It’s no secret that healthcare in the U.S. is expensive. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 26% of respondents of adults 18 to 64 had someone in their household who had trouble paying a medical bill. Of those, 31% reported that the total they are struggling to pay is $5,000 or more, while 13% have bills of $10,000 or more. Trips to the emergency room, hospitalization, dental care, and diagnostic tests make up the largest share of expenses owed.
Given these numbers, it’s no surprise that 61% of those struggling to pay medical bills have made late payments, and 56% have missed payments altogether. This has resulted in collection agencies stepping in for medical providers to facilitate payment of these debts.
Once you start getting notices, calls, or even collection entries on your credit report, using a credit card to quickly pay off the total owed becomes a tempting solution. Though not the ideal way to manage medical debt, paying off a bill with a credit card can enable you to avoid negative impacts on your credit — if you do it right. Here is a look at which credit cards are best for paying medical bills and how you can use them to your advantage.
- The best credit cards for medical bills
- Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
- Chase Freedom Unlimited®
- Citi Simplicity® Card
- Discover it® Cash Back
- Is paying your medical bills with a credit card a good idea?
- How to choose a credit card for medical bills
- The final word on the best credit cards for medical bills
The best credit cards for medical bills
Here are five cards that we think are worth considering if you’re planning on paying off medical bills with a credit card.
|Card||Annual fee||Introductory APR on purchases||Recommended credit score|
|Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
||$0. Terms apply.||0% intro APR for 15 months, then 19.24% - 29.99% Variable||Excellent, Good|
|Chase Freedom Unlimited®||$0||0% intro APR for 15 months, then 20.49% - 29.24% Variable||Excellent, Good|
|Citi Simplicity® Card||$0||0% intro APR for 12 months, then 19.24% - 29.99% (Variable)||Excellent, Good|
|Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card||$0||0% intro APR for 15 months, then 19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)||Excellent, Good|
|Discover it® Cash Back||$0||0% intro APR for 15 months, then 17.24% - 28.24% Variable||Excellent, Good|
Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express offers a 0% introductory APR on purchases for 15 months, then 19.24% - 29.99% Variable, as well as a $0 annual fee. Terms apply.
Additionally, this card comes with a generous welcome offer: Earn a $200 statement credit after spending $2,000 in purchases in the first 6 months. This gives you more cash to manage your medical expenses.
The longer intro APR makes this card a great choice for larger medical bills, as you’ll have a year and three months to pay it down before any interest is charged. Also, if you know you’ll be having to pay for several medical expenses over the course of a few months or a year, you could use this card to pay upfront and then utilize Amex's Plan It pay-over-time option to pay down the balance.
You could also take advantage of doing a balance transfer if needed. This card offers 0% introductory APR on balance transfers for 15 months, then 19.24% - 29.99% Variable.
Chase Freedom Unlimited®
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® has a lot going for it, not the least of which is a 0% introductory APR on purchases for 15 months (then 20.49% - 29.24% Variable) and a $0 annual fee.
The other thing that makes this card stand out is earning 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.
And with the current welcome bonus, you could earn unlimited matched cash back. Use your card for all your purchases and at the end of your first year, Chase will automatically match all the cash back you earned (there is no limit to how much you can earn; every dollar in cash back rewards you earn is a dollar Chase will match).
Citi Simplicity® Card
The Citi Simplicity® Card offers a 0% introductory APR for 12 months on purchases (then 19.24% - 29.99% (Variable)). This card also has a $0 annual fee and no late fees, which gives you some peace of mind that you won’t be charged more if you’re a little late making a payment.
You also may want to consider this card if you have a balance on another card that you used to pay for past medical bills. Citi Simplicity offers a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for 21 months (then 19.24% - 29.99% (Variable)), which gives you plenty of time to pay down the balance without adding more interest.
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card
This card offers a 0% intro APR for 15 months on purchases (then 19.99% - 29.99% (Variable)) and unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase, every day; and 5% cash back on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel (terms apply).
Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card gives you an early spend bonus — new cardmembers can earn a one-time $200 cash bonus after you spend $500 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
That makes it one of the best rewards credit cards if you have a medical bill that’s only a few hundred dollars. Add in the cash back percentage, and you could end up with much of your bill paid for you!
You do need excellent credit to qualify for this card. Since your APR is based on creditworthiness, you stand a decent chance at getting in the lower percentages with a high credit score and a good payment history.
Discover it® Cash Back
The Discover it® Cash Back’s 0% intro APR on purchases is only for 15 months (then 17.24% - 28.24% Variable), but cardmembers can also earn 5% cash back on everyday purchases at different places you shop each quarter like grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, and more, up to the quarterly maximum when you activate. Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases—automatically. Plus, Discover will match all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.
This is a great perk if you use the card to pay for a medical bill in the first year. You’ll also get more cost savings with other purchases that fall within Discover’s 5% quarterly categories. Overall, this card gets a lot of bang for the bucks you charge.
Is paying your medical bills with a credit card a good idea?
Paying medical bills with a credit card is generally only a good idea if you can pay off the balance within the card’s grace period or if the card you’re applying for has a 0% introductory APR. Since credit card interest is often high — averaging around 16%, but often as high as 29% for those with less-than-perfect credit — adding a large amount of debt to the balance can result in paying interest many times greater than the original bill.
For example, if you use your card with a 16% APR to pay a $1,500 medical bill and then only make a minimum payment that pays the month’s interest and 1% of the balance, you would have a low, seemingly manageable payment of $50 a month. However, it will take you 30 years and an additional $15,514.37 of interest to pay off this debt, provided you only make the minimum payments.
Likely the best option for paying off medical debt is to try and negotiate a payment plan directly with the provider. Most companies are willing to work with you and allow you to pay your bill over time and without interest. If this doesn’t pan out for you, a personal loan may be another good option.
With a personal loan, you set up a fixed period of time to pay off your debt, usually with a single monthly payment that doesn’t change throughout the life of the loan. Simple interest is charged, which means you’ll pay whatever the APR is times the amount you’re borrowing. This is rolled into the amount of the loan, and your monthly payment is calculated based on that balance. Personal loan interest rates are often much lower than those of credit cards.
If you were to take out a personal loan for the $1,500 bill mentioned earlier with a 10% APR and a repayment term of three years, your payment calculations would look something like this:
- 1500 x .10 = $150 total interest
- 1500 + 150 = $1,650 total amount to pay back
- 1650 / 36 = $45.83 monthly payment
How to choose a credit card for medical bills
When looking for a credit card to pay medical bills, you’ll want to search for ones that minimize additional expenses. 0% introductory APR cards are a good place to start, as these will give you a period of time where you can pay down the balance quickly without adding interest.
Credit cards with no annual fees are also good to explore, as are cashback cards and rewards cards with welcome offers for spending a certain amount within the first three months. Though the interest rates on these cards will add to the total you end up paying for the bill, you’ll save yourself an additional fee or build a bank of rewards credits that can be used to pay for expenses in the future. Check out our list of the best no annual fee credit cards for our top picks.
Another consideration is whether you plan on using a card to pay for current or future medical bills. If you know a large expense will be coming up, you want to time your credit card application so that the charge will fall into the 0% introductory APR period. This way, you’ll have as many months as possible to pay down the balance before interest kicks in. In the case of rewards cards, you’ll want to get the card so that the expense is charged within 90 days of opening the new account.
Your financial situation is probably the most important thing to consider before choosing a card for medical expenses. What does your monthly budget look like? How much can you afford to pay toward this bill once it’s on your card? How long do you have to pay it off before interest begins accruing? Is it possible to pay it off before this time, and if so, how much will you have to pay monthly to make this happen? The answers to these questions will help you choose a card that’s right for your situation and build a strategy for paying it off.
One thing you want to make sure of is that you’re not putting so much on a credit card that monthly payments will be unmanageable. Missed and late payments will have a negative impact on your credit.
The final word on the best credit cards for medical bills
Make sure to carefully consider the costs and benefits of a credit card before you apply and choose one that fits your specific needs and situation. Once you’ve been approved, remember that spending wisely will help you keep down overall costs associated with financing medical bills through revolving credit. Always have a plan for paying off the expenses you charge and stick with the budget you’ve created for accomplishing this. Then you’ll be in good shape for keeping your credit and financial life healthy.
These specific cards were chosen because we think they offer the most value when you’re making significant charges. They all have long 0% APR introductory periods and no annual fees, both of which are ideal for financing medical expenses and keeping overall costs down.
Many also have welcome offers that will actually lower the cost of the bills you’re paying or have cashback rewards that can lower the amount you pay on your medical bills overall.
Unlimited Cash Back
FinanceBuzz writers and editors score cards based on a number of objective features as well as our expert editorial assessment. Our partners do not influence how we rate products.
SPECIAL OFFER: Unlimited Matched Cash Back. Use your card for all your purchases and at the end of your first year, Chase will automatically match all the cash back you earned! There is no limit to how much you can earn. Every dollar in cash back rewards you earn is a dollar Chase will match
5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery services and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases