When your pet is sick or hurt, chances are you must act quickly. However, veterinary bills can be daunting, with diagnosis, tests, treatment, and possible surgery.
Most pet owners plan for the regular costs of having a furry friend. For example, it costs dog owners an estimated $2,500 a year for food, grooming, regular veterinary checkups, and vaccinations, the American Kennel Club says.
However, if something unforeseen happens to your pet, such as an injury or illness, it can get stressful if you don’t have the cash on hand when the vet needs money. This is especially true when your pet needs ongoing treatments and follow-ups. The good news is there are several quick loan options for veterinary bills. Read on to discover how you can find funds fast to pay your vet and get your pet the treatment it needs.
How it works
A variety of online lenders feature quick loan options to pay your veterinary bill. If you have good credit (a score of 670+), you can also get a reasonable interest rate on the loan. Although you could go to a bank or credit union, the APR isn’t likely to be much lower.
An online lender also tends to fund your loan much quicker. There’s a good chance you’ll get the money within minutes, not days.
Pros: You get quick access to money and a fast and easy application process often takes just a few minutes to complete.
Cons: If you don’t have good credit, interest rates can be high. There are also fees.
Credit card cash advance
How it works
Most credit cards have cash advance capability. You get cash from your card or write a check provided by the credit card company. Your credit card issuer will often give you checks that can be written up to the amount of your credit limit. Some credit card companies also allow you to withdraw cash with the card at an ATM.
The cash advance process may be simple, but it’s important to understand the costs for convenience are high. Fees for credit card advances range from 2% to 5% of the total amount borrowed. Interest also starts accruing the moment you borrow the money, and those rates tend to be very high. It’s not uncommon to pay 25% or more interest on the money you borrow.
Another important thing to check into is whether your credit card issuer requires that you pay off the cash advance amount before you pay off any balances for purchases. If you borrow money and already have purchases on the card, you could end up paying extra high interest on those purchases until you pay off the cash advance.
If you can’t pay off the balance within the first billing cycle and you have good credit, apply for another credit card with a 0% APR balance transfer option. You’ll have six to 18 months to pay off the card without paying any interest. There is usually a balance transfer fee, but it’s likely to be less expensive than paying interest.
Pros: This is probably the quickest way to borrow money. If you already have a credit card, there is no need for a credit check before getting a cash advance.
Cons: Interest rates and fees are high. It’s likely the deal features a variable interest rate, which means the amount you owe in interest can skyrocket without warning. If you don’t pay the bill on time, you risk an increase in the interest rate on your card and a big late fee.
Medical credit card
How it works
Medical credit cards are specialized cards that can be used for medical treatments, including for pets. These cards usually have a 0% introductory annual percentage rate (APR) for six to 18 months, depending on how much money you borrow.
Keep in mind that if you don’t pay the balance due on many medical credit cards before the end of the grace period, the interest will be applied retroactively. So even if you have paid off part of the balance, you will owe all of the interest on the original amount loaned to you.
Pros: As long as you have sufficient credit on the card, payment is instant. You can borrow the money without paying any interest, as long as you pay it off before the grace period ends.
Cons: If you don’t pay the card off before the grace period ends, you’ll owe interest on the entire amount that you borrowed. Also, not all veterinary offices take medical credit card payments.
Home equity line of credit (HELOC)
How it works
If you have equity in your home, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) is a good way to get some quick cash. The credit limit on your HELOC is based on the amount of equity you have in your home. You are able to withdraw up to the credit limit amount. 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.
These loans fund relatively quickly — usually within a few days. If your pet needs emergency surgery or care, this option may not work.
Pros: HELOCs usually feature low interest rates. Once the account is set up, you can quickly and easily withdraw funds when you need them. The interest on these credit lines is also tax deductible.
Cons: HELOCs are secured by your house. That means you risk losing your home if you don’t make your payments.
Pawn shop loan
How it works
Getting a pawn shop loan is a quick and easy way to get fast cash. To get such a loan, you bring valuables into the pawnshop and get money on the spot. The pawn shop owner will assess the value of the item or items you’ve brought in and offer you an amount.
If you leave the items as collateral, the pawn shop will give you the agreed upon amount of money. If you fail to come back within a predetermined time to pay for the item, including interest, the pawn shop may sell your belongings to regain the money they loaned to you.
It depends on state laws, but some pawn shops can offer loan extensions or renewals, which gives you more time to get the money together to retrieve your property.
Pros: As soon as you agree to the price, you receive the money immediately. There is no credit check. A bank account isn’t required.
Cons: You’re putting your property up as collateral, so if you don’t return to pay for the items, you risk losing them. While they aren’t the most expensive loans in terms of fees and interest, they aren’t the least expensive, either.
Alternative sources of credit
If all of your other options fail, and your pet needs care right away, it’s possible to get a high-interest rate loan, such as a payday/cash advance or title loan. It’s advisable to only take out such a loan if you know you have money coming in that will allow you to pay off the loan quickly. These loans have very high interest rates and fees that can keep you in an unending payoff cycle.
Payday loans, which are sometimes called cash advance loans, let you borrow money against an upcoming paycheck. The interest rates on these loans average a whopping 300% to 500% APR. If you don’t repay the loan within 14 days, the loan is rolled over and refinanced and additional interest and fees will be tacked on.
Auto title loans
Car title loans use your car as collateral. These short-term, high interest loans charge an average of 300% APR. You are able to borrow based on 25% to 50% of the value of your car. If you don’t pay the loan off in time, the lender rolls the loan over, adding fees, and more interest. If you fail to keep up with payments, the lender can take your car.
Pros: These loans are available to people with bad credit. You’ll get funds immediately once approved.
Cons: Interest rates are incredibly high. It’s easy to get stuck in a vicious cycle of trying to pay off the original loan amount as fees and interest keeps mounting. With title loans, you risk losing your car if you can’t pay.
Of course, you want your pet to get the veterinary treatment and care it needs. Considering the high cost, it pays to take a little time to make the best choice for your budget. Spend a few minutes to shop around and compare lenders. Check out SuperMoney’s Best Personal Loans Reviews and Comparison page for a look at lenders available to provide quick cash for veterinary bills.
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.