Best credit cards for medical bills

Medical bills can be scary, but the right credit card can help. CardRatings editors reveal the best credit cards for medical expenses to help take some of the pain out of your next doctor's visit.
Best credit cards of 2022
author Brooklyn Lowery
Terms apply; see the online credit card application for full terms and conditions of offers and rewards. Please note: Any balance transfer savings vary depending upon account usage and payment behavior.
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Though it could be a great option for some, using credit cards to pay medical expenses might not the best choice for everyone. If you can pay the entire bill up front in cash, some medical facilities will offer some type of "cash discount." Others might be willing to work with you on a zero-interest payment plan. If you can't pay your credit card statement in full by the time its due, or before a 0% intro APR period expires, any rewards you might have earned from paying a medical expense will likely be canceled out by credit card interest charges. Do the research. Ask the questions. And evaluate your options to make the best decision for you.

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CardName discontinued    Winner

EditorRating
 
foreign_fee AnnualFees
Why We Like It: Medical bills aren't fun to pay, but earning 1.5% cash back on that payment will help ease the pain. Plus, 0% intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers will help give you some extra time to pay off any outstanding bills. (After the intro period, regular RegAPR will apply).
Welcome Bonus
Up to $300 Earn 1.5% more cash back o all your purchases, up to $20,000 in the first year, for a total of up to $300 cash back
Annual Fee
AnnualFees
Intro 0% APR
15 months 0% intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months, then RegAPR; balance transfer fee applies: BalanceTransferFees
Credit Score
CreditScoreNeeded

Bonus: Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back.

0% Intro APR: 15 months of no interest on purchases and balance transfers (then, RegAPR

Rewards Rate: Earn 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase, 3% back at restaurants, 3% back at drugstores and 1.5% back on all your other eligible purchases. All these rewards are in the form of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed for straight cash back or a variety of other products and services including gift cards and travel.

Balance Transfer Fee: BalanceTransferFees

Annual Fee: AnnualFees

PROS:

  • You can earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy on up to $20,000 spent in the first year.
  • The cash-back rewards program is lucrative, which is nice when paying medical bills. You can earn at least 1.5% cash back on all purchases. For example, you'd earn $75 when you use the card to pay a $5,000 medical bill.
  • No annual fees

CONS:

  • The rewards categories are awesome, but they're complicated. Be prepared to keep up with a lot of categories to truly maximize your rewards.
  • The introductory period is solid, but there are cards with longer offers if you think you might need more time to pay off new purchases or balance transfers.

Read our full CardName.

Current Scores Past Scores (avg.)
Overall Score 83.4 84.5
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.3 8.4
Customer Service 8.4 8.6
Website/App Usability 8.3 8.4
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.3 9.0
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.0 8.1

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

CardName discontinued    Winner

EditorRating
 
foreign_fee AnnualFees
Why We Like It: This is a good card for those who want to choose where they earn bonus rewards. Cardholders can earn 3% cash back on either gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug store, or home improvement purchases; 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs up to $2,500 (you'll earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchase each quarter, then 1%); and 1% on all other purchases.
Welcome Bonus
$200 Earn a $200 online cash rewards bonus after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
Annual Fee
AnnualFees
Intro 0% APR
18 billing cycles 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on purchases and on any balance transfers made in the first 60 days, then RegAPR; balance transfer fee applies: BalanceTransferFees
Credit Score
CreditScoreNeeded

Bonus: Earn a $200 online cash rewards bonus after you make at least $1,000 in purchases in the first 90 days of account opening.

0% Intro APR: 18 billing cycles on purchases and on any balance transfers made within the first 60 days (then, RegAPR)

Rewards Rate: Earn 3% cash back on either gas, online shopping, dining, travel, drug store, or home improvement purchases; 2% back at grocery stores and wholesale clubs up to $2,500 (you'll earn 3% and 2% cash back on the first $2,500 in combined choice category/grocery store/wholesale club purchase each quarter, then 1%); and 1% on all other purchases.

Balance Transfer Fee: BalanceTransferFees

Annual Fee: AnnualFees

PROS:

  • You earn a sign-up bonus of $200 online cash back when you spend $1,000 within the first 90 days after opening an account.
  • No annual fee.
  • You can earn up to 3% on purchases in a category of your choosing each month, and you can earn 2% cash back on "everyday" expenses like gas and food. This can come in handy for peripheral expenses associated with a family member's medical care.
  • If you’re a Bank of America Premier Rewards member you could earn up to 25%-75% more cash back on every purchase made. That means the 3% choice category rewards could be worth as much as 5.25% and the 2% categories could be worth as much as 3.5% back!

CONS:

  • The 3% cash back is great but none of the available categories covers medical expenses. That means you earn just 1% cash back on your medical expenses directly with doctors and providers, BUT if you're buying items online to support your convalescence (or you're just online shopping while you heal up) this card's 3% back in online shopping could be quite lucrative.
  • You can only adjust your 3% cash-back earning category once per calendar month. If an unexpected expense comes up in a different category after you've already made your choice, you're out of luck until the following month rolls around.

Read our full CardName.

Current Scores Past Scores (avg.)
Overall Score 83.4 84.5
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.3 8.4
Customer Service 8.4 8.6
Website/App Usability 8.3 8.4
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.3 9.0
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.0 8.1

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

CardName discontinued    Winner

EditorRating
 
foreign_fee AnnualFees
Why We Like It: This card earns unlimited 1.5 points on every purchase made, so whether you're buying groceries or paying medical bills, you're getting rewarded for it. Furthermore, there's a solid intro 0% APR period (rare among travel rewards cards) AND you can redeem your points to cover restaurant purchases, including takeout and delivery, charged to your card. That means even if you're convalescing at home, you can redeem rewards to cover meals brought to you.
Welcome Bonus
25,000 points Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days
Annual Fee
AnnualFees
Intro 0% APR
18 billing cycles 0% intro APR for 18 billing cycles on purchases and for any balance transfers made in the first 60 days (then, RegAPR; balance transfer fee applies: BalanceTransferFees
Credit Score
CreditScoreNeeded

Bonus: Earn 25,000 online bonus points after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days. Redeem those points for $250 worth of travel or dining purchases

Intro 0% APR 18 billing cycles on purchases and on any balance transfers made within the first 60 days (then, RegAPR).

Rewards Rate: Earn unlimited 1.5 points per $1 on all purchases made.

Balance Transfer Fee: BalanceTransferFees

Annual Fee: AnnualFees

PROS:

  • This card offers an easily-attainable welcome bonus, especially if you plan to use credit cards for medical expenses. You can earn 25,000 online bonus points – worth $250 in travel ‐ after you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days from account opening.
  • Even if you aren't currently traveling much, your rewards can still be put to use by redeeming them to cover your dining purchases. Then, when you do travel again, use the points to offset your food purchases accrued while traveling.
  • The intro 0% APR offer is a rarity among travel rewards cards.

CONS:

  • While the rewards program is simple, it isn't the most lucrative. If you're primary goal is racking up travel rewards, there could be a better option for you.

Read our full CardName.

Current Scores Past Scores (avg.)
Overall Score 74.0 85.1
Rewards Program Satisfaction 7.2 8.4
Customer Service 7.5 8.5
Website/App Usability 7.8 8.4
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 7.8 8.8
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 7.4 8.6

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

CardName discontinued    Winner

EditorRating
 
foreign_fee AnnualFees
Why We Like It: This no-annual-fee card has one of the longest introductory 0% APR periods on the market for balance transfers. If you need some extra time to pay off medical expenses, this card should definitely be worth your consideration.
Intro 0% APR
21 months on balance transfers; 12 months on purchases 0% intro APR on purchases for 12 months and balance transfers for 21 months. Transfers must be completed within the first four months; BalanceTransferFees
Regular APR
RegAPR
Annual Fee
AnnualFees
Credit Score
CreditScoreNeeded

Bonus: There is no traditional rewards bonus, but the intro APR periods are bonuses in and of themselves. New cardholders can enjoy 0% intro APR for a whopping 21 months on balance transfers (from the date of first transfer - all transfers must be complete within four months), and 12 months on new purchases. After the promotional periods, regular RegAPR APR applies.

Rewards Rate: This isn't a rewards card, so no traditional rewards are earned on purchases. The big reward with this card is the generous 0% intro APR periods, which should help take the pain out of paying off some medical expenses.

Balance transfer fee: BalanceTransferFees

Annual Fee: AnnualFees

PROS:

  • The 0% intro APR period on balance transfers is one of the longest we've seen. This can add up to a huge savings if you are using credit cards for your medical bills.
  • This card has no annual fee.
  • If you have excellent credit, the standard interest rate of RegAPR APR can be very competitive.

CONS:

  • You need excellent credit to be approved for this card.
  • This card has no rewards program, so if cash back or accruing miles is important to you, you might want to look elsewhere.

Read our full CardName.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 73.0 80.5
Features Satisfaction 7.2 7.9
Customer Service 7.3 8.4
Website/App Usability 7.4 8.4
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 7.8 8.8
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 7.2 7.5

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

CardName discontinued    Winner

EditorRating
 
foreign_fee AnnualFees
Why We Like It: If you have a fair/average credit score and are working hard to improve, taking on additional medical debt can feel like quite the blow. Still, if you have the right credit card – and can pay off that debt quickly – earning rewards on the amount you owe could soften that blow. Remember, though, that this card does NOT offer an intro 0% APR, so if you need more than one billing period to pay off your bill, you're better bet will be to establish a payment plan with your doctor or medical provider so you can avoid interest charges.
Rewards
1.5% cash back Earn 1.5% cash back on all your eligible purchases
Annual Fee
AnnualFees
Regular APR
RegAPR
Credit Score
CreditScoreNeeded

Bonus: There's no traditional bonus available on this card.

Rewards: Earn 1.5% cash back on all your purchases.

Annual Fee: AnnualFees

PROS:

  • Earning 1.5% cash back is a solid rewards rate, especially on a card available to people with fair/average credit.
  • There aren't any foreign transaction fees to worry about, so you can shop in foreign currency or use this card while traveling abroad and not incur additional fees.

CONS:

  • The annual fee is minimal, but still important to consider.
  • There isn't a 0% intro APR period, nor a traditional bonus offer, so this card's value really is just in the ongoing rewards.

Read our full CardName.

Current Scores Past Scores
Overall Score 84.0 86.6
Rewards Program Satisfaction 8.4 8.3
Customer Service 8.4 8.7
Website/App Usability 8.4 8.9
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.4 9.3
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.4 8.9

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

 

Keep in mind

For this card and the one below for people in the new/rebuilding credit score tier, a credit card is unlikely to be your best option for carrying medical debt. If you need to make medical-related purchases or just want a card to use while you convalesce, that's fine. But taking on credit card debt while you're attempting to improve your credit to the good/excellent range isn't recommended. Instead, talk with your provider and work out a payment plan that won't charge you interest. Remember, too, that medical debt doesn't affect your credit score the same way that credit card debt does, so you have a little more protection in that regard. As soon as you put your medical debt on a credit card, though, it becomes credit card debt and loses that "medical debt" status.

CardName discontinued    Winner

EditorRating
 
foreign_fee AnnualFees
Why We Like It: If you're in a new-to-credit or rebuilding credit stage of life, having medical debt can be especially devastating. That said, if you're able to pay off your debt in full, earning some rewards and showing responsible use of a secured credit card could be just what you need. This secured card offers a nice bonus offer as well as ongoing rewards, both of which aren't common among cards for this credit tier.
Welcome Bonus
Cashback Match At the end of your first year, Discover will match all the cash back you earned during your first year as a cardholder
Annual Fee
AnnualFees
Regular APR
RegAPR
Credit Score
CreditScoreNeeded

PROS:

  • No annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.
  • The rewards system is easy to use and easy to understand.
  • The match offer has potential to pay off huge.

CONS:

  • As a secured card, you're line of credit will be equal to the security deposit you put down (at least $200). That means it likely won't be terribly high and maxing out a card to pay off medical expenses isn't a good look for your credit report.
  • While the match offer has potential to pay off huge, it's not the most lucrative offer for those looking for instant gratification.

Read our full CardName.

Current Scores Past Scores (avg.)
Overall Score 81.6 82.8
Features Satisfaction 7.9 8.2
Customer Service 8.2 8.3
Website/App Usability 8.3 8.3
Likelihood of Continuing to Use 8.8 8.7
Recommend to a Friend/Colleague 8.3 8.2

*Scores above reflect the results of surveys with actual cardholders. Full methodology below.

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FAQ

When it comes to paying medical bills, each institution likely has there own policies, but there are some common options that could be available depending on your situation.

Some facilities will offer a discount if you choose to pay your bill all at once by cash or check. This can be a substantial savings if you are in a position to do it.

More commonly, many facilities have a credit department and are willing to work with a patient (or their family) on a payment plan. Often, this will be a zero-interest program. It might require setting up a monthly "electronic check" payment that will take the money directly out of your checking account each month.

Credit cards are also an option. Nearly all medical facilities accept multiple types of credit cards, with Visa and Mastercard the most widely accepted. If you use the right card and budget properly, you can pay off that bill without building up interest charges.

It depends on a lot of factors. Credit cards can offer some extra time to pay off medical expenses, or earn you rewards on payments, but it's important to remember that unpaid credit card bills have repercussions, too.

Medical facilities should be able to work with you by offering payment plans or discounts, which are things credit card issuers don't generally do. With that said though, with responsible use and planning, using a credit card to pay for medical expenses can sometimes be a good option to consider. This is particularly true for credit cards offering a 0% intro APR period, either on new purchases or balance transfers, as these cards give users extra time to pay off balances interest free and could potentially allow you to earn valuable rewards on your hefty medical bill.

Just remember, once these promotional periods expire, regular rates will apply, so it's important to pay off, or at least pay down as much as possible, your balances before that happens. Furthermore, don't get sucked into the trap of paying a bill your can't afford all at once on your credit card just to earn rewards. The rewards won't offset the interest you'll pay on that balance. If you need time to pay off a bill, and your card doesn't offer a 0% APR period, you're likely better off paying your bill on a payment plan through your medical provider.

A few of the risks include: increased credit utilization, possible interest payments, cash flow issues and situations of overpayment. We'll break these down below:

The credit utilization ratio danger 

If the medical bill is massive, you could quickly overwhelm your credit utilization ratio. As you may or may not know, a credit utilization ratio is the term that describes how much credit is available to you in relation to how much you're using, and it's a significant factor affecting your credit score.

So let's say you have a credit card limit of $1,000. The algorithms that come up with your credit score would prefer you borrow no more than $300 or 30%. Lenders tend to think that if somebody is borrowing no more than 30% of their available credit, they're pretty responsible. If you have a $900 bill due to a twisted ankle that took you to the emergency room, and your insurance didn't cover all of it, suddenly those algorithms are going to say, "This chucklehead just spent $900 on a card with a $1,000 credit limit. Let's drop the credit score a bit."

Never mind that you are a very responsible credit card user who just had the bad luck to step on a skateboard your kid left in the middle of the hallway.

Now, keep in mind that credit scores are a long game, so if this is a once-in-blue-moon kind of thing, your score may drop for a moment, but should quickly recover as long as you are otherwise responsible with your debt and do get it paid off.

The interest rate hazard 

There's also the interest rate you need to think about. If you can't pay that $900 any time soon, that $900 bill is going to actually be higher - so maybe you end up paying $970 or $1,042 or whatever, depending on how many months it takes you to pay it off. In particular, if you fall victim to only making the "minimum payment due" on your credit card statement, you could end up paying a LOT more than that $900 bill. Take a look at this credit card interest calculator to see how fast interest adds up.

The cash flow trap

Another thing to consider is that if you max out a credit card with a big medical bill, you may not be able to rely on your credit card for an emergency. 

It isn't ideal to use credit cards as an emergency fund, obviously, but it is nice to have for a, you know, emergency. If you've maxed out that card for a medical bill, you'll be out of luck in that situation. The best case scenario is to have a solid emergency fund built up, but having a credit card available for a quick payment in an emergency is also a nice option to have.

The "I'm over paying my medical bills" threat 

Another thing to consider. Sometimes hospitals or doctors' practices overcharge - and then later, after the insurers get involved, and the dust settles, it turns out that you don't owe as much. So even if you do plan on paying a medical bill with your credit card, you may want to try and hold off for awhile, rather than paying it at the hospital or doctor's office. The bill may later be smaller. 

In these situations, you'll eventually receive a refund of what you've overpaid, but that will likely come in the form of a check rather than a direct refund to your credit card. And, if you've already paid interest on the charges you put on the credit card, that refund certainly won't cover that.  

Another thing to consider - hospitals and doctors' offices often allow patients to do a payment plan, so you could pay them back, interest-free, over a number of months and keep your available credit available for things you actually want to buy.

None of this is to say that you shouldn't use a credit card for medical bills, but if that's your plan, and if you think you have any hospital or major doctor's visits coming up that you're aware of and believe you'll get socked by a large bill, you might want to consider applying for a new credit card that has an introductory 0% APR offer for, say, 12 or 18 months. If you could put a $900 bill, or a $2,000 bill or some other insanely high medical bill on a card with an interest-free introductory period, that would help you pay off the bill more slowly without high interest charges.

You also might want to use a credit card that offers cash back when you pay off a medical bill. If you're going to pay for something unpleasant or mundane like lab work at a doctor's office, you might as well get some cash back or other rewards (assuming you have an intro 0% period to work with or can pay off the full balance right away; otherwise, the rewards won't be worth as much as the interest you'll pay and you're better off considering a payment plan through your medical provider).

There isn't one solitary credit card that's necessarily the best for medical bills, but some are better than others, of course.

You may want to look into a credit card that …

  • Offers a lengthy introductory 0% APR offer. Especially if it's 12 to 18 months. Then you have some decent time to try and get the debt paid off, without it being made more expensive by interest. Even better if it's a rewards card through which you can rack up rewards AND avoid paying interest for a time.
  • Offers cash back. If you're going to shell out $2,000 because your insurance wouldn't pay for your entire operation, well, at least it would be nice if you received cash back in the process. Granted, 1% of $2,000 is only $20, and so you haven't really beaten the system, but it's better than nothing. Again, though, if you're paying interest on the bill, the rewards won't be worth it.
  • Offers generous travel rewards. Why? Well, you've heard of medical tourism, right? Maybe you should have some big healthcare procedure done in another country, if you can get past the red tape. Or get your healthcare issues taken care of and then reward yourself with a vacation somewhere. You'll have earned it.

If you've made the decision to use a credit card for medical expenses, you need to evaluate which card best suites your personal needs.

If you are planning to use the card only to pay off the medical bills and then tuck it into a drawer until the next emergency, look for a card that has no annual fee and one with an excellent 0% introductory offer. The longer the better, to give you as much time as possible to pay off that bill. Some type of cash-back rewards program would be a nice bonus.

On the other hand, you might decide to keep the card for regular use, and if that's the case, you'll want to take additional factors into consideration. You will want to look at the standard interest rate that will kick in after any introductory periods expire, as well as take a look at any rewards program that may be available. Do you prefer cash back or are you one who likes to accumulate points or miles to redeem for travel or merchandise? Consider whether the card has a points/miles plan, is easy to understand, and decide if it fits your spending habits so you can best take advantage of the perks available.

Read the fine print and take a look at the fees. Beyond the annual fee, a card might have a balance transfer fee, a cash advance fee, a late payment fee and a foreign transaction fee, to name a few. Some cards also have a penalty interest rate that kicks in if you are late on your payments.

Before applying for any card, know your credit score. If you have only a fair credit rating, it's not worth your time (and can even be harmful) to apply for a card that requires good to excellent credit for approval.

In short, do your homework. Credit cards can be valuable tools when used right, but rash decisions have the potential to harm your financial stability.

WHAT IS A MEDICAL CREDIT CARD?

A medical credit card is usually thought of as a credit card solely designed for medical purposes. That is, they are marketed to hospitals and doctors' offices and sometimes even veterinarians as a way to pay for patient care.

Usually, there is a period of time, maybe as much as 18 months, and maybe as little as six months, where you can make your payments - and if you pay it all off in the allotted time, you won't have to pay any interest.

Maybe. For some patients, it's a godsend, no doubt it. The problem is when things don't work out as planned. The deferred interest rate that these medical credit cards generally offer are a little like a ticking time bomb.

What do we mean? Well, let's say you have gallbladder surgery, and your insurance doesn't pay for it all, and so you're stuck with, say, a $5,000 bill. You pay it with a medical credit card, and you pay it all off in the 0% APR interest-free window that they've given you. Then you paid off your healthcare bill with no interest. Good for you.

But if you don't get the entire $5,000 paid off within the 6, 12 or 18 months you were given? You only paid off, say, $4,900? You have to pay interest retroactively on the entire $5,000 you borrowed.

That's not the case with a conventional credit card that offers a 0% APR introductory period. If you fail to pay off the entire amount and wind up with $100 still remaining on your credit card, you'll only pay interest on the remaining $100.

So that's something to consider. Also, if you manage to pay a medical bill with a credit card that has a 0% APR introductory period - and offers some cash back, you're going to make out even better. So using a medical credit card is far better than not getting a medical procedure done or doing something like taking out a high-interest loan at a payday loan store. But there are arguably better ways to pay for gallbladder surgery.

In most cases, though, if you're just looking for a way to pay off your procedure or bill over time without paying interest and you don't have a traditional credit card with a 0% offer, your best option will simply be to work with your provider to establish a payment plan directly.

Disclaimer:

The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

This content is not provided by any company mentioned in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any such company. CardRatings.com does not review every company or every offer available on the market.

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