3 ways credit can help ease the costs of pet ownership
The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date. Some of the offers mentioned below may no longer be available. Please review our list of best credit cards to find our current offers, or use our CardMatch tool to find cards matched to your needs.
The editorial content below is based solely on the objective assessment of our writers and is not driven by advertising dollars. However, we do receive compensation when you click on links to products from our partners. Learn more about our advertising policy.
The U.S. pet industry is booming, and it doesn't show any signs of slowing down. If you're thinking of welcoming a little Fido or Fluffy into your home, consider this: Americans will spend an estimated $69 billion on their pets in 2017, which breaks down to roughly $816 per pet-owning family.
But don't let the price of admission stop you from joining the 68 percent of U.S. households – around 85 million families – who own a pet. A bit of smart credit card usage can go a long way toward alleviating the costs of new pet ownership.
1. Save on initial costs with credit card
Taking advantage of credit card sign-up bonuses is one of the easiest ways to put a dent in your initial pet investment (think adoption fees, vaccines, spaying/neutering, etc.). Depending on the card, you could shave hundreds of dollars off your bill.
For example, Barclaycard CashForward World Mastercard cardholders who spend at least $1,000 in their first 90 days will snag a $200 sign-up bonus, which could significantly defray the cost of adding a furry friend to the family. The card also features 1.5 percent cash back on every purchase, but with an added twist: Each time you claim your cash, you'll receive a 5 percent earnings bonus to boot.
Meanwhile, the Blue Cash EveryDay Card from American Express comes with a much smaller sign-up bonus of $100 for new cardholders who also spend $1,000 in the first three months. Adding to this card's appeal, though, is a generous cash back rate of 3 percent at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year).
Such substantial rewards provide added incentive to buy pet food from your local grocer versus shopping at specialty retailers, though it's worth noting big-box stores such as Target and Walmart are not included in the supermarket category.
Then there's the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, which splits the difference between the two preceding cards by offering a $150 sign-up bonus after you spend just $500 in the first three months. All purchases earn a 1.5 percent rewards rate. The card accumulates Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which you can redeem for cash back at a value of 1 cent per point, or transfer to an eligible Chase card – such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred card – where points are worth 1.5 cents or more if you redeem them for travel.
2. Get a handle on regular expenditures with pet-specific
credit cards and store loyalty clubs.
Specialized credit cards can help you manage the costs of routine pet maintenance such as dental care, food, grooming and more. For instance, the American Kennel Club Visa is a rewards card that offers three points per dollar at pet stores and vet offices, along with two points per dollar at gas stations and grocery stores and one point per dollar everywhere else.
American Kennel Club Visa points can be redeemed for gift cards, so consider opting for a gift card to PetSmart, Petco, Amazon, Target or Walmart to help stretch your pet budget.
You can also sign up for loyalty programs at various pet retailers such as PetSmart, Petco and Pet Supplies Plus. Using them in conjunction with the American Kennel Club Visa will give you even deeper discounts on your newfound pet parenthood.
Finally, if Petland is your pet store of choice, it's a no-brainer to sign up for the Petland Credit Card. With every five qualifying purchases of $50 or more within a 12-month period, you’ll score a coupon for 20 percent off. Other card features include ongoing discounts on Petland brand products and exclusive discounts four times a year.
3. Special financing programs can help you
afford emergency veterinary care.
In the unfortunate case of a pet care emergency, your veterinary provider may have its own in-office payment plans. But if you want to prepare ahead of time to avoid a huge bill you can't afford, look into financing programs such as CareCredit, Vetary or Scratch Pay.
CareCredit, which can also be used to pay for nonemergency care, offers financing options of six, 12, 18 or 24 months at no interest on purchases of $200 or more. A word of caution, however: If you fail to pay your balance in full by the end of the promotional period, interest will be retroactively imposed from the date of purchase.
Making minimum payments as outlined in your statement likely won't be enough. You'll need to divide the purchase total by the number of months in your plan and make that your minimum payment instead. With some treatments reaching into the thousands of dollars, you could incur hundreds of dollars in interest if you don’t pay off the loan in time.
As an alternative, you can go with a payment plan that offers a low interest rate to avoid the risks that come with a deferred interest loan. For example, at Vetary Credit, APRs start at a reasonable 6.95 percent for up to $10,000 in pet treatment costs. Scratch Pay, meanwhile, partners with a list of vets nationwide to offer three payment options up to 12 months in duration with APRs as low as 5.9 percent.
While it's never advisable to carry a balance from month to month, the peace of mind that comes with knowing your pet can get the health care they need might just be worth it.
All that said, there's just one more thing you need to figure out: Are you a dog person or a cat person?
- Calling all foodies: Best credit cards for restaurants – Is eating out part of your everyday routine? Score cash back or rewards points by paying with the right card at restaurants; these cards can help ...
- How to offset pharmacy expenses by using credit cards – Cash back, rewards and travel cards can help bear the cost of pharmacy expenses. The choice will depend on where you usually shop for pharmaceuticals ...
- 'FOMO,' 'likes' and card debt: How Facebook might lead you to overspend – Facebook's business model makes it easy for advertisers to know almost everything about you, increasing the chances you overspend. Here's what you can do ...