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We all want to look our best, and cosmetic surgery can go a long way in helping achieve those goals. In fact, cosmetic surgery gets more popular every year, and in 2018 more than 17.7 million cosmetic procedures were performed in the United States. But, let’s face it, cosmetic surgery is expensive, and in general, if you are considering a cosmetic procedure for the sole purpose of improving your appearance, health insurance will not cover it.

If your procedure is elective, your out-of-pocket cost can range from the hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars. While cost can seem prohibitive, there are options to paying for cosmetic surgery, even if your credit is in less than stellar condition.Remember, the best advice for anyone looking to finance cosmetic surgery is to make sure you don’t push your finances to the limit, and as always, after you have made a choice, be sure to read and understand the fine print of any financing you choose.

How much does plastic surgery cost?

According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, the average cost of the Top 5 surgical cosmetic procedures in 2018:

Breast Augmentation $3,515
Liposuction $3,279
Nose Reshaping $5,146
Tummy Tuck $6,083
Buttock Augmentation $4,708

Average Cost of Top 5 non-surgical procedures:

Botox (includes Botox, Dysport, Xeomin) $420
Hyaluronic Acid (Juvederm Ultra, Voluma, Perlane) $651
Hair removal (laser or light pulsed) $457
Chemical Peel $545
Microdermabrasion $149

Of course, the numbers fluctuate when you consider related expenses. The total cost of your cosmetic surgery will include surgeon fees, operating room costs, anesthesia, hospital room costs, or other associated costs. It could also include material costs (such as breast implants) and post-surgical medications.

How can I finance my cosmetic surgery?

Most cosmetic providers have resources available to patients when it comes to financing, and some practices even have in-house payment plans. So, first ask your medical provider if they are willing to set up a payment plan. If your provider does have an in-house payment plan, typically in-house payment plans do not charge interest and they do not affect your personal credit as it is not reported to major credit bureaus. However, if you default on the debt, it will be sent to collections, which will affect your credit.

Nevertheless, most cosmetic providers chooseto avoid getting involved in the financial aspect of the procedure and rely on third party financing. Below is a list of options to consider when financing your cosmetic surgery.

1. Savings

If you have money in the bank, using the money in your savings account is always an option. By using the money you already have, you don’t have to go through the process of borrowing money or paying interest. However, many people are reluctant to use the cash they’ve saved for emergencies to pay for their plastic surgery. Having less cash on hand could put you at risk if a true emergency arises.

2. Use a credit card

Depending on your credit score, a new or existing credit card could be your best financing option. Many cards offer a 0% introductory annual percentage rate (APR).If you don’t know your credit score, that should be your first step. You can receive a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus at least once every 12 months.If you finance your surgery with a 0% APR balance transfer card, they often have no annual fee and an introductory period of 0% APR.

For example, the Citi Simplicity credit card has no annual fee and offers an introductory 0% APR for the first 18 months. Just make sure you pay the card off during the introductory period. After the introductory period, the APR will often skyrocket. If the balance of your surgery is paid off during the introductory period, you won’t have to pay interest.

3. Use a medical credit card

Medical credit cards (such as CareCredit and Alphaeon) are another option to finance your cosmetic surgery. Medical credit cards are limited to covering only medical expenses, and given they cannot be used in other ways, they are a very popular choice to pay for cosmetic surgery. Like normal credit cards, many medical credit cards offer an introductory 0% APR that lasts for a certain period of time. However, if the balance is not paid in full during the introductory period, some cards apply interest retroactively. Also, if you miss a payment, you could lose your promotional interest rate. Be sure to read the fine print.

4. Get a personal loan

Taking out a personal loan is another option to pay for cosmetic surgery. Personal loans typically have fixed interest rates with a specified amount of time for repayment. Having a fixed rate of interest means your interest rate will not fluctuate throughout the life of your loan. However, if you have bad credit, the interest and fees you pay could significantly increase the cost of your elective surgery. If you’re looking for a personal loan for an elective procedure, consider:

    • Parasail Parasail covers just about any cosmetic procedure and are willing to work with people whose credit score is as low as 550. However, they do not provide any opportunities for interest free payments.
    • LightStream a division of SunTrust Bank, is also a personal loan lender for cosmetic surgery. Loans range from $5,000 and $100,000, with terms between 24 to 144 months. The APR on the loans varies, depending largely on the total loan amount and repayment term.
    • SoFi is another company that offers medical loans. These fixed- and variable-rate loans also come with no fees and can be used for medical or dental procedures. Loan terms range from two to seven years, with total loan amounts between $5,000 and $100,000. SoFi requires a minimum credit score of 680 to get one of its loans.
    • Avant If your credit score is 580 or higher, you can apply for a personal loan through Avant. There is an origination fee, but no prepayment fee. APRs vary depending on the state in which you live, the total loan amount, and the repayment term.
    • Upstart offers personal loans that can be used for medical expenses. Loans range from $1,000 and $50,000 with repayment terms of either 36 & 60 months. A minimum credit score of 620 is required to qualify for one of these loans.
    • FreedomPlus is another lender who offers personal loans that can be used to finance medical expenses. Loans range from $7,500 and $40,000 and come with 24 to 60-month terms.There are no prepayment penalties. FreedomPlus loan decisions can be made quickly, and funds can be available in your account within 48 hours.
    • Wells Fargo Bank offers basic loans with low interest rates and 12-60 month to repay your debt. No origination fee and fixed monthly payments.
    • One Main Financial charges higher interest rates, but you may have a better chance of being approved if your credit score is less than 600. Offers 24-60 months to repay your debt and fixed monthly payments.

5. Borrow from your 401(k)

Your 401(k) account may allow you to borrow up to 50 percent of the balance you have vested, up to a maximum of $50,000. Loan repayment is automatically deducted from your paycheck. The loan repayment period is up to five years.However, it’s not usually a good idea to withdraw money from your 401(k) as you may have to pay a penalty and the IRS considers your withdrawal taxable income. Additionally, if you are unable to repay the money you borrowed, you will have to pay taxes on it, as well as the penalty. Furthermore, if leave your job, youhave 60 days to pay off your loan, or you’ll have to claim it as a distribution (more taxes and penalties).

6. Take out a home equity loan

If you own your home and have accumulated equity, you might consider taking out a home equity loan. A home equity loan takes the equity you’ve built up in your home and converts it to cash that can be used to pay for your cosmetic procedure. Since these loans are secured by the equity in your home, the interest rates charged are often lower than a those of a personal loan. However, be mindful that since home equity loans use your home as collateral, you risk losing your home if you fail to pay off the loan.

Bottom Line

Even if your credit is less than stellar and you think you won’t qualify for a personal loan, you might be surprised. While cosmetic surgery is expensive, don’t let that scare you away. Lending requirements are more lenient than ever before, and with research and diligence, you can prepare for that cosmetic surgery of your dreams.

Dr. Gregory T. Lynam

Dr. Gregory T. Lynam is Richmond's only board-certified plastic and maxillofacial surgeon. He has helped numerous people within the community tumor surgeries, breast reconstructions, and facial trauma surgeries.

Dr. Lynam was voted one of Richmond's "Top Docs" in plastic surgery and one of Richmond's "Best Plastic Surgeons to take you back 20 years" by Richmond Magazine in 2010. Additionally, he is known as an expert plastic surgeon on RealSelf and was honored as one of the Top 100 Doctors on RealSelf in 2013.

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