For people with a warm spot in their hearts for their pets, it’s easy to see how costs can soar: When your pet needs care or gets sick, there’s nothing you want more than to find a cure. Just when you think your finances are in flawlessly logical order, one look at your sick beloved pet’s big mournful eyes could have you stepping up to a new series of debts. But should you put the vet bill on your credit card?
“I would advise that credit can be a necessary and even useful tool in this event, but it’s important not to simply choose that option without careful consideration of the consequences,” Financial Wellness Expert Amanda Clayman said in an email.
It’s important to read the fine print of any credit card you are considering getting (or using) so you understand how much the vet bill may cost you in the long run, should you have to carry a balance. Certain credit cards can be used for veterinary or health care bills specifically, and they often offer delayed financing or an introductory annual percentage rate (APR).
But if you use one, it’s best to pay the charges off in full by the end of the introductory period or the bill’s balance and interest may be backdated to the date of the event.
“Those products often defer interest for a certain period, but if they’re not fully paid off in that time frame then all of the applicable interest is added to the account,” Clayman said.
There are also general-purpose credit cards that offer introductory purchase or balance-transfer APRs that could potentially curb costs, but you’ll want to read all the fine print associated with those, too, before taking up the offer.
Understandably, when you’re emotionally overwhelmed by the thought of trying to keep a furry family member alive and well, it may be difficult to remain financially logical. But, before you place your vet debts on your credit card, try these tips to remain in financial control.
1. Gather Information
“Make an outlined list of everything the vet has told you may be involved: the costs of various procedures, medications, and post-treatment care. Include the prognosis for each treatment option,” said Clayman.
2. Review Your Budget
Once you have an idea of total expenses, take a deep dive into your current finances.
“Go over your budget and find extras you can trim, or activities you can cut back on. If you usually take a trip over the holidays but now your pet’s health would prevent that, consider it money that can be put toward medical care. You might also raise money through a yard sale or setting up a donations page,” Clayman said,
3. Look at Your Emergency Fund
Just be careful that you don’t leave yourself unprepared for other events that may come up. It’s a good idea to try to minimize the amount of debt you potentially take on. However, consider talking to a financial adviser before raiding your retirement account, Clayman said.
4. Talk to the Vet
Once your clear about your own financial picture, find out if you can negotiate a reduced fee or payment plan.
5. Let Your Emotions Out
Bottling stress and worry can lead to irrational action. Instead, “treat your feelings directly by making space for them,” Clayman said. “Be compassionate with yourself, connect with friends and loved ones, and allow yourself to worry and feel sad without needing to tie it to a decision or activity.”
Remember. when you first get a pet, it’s prudent to consider all the associated expenses and budget for care in order to stay out of debt. Too much debt can affect your credit score, and keep you from qualifying for credit lines or upping your credit card limit if you’re ever in a pet emergency and choose to go that route. You can see where your credit currently stands by viewing your credit report card, updated every two weeks on Credit.com.