When it comes to emergency expenses, nothing hits quite as hard—or quite as fast—as medical bills. Even if you’ve had some time to prepare, the sticker shock from certain procedures and services can be staggering.
If you need help to cover medical bills, taking out a medical loan—a personal loan used for medical expenses—might be a good option. Consider the best medical loans as a way to finance your medical expenses.
We reviewed 29 popular lenders based on 16 data points in the categories of loan details, loan costs, eligibility and accessibility, customer experience and the application process. We chose the 10 best lenders based on the weighting assigned to each category:
- Loan cost: 35%
- Loan details: 20%
- Eligibility and accessibility: 20%
- Customer experience: 15%
- Application process: 10%
Within each major category, we also considered several characteristics, including available loan amounts, repayment terms, annual percentage rate (APR) ranges and applicable fees. Additionally, we looked at minimum credit score requirements, whether each lender accepts co-signers or joint applications and the geographic availability of the lender. Finally, we evaluated each provider’s customer support tools, which are borrower perks and features that simplify the borrowing process—like prequalification options and mobile apps.
Where appropriate, we awarded partial points depending on how well a lender met each criterion.
Tips for Comparing Medical Loans
Consider these tips when comparing medical loans:
- Compare APRs, not interest rates. The interest rate on a medical loan can have a huge impact on your monthly payment and total costs, but you should make sure to compare APRs and not just interest rates. The APR includes both the interest rate and any fees that the lender charges. Because medical loans often come with many different fees (such as origination or late fees), it’s crucial to use APR as a comparison tool.
- Don’t take the first offer. Sometimes doctor’s offices will have relationships with third-party medical loan providers. It may be tempting to apply for a loan right there in the clinic, but you should compare several different providers before choosing one.
- Be realistic when comparing offers. Some types of medical loans will have 0% APR for a certain period of time before switching to a higher interest rate. While this might be appealing, be sure to consider whether you can actually afford to pay off the loan before the 0% APR offer expires. Otherwise, it may be better to choose a different provider.
What Is a Medical Loan?
A medical loan is a name for a personal loan used for medical bills. Almost all medical loans are unsecured loans, which means there is no collateral backing the loan. Because unsecured loans are riskier for lenders, they usually have higher interest rates and lower loan limits than secured loans, like auto loans or mortgages.
Medical loans typically have repayment terms of one to seven years and loan amounts up to $100,000, depending on the lender.
How Medical Loans Work
Prospective borrowers can get medical loans from banks, credit unions and online lenders; applications are done online or in person, depending on the institution. If you’re approved for a medical loan, the lender will send your funds as a lump-sum amount. You will owe interest on the full loan amount and be required to meet a monthly payment obligation throughout the life of the loan.
When to Consider a Medical Loan
If you need medical care for a life-saving or critical procedure and your insurance doesn’t cover the full cost, or you don’t have insurance, a medical loan may be the only way to pay for the care you need. A medical loan may also be appropriate if a medical procedure will significantly improve your quality of life.
Before applying, estimate your loan payments, and consider how the monthly payment will impact your budget and cash flow. Choose a payment you can easily afford with your current income.
How to Get a Medical Loan
Follow these general steps to get a medical loan:
- Check your credit score. Before researching medical loan lenders, check your credit score. Understanding your creditworthiness will help you position yourself with lenders that serve borrowers in your situation. As a good rule of thumb, we recommend a minimum credit score of 670; however, a score of at least 720 will yield you the best terms.
- Research potential providers. After you understand your credit score, research potential providers. Some personal loan lenders offer a prequalifcation process that let you see what terms you may receive if you’re eligible. Doing this ahead of time can help you narrow down the list of potential lenders to the best offers.
- Submit your application. Once you have a list of potential lenders, it’s time to fill out a loan application. You’ll have to list how much you need to borrow and the reason for the loan, and you’ll also have to supply your contact information, Social Security number (SSN) and employment information. You may also be required to provide proof of income, like a pay stub or a previous tax return if you’re self-employed.
- Receive your funds. When you complete the application, the lender will run a hard credit check, which temporarily dings your credit score, to determine if you’re eligible or not. If you are approved, the lender will provide you with potential offers. Once you choose a repayment term, the lender will finalize the loan and disburse the money. You can pay your medical bills once the funds are deposited into your bank account.
Alternatives to Medical Loans
Some major healthcare organizations offer payment plans to patients who can’t afford to pay their medical bills in full. These payment plans often charge no interest, which makes them more affordable than traditional medical loans. The repayment term depends on the organization; some may be as little as 12 months.
Financial Assistance Programs
If you owe money to a nonprofit hospital or major health network, their billing department may have financial assistance programs for low-income patients. To qualify for financial assistance, you often have to verify your income by submitting a pay stub or tax return. If you’re approved, your bill may be significantly reduced or completely eliminated.
Keep in mind that the income limits for financial assistance programs can vary depending on the provider. You typically need to earn less than 300% of the federal poverty guidelines to qualify for any aid. There are also private organizations that help patients pay for out-of-pocket expenses, such as the Patient Access Network Foundation.
You can almost always pay for medical bills with a credit card, depending on how much you owe. If you have good credit, you may be able to qualify for a no-interest financing offer. These offers last between 12 and 21 months, depending on the card company. During that time, you will not be charged interest as long as you make the minimum payment every month.
If you can pay off the balance before the interest-free financing offer ends, then you’ll be free of interest charges. However, any unpaid balances will begin to accrue interest once the promotional period ends.
Crowdfunding can be a good way to raise money for medical expenses without incurring any debt. Sites like GoFundMe allow you to create a campaign, list a goal amount and ask for donations. You can post the campaign link on social media or email it to your personal network. Anyone can donate to the campaign, and there’s no contribution limit.
While crowdfunding has become a popular option, it is unpredictable. Your campaign may go viral and exceed the goal, or it may fail to raise much money.