If you’re tired of the hassle and expense of wearing contact lenses, LASIK (laser-assisted in-situ keratomileusis) vision surgery may be your answer. Though you’ll save money in the long run on contact lenses and solutions, the procedure is expensive.
According to LASIK, the surgery averages $2,000 per eye. Insurance usually doesn’t cover any of the cost, so this can be an expensive proposition.
If you find an eye surgeon who advertises prices well below the average, proceed with caution. The price may not include other necessary services, such as the preliminary eye exam and testing and post-surgery checkups. A surgeon charging below market value also may be inexperienced, and that’s not someone you want operating on your eyes.
How to finance LASIK
If you decide LASIK is right for you, don’t let the high cost deter you. Take a look at the following options for financing the surgery, and you probably can find something that works for your budget.
Vision surgery in-house financing
Because LASIK is often not covered by insurance, some vision surgeons create their own in-house payment plans.
How it works
The ideal payment plan with a vision surgeon allows you to pay off the surgery in installments. For instance, you could pay one-quarter up front and then make six to 12 monthly payments until the surgery is paid off.
It’s likely you won’t be charged interest, providing you pay off the installments as agreed. Many vision surgeons won’t require a credit check for approval.
Medical credit card
How it works
Some LASIK surgeons will take payment via medical credit cards. Such cards usually have a 0% introductory annual percentage rate (APR) for six to 18 months, depending on the amount you borrow.
It’s important to note that if the balance isn’t paid in full when the grace period ends, some of these cards will apply the interest retroactively. This means you will owe all of the interest on the original loan amount, even if you’ve paid off some of the loan. For instance, you could pay off three-quarters of the amount originally charged during the introductory period but then still owe interest on the entire amount.
This will work well if you can get 0% introductory APR and are able to pay off the loan before the grace period ends.
If you fail to before the grace period termination, you will end up paying a substantial amount of interest that could keep you in an unending payoff cycle. Not all LASIK surgeons take medical credit card payments.
How it works
Most LASIK surgeons readily take credit card payments. If you use a card that pays you cash back or points, that can be a bonus.
Even better, if you have good credit of 700+, apply for a credit card with a 0% introductory APR. Pay off the balance within the grace period, usually six to 18 months, and you won’t owe any interest.
Make certain your budget allows you to pay off the credit card in time, because the interest rates on such cards tend to skyrocket after the grace period ends. For example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited card has a 15-month, 0% APR introductory offer, but the interest ranges from 15.49% to 24.24% APR after the grace period ends.
If you have bad credit, it’s still possible to find a credit card to use for LASIK surgery. The Indigo Platinum Mastercard is designed for people with low credit scores. You can even prequalify without a hard pull to your credit, which means the lender takes a look at your credit but doesn’t run your credit report. This is important, because each time your credit report is run, your credit score lowers. Cash advances with this card feature a 29.9% APR, but during the first year, there is no cash advance fee. If you want to know your credit score, check it here.
Most LASIK surgeons take credit cards. If you can qualify for a 0% introductory APR, this gives you a chance to pay off the loan slowly without straining your budget.
If you don’t pay off the card with the 0% APR before the grace period ends, you will end up paying interest on the remaining balance. If you don’t have good credit, you won’t be able to get a credit card, or you’ll end up paying a high interest rate.
Unsecured personal loan
How it works
Another good option to finance LASIK surgery is with an unsecured personal loan. These loans are known as signature loans, because when you sign, you promise to pay the loan back. You can get a personal loan from a bank, credit union or online lender. If you use an online lender, you often get an immediate answer on approval and it tends to provide quick funding.
The interest rates are usually fixed, which means the payment amount won’t change over the life of the loan. Such loans also can be set up for you to pay them back over two to three years or more, which means your monthly payment will be low. Keep in mind, though, that the longer you take to pay off the loan, the more interest you’ll pay in the long run.
Pros: Online lenders may offer less fees and more competitive interest rates. You generally get funding fast. In addition, you don’t need to provide any collateral to secure a loan.
Cons: If you have bad credit, you may not be able to get a loan, or you’ll pay a high interest rate.
Recommended personal loan lenders for LASIK surgery
How it works
If you own a home and have equity, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) or a home equity loan (second mortgage) may be your best option for financing your LASIK surgery. Such loans give you access to money at fairly low interest rates. An added benefit is that interest payments on mortgages are tax deductible.
Keep in mind these loans are considered secure, because in exchange for the loan from the bank, you put your home up as collateral. That means if you are unable to make your home equity or HELOC payments, you risk losing your home to the bank.
You also must have sufficient equity in your home to qualify for a HELOC. According to the Federal Trade Commission, you may be able to borrow up to 85% of the appraised value of your home less the amount you owe on your first mortgage.
If you have sufficient equity in your home, it is usually easy to get these loans. The interest paid on these loans is tax deductible. With a HELOC, you only need to take out of the line of credit the amount you need. This could leave you with an additional credit line if you need money for an emergency.
You risk losing your home if you are unable to make your HELOC or home equity loan payments. These accounts are often based on variable interest rates, so what you owe fluctuates with changing market conditions.
Loan from your 401(k)
How it works
If you have a 401(k) retirement savings account with your employer, you may be able to borrow from the plan and use the money to fund your LASIK surgery. With such a loan, you’re borrowing money from yourself, so you aren’t required to get a credit check, and you won’t pay any interest.
You can take up to five years to pay the 401(k) loan back, as long as you stay at your employer. If you leave, you’ll have to pay back the money borrowed within 60 days, or you risk paying a penalty for early withdrawal. This can be tough to do and may cause financial hardship.
There is no credit check involved. Because you are borrowing from yourself, you won’t owe any interest. You can take your time paying the loan back. You can get the money quickly.
You miss earning interest on the money when it’s not in your account. If you lose your job, it is an extra strain on your budget because you have to pay the loan back within 60 days to avoid a penalty.
Seeing clearly without the use of contacts or glasses thanks to LASIK is one of modern medicine’s miracles. Check out SuperMoney’s Best Personal Loans Reviews and Comparison for the best funding option for your eye surgery.
Julie Bawden-Davis is a widely published journalist specializing in personal finance and small business. She has written 10 books and more than 2,500 articles for a wide variety of national and international publications, including Parade.com, where she has a weekly column. In addition to contributing to SuperMoney, her work has appeared in publications such as American Express OPEN Forum, The Hartford and Forbes.