Veterinary practice managers: Answering the question of credit

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Jul 01, 2012
By dvm360.com staff

Q. How can we explain the difference between credit cards and third-party payment plans?

The main difference between regular credit cards and third-party payment plans is how they're set up for repayment, says Nancy Potter, a Firstline Editorial Advisory Board member and practice manager of Olathe Animal Hospital in Olathe, Kan. Much like furniture stores that offer no-interest credit, some third-party payment plans offer interest-free financing if the borrower pays off the bill within a set time period, say, six months.

"They do require a minimum payment each month, and if clients miss a payment, they might accrue a hefty interest charge, depending on the plan," Potter says. "But if clients are diligent about making their payments in a timely manner, it can be a good tool to delay payment."

The approval rate is often higher than most cards, Potter says, and you can find out immediately whether the client is approved and for how much. If a client doesn't receive approval, they're likely a poor credit risk. Potter says you should also recognize that some third-party plans charge the clinic a higher fee. But most practitioners appreciate the service because it provides the needed treatment to those pet owners who have no other options for payment.

Potter says sometimes clients also ask about pet insurance—after the doctor makes a diagnosis. So remind clients that they need to think about pet insurance early to enjoy the full benefits.