At a Glance
Owning a pet can be expensive, and if an unexpected or emergency illness or injury happens, you could end up owing thousands of dollars to the vet. While tapping into savings or your emergency fund may be able to cover those expenses, there are other pet financing options available that may be better options. For example, credit cards and pet loans can give you the funds you need to take care of your pet.
Read on to learn more about:
What is pet financing?
Pet financing is using financing options like personal loans and credit cards to pay for vet bills and other pet-related expenses. While there are some pet financing companies designed specifically to help pet owners pay for these expenses through special veterinary financing options, other options include personal loans and credit cards.
How do pet loans work?
A pet loan is a specific type of pet financing that can be used to cover these pet expenses, offered by banks, credit unions, and online lenders. These loans have fixed interest rates and a fixed term, so after you apply, are approved, and receive the loan funds, you’ll repay them over a certain period with fixed monthly payments. You can use the loan funds for anything you need, including vet bills or other pet-related expenses.
Average cost of owning a pet
Owning a pet isn’t cheap, but the average cost can depend on things like the type of animal you have, how many you have, their size, and the environment in which you raise the pet.
For example, taking care of a dog will cost about $1,400 annually, including paying for food, routine medical costs, preventive medication (like heartworm and flea/tick medicine), license, toys and treats, and grooming supplies. Routine medical costs alone average around $225, though this can depend on your specific vet and what your pet needs.
If you have a cat, you can expect to pay about $1,150 per year for expenses that also include cat litter.
Also remember that pets have a variety of initial or one-time costs such as spaying or neutering, initial medical costs, microchipping, training classes, and other items. And, if your pet requires special grooming or vet care, the costs can continue to increase.
Additionally, more exotic pets like reptiles or birds, or larger animals like horses or goats, may have more or less expensive costs. For example, the average cost for caring for a bird is only about $200 per year.
Reasons to take out a pet loan
If your pet requires emergency care or major surgery, it can cost thousands of dollars. When you’re not planning on this expense, it can put a strain on your finances. While it’s typically a good idea to set money aside in an emergency fund for any unexpected pet needs, you may find pet financing is necessary.
Pet financing or a pet loan can help if your pet needs urgent or emergent medical treatment that you can’t pay for with savings or by other means. Remember, a pet loan is a type of debt, so it should be carefully considered before applying. The good news is a pet loan lets you repay the loan over time in smaller monthly payments, so it gives the option to get your pet the care it needs.
Pros and cons of pet financing
How to apply for a pet loan?
If you’ve decided that a pet loan is the right financing option for you and your needs, there are a few steps to take before applying to ensure you’re getting the best loan product.
1. Create a repayment plan. A pet loan is a type of debt, so before applying, be sure to consider your personal financial situation. Ensure you can afford the monthly payments, and if necessary, create a budget or repayment plan.
2. Check your credit score and report. When you apply for a loan, the lender will check your credit score and credit history to determine whether you qualify for the loan and what interest rate and term you’ll be offered. The better your credit score, the lower the interest rate and the better terms you’ll qualify for. Before applying, check your score and report. Make sure there are no errors in your report and be sure to compare lenders who accept borrowers with your score.
3. Shop and compare lenders. Next, start searching for and comparing pet loan lenders. Pay particular attention to factors like minimum and maximum loan amounts, borrower requirements, fees, loan terms, customer service ratings and reviews, interest rates and APR.
4. Apply. Once you choose the right lender, it’s time to apply for the loan. Most applications can be completed online and they require you to submit a variety of information and documentation as part of the approval process. This can include your contact information, proof of identity, proof of income, desired loan information, and more. The more prepared you are for the application, the faster the process will go and the more likely you’ll get approved quickly.
5. Accept the terms and get the funds. If approved, you’ll have to accept the loan terms and conditions to complete the process. Then, the funds will be transferred to your bank account. This process can happen in as little as 24 hours, or it may take a few days. You can then use the funds for whatever you need.
After you receive the funds, you’ll be responsible for making the monthly payments to repay the loan. Be sure to make these on time each month to avoid fees and penalties.
Is pet financing right for me?
To determine if pet financing is right for you, ask yourself a few questions:
- Do you qualify for pet financing? Do you have a high enough credit score to qualify for low interest rates? Do you have a verifiable income and low enough debt-to-income ratio to show the lender that you’re able to repay the loan?
- Can you afford the monthly payments? Otherwise, you can quickly get behind on payments, which will increase fees and penalties and can damage your credit score.
- Have you explored alternatives? There are several ways you can finance pet expenses, so consider each one to make sure you choose the right option for your situation.
Alternative financing options
When exploring financing options, a pet loan isn’t your only choice. Other alternatives include:
1. Credit cards
Depending on how much the bill is and your credit limit, you may be able to use a credit card to pay for vet bills or pet services. While the benefit to using a credit card is you have immediate access to the funds, the downside is most credit cards carry a high interest rate so if you aren’t able to pay the bill off in full, you may be accumulating interest.
If you have some time before the bill is due, you may want to apply for a 9% introductory rate credit card. These cards have 0% interest for a certain period (ranging from three to 12 months) so you can carry a balance on the card and pay it off over a longer amount of time without adding interest. However, it’s important to pay off the full balance before the introductory period is over.
2. Payment plan
Some vets offer payment plans, which breaks the total cost into smaller payments you can make over time. Not all vets offer this option, but it’s worth asking about.
3. Pet insurance
Just like health, car, or home insurance, you can buy insurance for your pets. These plans cover some or all of vet expenses, like procedures, treatments, and surgeries from accidents, illness, and more. The total monthly cost of the insurance policy varies by company, as do any deductibles, copays, or other costs. You’ll want to research pet insurance companies carefully to find one that would cover what you need at an affordable cost.
4. Low-cost vet options
Some vet schools have clinics where the students can practice, and pet parents can bring their animals for more affordable treatment. Your area may have other low-cost vet options, so do some research to see what’s available near you.
To qualify for a pet loan, you should have a credit score of at least 680 or above, though some lenders may accept borrowers with lower scores. You should also have a steady income and a debt-to-income ratio of less than 36%. Your credit report should also show a history of making payments on time.
Yes, you can use personal loan funds for just about anything, including vet bills. Shop and apply for a personal loan in the same way you would a pet loan.
The interest rate on a pet loan will depend on factors like the lender, your credit score and history, your income, your debt-to-income ratio, and other factors. Fees will also depend on the lender. Some fees you may come across include origination fees, application fees, late payment fees, and prepayment penalties. Loan interest rates can range from 4.99% to 36%.
Whether to use a loan or credit card depends on your personal situation. Loans are lump-sum payments that you’ll repay each month over a set period, and with fixed interest and payments, you’ll be able to budget and calculate how much you’ll owe easier. However, you likely need a higher credit score to qualify. With a credit card, you only pay interest on what you borrow if you carry a balance. Otherwise, you don’t have any interest. Keep in mind these interest rates are typically higher than loans.