Is Pet Insurance or Pet Care Financing the Better Choice?

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In 2012, the AVMA reported that the average pet owning household had spent up to $400 dollars a year on medical care for their pets. That number has been growing, as has the medical options available for our animal companions. Many veterinary clinics offer in house imaging techniques, holistic and homeopathic care, physical rehabilitation, and many other medical innovations that can extend the life of our pets. 

But even if you only opt for the usual check-ups and yearly vaccinations, accidents and unforeseen illness can happen. Pet medical bills aren’t cheap. A routine dental cleaning or treatment for cancer can range into the hundreds to thousands of dollars, money that most of us just don’t have on hand. So what can you do if you can’t afford to help your best friend when he needs it most?

Pet insurance and financing options have heard the call of pet owners everywhere, and offer many types of policies and payment structures to ensure that your pet gets the medical care he deserves. For those of you who aren’t sure what is the right option for your needs, here is a breakdown of the pros and cons of pet insurance and pet care financing in the form of credit cards to help you make a more informed decision.

Pet Insurance

Pet insurance comes in varying degrees of coverage that can sometimes be customized to suit your pet’s needs. Looking at the details of a policy can help you to determine if it is the right fit for you. Policies are begun before any medical need occurs and are there for the what-ifs, so if you are in the vet office with a huge bill in your hand, and you didn’t already have a policy, it would be too late to be covered for those charges. 

Pros

  • Most policies can pay out 70% to 90% of veterinary costs
  • Can help to pay for accidents, diseases and illness
  • Different levels of coverage can cover routine maintenance and check-ups, dental treatments, chronic, hereditary and congenital conditions
  • Once enrolled, policies cover your pet for the duration of their lives
  • Varying policies allow you to budget for pet care by giving you the choice to pay annually, semi-annually, or monthly
  • Offers lower premiums the younger you enroll your animals
  • Many policies allow you to choose your deductible, annual payoff amounts and percentage of expenses covered, which can possibly lower your payments
  • Gives peace of mind to owners that large expenses incurred by illness or accidents will be covered 

Cons

  • Premiums can be increased due to the age and breed of your pet, such as older pets and breeds with common hereditary issues
  • Many policies have a cut off age for older pets when they can no longer begin a new policy
  • All policies have exclusions that will not be covered, including pre-existing conditions, chronic, hereditary and congenital conditions, and routine, preventative, and dental care
  • Annual payoff amount caps are common on most insurance policies
  • You will need to pay your deductible amount before your insurance begins to cover costs

Pet Financing Through Credit Cards

Pet financing was once available through many veterinary clinics, but nowadays, clinics that offer repayment plans are few and far between. Credit cards can be a wonderful solution to pet care costs, and new cards specifically for pets in mind have recently begun to fulfill pet owner’s needs. Cards can be started before any medical need arises, much like insurance policies, but can also be applied for the moment care is needed. Many pet care credit cards can be given right in the veterinary office for care that is needed at a moment’s notice. 

Pros

  • Immediate payment for veterinary services
  • Covers any and all care and treatments, even those not covered by pet insurance, including routine check-ups, diagnostics and treatments for pre-existing, chronic, and hereditary conditions, cosmetic and elective surgery, and medical supplies
  • Some credit cards are accepted at 99% of vet clinics
  • Cards set up specifically for veterinary purposes can offer a decision in minutes
  • Some cards allow you to customize your repayment terms 
  • Many cards allow you to finance up to $10,000
  • Several cards offer 0% interest, or offer a time period where no interest is accrued before the balance is paid off
  • Some cards can also finance purchasing a new pet or pet supplies
  • Allows you to repay in monthly payments

Cons

  • Credit cards can come with high interest rates, special terms, and fees which can vary from card to card
  • You are responsible for the entire balance of veterinary services, and will need to pay it in full
  • Monthly balances that are not paid on time or in full, or entire balances not paid within a specified time frame, may be charged added interest or fees
  • Late payments or an inability to pay can affect your credit report
  • Your credit limit is based on your credit history, which may influence your ability to charge the full amount of veterinary services 
  • Some cards are only accepted at 50% of veterinary clinics, so be sure your veterinarian is one of them

For today’s pet owners, the ability to pay for costly veterinary services can be a phone call away. Pet insurance can pay a considerable cost of conditions that qualify, so long as you thought ahead to insure your pet before the care was needed. A pet specific credit card can cover all expenses, without exclusions, at a moment’s notice, but will not absorb any of the cost. Make a list of what you need in a financing solution, and use these pros and cons to help you decide what the best choice is for both your pet care needs and your bank account.