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Should you take out a personal loan or charge the expenses to a credit card when formulating a financing plan for dental work?
One option is not better than the other (except for a flexible spending account). Instead, the two alternatives have unique pros and cons – and sometimes using both makes the most sense.
Review the advantages and drawbacks of dental loans versus credit cards and choose the combination that best fits your situation and needs.
- Expensive one-time procedures, or;
- Ongoing needs for lower-cost oral care
- Fixed installments that zero out the obligation, or;
- Flexible payments that allow debt to snowball
Loans for Dental Work
Taking out a personal loan to finance dental care works best when you have a costly one-time procedure, and you want to avoid long-term debt that hampers your lifestyle for years to come.
Review the many advantages of unsecured personal and FSA-based loans.
Request a personal loan (Affiliate Link) to fund more expensive dental procedures you know must be done only once. The fixed monthly installments ensure that you retire the obligation within a pre-determined time.
Many finance companies will approve amounts up to $50,000 or more for the most qualified borrowers: high FICO or Vantage scores and sufficient income to handle the projected monthly payments comfortably.
Personal loans feature fixed installment payments that retire 100% of the obligation over a pre-defined term: typically from one to three years. The rigid structure forces you to stay on schedule so that you are debt-free at the end of the set period.
Paying for dental work with monthly installments improves your credit score over time. For example, your utilization ratio begins at 100% and steadily progresses to 0% at the end – provided you pay on time and according to term.
Personal loans are best for singular dental treatments that are more expensive because of the significant amounts you can borrow. Plus, you do not want to repeat the approval process each time you need work done in your mouth.
Here are some examples of high-end one-time procedures that fit well.
- Dental implants to replace missing teeth permanently
- Orthognathic surgery to correct jaw alignment issues
- Orthodontic braces to straighten crooked teeth
- Porcelain veneers to cover discolored or chipped teeth
- Premium dentures that have a precise fit and color
Using your employer’s Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is the ideal loan for dental work if you have access through your job, and you can delay the start date for pricey procedures. Patients can obtain financing with a below-zero interest rate with guaranteed approval – regardless of borrowing qualifications!
An FSA dental loan includes guaranteed approval under IRS guidelines. If your employer offers the benefit to any employees, the IRS requires that they allow all co-workers the choice to participate to avoid discrimination.
People with bad credit automatically qualify because the IRS rules do not allow employers to perform a credit check – even though they could lose money if you quit your job later on.
An FSA dental loan is not only interest-free, but it also saves you money as well. Choose to make pre-tax payroll contributions into the account during the annual open enrollment. An individual can choose to divert up to $2,750 annually, which can equate to $5,550 each year for a household (both spouses).
Schedule the oral care procedure early in the FSA plan year (January in many cases). Your employer must reimburse a qualifying expense immediately – even before you begin making contributions.
You then have up to 52 weeks to repay your employer with discounted dollars.
- Interest-free: your employer cannot charge fees
- Money-saving: you reduce taxes owed to the government
- Federal income
- State income
- FICA taxes up to 7.65%
Credit Cards for Dental Work
Financing dental procedures with a credit card works best for ongoing routine treatments as well as emergency needs – if you have open to buy. However, patients will need to exercise strict discipline to avoid snowballing into debt.
Review the benefits and pitfalls associated with credit cards before charging oral care to your account.
Credit cards work best for routine dental expenses because you can swipe the plastic at the end of each appointment without seeking permission from the bank – provided you have sufficient open-to-buy. The open-to-buy is the account limit minus the current balance.
Credit cards also work better with lower-cost procedures because the account limits are small compared to a personal loan. The account limit is the maximum balance you can carry at any point.
Here are some examples of lower-price routine procedures that fit this financing option.
- Scheduled exams and preventive services
- Periodic cleanings (prophylaxis)
- Fillings to address tooth decay (caries)
- Tooth extractions
- Root canals to remove dead tooth pulp
- Simple oral surgery for wisdom teeth
- Periodontal gum procedures
The elastic payments associated with dental credit cards are both a blessing and a curse. You can make the minimum payment (revolve) or retire the entire balance (transact) each month – and everything in between.
- Transactors do not pay any interest when they retire the balance in full each month and have the greatest open-to-buy at the beginning of each billing cycle
- Revolvers incur hefty interest charges after they fail to pay off the entire balance in any month, and have the lowest open-to-buy throughout the billing cycle
Debt spirals are the danger of any revolving account. Life happens. Many patients get in over their heads when an emergency creates a financial crisis. The ever-growing balances only make the situation worse and impossible to escape.
Credit cards just for dental care often offer a promotional zero or reduced interest rate. Members have 6 to 12 months to retire the balance in full without incurring any charges or regular fees.
Promotional rates are appealing if you have the cash flow to make it work. However, anyone with a positive balance at the end of the introductory period is in for a nasty surprise.
Many contracts impose incredibly high rates of interest (26.99%) based on the beginning balance – not the remainder still open at the end of the promotional period. Therefore, read the fine print before charging any oral care expenses to the account.