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Credit Card rewards turn to health care

April 1, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
How would you like to save money on everything from prescription drugs to doctor visits? There's a new way to get discounts - even cash - to cover some of your healthcare costs. What's the secret you should know?That secret is credit cards -- but not just any credit card. These new cards enable you to earn everything from money to cover healthcare expenses, to discounts on medicine. Here's how they work.

From prescription drug prices to insurance premiums to co-pays, the cost of medical care can be a tough pill to swallow.

"The medicines are very expensive nowadays," said consumer Judy Halpuka.

"I spend a couple thousand dollars a year," said consumer Ulises Marino.

But now you may actually save money, depending on how you pay for your healthcare.

"A growing number of credit cards are offering discounts and rewards to help defray the costs of medical expenses," said Geri Detweiler of Credit.com.

With these new cards you can earn everything from money to cover health expenses, to discounts on medicine.

"We think this is an emerging trend in the credit card rewards market," said Curtis Arnold of Cardratings.com.

Use the Citi Professional Card and get 10-to-60 percent off prescription drugs at more than 50,000 pharmacies. For an additional monthly charge, the card also extends to dental and vision care.

The store-branded Target card can lead to savings, too.

"If you get 10 prescriptions filled at the Target pharmacy and you pay for them with your card, then you will get a coupon for a 10 percent off shopping day at Target," said Detweiler.

Some cards are tied directly to insurance and prescription drug plans. Bank of America now offers plastic for Aetna and Caremark customers. Use them for certain healthcare expenses and you can rack up double, and sometimes even triple points.

"You can redeem your points for health-related merchandise. An example would be fitness equipment," said Arnold.

Other examples are heart rate monitors and scales. And with the Aetna card, you can also earn cash that will be deposited into a health savings account.

"If you pay your bills on time, these healthcare cards can be a great bonus," said Detweiler.

But pay late, and experts warn the costs could outweigh all the benefits.

"With any rewards card, typically you're going to find that if you don't pay your bill in full, you're going to pay more in interest than you would just by going for a low rate credit card," said Detweiler.

Still, the option of taking charge of their healthcare expenses is enticing to some.

"It would be something to look into," said consumer Sandra Aguirre.

"It's definitely worth it," said consumer Javier Sotomayo. "Why not take advantage of it?"

Experts say if you know you won't be able to pay for a healthcare expense in full, try not to put it on plastic. You can often negotiate a payment plan with a doctor or hospital with little or no interest.

For more information:

Target Pharmacy Rewards
Web site

CVS Caremark Corporation
Web site

Citi Professional Card with ThankYou Network
Web site

Prescription Discount Benefit Program
Web site

 

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