If you need help paying for the care of your pearly whites, CareCredit might work for you. This specialized credit card only pays for specific health expenses, including dental bills. People who don't have dental insurance, or need special procedures not fully covered by regular insurance use CareCredit to pay the out-of-pocket costs.
CareCredit is not an insurance product. As with other credit products, you have to apply for and be approved for the card. The approval and credit limit depends on your personal circumstances, including your income and credit score. You can't use the card with all dental providers. You can search the provider network at the official CareCredit site to find a dentist who does, just like you do when you're looking for a doctor who takes your health insurance.
CareCredit has interest-free promotional repayment plans that usually last six to 12 months. You'll have to pay a minimum monthly payment during the promotional period in full and on time each month to avoid interest. If you get hit with a bill more than $1,000, you could have the option to take a repayment plan longer than a year, but it will come with a fixed interest rate. Your minimum monthly payment depends on what type of plan you take and your balance. You can use CareCredit's payment estimator at its official website to get an estimate of your monthly payment amount.
The card could be a problem if you can't pay the balance in full in a short time. A "Washington Post" article published in 2010 noted that consumers using healthcare credit cards ended up with interest rates of over 25 percent on the original full balance. According to the same article, overbilling is also a known problem with healthcare credit cards. Some providers charged cards for services before the patients received them. If you switch dentists or the dentist closes, you'll have to try to get the charges reversed.
You might have other options beside CareCredit. Your dental provider may have his own in-office repayment plans where you pay a fixed amount each month by cash or check. If your work offers flexible spending accounts, you can put pretax dollars into the account and use the money to cover dental costs. Ask your dentist for a full procedure estimate before getting any work done. That way you can have time to determine what the best payment option is for you and won't be shocked by an unexpectedly high bill.
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