Good dental health is essential to your overall well-being, but the cost of dental work — even after dental insurance — can make it challenging to pay upfront. According to the American Dental Association (ADA), the average cost of a porcelain or ceramic crown is $1,213, while the cost of a root canal can range as high as $1,539 for a single session.
Securing a dental credit card is one way to cover these costs in smaller, more manageable installment payments. Although a credit card for dental work can serve as a useful financing tool, it’s also important to be mindful of the caveats of using credit for dental care.
Recommended: When Are Credit Card Payments Due
What Is a Dental Credit Card?
A dental credit card is a medical credit card that’s specifically for your out-of-pocket dental health care costs. These cards are typically offered in dental offices that accept the particular medical card it advertises as a form of payment.
Like a basic credit card, a dental credit card requires patients to undergo a credit check for qualification. The card’s use is limited to dental offices within the card issuer’s network for the purpose of financing your dental bills.
Dental care credit cards typically have high interest rates, even if they offer a temporary deferred interest period.
Recommended: Tips for Using a Credit Card Responsibly
How Do Dental Credit Cards Work?
Your dental provider’s office might mention a dental credit card as a payment option if you’re unable to cover the expense in one lump sum. The office facilitates the process of completing your application for credit approval, but it is not financing the cost directly. In other words, your dental office isn’t the lender.
Instead, credit for dental care is provided by a third-party credit card issuer. Similar to how a conventional credit card works, your application is reviewed by the issuer’s underwriting team, and your credit history and score are evaluated.
If you’re approved, the card issuer will send you a physical credit card that you can use for services at an in-network health care office up to your approved credit card limit. Your dental provider is paid in full by the card issuer, and you’ll repay the issuer through monthly payments, plus interest if you carry a balance.
Recommended: What is the Average Credit Card Limit
Deferred Interest Periods on Dental Credit Cards
Some credit cards for dental work offer zero interest charges for a limited period, also called deferred interest. This option can be advantageous if you’re confident that you can successfully repay the full balance before the deferment period ends.
However, if there’s a remaining balance after the deferment period ends, interest charges that accrued throughout the deferment period are added to the principal balance that’s due. Additionally, the new higher balance continues to accrue interest charges at the dental credit card’s APR.
Because of this, use medical credit cards for dental work cautiously, as it’s a high-interest financing option that can lead to higher medical debt if you’re unable to repay your dental expenses quickly.
Recommended: What is a Charge Card
Choosing a Dental Credit Card
When applying for a credit card specifically for dental care expenses, make sure you ask about the card’s features, terms, annual percentage rate (APR), and how it calculates interest during and after any deferment period.
If you’re approved, ensure that your dental office provides you with a copy of your dental credit card’s disclosure agreement. Also pay attention to the agreed-upon amount for any dental services you receive so you can verify that the card was charged for the correct amount.
You’ll want to note the deferment dates for your card, if any, and the interest rate you’re offered. That way, you can make enough monthly payments to repay your balance in full before interest kicks in.
Paying for Dental Care If You Have Bad Credit
Getting approved for a dental care credit card might be challenging if you have bad credit. If you’re in a difficult position and need help paying for expensive dental work now, here are some options to explore:
• Inquire about a low-fee payment plan. Even if your dental provider doesn’t typically offer payment plans, it’s worth asking. This will likely be a better option than resorting to a secured credit card for payment, for instance, as these tend to have higher interest rates than unsecured credit cards.
• Shop around with other dental providers. Prices vary across dental offices, so compare costs across a handful of affordable sources. You might consider a non-profit dental clinic or a dentistry school.
• Seek help from a family member. Ask a relative if they’re willing to offer a low-interest loan for your dental care.
• Explore local government programs. Some state and local governments offer low-cost dental care programs to residents.
Alternatives to Dental Credit Cards
If a dental credit card isn’t an option for you, there are a handful of other financing options to cover dental work, such as the cost of a root canal.
Credit Cards With 0% Interest Rates
Other types of credit cards, like a 0% APR card, are a good alternative to dental care credit cards. They offer a promotional period — sometimes from six months to 18 months — during which you don’t incur interest charges.
This kind of card may differ from deferred interest programs. With some promotional APR cards, interest only starts accruing on your outstanding balance after the promotional period ends. Still, the credit card rule applies to try to pay off your balance in full before the promotional period ends to avoid paying interest.
Payment Plans Through Your Provider
Some medical providers offer a payment plan at no additional cost or at a small installment fee. In this situation, you’re arranging low installment payments directly through your dental office until you’ve repaid your balance in full.
Not all dental offices offer this type of payment plan. But if yours does, it can work with you to create a custom monthly payment amount and due date that’s manageable for your finances.
Compared to a dental credit card, personal loans might offer lower interest rates for qualified borrowers. A low-interest personal loan achieves the same result as a credit card for dental work in that you can chip away at your outstanding balance in small increments, plus interest.
The main difference is that you’ll receive a lump-sum loan disbursement from your lender that can be used to pay your dental office upfront.
Recommended: How to Avoid Interest On a Credit Card
Help From Relatives
Seeking financial assistance from a close relative can help you avoid dental care debt. When asking for help, clarify whether the funds are a gift or need to be repaid.
If it’s the latter, discuss the repayment window and additional interest (if any). Also talk about expectations if you’re suddenly unable to make payments due to an injury or job loss, for instance.
Recommended: Can You Buy Crypto With a Credit Card
Getting a credit card for dental work can be useful if you’re faced with an urgent oral treatment or procedure and need fast financing. However, the incredibly high interest rates of credit cards for dental work compared to other financing options can make it a financially risky option.
If you believe a credit card is the best way to pay for dental care, see if a rewards credit card — like the cash-back rewards credit card from SoFi — makes sense for you.
The SoFi Credit Card offers unlimited 2% cash back on all eligible purchases. There are no spending categories or reward caps to worry about.1
What credit score do I need to get a dental credit card?
Credit score requirements vary by credit card issuer, but generally, you’ll need at least fair credit. However, a higher score can help you qualify for more competitive interest rates.
Is a dental care credit card hard to get?
Dental care credit cards are commonly offered online or at your provider’s dental office, so applying for a card is typically straightforward. However, being approved for a dental credit card involves many factors, like your credit history, income, debt-to-income ratio, and other factors.
Should I pay for dental care with a credit card?
If you don’t have the cash flow to pay for your dental costs upfront, using a dental credit card helps you cover costs in small, monthly payments. That being said, doing so might cause you to incur high interest charges, so evaluate your financial situation and proceed with caution.
Can I get a dental loan with bad credit?
Dental loans for patients with bad credit are available, though they might come with high interest rates, low limits, or other restrictive factors.
Photo credit: iStock/zadveri
1Members earn 2 rewards points for every dollar spent on purchases. No points will be earned with respect to reversed transactions, returned purchases, or other similar transactions. When you elect to redeem rewards points as cash deposited into your SoFi Checking and Savings account, as a statement credit to a SoFi Credit Card account, as fractional shares into your SoFi Invest account, or as a payment toward your SoFi Personal Loan or Student Loan Refinance, your rewards points will redeem at a rate of 1 cent per point. For more details please visit the Rewards page. Brokerage and Active investing products offered through SoFi Securities LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. SoFi Securities LLC is an affiliate of SoFi Bank, N.A.
1See Rewards Details at SoFi.com/card/rewards.
Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.
The SoFi Credit Card is issued by SoFi Bank, N.A. pursuant to license by Mastercard® International Incorporated and can be used everywhere Mastercard is accepted. Mastercard is a registered trademark, and the circles design is a trademark of Mastercard International Incorporated.