Care Credit offers interest-free credit for medical expenses

Monday, April 18, 2011
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Several local medical offices now offer Care Credit, a way for patients to charge expenses to a credit card without incurring finance charges.

"It's like a credit card for health care," says Jacque Branson, office manager at LaCroix Pet Hospital in Cape Girardeau. Users can apply for the card in the medical office or at www.carecredit.com. Once approved, they're given a credit limit and receive monthly billing statements. But unlike a regular credit card, Care Credit users are given an interest-free period -- at least six months, depending on the cost of treatment -- to pay off the balance.

"It's probably one of the easiest to get approved for," says Angel Petzoldt, practice manager at the office of Cape Girardeau dentist Dr. B.L. Ogborn. "Patients can apply for it, and it can be used at any dental office or medical office that takes Care Credit."

Ogborn's office has used Care Credit for about eight years, and Petzoldt says the card has continued to grow in popularity, perhaps due to the economic recession.

"I do see a lot more people using Care Credit for larger treatments, like dental implants, that they don't have the money to put out right away," she says.

LaCroix Pet Hospital has offered Care Credit for nearly two months, and Branson says four clients are using the card so far.

"We have a great number of clients who need to charge, and like any business, we can't keep that load very high," she says. With Care Credit, the clinic receives payment within 24 hours.

"This is an alternative. If they don't qualify, we will continue to bill them and they will pay us," says Branson. "But our goal is to try to get all the people we bill signed up for it."

Does it sound too good to be true? Branson and Petzold say Care Credit is everything it proclaims to be -- as long as customers use the card responsibly. According to Petzoldt, if the balance is not paid off by the end of the promotional period, the interest rate goes back to the original charge, even if you only have $800 left to pay on a $2,000 charge.

"You need to have it paid off. That's the only catch," she says. "It is what it says it is. There is no interest, but the monthly payments have to be paid on time. The promotional balance has to be paid in full by the end of the promotion period, or the interest starts from the original amount."

Says Branson, these high interest rates provide just the incentive for clients to pay the balance as soon as possible.

"Once you pass the promotional period and haven't paid the billing off, the interest rate is quite high. You don't want to mess around," she says.

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