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The United States has the most expensive healthcare system in the world, spending $8,047 per capita on public health, or 14% of our GDP. Much of that cost falls squarely on the shoulders of individual citizens. Even if you are insured, high deductibles and prescription costs can exhaust your savings very quickly.

One way to pay your outstanding medical bills is to put them on a credit card, but that option is not without risk. We’ll break that process down for you below, explaining what medical credit cards are best and how to choose the right medical cards for you.

The best credit cards for medical bills

The best cards for medical bills

Chase Freedom Unlimited — Best for flat-rate rewards

Chase Freedom Unlimited is a premium rewards card that offers an unlimited 1.5% cash back on purchases. You’ll get a sign up bonus of $200 when you spend $500 in purchases in the first three months. Not ready to spend your cash back right away? Luckily, your rewards won’t expire as long as you keep your account open. The card has an intro 0% APR rate for the first 15 months on purchases. After that, the standard variable APR is 14.99% to 23.74%. There is no annual fee.

Wells Fargo Platinum card — Best for 0% intro APR

Wells Fargo Platinum is a great deal for people who want to transfer their balance from a high interest loan. The card has an intro 0% APR rate for 18 months on purchases and qualifying balance transfers. After that, the rate converts to a standard variable APR rate of 15.49% to 24.99%. Keep in mind that the balance transfer fee is 3% for the first 120 days ($5 minimum) and then increases to 5% ($5 minimum). You also get up to $600 in cell phone protection with this credit card (a $25 deductible applies). There is no annual fee.

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express — Best for balance transfer of medical bills

Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express gives you 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets — up to $6,000 per year, with 1% thereafter — along with 2% at U.S. gas stations and select department stores and 1% on other purchases. You’ll earn a $150 bonus when you spend $1,000 in the first three months. There is an intro 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months after opening your account, and a standard variable APR is 12.99% to 23.99%. There is also a $5 or 3% balance transfer fee, whichever is greater. There is no annual fee.

The best way to choose a credit card for medical expenses

There are two schools of thought when it comes to choosing a card for medical expenses. The first is getting a card that’s dedicated to this medical expense and only this expense. If that’s going to be your strategy, it makes sense to go with the card that has the longest 0% intro rate and no annual fee. You’ll have to pay a balance transfer fee — most card issuers charge 3% of the total balance — and you may be able to transfer your medical debt directly from the provider. You won’t need any of the bells and whistles associated with a premium cash back or points card.

The other strategy is to use this as an opportunity to upgrade your card. This makes sense if you haven’t added a new credit card to your portfolio in a while. Whether you should choose a cash back or points card depends on how much you travel, since points have the highest value when you redeem them for airline trips and hotel stays. Keep in mind, though, that you won’t earn cash back or points on balance transfers.

The risks of paying for medical bills with a credit card

Paying for medical bills with your credit card is not without risk. For one thing, the provider will consider your debt settled, and you won’t be eligible for a long-term repayment plan — some of which may have more favorable terms than a credit card. The first thing you should always do when faced with a large medical bill is try to negotiate with the facility’s billing department. This is especially true if you don’t have the good-to-excellent credit score required to be approved for a credit card with an intro 0% APR.

Another thing to keep in mind is whether you can pay off your medical debt during the intro 0% APR period. Once the intro period phases out, you’re going to be left with a high interest balance. If you don’t think you can make a significant dent in the balance, it might be better to apply for a personal loan. The interest rate on a personal loan will be higher than the intro rate on a credit card, but still significantly lower than the standard variable rate of the average card.

How to choose the right credit card for medical bills for you

Choosing the right card for medical bills is not that different from choosing any new credit card. Your primary goal is to reduce interest payments so you can accelerate loan repayment. The card should be inexpensive to own — that is, it shouldn’t have an annual fee — and if you’re going to use it to make purchases, it ought to be a card that earns you rewards for things you buy every day. It should also be an option you pursue only after you’ve talked to the billing department at your hospital or medical facility, since you could be eligible for a reduced payment or a no-interest, long-term repayment plan.

Conclusion

If you use a credit card to pay your medical bills, make sure you have done the math and know exactly how much you need to pay each month to reduce your balance to zero before the intro 0% APR rate expires. Credit cards are revolving debt, which means no one is going to force you to pay more than the minimum each month. You will have to be disciplined to make sure you pay it off.

If you have the good-to-excellent credit needed to qualify for a card with an intro 0% APR rate, and you are able to make the payments needed to reduce your balance before the rate expires, it can make sense to put your medical bills on a credit card. However, it is not the right strategy for everyone.

Disclaimer: This content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuer. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuer, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This content was accurate at the time of this post, but card terms and conditions may change at any time. This site may be compensated through the credit card issuer Affiliate Program.

*Information regarding the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Wells Fargo Platinum card was prepared by NextAdvisor.com staff. Opinions expressed therein are solely those of the writer and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, presented on this page is accurate as of the date of the post.