Adopting a child or undergoing in vitro fertilization can be expensive. Credit cards can be an accessible, money-saving method of financing the expenses.
Raising kids isn’t cheap. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated the typical family spends $233,610 to raise a child from birth to age 18. Adjusted for inflation, that number increases to $272,613 in 2021.
The total may be even higher for individuals or couples who choose to adopt or pursue in vitro fertilization (IVF). For example, you may spend anywhere from $20,000 to $45,000 for a private adoption in the U.S, according to Family Equality. An international adoption can cost $35,000 to $70,000 on average.
“It’s massive sticker shock,” says Barbara Collura, president and CEO of RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association.
Which raises an important question: What’s the best way to pay for adoption or fertility treatments?
Dipping into savings, tapping home equity or taking out personal loans are all possibilities. But covering adoption expenses or fertility treatments with a credit card could also make sense if you’re strategic and have a plan.
These tips can help you to prepare financially for adoption or fertility treatments.
Compare the cost of adopting vs. in vitro
Before you start your adoption or IVF journey, it’s important to do some planning. One of the first questions to consider is which option you’re most interested in pursuing. This can determine how much you may need to spend to see your dream of becoming a parent fulfilled.
With in vitro, for instance, the final cost can depend on how many treatments are required and where you live. Dr. Cindy Duke, founding physician of the Nevada Fertility Institute, says a conservative estimate can run from $14,000 to $20,000, but it could be as high as $25,000 in markets like New York City, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Data from Fertility IQ suggests that the typical patient will undergo 2.3 to 2.7 in vitro treatment cycles, so the average cost can end up being around $50,000 altogether.
Jenny and Paul Wakulat of Austin, Texas, experienced firsthand the eye-popping price tags associated with IVF treatment. Jenny went through several rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) and one round of IVF before becoming pregnant. Just the medication to prep one’s body for an IVF treatment can run $3,000 to $7,000, and payment is due upfront, Jenny says.
With such a high price, it’s important to consider the likelihood of success with IVF. You also need to consider what your contingency plan will look like if fertility treatments are unsuccessful.
“A lot of people come to adoption after having spent $30,000 to $60,000 on infertility and then have nothing left,” says Mardie Caldwell, director of Lifetime Adoption Center in Rough and Ready, Calif.
If you’d like to keep adoption as a backup option or you’re planning to skip in vitro altogether, ask yourself what type of adoption you’re interested in and what you can realistically afford. Specifically, this means knowing whether you have $20,000 to $70,000 to spend for a private adoption through an agency or an international adoption.
Keep in mind, however, that there’s a less expensive, often-overlooked path. Adopting a child through the foster care system can cost less than $3,000, according to Family Equity. The cost may even be entirely subsidized through public welfare programs.
Adoption through the foster care program may be worth exploring if you want to expand your family but must approach it from a cost-conscious perspective. According to AdoptUSKids, there are approximately 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S., 117,000 of which are waiting to be adopted.
Credit cards can help with adoption, fertility treatments
You might think credit cards are only good for charging groceries or earning airline miles. But they can also come in handy when paying for adoption expenses or fertility treatments.
Collura says she frequently hears prospective parents debating whether to use credit cards, home equity loans or personal loans to pay. However, these last two options have become harder to get, she adds, which could make credit cards more attractive.
The overall price tag for the Wakulats’ fertility treatments hit about $30,000, almost all of which went onto the couple’s credit cards. However, the couple charged those expenses with a plan in place for repaying the debt. “I’m a CPA and very in tune to our financial situation,” Jenny says.
Dr. Duke says that while she wouldn’t advise parents to go into debt to pay for adoption or IVF, there are some positives associated with using a credit card, including the potential to borrow at a low interest rate, earn rewards and build credit.
Charging in vitro to a credit card with a 0% introductory APR, for example, means you’re not forced to make a lump sum cash payment to the clinic. Meanwhile, earning miles with a travel rewards card could help to offset travel costs if you need to visit another state or another country to finalize an adoption.
Paying back what you charge on time can help you to establish a strong credit history, which is also a plus. And in some instances, turning to a credit card may be necessary if the timing of an adoption moves faster than anticipated.
Jo Trizila, a Dallas-based adoptive mother of a daughter, was thrilled to be chosen by a birth mother just eight weeks after sending her information. But she had to move quickly to come up with the money to cover the expenses, such as attorney and adoption facilitator fees. She dipped into savings, borrowed from family members and put about 10% of the costs on a credit card.
If you’re considering in vitro, Dr. Duke suggests talking to the financial counselor at your fertility clinic to discuss the best way to pay.
“They can do a deep dive to see what, if anything, your health insurance may cover, what discounts you may qualify for,” says Duke. “They might also be able to share a list of grants that may be available or connect you to financing companies.”
How to choose the right credit card to pay for adoption or in vitro
If you’re considering a credit card for adoption or fertility treatments, there are two main categories to choose from: medical credit cards and traditional credit cards.
Medical credit cards are for medical expenses; you can’t use them to buy groceries or pay for dinner out. CareCredit is an example of a medical credit card that can be used for IVF. With CareCredit, you can choose from short-term financing at 0% interest or longer-term financing with a low interest rate.
But CareCredit doesn’t cover adoption expenses, which can include things like:
- Legal fees
- Paperwork filing fees
- Travel expenses
- Counseling and medical expenses for the birth parents
- Home study fees
- Interim child care until you’re able to bring the child home
Those are things you can charge to a rewards credit card, however.
When comparing credit cards for adoption expenses, check the rewards program, fees and the APR for purchases. If you know you’ll spend on travel, then you might want to use a card that earns airline miles or points for those purchases. Meanwhile, if you need to charge legal fees, paperwork fees or medical expenses for the birth parent, you may want a card that offers a flat cash back rewards rate on all purchases.
Also, consider how long you’ll need to pay off adoption expenses and whether a balance transfer could make sense. Transferring adoption expenses to a single card with a 0% introductory APR can make it easier to streamline payments while saving money on interest.
If you’re looking for traditional credit card recommendations for adoption or in vitro, here are a few to consider:
- Citi® Double Cash Card: Earn 2% cash back on all purchases (1% as you make purchases and 1% cash back when you pay on time)
- Discover it® Balance Transfer: Earn cash back on purchases while enjoying a 0% intro APR on balance transfers for the first 18 months (12.24% – 23.24% variable after that)
- Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Earn unlimited 2X miles on all purchases, plus 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: Earn 5X points on travel booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- Wells Fargo Reflect℠ Card: Enjoy a 0% intro APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers for up to 21 months (13.74% to 25.74% variable after that)
Just be sure to weigh the annual fee for any credit card you’re considering, as that can detract from the value of rewards earned.
Tips for saving money on fertility treatments
- Head abroad. Prospective parents can look outside the U.S. for fertility treatments. Wendy and Max Lieberman lived in Argentina when Wendy first turned to fertility treatments to help her conceive her son. After moving to Phoenix to be near family and again having trouble conceiving, Wendy returned to her doctor in Argentina. Even with travel costs, the expense totaled about $7,000, or about half what it would have been here, Lieberman says.
- Check your benefits. If you or your partner are employed, check your insurance coverage, says Patricia Mendell, a New York-based licensed clinical social worker who works with prospective parents. Even if just some treatments are covered, that can mean thousands off your final bill.
- Be a wise consumer. The costs for procedures can vary widely. Wakulat found that IUI was $300 at one doctor and $600 at another. When working with a doctor, ask what each procedure is for and if all are necessary, Collura advises. Be vigilant about getting second opinions, and don’t hesitate to ask about and compare treatment pricing.
- Participate in studies. Some fertility specialists conduct studies of different treatments and will offer a price break if you participate. Wakulat did this and shaved about $8,000 off the total cost of an IVF treatment.
- Grants. Numerous organizations provide grants to help families pay for fertility treatments, including The International Council on Infertility Information Dissemination.
How to save money on adoption
- Adoption tax credit. Depending on your income level, you may qualify for a federal tax credit for adoption expenses of up to $12,170 in 2021. The credit does begin to phase out once your income exceeds certain levels.
- Adopting through foster care. As mentioned, a foster care adoption could be significantly cheaper than private or international adoption. That said, prospective parents should be aware of the challenges that can accompany foster care system adoptions. Many of the children are older, and some have special needs that can require ongoing care. Some may be part of a sibling group that the government agency prefers not to break up. To help parents cover these costs, many government agencies offer ongoing subsidies. The North American Council on Adoptable Children provides a state-by-state guide to adoption assistance.
- Adoption grants. Many organizations offer grants to prospective adoptive parents, including showhope.org. and brittanyshope.org.
- Employer benefits. Check whether your employer offers adoption benefits. The Dave Thomas Foundation has compiled a list of the most adoption-friendly workplaces.