Credit card sign-up bonuses, pet store loyalty programs, special financing for medical emergencies and more may help alleviate the cost of pet ownership.
The U.S. pet industry has seemingly received a boost amid the COVID-19 pandemic as more Americans have adapted to a homebound lifestyle.
Recent data from the American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) COVID-19 Pulse Study shows an estimated 11.38 million U.S. households took in a new pet over the course of the pandemic.
If you’re thinking of welcoming a little Fido or Fluffy into your home, consider this: The APPA estimates that Americans will spend $109.6 billion on their pets in 2021 – but don’t let the price of admission stop you. A bit of smart credit card usage, as well as pet-specific rewards programs, veterinary financing and more, can go a long way toward alleviating the costs of new pet ownership.
1. Earn rewards on initial pet costs with credit card sign-up offers
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, microchipping, pet insurance, pet training, licensing and supplies, such as pet beds or bowls).
According to pet care cost valuations by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), initial costs for a medium-sized dog, for example, could potentially set you back $565. (For a more tailored estimate, try utilizing a free pet-cost calculator.) Yet, depending on the credit card you charge those costs to, you could end up earning significant rewards on your spending.
For example, the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express comes with a $200 welcome offer (awarded as statement credit) after you spend $2,000 in purchases in the first six months of card ownership. Adding to this card’s appeal is a generous rewards rate of 3% cash back at U.S. supermarkets (up to $6,000 per year in purchases, then 1%), 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores and 1% back on all other general purchases. And as a no annual fee credit card, you won’t be charged a yearly rate for owning it.
With substantial rewards for spending at U.S. supermarkets, you may be incentivized to buy pet food from grocery stores, for example, rather than a specialty pet store. (It’s worth noting that big-box stores such as Target and Walmart are not included in the supermarket category, so aim for traditional grocery stores.)
There’s also the Chase Freedom Unlimited, which offers 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards, 3% back on dining and drugstore purchases and at least 1.5% back on other purchases. Through March 2022, you can also earn 5% cash back on Lyft purchases. This Chase credit card also comes with no annual fee and offers a similar (yet easier to earn) welcome bonus: $200 cash back after you spend $500 in the first three months of card ownership.
While owning either of these cash back credit cards doesn’t directly translate to savings on your pet’s startup costs, making initial purchases related to your pet with either card can earn you cash back rewards and potentially fully cover the spending required to earn a welcome bonus.
2. Get a handle on regular expenditures with pet-specific credit cards and store loyalty clubs
If you’re a regular at any specific pet retailer, consider signing up for their loyalty program to rack up rewards on your purchases in the long run – such as the PetSmart Treats program, Petco Pals Rewards or Pet Supplies Plus Preferred Pet Club. PetSmart Treats, in particular, is free to sign up and awards you 8 points for every dollar spent in PetSmart stores and online.
While not particularly common, you can also apply for a pet care-specific credit card, such as the Bivvy Pet Credit™ card. Issued by Services Credit Union, the Bivvy card doesn’t charge an annual fee and offers the potential “to earn rewards with every purchase and double rewards on pet-related purchases,” according to the website. This means you may be able to use the card to manage the costs of routine pet maintenance, such as dental care, food, grooming, boarding, day care or even pet subscription services.
Note that not every Bivvy card issued will earn rewards (which may be determined by your creditworthiness), and there is no rewards structure specified on the site. With this in mind, if earning rewards on your pet-related purchases is your number one goal, you’re better off applying for a standard rewards credit card that offers a flat rate of points or cash back on every purchase or on grocery store spending, for example.
3. Special financing programs can help you afford emergency or routine veterinary care
In the unfortunate case of a pet care emergency, newfound illness or any other situation in which your pet may need routine medical care, 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 or Scratchpay.
CareCredit allows you to finance up to 100% of the cost of your pet’s care by utilizing the CareCredit health care credit card – though you won’t earn any rewards for your spending. While you may qualify for a promotional low interest rate, be aware the standard variable APR for this card is 26.99%. CareCredit can also be paired with Pets Best pet insurance, a CareCredit partner, which allows you to file a claim and be reimbursed for your veterinary purchase, so long as you pay for your pet’s treatment with your CareCredit card.
As an alternative, you can choose a payment plan that offers a low interest rate, such as that offered by Scratchpay. Scratchpay partners with a list of vets nationwide to offer payment options with APRs as low as 0%. 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.
What to do if you’re feeling overwhelmed by pet ownership
Adopting a pet has the potential to be a great decision for many Americans in quarantine, especially given the supposed mental health benefits of doing so. For example, a 2020 data report from Mars Petcare found that 78% of survey respondents felt less stress or anxiety by owning or fostering a pet in 2020.
Yet, for others, pet ownership has created stressors amid the pandemic, whether it be related to a lack of funds, space or pet-specific services in quarantine. Recent data published by the ASPCA suggests more than 24.4 million pets are “living in poverty with their owners” amid COVID-19, and according to the Mars Petcare report, “1 in 5 pet parents has considered giving up their pets due to pandemic hardships.”
Should you need financial assistance or additional resources to take care of your pet – maybe you lost your source of income during the pandemic, for example – there are ways you can receive help. The Humane Society of the United States outlines local and national solutions, such as pet food pantries, free or low-cost spay and neuter services and even discounted veterinary aid.
Overall, it’s incredibly important to consider the financial requirements of owning a pet prior to bringing one into your household to ensure both the well-being of the animal and yourself.
Whether you’re looking to save on pet-related expenses for the sake of a good bargain or end up needing additional aid in the event of an emergency involving your pet, the three strategies above can offer rewards for your spending or help to alleviate any pressures involving pet care costs.
Bear in mind as some Americans return to work post-vaccination, pet costs may spike – more specifically, if you plan to utilize pet day cares or walking services, for example. Luckily, the three strategies outlined in this article can help in these instances as well.
All information about the Bivvy Pet Credit™ card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com and has not been reviewed by the issuer.