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Using credit cards to pay off medical bills: be careful

With medical bills being as expensive as they are, some Americans have turned to using credit cards to settle up with their providers. As that trend has increased, patients have even begun to use rewards credit cards in an effort to get a little something back while they’re at it. Many Americans already have a rewards card of some sort, and can obtain bigger rewards for larger bills. In some cases, patients can even receive a discount on the total cost of the bill from the provider for the prompt payment. Why not, right?

While it is certainly an option to pay for medical bills on a rewards credit card, it should be kept in mind that bigger charges take longer to pay off and that the interest rate on credit cards is typically high. When a credit card bill takes more than a handful of months to pay off, the overall cost may not make so much sense. 

What might make more sense, when the health care charge will take more time to pay off, is to negotiate an interest-free payment plan with the provider. Patients need to do their homework to determine whether using a rewards card or another type of credit card is more costly, in the end, than paying for care the slow-and-steady way.

Medical debt is, of course, a major cause of bankruptcy filings among Americans. In some cases, patients turn to credit cards to pay for medical care, and this can contribute to their financial burden. In many cases, the financial strain will simply be unavoidable. When it is not, patients need to make sure they are selecting the most financially sensible option for paying off their bills. 

Source: Fox Business, “Should You Charge a Medical Bill on a Rewards Credit Card?,” Lucy Lazarony, January 30, 2014. 

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