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Updated on Monday, March 23, 2020
If you’re considering a surgical cosmetic treatment, you may have found that plastic surgery doesn’t come cheap. When paying cash isn’t an option, you may need to consider financing the surgery. That could look like a medical loan, medical credit card, home equity line of credit or 401(k) loan, among other methods. However, you should consider all your options before taking on a large debt or pulling money out of your investments.
Does insurance cover plastic surgery?
Before you consider how to pay for plastic surgery, first get an estimate of how much the procedure will cost, along with follow-up treatments, office visits and other expenses, such as medications. Then, contact your health insurance company to see what your policy covers. How to get your insurance to pay for plastic surgery will depend on the policy, the procedure and whether it’s medically necessary. The insurer will let you know whether you’re partially or fully covered.
How to finance plastic surgery
Medical loans are personal loans by another name. Banks, credit unions and online lenders offer these types of loans, which come with fixed annual percentage rates (APRs) and terms ranging from 12 to 60 months or longer.
When you’re approved for a personal loan, you’ll receive the full amount of the loan upfront and then repay it in equal monthly installments. APRs usually range from around 5% to 25% or higher, depending on your credit and the lender. Loan amounts can range from $1,000 to $50,000 or more.
Most personal loans are unsecured, meaning you won’t need to pledge collateral during the application process. Your creditworthiness is typically the main factor for qualifying for the loan.
What to watch out for: Make sure you understand your loan term, APR, and total monthly payment, and whether the loan comes with any fees, such as prepayment penalties or origination fees. Also, keep in mind that a hard credit inquiry, typically done during the loan application process, may temporarily lower your credit score by a few points.
Medical credit card
A medical credit card is another option for paying for plastic surgery costs not covered by your health insurance, and they work like traditional credit cards. Some examples include the Wells Fargo Health Advantage® Card, the CareCredit® credit card and the Alphaeon credit card. (Note, however, that not all credit card issuers offer a medical credit card, and they aren’t the same as HSA or FSA cards.)
You get a card with a preset line of credit and APR that you can use to charge your medical bills to the card, then you can either pay off the balance or make monthly payments. Ask the card issuer whether it offers different types of monthly payment plans.
Typically, you can only use medical credit cards within a specified network of health care providers.
What to watch out for: You should understand the terms and how interest is charged before using a plastic surgery credit card. For example, a CareCredit® credit card for plastic surgery offered (at time of writing) a promotion in which cardholders wouldn’t pay interest on purchases of $200 or more. Cardholders needed to select a repayment option of six, 12, 18 or 24 months, and pay the amount due by the end of the promotional period. But if they didn’t pay their entire bill off within that time, interest was charged from the original purchase date at an APR of 26.99% for new accounts.
0% Intro APR credit card
Credit cards are another plastic surgery financing option. Depending on your credit limit, you may be able to cover some or all of your procedure with a traditional credit card. The major factor to consider is the card’s APR. The average credit card interest rate is 16.88% nationwide, but some credit cards come with a 0% introductory APR. These intro periods typically last about 12 to 21 months, and if you qualify, you’ll pay no interest during the intro period.
What to watch out for: These cards usually have deferred interest, meaning interest accrues but you don’t have to pay it during a certain time frame. For example, let’s say your 0% intro APR lasts 12 months. Interest will accrue on all the purchases you make during that time. If you pay off the balance in full during the intro period, then you won’t pay any interest on purchases you made. But if you haven’t paid off your purchases in full, then you’ll owe interest on all the purchases from the previous 12 months. Plus, the interest rate will reset to the regular APR.
Some plastic surgeons do payment plans, or offer in-house options for financing plastic surgery. These can vary in detail and scope, however, so it’s best to check with your doctor’s financing office to see what options may be available. For example, you may need to provide a down payment or pay a preset amount each month. Plastic surgery payment plans may be a good option for people with bad credit, as you may be able to set up a plan without a credit check.
If the medical provider doesn’t already offer an in-house payment plan, then you can propose a plastic surgery payment plan of your own. Just keep in mind: Your doctor doesn’t have to accept your proposal. Take the estimated cost of the procedure, figure out how much you can put toward the amount each month and calculate how long it would take to pay off the debt. If the medical provider accepts the proposal, then get all details in writing before going under the knife.
What to watch out for: Ask the medical provider whether it will charge a fee or interest, and what happens if you fall behind on payments.
Home equity line of credit
With a home equity line of credit, you borrow from the home equity you’ve built, which is the market value of your home minus your mortgage balance.
Here’s how they work: Lenders will generally let qualified applicants borrow up to 80% to 90% of their home value. Once approved, you can draw from the account during a time frame known as the “draw period.” You may pay off the balance and borrow again from the line of credit, paying interest only on the amount borrowed, during this time frame. The draw period is followed by a repayment period, in which you can no longer utilize the line of credit and must repay any balance you have on it.
What to watch out for: The fact you’re securing this loan with your home could spell trouble if you fall behind on payments. If you default, you could potentially lose your home — a concept that seems troubling for any surgery, but especially a voluntary cosmetic procedure.
Home equity loan
A home equity loan also allows you to borrow against the equity you’ve built in your home. It’s different from a HELOC, in that you receive a lump sum of money upfront, then repay the loan in fixed monthly installments with a fixed interest rate over time. Lenders typically allow qualified homeowners to borrow up to 85% of the home’s value.
What to watch out for: Like a HELOC, you’re securing the home equity loan with your home. If you miss several payments, the lender may foreclose on your home.
Some 401(k) retirement savings plans allow participants to borrow against their balances. If you borrow from a 401(k), you’ll receive a lump sum of money and repay it, with interest, within a set time frame of five years, as regulated by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). According to the IRS, you may borrow the lower amount of either a) $10,000 or 50% of your vested account balance (whichever is greater) or b) $50,000.
What to watch out for: Taking money out of your retirement account will likely set your retirement goals back, as your money wouldn’t be growing in investments.
Plastic surgery financing for bad credit
Some personal loan companies are willing to work with people with poor credit. The following lenders are listed on MagnifyMoney’s marketplace and typically offer loans to people with lower credit scores.
15.49% to 35.99%
5.99% to 29.99%
7.98% to 35.99%
24 to 48 months
36 or 60 months
36 or 60 months
$2,000 to $25,000
$4,000 to $25,000
$1,000 to $50,000
0.00% - 6.00%
1.00% - 5.00%
Up to 8.00%
Minimum credit score requirement
If you have fair or poor credit and can’t qualify for an unsecured loan, then you may consider a secured personal loan. A secured personal loan allows you to borrow money using some form of collateral, such as a savings account or car, which protects the lender in case you default on loan payments.
What to watch out for: If you fall behind on payments, you risk losing your collateral. The lender may also report any delinquent payments to the credit bureaus, which can damage your credit scores. Weigh the benefits, drawbacks and loan terms before choosing a secured loan.
Average costs for plastic surgery
Plastic surgery costs can vary greatly, depending on the procedure and the doctor. In 2018 alone, Americans spent more than $16.5 billion on more than 17.7 million cosmetic procedures, according to a report from the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Here’s what some of the more common procedures cost:
4 things to consider when financing plastic surgery
- APRs: Unless you have a 0% intro APR on your plastic surgery financing and can pay off your balance during the introductory period, you’ll want to consider your total cost of borrowing. Your APR is a great measure of that.
- Fees: Some common fees associated with plastic surgery financing include prepayment penalties, origination fees and late payment fees. Before signing on the dotted line, ask the lender whether the loan comes with fees — and how to potentially avoid them.
- Budget: Before applying for financing, make a budget. Ask the medical provider for a full written estimate, then figure out whether you can cover any of it with health insurance or cash savings. Borrowing only the amount you need may help you avoid debt and save on interest costs.
- Eligibility requirements: Lenders typically check that you can repay the loan per the agreed terms. They’ll do this by checking your credit history, income and other debt payment obligations. Remember that these credit checks may have a negative effect on your credit score.
Be sure to carefully weigh the pros and cons of plastic surgery financing. Plastic surgery can cost thousands of dollars. The expense should not be taken lightly.