Credit cards vs. third-party payment plans for veterinary care

Credit cards vs. third-party payment plans for veterinary care

More active credit market may prompt client questions.
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Feb 01, 2013
By dvm360.com staff

According to John Ulzheimer, president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com, the credit market may be starting to rev up again in 2013.

"Some people will start getting credit card offers in the mail who haven't gotten them in past few years," Ulzheimer recently told Reuters, as published in the Boston Globe. "The credit card issuers will go deeper into the FICO pool when it comes to prospecting, so people with credit scores around 600 to 680 will have access to credit again."

This means more veterinary clients may be asking questions about third-party payment providers who offer financing for healthcare needs, including veterinary care—and how they differ from regular credit cards. The main difference between regular credit cards and third-party payment plans is how they're set up for repayment, says Nancy Potter, practice manager of Olathe Animal Hospital in Olathe, Kan. Most third-party payment plans offer interest-free financing if the borrower pays off the bill within a set time period, say, six months or a year.

"They do require a minimum payment each month, and if clients miss a payment, they might accrue a hefty interest charge, depending on the plan," Potter says. "But if clients are diligent about making their payments in a timely manner, it can be a good tool."

The approval rate for third-party plans is often higher than most cards, Potter says, and veterinary team members can find out immediately whether the client is approved and for how much. If a client doesn't receive approval, they're likely a poor credit risk. Potter says some third-party plans charge the clinic a higher fee. But most practitioners appreciate the service because it provides the needed treatment to those pet owners who have no other options for payment.