In recent years, reasons for not visiting the dentist has become more common among adults, for reasons that are less fear-based and more financial in nature. Of course we all want a bright, beautiful smile and healthy teeth, but the reality in the United States especially is that going to the dentist can be extremely expensive. In addition to that, there were over 74 million Americans without dental insurance in 2016.
Offering payment plans has been on the rise as a way for dentists relieve the stress of their patients and even open themselves up to attracting new patients. This can be really attractive for both dental providers and patients as long as both parties know the details of the plan they’re signing up for.
One option is to offer your patients a credit card payment plan. One of the most popular forms of this that many dentists and patients use is called CareCredit. This is a credit card that offers promotional financing, such as interest-free on $200+ purchases if paid within a set number of months. According to their website, over 100,000 dental teams offer CareCredit at their office.
A dental care provider may benefit from offering CareCredit in a few ways. First, they will get the full payment within two business days while CareCredit handles the billing. The provider will also be placed in the online Provider Locator system to to be found by new patients searching for a local provider that accepts CareCredit as a form of payment.
One of the downsides to this option include potentially high interest rates for patients. CareCredit’s interest rates can range from 14% to 27% depending on the cost of the procedure and payment period. Another potential problem is that it may cause distrust between the patient and the office if they feel like they’re being scammed in any way.
It can be tricky for the receptionist to know and communicate the fine-print of the financial responsibility to the patient, and CareCredit has already issued hefty refunds for “deceptive enrollment practices” in the past.
Another common option is to offer patients an in-house payment plan, where a patient can make payments on a set schedule (weekly, biweekly, monthly, etc.). This option offers many benefits and is in many cases much more attractive than credit cards or even going through insurance companies.
In-house payment plans can strengthen patient relationships by keeping them safe from the crosshairs of having to work with large financial companies, as can happen with services like CareCredit. Another great benefit of this is keeping up cash flow, even during slow times, as you receive payments from past visits on a set schedule.
The independence from insurance companies can be a huge relief for providers as well, as these payments can be highly unpredictable. This means that you can now accept patients who don’t have dental insurance and will not have to pay up front.
Our virtual terminal allows unlimited patient profiles and customized options for payments for any schedule you prefer. Once the payment details are entered into the system, the virtual terminal runs payments automatically. It’s the best way to keep track of payments and it’s PCI compliant since the cardholder data is stored on the secure virtual terminal, rather than in a file.
An important note to remember on the topic of PCI compliance: never store cardholder payment information in an unsafe location such as on paper or on file, in an office or work laptop. Resolve this issue by entering the information directly into the terminal while signing the patient up, or if the information must be written down, immediately shred it once it is successfully entered into the terminal.
Which is the better option?
Payment plans can be a great service to offer patients for a variety of reasons, such as accepting patients who don’t have insurance or with high deductible insurance plans. While payment plans consisting of credit cards can lead to sticky relationships and increased financial burden on patients, in-house payment plans are the better option because they do not charge interest and can be setup and managed easily through a virtual terminal that will automate payments for you.
If you want to get your office set up on a virtual terminal, please reach out to us today!