Many people have a hard time finding room in their budget for routine dental checkups, let alone paying for other pricey procedures or a dental emergency. But dental problems don’t go away on their own. Left untreated, they are bound to get worse, causing more pain… and costing more money.
CareCredit is one financial tool to consider. It is a healthcare credit card that can be used for medical and dental needs. It can provide card users with the financial freedom to take care of dental services when they need or want to, instead of having to wait.
What if You Have Dental Insurance?
Even generous dental insurance plans fall short of covering everything. Policy holders might have a deductible amount to meet each year before coverage kicks in, or a co-pay may be required at each office visit. After that, it may still only pay for a percentage of the total bill. With expensive dental work like a root canal procedure or treatment for periodontal disease, the patient’s portion might be hard to manage. Add up multiple visits or additional family members, and the costs creep up fast.
Also, insurance companies typically refuse coverage for elective dental procedures. Unless the insurance company decides they are medically necessary, things like dental bonding, veneers, or straightening teeth, for example, will be entirely the patient’s responsibility. They may cover the cost of a crown if it’s needed to save a tooth, but might limit what type of material they’ll pay for.
If a patient wants anything done that’s purely cosmetic, they will need to find a way to pay for it themselves. Treatments such as teeth whitening or veneers applied for stain coverage rather than fixing a chip or crack, are almost never covered by insurance.
What is CareCredit?
CareCredit was created to help patients pay for dental work that insurance won’t cover. It has been around since 1987 and is offered by the established credit card provider Synchrony Financial.
CareCredit works just like any other credit card, except it’s only for issues related to healthcare. In addition to dental procedures, cardholders can pay for medical treatment, vision and hearing care, dermatology, and cosmetic surgery. Even some veterinary care for the cardholder’s pet is included!
With CareCredit, cardholders can break up their costs into more manageable monthly payments. Depending on the amount of their total bill, they’ll be given a set timeframe: 6, 12, 18, or 24 months to pay off their balance. As long as they keep up with their regular monthly payments and pay in full by the end of that time, they are not charged any interest.
For larger amounts, patients can get special financing to pay the amount back, with interest, over 24, 36, 48, or even 60 months.
Who is Eligible for CareCredit?
There are basic requirements that applicants must meet in order to be approved for CareCredit. They must be at least 18 years old and have a decent credit score. Like most credit card companies, CareCredit will do a credit check using the three standard credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). Applicants with a good payment history will have a better chance at approval than those with bad credit.
CareCredit prides itself on giving applicants quick answers and access to services. In some cases, patients can be approved and start paying for dental treatment on the same day that they apply. Some dental practices have partnered with CareCredit and have the ability to handle the enrollment process for a patient onsite.
Paying With CareCredit
CareCredit allows patients to pay the dentist for just about anything they would normally pay out of their own pocket. This could be their deductible or co-pay amount, the portion of a bill that insurance won’t cover, or for cosmetic procedures that their insurance policy won’t cover at all. Their website has a complete list of services.
CareCredit is accepted by more than 225,000 healthcare providers, many of whom are dentists and orthodontists. When you use the Dental Health Society’s search tool to find professionals near you, you can ask if they accept CareCredit when setting up your appointment.
Card holders also can take advantage of CareCredit’s custom phone app, which allows them access to their account information and a means for contactless payment—something that is very useful with office restrictions due to COVID-19 as well as the increased popularity of teledentistry. There is no need for a patient to be present to swipe their CareCredit card.
CareCredit by the Numbers
Just like with any financial commitment, it’s important to understand what signing up for a CareCredit account means. It can be a good tool to spread out the payments for expensive dental services. But if cardholders can not make their payments in full and on time, it could cost more than expected.
Here are some helpful facts about CareCredit:
- There is no annual fee.
- No interest when monthly payments are made in full over the agreed upon term (6, 12, 18, or 24 months).
- Deferred interest at 24.99% APR is charged on accounts not paid in full.
- Late fees may be up to $40.
- Interest rates range from 14.9% to 17.9% for terms of 24, 36, 48, or 60 months.
CareCredit Pros and Cons
There are other options that patients may be able to take advantage of besides CareCredit, and it’s always a good idea to shop around. Many dentists offer their own payment plans, or occasional coupons or special pricing. And in some cases, a regular credit card might offer a better rate. But if an applicant qualifies and is confident of their ability to afford the monthly payments, CareCredit might be the answer.
CareCredit provides a way to get necessary dental work with a set monthly payment, making it easy to budget. Many cardholders like the fact that it is used only for their dental and medical needs. This keeps their spending focused, unlike a typical credit card. When a card can be used for anything, there’s a chance of overspending or using it for impulse buying.
Cardholders do need to be careful about paying on time. The fact that CareCredit’s interest is deferred means that, if a person does not pay everything by the time their term ends, interest is calculated from the time of the purchase (or in this case, the dental procedure) not from the date the final payment was due. Not understanding this can lead to some sticker shock.
The Dangers of Waiting for Dental Care
There is a definite advantage to getting dental issues fixed as soon as possible. A cavity can become an abscess and eventually need a root canal procedure instead of just a filling. Inflamed gums can lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease. Care and budgeting are more manageable when problems are addressed sooner.
Still, many people need help fitting preventative dental care and restorative procedures into the budget. CareCredit is one option that can make paying for dental treatment easier.