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The Best Credit Cards for Pet Expenses

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Americans are spending more and more on their pets every year, according to the American Pet Products Association. This year, the association estimates spending will rise to $69.36 billion (up from $66.75 billion in 2016), $16.62 billion of which will go toward veterinarian care (up from $15.95 billion). That means owners may need to prepare to spend more money for their furry family members.

Some vets don’t offer a payment plan directly through their billing office, so applying for a credit card might be your best option to pay for your pet’s medical bills and other expenses (outside of using your savings, borrowing the money from family and friends or crowdsourcing the funds).
The older your pets get, the more likely it is they’ll need medical care, so planning ahead with a pet card can be a good idea. As much as pet owners can try to predict how much they’ll spend on their loved one, it really is impossible to know.

Is a pet-specific credit card a good idea?

A credit card designed for pet health care costs may sound like a great idea, but the truth is, there aren’t many of them. CareCredit is the only card with a specific feature for financing veterinarian bills, and you’ll have to see if your vet accepts it.

The card has a 0% APR promotional offer from six to 24 months, perfect for those who need more time to take care of their pet’s expenses. There are longer financing terms available as well, starting at 24 months and ending at 60 months.

Purchase Amount

CareCredit Financing Options

$1,000 or more

Eligible for a 24-, 36- or 48-month financing
offer with a 14.90% APR

$2,500 or more

Eligible for a 60-month financing offer
with a 16.90% APR

One of the downsides of CareCredit is that it charges deferred interest if you don’t pay off the balance by the time the introductory offer ends. The current standard APR is 26.99 percent.

If you’re going to carry a card that charges deferred interest, make every possible attempt to pay off the balance before that interest kicks in. You can use a credit card payoff calculator to help you figure out what you need to pay monthly in order to get rid of your debt before the promotional APR period ends.

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Other options

Using a pet-focused credit card to take care of vet bills isn’t the only way to spread out the costs of animal health care — or even necessarily the best option.

Below, we’ve listed several credit cards that can help you tackle hefty veterinary bills; what’s best for you will depend on a variety of factors, like how much time you have to prepare for the expense and what your personal financial situation actually is.

For a one-time expense: Cards with a 0 percent introductory APR

Some credit cards offer a one-time 0 percent APR introductory rate on new purchases. That means whenever you spend money during the promotional period, you won’t have to pay interest on those purchases as long as you pay off the balance before the promo period ends.

This type of card is best for people who can anticipate an expense, such as an imminent surgery. Keep in mind that it may take a few weeks to get approved and receive your new credit card, so planning is key.

Also, promotional periods start when your account opens, not with your first purchase, so you’ll want to apply funds to the vet bill as soon as you can after getting the card to maximize the time you have to pay off the balance interest-free. This course of action is really best for a one-time cost: Recurring costs can add up quickly, making it difficult to pay off the balance by the time the special offer runs out.

Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card

Why we like it

The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Card has a 0 percent intro APR for 21 months, one of the longest periods available. That includes both purchases and balance transfers. Once the promotional period is over, the rates will switch to a variable APR of 13.99-23.99%, depending on your credit score.

This card has no annual fee and is a good option if you’re confident you can pay off the balance before the intro period ends. Otherwise, you could face some heavy interest fees.

Fees and fine print

There is a balance transfer fee of 3 percent of each balance transfer, with a minimum charge of $5. Foreign transactions result in a 3 percent fee, and late-payment fees can be up to $35.

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The Provident Signature CashBack Visa® card from Provident CU

Why we like it

The Provident Signature Cash Back Visa® card from Provident CU is one of the few credit cards that offers both cashback rewards and a 0 percent APR intro offer on both purchases and balance transfers. The offer lasts the first 14 months your account is open, and after the promotional period ends, the standard variable APR rates kick in: 11.99-16.99 percent for purchases and 12.99-17.99 percent for balance transfers. Those rates are somewhat less than other cards on this list, which make it a good option if you’re not sure you can pay off your balance in 14 months.

The card doesn’t have an annual fee and earns unlimited 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases. It also has no foreign transaction fees and includes travel accident and trip cancellation/interruption insurance, making it a great choice for pet owners who also like to go places.

Fees and fine print

The biggest downside to this card is its availability: You have to be a member of Provident Credit Union to get it. The credit union is based in California and mostly serves the Bay Area, though you can join if you have a membership with one of a variety of associations.

Beyond membership eligibility, here are some things to consider: Balance transfers carry a fee of $10 or 2 percent of the balance transferred, whichever is greater, and, if you miss a payment, a late-payment fee up to $15.

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For managing existing debt: Balance transfer credit cards

Sometimes your pet has a one-time emergency, like a tooth extraction or hip surgery, that you can’t anticipate. While you can plan ahead for routine needs, it’s hard to be prepared for a procedure that costs several thousand dollars in one fell swoop.

That’s where a card with a balance transfer offer can help. These cards usually offer a low interest rate, sometimes even 0 percent, on balance transfers. If you’re currently paying for your pup’s bills on a card with a high interest rate, consider applying for a card with a 0-percent-APR balance-transfer promotion. Depending on your current interest rate and your minimum payment, you could save hundreds on interest.

This kind of card is best for those who aren’t adding to the balance on a regular basis and are simply trying to pay off one-time expenses. These cards offer this low rate for a certain length of time, sometimes up to 24 months. Ideally, you should pay off the balance before the offer expires so you don’t pay interest on the balance. Calculate how much you need to pay each month so you can do that, keeping in mind it may require making more than the minimum payment.

Discover it® 18-Month Balance Transfer Offer

What we like

The Discover it® 18-Month Balance Transfer Offer is an introductory 18-month balance transfer offer at 0 percent APR. The card also has a six-month introductory APR of 0 percent on purchases. After the intro periods expire, your balance will be subject to the ongoing variable interest rate of 11.99-23.99 percent, depending on your credit. There is a 3 percent fee per balance transfer.

This card has no annual fee and is also a rewards card: You can earn 5 percent cash back in certain categories (the categories change each quarter), and all other purchases earn 1 percent cash back. Discover will match all the cash back earned at the end of your first year, automatically. Redeem your cash back for any amount, any time. Cash rewards never expire.

One more benefit is that this card doesn’t charge a penalty APR, which is when card issuers can increase the APR if you miss a payment.

Fees and fine print

Keep in mind that the balance transfer intro offer differs from the purchase intro offer: New purchases only have a six-month, 0 percent APR intro period. The APR and cashback rewards may tempt you to spend more than you should, so be prepared to exercise self-control if you get this card to pay down vet-bill debt.

Discover also waives the late fee the first time you miss a payment, but don’t let it become a habit: Subsequent late payments will cost up to $37.

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Chase Slate®

What we like

The Chase Slate® stands out among many credit cards because there is an introductory $0 balance transfer fee if you complete a transfer within 60 days of the account opening. Any transfers made after 60 days will come with a 5 percent balance transfer fee ($5 minimum).

There is an introductory 0% APR on the first 15 months for both purchases and balance transfers and no annual fee. After the intro offer expires, purchases and balance transfers will have a 15.99% – 24.74% variable APR. There is also no penalty APR with this card, so you don’t have to worry about losing the 0% intro offer if you make a late payment. Terms apply.

Fees and fine print

Late payment fees cost up to $37, depending on your balance, and foreign transactions carry a 3 percent transaction fee.

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Citi Simplicity® Card

What we like

The Citi Simplicity® Card is a top pick if you’re looking for a card with a stellar balance transfer offer and other significant perks. This card has no annual fee, no late fees and no penalty interest rate if you miss a payment. There is also 0 percent introductory APR for the first 21 months on balance transfers and purchases, after which it will convert to a standard, variable APR of 14.99-24.99 percent, depending on your credit score.

Fees and fine print to watch out for

While this card might be great for some pet owners, there are some other things to watch out for. The balance transfer fee is 3 percent of the balance ($5 minimum), and this card has a foreign transaction fee of 3 percent.

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For ongoing expenses: Low-interest credit cards

If you have an older pet who needs monthly meds or is on a strict diet, proper care can involve costly recurring expenses. If, as a result, you can’t afford to pay off your credit card balance in full every month, having a low-interest credit card can help.

Interest fees can add up quickly once the balance grows, so be sure to watch how much of the principal you’re paying every month and how much is going to interest. You might be more motivated to pay off the debt in full if you know how much it’s costing you each month.

UNIFY Financial Credit Union Variable Rate Visa® Credit Card

What we like

Any U.S. citizen or permanent resident can join UNIFY, and it offers a credit card with one of the lowest interest rates out there. The ongoing interest rate on this card ranges from 5.99-18 percent APR (variable), so if you have good credit and anticipate dealing with hefty vet bills for a very long time, this card could help you keep your financing costs down. There’s no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.

Fees and fine print

This is a no-frills credit card with no introductory periods, so you’ll start incurring finance charges as soon as you start carrying a balance from month to month. If your ongoing expenses are going to last less than a year and a half, you may be better off with something like the Citi Diamond Preferred (described above) because of its long introductory purchase APR.

Late payments on the UNIFY credit card incur a fee of up to $25 fee at five days past the due date, and besides the low APR, this card offers very few perks.

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TruWest Visa Platinum

What we like

The TruWest Visa Platinum card has 0 percent Intro APR for the first 18 billing cycles on both purchases and balance transfers, as well as no annual fee. However, its premier perk is its low ongoing interest rates, which range from 6.95-20.95%, some of the lowest available.

Fees and fine print

This card is from TruWest Credit Union, and you must be a member of the credit union to join. However, it’s not easy to become a member. Membership is available to those who work in select Arizona and Texas counties or have worked for select employers including Motorola, Freescale and ON Semiconductor. Relatives of current members are also eligible. Current members must have at least $5 deposited with TruWest in order to apply for a credit card.

Because membership is so limited, only a small portion of the population will be eligible for this card.

There is no penalty APR, but late fees can cost up to $25. Foreign transactions have a fee of 0.8-1 percent — the higher fee applies when the transaction requires a currency conversion.

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Zina Kumok
Zina Kumok |

Zina Kumok is a writer at MagnifyMoney. You can email Zina here

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