Cope with unexpected vet bills using these 5 options
Oct 23, 2019 · 9:48 AMPaige Cerulli
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Vet bills are part of pet ownership, but emergency trips to the veterinarian or animal hospital can suddenly run up bills that are multiple thousands of dollars.
If you don’t have savings set aside, an unexpected vet bill can be difficult to cover, especially if you need to put down a large deposit right away so your pet can be treated.
These five options can help you cope if the bill is too large to pay out of your monthly budget.
Talk with your vet
Start by explaining the situation and your finances. Most vets require at least a 50 percent deposit upfront before they will perform a large procedure. If you are an established client, and your pet is up to date on care, your vet may be willing to arrange a payment plan. However, this is at the discretion of each practitioner.
If your vet’s office doesn’t allow a payment plan, they may be able to recommend additional community resources or options that can help.
Sign up for CareCredit
CareCredit can buy you time in paying off large vet bills, but use it with caution. Marketed as a healthcare credit card, most veterinarians and animal hospitals accept CareCredit.
The benefit of CareCredit is that you can be approved instantly via an online application, and first-time card users enjoy a no-interest promotional period. Depending on the arrangement established by CareCredit with your vet, this means that you may not have to pay interest for six, 12, 18, or 24 months.
There are catches to this, though. The promotional period is essentially a grace period, and it’s important to realize that if you don’t pay off the full balance by the end of that period, then the interest rate of 26.99% will apply. That interest will accrued during that grace period—even if you’ve been making payments—and it can make for a steep bill. This promotional period is only available the first time that you use the card.
If you’re considering using CareCredit, ask the vet if they accept it and find out how long the promotional period duration is with that particular practice. If you aren’t certain that you can pay the balance off by the end of the promotional period, a different payment option may save you money.
Use a credit card with an introductory period
Some credit cards offer zero-interest introductory periods that are longer than the no-interest period offered by CareCredit. Just as with CareCredit, though, you should make sure that you’ll be able to pay off the entire balance by the end of the promotional period, since the accrued interest can make for hefty monthly payments afterward.
Using a low-interest credit card is another option, but a large balance on an interest-bearing card can get larger—quickly. Only use an interest-bearing credit card if you can pay off more than the monthly minimum so that you can quickly pay down not just the accrued interest, but also the balance on the card.
Look into assistance services
Some programs and organizations offer financial assistance to pet owners whose pets are facing costly procedures and medical emergencies. These organizations may offer loans or donations to help cover vet bills of certain procedures.
Each program has its own list of requirements and an application procedure. Often, applications take time to be approved, so this resource isn’t ideal when you’re facing an emergency and need to get your pet treatment right away. However, the programs may be able to help in situations where you have time to prepare for an upcoming significant procedure.
The American Veterinary Medical Association has a list of available programs. Do an internet search to find programs that offer support to owners of certain pet breeds.
Apply for a personal loan
If you have a good credit score, you may be able to get a personal loan at a lower interest rate than your credit card. Personal loans do offer some benefits, since they are usually offered at a fixed interest rate and follow a structured repayment plan of monthly installments. This arrangement would allow you to pay back your pet’s vet bills gradually while getting your pet immediate care.
When applying for a personal loan, make sure that it does not come with any origination fees. If you anticipate being able to pay the loan off early, then ask about prepayment penalties which will charge you more for paying the loan off early.
Planning for the Future
When you’re faced with an unexpected vet bill, there are only so many ways that you can pay off that bill, and many of them can negatively affect your credit score and your credit utilization. While you may need to rely on these methods for the short term, you’ll want to come up with a plan so that you can avoid relying on these options in the future.
Once you’ve paid off that urgent bill, establish a savings account just for your pet’s potential veterinary expenses. Put a pre-determined amount or percentage of your income into the account each month, and don’t touch that account unless your pet has a veterinary emergency.
Pet insurance plans can help to lessen the blow of a catastrophic issue, such as a needed emergency surgery. Once you factor in deductibles, premiums, and more, most insurance policies won’t save you money on more minor procedures, but they can offer peace of mind and savings for vet bills that are in the thousands.
Paige Cerulli is an independent creator and not a representative of Bing or Microsoft.