What to Know About Using CareCredit for Your Pet Expenses

It’s convenient to use the credit card to pay for your pet’s health care and wellness, but there are caveats.

Written by Dr. Jamie Whittenburg DVM / September 27, 2022

Quick Bites

  • CareCredit is a credit card you can use for pet-related expenses (you can use it for your own health care expenses, too).
  • The interest rate is a high 26.99%, so you’ll want to avoid having a balance.
  • You can apply and be approved 24 hours a day, which is handy if your pet has a middle-of-the-night emergency.
  • An alternative to CareCredit is Scratchpay, which is a short-term loan service.

If you have a pet, you know they’re part of the family. They provide companionship and unwavering loyalty. Because pets are such an important part of our lives, it’s essential to be prepared in the event they encounter an unexpected emergency.

Pet emergencies are always stressful, and it feels like these urgent situations often pop up at the worst possible time. Although it’s impossible to prepare for every unexpected event, it’s essential to have a plan and be financially ready.

Depending on the situation, your pet may become injured or ill suddenly and require emergency care. Modern-day veterinary care is advanced, but also expensive. If a pet parent finds themselves facing financial hardship when their pet needs emergency medical care, there are options—like CareCredit—that can help.

Inside this article

  1. What is CareCredit?
  2. Where can you use it?
  3. Signing up for CareCredit
  4. What can you use it for?
  5. What credit score do you need?
  6. Who should use CareCredit?
  7. Learn about Scratchpay

What is CareCredit?

CareCredit is a credit card issued by Synchrony Bank that can be used to pay for medical or dental expenses for humans or pets. As is the case with all credit cards, CareCredit charges fees and interest on purchases made with the card.

However, there are some key differences between CareCredit and the regular Visa or Mastercard you carry in your wallet. CareCredit only covers medical expenses that are not otherwise covered by your or your pet’s health insurance. When used for pets, the card can only be used to pay for services rendered by a licensed veterinarian. Items such as food, toys, over-the-counter nutritional supplements and flea or tick collars are not eligible.

Be Sure to Read the Fine Print

Before you choose CareCredit, make sure you understand the terms and conditions.

One useful feature of CareCredit is the initial grace period. For expenditures greater than $200, the company charges no interest if the balance is paid in full by the end of the financing term. The company offers financing terms of six, 12, 18 or 24 months on amounts greater than $200. However, the term you are able to choose may be limited by the physician’s, dentist’s or veterinarian’s practice.

Practices utilizing CareCredit as a payment option pay a fee that is a percentage of the total purchase. The longer financing period plans charge the provider increasingly larger fees for the service, so many practices limit the use of these plans.

CareCredit for pets, explained

CareCredit for pets is the same plan as the human version of CareCredit, but is used to cover medical expenses at a veterinary office or hospital.

If you already have a CareCredit card for yourself, you do not need an additional card to pay for your pet’s medical care. Your card may be used for all expenses approved by CareCredit at over 225,000 providers nationwide.

CareCredit can be utilized for large emergency and unexpected veterinary medical costs so that your pet can receive care when they need it, and the bill can be paid off over time.

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CareCredit for pets is not limited to one-time use and can be used repeatedly, like a regular credit card. Routine and planned veterinary care can also be paid for on this card. However, it is important to be mindful of the payoff dates to avoid large amounts of interest.

To use CareCredit, it is vital to make sure that the veterinary office or hospital that is caring for your pet accepts CareCredit as a form of payment. A search tool is located on the CareCredit website and allows a pet parent to find out if their veterinarian accepts the card.

Signing up for CareCredit

CareCredit for pets functions like a regular credit card. A pet parent may apply before veterinary care is sought or when the need arises in an emergency situation. 

You can get an application from your veterinarian or on the CareCredit website. You may also apply over the phone at 1-800-677-0718.

CareCredit will give you a credit limit based on your creditworthiness, determined by your credit score, along with consideration of the estimated purchase amount. You will also need to have your veterinarian or veterinary hospital prepare an estimate of expected costs for you.

The credit period begins when the veterinary office or hospital charges your CareCredit card. Note that CareCredit carries a very high APR (annual percentage rate) of 26.99%. This interest will be charged on the amount you owe starting from the date of purchase if the balance is not paid in full during the grace period. There is a monthly minimum fee that must be paid every month.

There are “promotional financing options” that are offered for some purchase amounts. CareCredit offers slightly lower annual interest rates to some cardholders for large total expenditures. Purchases of $1,000 or more may be eligible for a 24-month offer with a 14.90% APR, a 36-month offer with a 15.90% APR or a 48-month offer with a 16.90% APR.

Purchases of $2,500 or more may be eligible for a 60-month offer with a 17.90% APR.

With these high interest rates, the balance of the card can quickly escalate and make paying off the card very difficult. I do not recommend pet parents use CareCredit if they know they will be unable to pay the balance off during the grace period.

Also, it is important to keep in mind that not all borrowers will qualify for the reduced interest rates, and not all veterinary clinics or hospitals will offer the longer-term options.

What can you use CareCredit for?

CareCredit for pets can be used to pay for any medical care that your veterinarian deems necessary, as long as the veterinary office or hospital accepts the payment plan.

Some examples of services that are often paid for with CareCredit include:

Routine Veterinary Care

  • Annual checkups

  • Teeth cleaning

  • Parasites

  • Dermatology

  • Rehab

  • Medication

  • Diagnostics

  • Care of chronic pet diseases and conditions

  • Dog chemotherapy

  • Vaccinations

  • Microchipping.

  • Pet food and nutrition

Veterinary Surgery and Emergencies

  • Spay and neutering

  • Emergency services

  • Surgical procedures

  • Hip dysplasia surgery

What credit score do you need?

CareCredit uses the borrower’s credit score to determine their eligibility. This score may be obtained from any of the three major credit agencies: TransUnion, Equifax or Experian.

CareCredit takes the past two years of credit history into account when making an approval or denial decision.

To ensure that you’ll be accepted for a CareCredit card, pet parents should aim to have a credit score of at least 620 with all three major credit agencies. In some cases, approvals have been made with borrower scores as low as 600, but this is rare.

Who should use CareCredit?

CareCredit for pets might be right for you if you have:

  • A sudden or unexpected pet medical emergency

  • An extensive dental or surgical procedure needed for your pet

  • A credit score of at least 620

  • The ability to pay the balance in full within the allowed grace period

  • No other debt that needs to be paid

CareCredit might not be right for you if you have:

  • A credit score of less than 620

  • A large amount of debt

  • An inability to pay the balance in full within the grace period

  • A pet’s condition that does not require immediate medical care

Scratchpay: a CareCredit alternative

There are other options to consider for pet owners faced with a sudden, unexpected pet emergency bill, illness or major surgery.

One such service is Scratchpay, which is a short-term loan company for pet care. You apply and ask for a specific amount to be covered. This is a one-time payment arrangement and cannot be used repeatedly to charge like CareCredit.

Scratchpay offers three different plans. If you can put 20% down on your loan immediately and pay back the rest in four payments every two weeks, Scratchpay does not charge you interest. Otherwise, you can take a year or two years to pay back your loan in monthly installments, with interest rates varying depending on the amount you borrow and your credit score.

You can apply 24 hours a day, and receive an immediate response. This is important for middle-of-the-night visits to an emergency veterinary hospital with a sick or injured pet. Pet parents can see the rates that are being offered in real time.

Once your loan is approved, Scratchpay authorizes the amount you can borrow, and the veterinary clinic or hospital will request the amount directly from Scratchpay when the services are rendered.

Like CareCredit, Scratchpay uses the borrower’s credit score to determine eligibility. The credit check is a “soft” check, and applying will not affect your credit score. However, Scratchpay tends to accept lower credit scores and also take the borrower’s income into account.

You can apply for multiple short-term loans through Scratchpay if the need arises. Each loan is capped at a maximum of $10,000.

For more on paying for your pet’s health care costs, see our stories on what pet insurance covers, what to do if you have an exotic pet or a pet with pre-existing conditions and more.

About the Author

Dr. Jamie Whittenburg DVM

Dr. Jamie Whittenburg DVM

Dr. Jamie Whittenburg is a veterinarian with over 15 years experience. She works with cats, dogs, and small exotic pets.

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