How Does a CareCredit Healthcare Credit Card Work?

Paying medical bills may be a huge financial burden as well as a considerable difficulty. As a result, a number of well-known lenders and healthcare businesses, including GE Capital, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Capital One, UnitedHealth Group, and Humana, have developed credit cards to assist with the exorbitant costs of healthcare. Though several of these companies have subsequently dropped out of the program, consumers can still obtain revolving credit lines to meet healthcare bills.

CareCredit is one of these credit lines. Synchrony Financial’s CareCredit is a division (SYF). Synchrony is one of the major producers of private label credit cards in the United States, and it has arrangements with a diverse range of healthcare providers to accept its card as payment for their services; the card is accepted by over 250,000 healthcare providers in the United States.

These cards can be a simple way to pay your medical bills, but they come with a high cost. If you do not pay off your balance in full by the conclusion of your first promotional term, using CareCredit can cost you money.

Important Takeaways

  • CareCredit by Synchrony has entered into arrangements with a wide range of healthcare providers to accept its credit card as payment for their services.
  • Synchrony is a major distributor of private label credit cards in the United States.
  • The card can be used to cover regular medical insurance copayments on covered services, as well as elective medical procedures not covered by traditional insurance plans.
  • Consumers should be aware that CareCredit—and other comparable healthcare credit card companies—can be a costly way to pay for medical expenditures if you are unable to repay your amount within the promotional time.

How Does CareCredit Work?

Doctors, dentists, and surgical clinics are among the providers, as are vision care and hearing centers, hair restoration, and even veterinary services. CareCredit cardholders can search for nearby providers who accept the card by entering their zip code on the CareCredit website.

Customers who pay using the CareCredit card are eligible to participate in short-term financing packages that allow them to spread payments over six, twelve, eighteen, or twenty-four months. Furthermore, there are no interest charges if customers spend at least $200 and settle the entire payment within the agreed-upon time frame. Extended payment terms of up to 60 months are also available for minimum purchase quantities of $2,500, with interest rates as low as 17.9 percent. However, keep in mind that the suggested APR on these cards is substantially higher, at 26.99 percent.

How to Obtain CareCredit

You can pre-qualify for CareCredit online by visiting www.carecredit.com/apply.

You can also apply over the phone at (800) 677-0718, which is a toll-free number. There is an automatic system available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, or you can apply with a live person between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, Eastern Time. You can also apply in person at over 250,000 healthcare professionals and select retail outlets that accept CareCredit. CareCredit does not accept faxed or emailed applications.

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Requirements for CareCredit

Anyone can use CareCredit to see if they qualify for a credit card, and doing so has no effect on your credit score. In order to apply, you must supply the following information to Synchrony:

Name, address, and birthday
Net income Housing Information Social Security number or ITIN

Aside from that, Synchrony does not explain how they evaluate applications or what the credit card requirements are.

What is the minimum credit score required for CareCredit?

Synchrony does not state what credit score is required to qualify for CareCredit, and they do not disclose which credit agency they utilize to obtain credit reports. Cards that function in a similar manner, such as proprietary store credit cards, typically have low credit score criteria. This may make it easier for folks with low or poor credit histories to obtain a CareCredit card.

Limits on CareCredit

Your credit history determines the credit limit on your CareCredit card. The minimum purchase on these cards is $200, with a maximum credit limit of $25,000 for those with good credit.

Because of the high credit limits and ease with which CareCredit cards may be secured, they can be an excellent way for people with a low credit history to pay for medical expenditures. However, be aware that CareCredit cards might be costly if you are unable to make your repayments on time.

The Dangers of CareCredit

Though their marketing campaigns emphasize access to cheap healthcare, consumers should remember that CareCredit—and other comparable healthcare credit card companies—are in business to earn a profit. They offer no-interest financing in the hopes that many consumers will overextend themselves and be unable to pay their bills in full, resulting in costly financing charges. They may even bet on customers misinterpreting the terms.

Some healthcare companies provide branded medical credit cards, which are effectively unsecured lines of credit.

Because the card does not participate in the Visa or Mastercard payment networks, it cannot be used for routine purchases.

It’s frequently used by doctors to help patients afford elective procedures that aren’t covered by insurance, such as cosmetic surgery. These products, like private label retail store credit cards, typically feature limited usage possibilities and higher long-term interest rates as compared to general use credit cards.

There are also some troubling indications that CareCredit is not acting in good faith. CareCredit has “misled some consumers during the enrolling process by not providing enough counsel clearly laying out the conditions of the deferred-interest loans,” according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Such loans charge interest beginning on the date of purchase and continuing during the promotional period; if cardholders do not pay off the debt in full by the end of that term, they must pay all accrued interest (not just interest on the remaining balance).

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In 2013, the CFPB ordered CareCredit (a subsidiary of GE Capital at the time) to repay $34.1 million to cardholders. As a result, the company developed a CareCredit Certification program with its providers “in an effort to ensure that every CareCredit card applicant is provided a clear, easy-to-understand explanation of financing choices available.”

However, the firm’s “promotional financing options”—those with free or a low interest rate—are not available through all providers. Cardholders should check with their provider to see what options are available.

CareCredit also warns cardholders that “paying only the minimum due on your account each month may not pay off your balance before the end of the promotional period,” and that they should contact the company to ensure that they are paying the correct amount “to take advantage of your special financing promotions.”

Such complexities are not confined to CareCredit’s offers. Consumer Action discovered similar activities by other healthcare credit card issuers in a medical credit card survey.

What Makes CareCredit Unique From Other Credit Cards?

CareCredit is a credit card intended exclusively for health and wellness needs.

It cannot be used elsewhere or for anything other than medical expenses at various hospitals, veterinary clinics, dental centers, and private medical practice organizations, as well as healthcare-related merchants and pharmacies: a total of 225,000 providers.

Furthermore, the financing terms are often different from those of a standard credit card. Instead of a revolving credit line with interest charges, CareCredit offers financing choices of 6, 12, 18, or 24 months with no interest charged on purchases of $200 or more when paid in whole by the end of the period. If you do not, interest will be levied from the initial purchase date at a maximum annual percentage rate (APR) of 26.99 percent. It also provides longer-term healthcare financing with APRs ranging from 14.9 percent to 17.9 percent for 24-, 36-, 48-, or 60-month terms.

Is Getting a CareCredit Card Worth It?

It can be, especially if you have a big medical bill that isn’t covered (or isn’t adequately covered) by your health insurance and the provider doesn’t accept credit cards. CareCredit, on the other hand, works more like a loan than a credit card. It provides payment plans of varied lengths in which you make minimum monthly payments against your debt. You don’t pay any interest during that time, but if you haven’t paid off the full debt by the end of the term, you’re charged interest at a high rate (currently 26.99 percent) retrospectively from the date of purchase—on your entire original total, in other words.

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As a result, it’s always preferable to use a conventional credit card, especially if it offers a 0% APR initial offer—or even if it has a lower APR than CareCredit’s current 26.99 percent, as many cards do.

Regular credit cards, on the other hand, can be used in more locations and offer cash back or benefits.

CareCredit is likely to be easier to obtain than a standard credit card, which is one of the reasons its interest rates are higher. For greater expenses—$1,000 and up—CareCredit does offer longer-term plans at somewhat lower rates.

What Are Some CareCredit Alternatives?

To begin, determine if your supplier privately provides a pay-over-time agreement. Many big offices and facilities offer repayment programs that do not impose interest or fees as long as payments are made on time.

Consider opening a Health Savings Account (HSA) if it is accessible via your health insurance plan: You make a pretax contribution, which is normally deducted from your salary, and your money grows tax-free until you use it for eligible healthcare expenses. If you have a group insurance plan through your company, there is a comparable tax-advantaged account called a flexible spending account (FSA), but you must normally use up all of the money within the year you contribute them.

Because CareCredit operates in a similar manner to a loan, with a specified repayment time, you may want to explore taking out a personal loan from a bank or credit union instead. You will pay interest along the way, but it will most likely be at a lesser rate than the interest imposed by CareCredit if you do not pay off your full amount by the end of the time.

Finally, as an alternative to CareCredit, consider utilizing a conventional credit card. If you see a card with a 0% APR campaign, consider applying for it to use to pay your medical bills. Minimum payments could be lower. These promotional periods are frequently 18 or 24 months lengthy, similar to CareCredit’s. Even if you haven’t paid in full by the conclusion of the promotion, you’ll almost certainly be charged a lower interest rate—and only on the remaining balance.

In conclusion

Healthcare credit cards make it possible to budget for medical bills. Of course, users should keep in mind that the funding for these credit cards is provided by for-profit companies who are in the business to make money. If you’re not careful, the accompanying fees might add up to a lot of money.

Healthcare-oriented credit cards, like all credit cards, should be used with caution and responsibility because failing to follow by the conditions of the account agreement will be reported to credit bureaus and will harm your credit score. This includes reading the fine print and fully comprehending the terms and accompanying costs.

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