasts six, 12, 18, or 24 months.

CareCredit also has other lower-interest options for longer-term loans when borrowing larger sums. If you borrow $1,000 or more, you could be eligible for a 24, 36, 48 or 60 month loan at a 14.9% APR, or if you borrow $2,500 or more, you could be eligible for a loan with a 60-month payment plan at 16.9% APR.

If your vet is a participating vet, you can often apply for CareCredit right at the vet’s office. Just make sure you’ve confirmed this is actually the most affordable source of financing for you -- and be aware that if you opt for a deferred interest loan you could owe a fortune in interest if you fail to repay what you’ve borrowed on time.

Credit cards

Most veterinary offices take credit cards, so you could charge your pet’s care if you can’t pay for it directly. But credit cards often have very high interest rates -- unless you’re apply to qualify for a card with a special 0% promotional APR. If you can qualify for a zero-interest card and can pay the card back before the promotional rate expires, this can be a very affordable way to pay for your animal’s care.

If you can’t qualify for a 0% rate, or if you can’t pay off the card before your rate would expire, then you should generally consider a personal loan over a credit card.

Personal loans

Personal loans are a great solution to pay for your pet’s care and will likely be cheaper than the standard rate on either CareCredit or a regular credit card. That’s because personal loans will typically have a lower APR than the standard CareCredit or credit card rate.

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Pay off debt faster

Personal loans are loans for a set amount of money. Your lender approves you for a loan based on income, credit history, debt, and other financial factors. You receive the funds -- and can use them to pay for your pet’s care -- and will pay back the money on a set schedule.

Not only are personal loans usually cheaper than credit cards, but this set schedule also means you’ll know exactly when you’ll have your debt paid off so you won’t have as much uncertainty about your financial future.

You do not have to specifically seek out a personal loan that’s marketed for vet care expenditures, although such loans do exist. Personal loan lenders don’t care what you use borrowed funds for after your loan is approved, so you can apply with any personal loan lender and just get the money you need to provide care.

Many personal loan lenders will fund loans in as quickly as a week, so you can gain access to the funds you need to care for your pets even when time is of the essence. In fact, it’s sometimes possible to get personal loan funds as soon as the next business day.

In most cases, you can pay back your personal loan over a three- to five-year period, although some lenders have shorter or longer repayment terms. This provides ample flexibility in how long you can take to pay for your animal’s care. Typically personal loan lenders require you to borrow several thousand dollars at minimum, so this is a good solution only when your pet needs more costly medical services.

What’s the right approach to pay for your pet’s medical care?

Ultimately every pet owner needs to determine what financing approach is best based on the costs of care and the options available. If you don’t have pet insurance and want an affordable source of financing with a set repayment schedule, a personal loan can be a great approach to cover your pet’s costs and get your animal companion back on the road to good health.

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