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Ask Creditnet: Using Credit Cards to Finance Medical Expenses

Dear Creditnet: I want to get eye surgery, but I was told I need to have a credit card to be able to set up a payment plan. Unfortunately, I'm already in debt, have bad credit, and I can't seem to get approved for any credit cards right now. I do have a stable job, but $7,000 is too much to pay in one lump sum. I really need to get this surgery. Is there any credit card that will approve me?


Answer: Do you "want" to get this surgery, or do you "need" it?

You used both words in your question, but there's a very important distinction we need to make between the two. If you simply "want" the surgery, but you don't have the money saved up, you shouldn't even be thinking about getting a credit card to finance the procedure. Postpone it until you've saved enough cash to cover the entire cost.

Then, if you want to charge it to a credit card, that's fine. You can rack up the points and pay off your balance in full when the statement closes. Now, if you "need" the surgery right now for medical reasons, that's a whole different situation.

Since you have "bad credit", which means your FICO credit scores probably fall below 600, you're not going to find any credit issuer that will approve you for a new card with a $7,000 credit limit. I wish I had better news for you.

There are certainly credit issuers that offer credit cards for people with bad credit, but your credit limit would be quite low even if you were approved. It wouldn't be anywhere close to what you would need to finance a $7,000 surgery. If this surgery is medically necessary right now, my recommendation would be to speak with the medical provider and discuss a payment plan that can be set up directly through them. I don't know who told you a credit card would be required to set up such a payment plan, but that's not the case. In fact, many medical providers will offer payment plans at a discounted price and decent interest rates to "cash" customers.  You just need to ask.

In the meantime, I would look into using secured credit cards to start rebuilding your credit scores. After using a secured credit card responsibly for 6-12 months, you should then be able to upgrade through your credit issuer to an "unsecured" credit card with better rewards, lower interest rates, and no annual fee.

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Joshua Heckathorn's picture

Joshua Heckathorn is a credit expert and has been featured on CNNMoney, FOX Business, Yahoo Finance, The Street, and many other national publications during the past twenty years.  He received a Bachelor of Science in Management (Finance) from Brigham Young University's Marriott School of Business and earned his MBA from Seattle University.

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