What the Heck Is a Health-Care Credit Card?

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Long story short: It’s something you don’t want. Why? For one reason, when you sign up for such a card, you can be charged thousands of dollars for treatments and services before they’re even provided.

As the Washington Post reports, consumers are most likely to encounter offers for these kind of cards in a dentist’s office. The cards promise to help patients pay for pricey services with easy payment plans. Considering how few people have insurance that covers dental nowadays, it’s easy to see why folks are interested in easy payment plans.

Unfortunately, after a brief 0% interest period, these cards jack up the interest rates—you sorta knew this was coming—often to over 25%. What’s more disturbing is that the card issuers and dentists have apparently conspired to charge customers right away and in full with a flat price for a series of services and follow-up visits. The problem with this is that patients are charged for all of the services well before all of the services are actually provided.

Also disturbing in more ways than one is the fact that some consumers weren’t even aware of what was going on as they filled out forms and divulged their personal and financial details. They had no idea they were applying for credit cards. Per the Washington Post:

According to investigators and patient advocates who have worked with consumers to resolve problems, patients frequently aren’t even aware they’re applying for a credit card; many think they’re providing financial information to work out an extended payment agreement with their doctor or dentist.

So if you’re handed an application for a credit card at the dentist’s office, look upon the offer with extreme skepticism. And you might want to find another dentist too—one who you can trust, who doesn’t do business with sketchy credit card issuers.

‘The Woodstock of Dentistry’