July 17, 2024
Best Credit Cards for Medical Expenses

Healthcare costs can be shockingly high, even for those with insurance. For 2024 HealthCare.gov Marketplace plans, the out-of-pocket maximum is $9,450 for individuals. That can be a lot of money for an insured person, and for people without insurance, costs can be exorbitant.

If you can’t cover medical expenses with a health savings account, flexible spending account or your personal savings, you might consider a credit card. For example, a credit card with a zero interest APR offer on purchases could help you spread costs over time.

However, charging medical expenses to a credit card may be financially risky. Interest charges can quickly add up, and you might be able to find other financing options that suit you better. But if you’re confident you can pay off a credit card balance before interest starts accruing, you could enjoy added benefits from some credit cards, such as rewards.

Discover some of the best credit cards for medical expenses and what factors to consider in choosing a card that works for you.

Comparing the best cards for medical expenses

Which card is best for you depends on your circumstance and needs. Some people may opt for a rewards card, while others might prefer to avoid interest. Use this table to compare credit card rewards, intro APR offers and other charges and fees. None of these cards come with an annual fee.

Best cards for medical expenses Rewards highlights Intro APR offers Ongoing variable APR
Chase Freedom Unlimited® 3 percent cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months
20.49% – 29.24% Variable
Wells Fargo Reflect® Card None
  • 0% intro APR for 21 months from account opening
18.24%, 24.74%, or 29.99% Variable APR
AARP® Essential Rewards Mastercard® from Barclays
  • 3 percent cash back on drugstore purchases
  • 2 percent cash back on eligible medical expenses
  • percent APR on balance transfers for 15 months
21.99, 25.99 or 29.99 percent
Wells Fargo Active Cash® Card 2 percent cash rewards on purchases
  • 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening
20.24%, 25.24%, or 29.99% Variable APR
U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card None
  • 0% intro APR for 21 billing cycles on purchases
18.74% – 29.74% (Variable)
CareCredit® None
  • None; offers financing options with deferred interest
New accounts: 29.99 percent
Wells Fargo Health Advantage® Card None 12.99 percent on purchases
Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa®
  • 3 percent cash back on health, home and auto purchases
  • 1 percent cash back all other purchases
14.99% -29.99% APR

Top cards for medical expenses

  • Best Credit Cards for Medical Expenses

    Pros

    • This card has terrific first-year value: an attainable welcome offer, plus you can earn one of the highest bonus rates for combined gas and grocery purchases during the first year.
    • You won’t accrue interest for a little over a year with this card’s decent APR offer, making it worthwhile if you need to pay off large medical bills.
    Red circle with an X inside

    Cons

    • The APR can be relatively high, so you’ll want to pay off any medical expenses (or come close to it) before the intro APR offer ends to avoid medical debt.
    • You could get hit with a high penalty APR if you make a late payment, which could last indefinitely.

  • Best Credit Cards for Medical Expenses

    Pros

    • Depending on your creditworthiness, you could qualify for a relatively low APR if you need extra time to pay off your balance.
    • This card comes with decent perks for a no-annual-fee card, like cell phone protection, Roadside Dispatch® and My Wells Fargo Deals.
    Red circle with an X inside

    Cons

    • With no consistent rewards program, this card has little long-term value.
    • The balance transfer fee is on the higher end at 5 percent (minimum $5), which could affect your potential savings.

  • Best Credit Cards for Medical Expenses

    Pros

    • This card’s medical bonus category covers a wide range, including purchases made with dentists, ambulance services and medical/dental labs (as classified by merchant category codes).
    • With fraud liability protection and complimentary online access to your credit score, you can stay on top of medical fraud and your credit.
    Red circle with an X inside

    Cons

    • Since this card does not offer an intro APR offer on new purchases, it might not be the best option for managing upcoming medical expenses.
    • This card has a relatively high APR, so you should pay your balance in full each billing cycle to avoid credit card debt.

  • Best Credit Cards for Medical Expenses

    Pros

    • You can enjoy a lucrative rewards rate on all eligible purchases without tracking bonus categories.
    • The intro APR offer for balance transfers gives you 120 days from account opening to transfer your debt and qualify for the intro rate — longer than most competitor cards.
    Red circle with an X inside

    Cons

    • This card charges a foreign currency conversion fee, making it less ideal if you need to travel abroad for medical reasons.
    • For attractive perks like travel protection or annual statement credits, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

  • Best Credit Cards for Medical Expenses

    Pros

    • You may be eligible for alternative pay-over-time options, such as the U.S. Bank ExtendPay® Plan.
    • You can check your credit score anytime for free (enrollment required).
    Red circle with an X inside

    Cons

    • Since this card does not have a rewards structure, you won’t earn rewards for ongoing medical expenses.
    • While you can take advantage of benefits like cell phone protection, overall the perks are minimal.

  • Best Credit Cards for Medical Expenses

    Pros

    • Instead of a deferred interest plan, you can opt for a long-term promotional financing plan at a lower interest rate.
    • You can see if you prequalify with no impact to your credit score.
    Red circle with an X inside

    Cons

    • Since it’s a deferred interest payment plan, you’ll be charged a high APR on the entire amount you financed if you don’t pay off the balance before the promotion ends.
    • Though CareCredit is accepted at thousands of locations, you can only use this card with providers who have enrolled in the program.

  • Best Credit Cards for Medical Expenses

    Pros

    • This card’s low interest rate is hard to beat and can save you a significant amount in interest charges.
    • You can use this card with a variety of healthcare providers, including at dental and vision offices, and even veterinary services for your pet.
    Red circle with an X inside

    Cons

    • You’ll need to check that your healthcare provider accepts this card as a form of payment before using it.
    • Since it offers no rewards and can only be used with healthcare providers, this card has limited everyday value.

  • Best Credit Cards for Medical Expenses

    Pros

    • This card’s health bonus category is versatile, including health and beauty spas, bicycle shops, sporting goods stores and public golf courses.
    • With a potentially low APR, you could save a lot on interest — helping you to manage ongoing medical costs.
    Red circle with an X inside

    Cons

    • Since this card does not have an introductory APR offer, it might not be the best option to consolidate medical debt.
    • Rewards are earned by paying off the balance in full, so if you are only making minimum payments, you won’t see any rewards.

Expert advice on paying medical expenses with a credit card

Before you decide to put your medical bills on a credit card, consider these expert tips and make a plan for managing your medical costs.

Choose a zero interest card over a deferred interest card, if possible.

You may want to watch out for deferred interest offers. A deferred interest card will still accumulate interest during the introductory or promotional period but you won’t be charged until the offer ends. If you still owe a balance, you will be responsible to pay the back interest that accumulated during the offer period plus the ongoing new interest charges. So if you are unable to pay the balance in full, a deferred interest card can actually increase your medical debt.

On the other hand, a zero interest credit card will not accrue any interest during its introductory offer period. If you have a balance when the period ends, you will then be charged interest, but there is no additional back interest to worry about.

Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish between a deferred interest card and zero interest card. Read the fine print of any card you’re considering that has an introductory offer so you can take care to meet the requirements and avoid falling into a deferred interest trap.

Consider all your options.

While using a credit card to cover medical costs can be helpful, it can also be risky since you might be charged a high interest rate if you can’t pay your balance in full.

Instead, you might look into other financing options to pay down your medical debt like getting a line of credit, personal loans or medical loans. Many medical providers also offer their own low-interest or zero-interest payment plans. Additionally, you can contact your provider’s medical billing office to find out about federal and local organizations that offer financial assistance.

Pay your balance in full.

No matter the type of card, it’s best to pay your balance in full to avoid interest charges. Once you start accruing interest, your medical debt can balloon quickly. On top of being a source of stress, significant debt can have a negative impact on your credit score. Take advantage of zero interest intro offers so you can clear your medical expenses interest-free.

How to choose the best card to pay for medical expenses

If you plan to charge medical expenses to a credit card, asking yourself these questions could help you decide which card best matches your needs.

How much debt do I need to pay off?

Spend some time figuring out how much you’ll owe in medical bills when all is said and done. If your medical debt is manageable, a card that offers rewards and a shorter 0 percent APR intro offer may be a good option.

If it’s a hefty sum, consider credit cards with longer 0 percent APR intro offers even if they don’t have rewards.

Do I want to earn rewards?

Some cards for medical expenses offer rewards for every dollar you spend, but not everyone needs a rewards card, especially if you are working to decrease spending and pay off debt. Cash back credit cards can entice you to spend more since you know you’re getting something in return.

If you need to lower your medical debt, you should consider a rewards credit card only if you’re also taking advantage of the card’s intro APR offers and if you can pay your medical balance off before the introductory APR offer ends.

What kind of intro APR offer do I prefer?

Compare introductory APR offers so you know what you’re getting. Some cards offer 0 percent intro APR only on balance transfers, and these cards may charge interest on any new purchases if you carry a balance (including from a balance transfer). Other cards  extend zero interest to both purchases and balance transfers for a limited time. Decide which intro offer will meet your needs best.

Frequently asked questions about paying medical expenses with credit cards

  • The major risk is high interest rates if you can’t pay off your balance in full each billing cycle. If it takes a long time to pay down your medical expenses, the interest charges could be exorbitant. Plus, credit card debt could negatively impact your credit.
  • Typically, if you pay with a credit card, you’ll no longer be in a position to negotiate with medical providers. Once providers receive their money from the issuer, you’ll have to shoulder any medical expenses charged to your card.Keep in mind that some hospitals and healthcare providers offer in-house payment options and discounts that could act as alternatives to charging your credit card. This approach also enables you to deal with the provider directly.

  • That will depend on your financial situation. If you pay your balance in full at the end of your card’s billing cycle or intro APR offer, then charging medical expenses can be convenient and, if it’s a rewards card, can deliver some earnings too. But if you’ll start incurring interest or late fee charges, your debt could snowball and damage your credit. Instead, you might consider options like taking out a low-interest personal loan.

What next? 

With Bankrate’s debt management resources, you can start working toward medical debt relief with personalized payment plans and expert guidance.

The bottom line

Looming medical costs can become a financial burden. However, strategically using credit cards for medical expenses can help manage upcoming bills or prior medical debt. Choose a card with a 0 percent intro APR offer that fits your goals or, if you have recurring costs, consider one that rewards medical spending.

But be aware that if you can’t pay off your balance each billing statement or when the intro APR period ends, then you could be hit with a high interest rate that will increase your medical debt and may hurt your overall credit. If you’re having trouble finding the funds to pay your bills, consider exploring alternatives such as a payment plan from your medical provider, a line of credit or a personal loan.

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