Medical loans 101
If you’re after a loan that will help cover the costs of a surgery (see more about cosmetic surgery loans) or have to cover some urgent medical expenses, you’ll want to brush up on the basics of medical loans.
We’ll have you studied up on loans in no time, so when it comes to choosing which loan to take to your doctor’s office, you’ll be ready to make an informed decision.
What is a medical loan?
Despite the specific name, a medical loan functions the same as any other personal loan. While there are specialised lenders, these loans all tend to function similarly. You borrow a lump sum of money and pay it back in regular instalments, often monthly, along with interest and any additional fees.
There are different types of loans, but medical loans will most commonly be unsecured personal loans. This means that they won’t be secured against an asset (e.g a car or other valuable possession), and you won’t risk repossession. They can offer variable and fixed interest rates, depending on what suits your needs.
What can a medical loan be used for?
Loans can be used for debt consolidation, home renovations or purchasing a car - but when we’re talking medical loans, we’re looking at loans used for the kind of things Medicare doesn’t cover.
Depending on the kind of medical need you are looking to finance, you may be able to get some assistance through the public health system or through your own private health insurance. As such, medical loans are usually used to finance ones that aren’t on those lists, which means non-essential procedures - especially ones with large price tags.
Some things medical loans are commonly used on include:
Bear in mind that some specialised medical loans will have restrictions on what you can use the loan for, so it’s important to examine the terms of eligibility for the loan you’re looking at.
What medical loan should I choose?
When comparing medical loans - or any personal loans - there’s plenty to take into account.
Fixed rates: Your interest rate stays the same for the life of your loan, making it easier to budget. This is an attractive option if you're worried about a rate hike down the track in a rocky financial climate, but they do tend to be attached to higher interest rates and more rigid conditions.
Variable rates: These rates are subject to change over the course of the loan. These rates are generally lower and have more flexible features (like early repayments and redraws), but the interest rates can rise over time.
Unsecured loan: Most medical loans will be unsecured. Secured loans are most commonly seen for cars and motorcycles, where you are purchasing an expensive asset you can use as security against the loan. While secured loans tend to have lower interest rates, defaulting on them can lead to your assets being repossessed - which makes them a risky option for medical loans.
There are also some features to take into consideration when you look for a medical loan.
Fees: All loans have fees attached, and it can make a real difference to the amount you end up paying. Most loans feature an application fee, but there can also be fees for late payments, early payments, redraws, and all sorts of other unexpected things.
Loan term: This is the duration of the loan, usually between 1-7 years, and impacts how much interest you will pay (and how much your repayments are). The faster you pay off your loan, the less interest you pay.
Comparison rate: The comparison rate factors in both the interest and fees you’ll be charged on the loan - so comparing personal loans based on the comparison rate and not just the headline rate gives you a more accurate idea of the full cost of the loan. It's important to be aware that the comparison rate is generally based on a set scenario (i.e. either a $30,000 loan paid off over 5 years or a $10,000 loan over 3 years) so your actual loan might be slightly different. Use our loan repayments calculator to help work things out.
Extra features: By having features like free extra repayments or a flexible repayment schedule, you can give yourself the opportunity to pay off your loan earlier and save on interest. Watch out for things like early break costs, which might make it not worth your while to try to pay that loan off early.
What are my rights with a medical loan?
Once your loan is approved, it is your money to spend. However, depending on the loan and the lender, there may be different expectations.
Specific medical financing may require you to spend the entirety of the loan on your medical treatment, so if you’re taking out a loan for any extra, you might want to double check the terms and conditions.
Generally speaking, you will not have to disclose what specific medical purpose you are taking out the loan for (although in some cases you may have to specify that it does fall into certain subcategories). You may, in these cases, need to display some proof that the money is being used for medical purposes. These loans may have higher interest rates but are likely to be somewhat flexible to your circumstances surrounding repayment.
However, if you opt for a traditional personal loan, you are not limited in what you spend the money on. This can mean splitting up your spending, or retaining your total privacy (which may be desired in the case of some medical treatments).
Do I have other options for my medical finances?
There are always options for payment, with medical loans being just one choice on the list.
Your doctor or clinic may offer direct payment plans, which could come with competitive interest rates - or see you paying sneaky extra fees on late payments, so it’s important to review any terms and conditions with this option.
You may also opt to finance your medical procedures via credit card. This can be a great option if you will be able to make your repayments in full, but otherwise can deliver a serious blow to your credit score and see you paying much higher interest rates.
If you have the savings to spare, using your own money is always an attractive option. It may eat away at your basic budget, but it will save you on any additional fees and added interest.
Looking to take out a medical loan? Compare some of the options below and use our loan repayments calculator to work out what you can afford.
What interest rate options do I have for Medical loans?
When it comes to borrowing money for medical purposes, the bank or lender won’t be all that concerned why you are borrowing money; you could be using it for a renovation or to buy a boat. What they will be concerned about is your ability to pay back the loan amount.
You will generally have the option between a fixed or a variable rate loan. A fixed interest rate loan means that for the duration of the loan period your loan repayments will remain fixed. Many people prefer this option as it allows them to budget effectively. With a variable rate loan, your repayments could go up or down during your loan period. Generally variable rate loan have flexible features like extra repayment and redraw facilities. These can be useful if you are able to make more than the minimum repayment so that you can pay off your loan sooner.
How do I compare medical loans between providers?
You’ll notice that our table and all loans in our database have two sets of interest rates advertised, the interest rate and the comparison rate. The comparison rate combines the headline interest rate with any loan fees into a single rate. It’s a good idea to use this rate to compare loans between providers because often some lenders that have low interest rates could have higher fees, so by using the comparison rate you are able to make a more informed choice.
Just be aware that the comparison rate advertised is worked out on a set criteria. If your loan amount or loan term is different to this your comparison rate will be different to this rate but the lender will be required to tell you what it will be. Also, you may find that you will get a different rate whether you're applying for a Melbourne personal loan or Sydney personal loan or somewhere else.
How quickly can I get a medical loan?
The great news is that with online applications and approvals some personal loan providers can turn around your application and get your medical loan approved pretty quickly. Medical loans can be applied for online and conditional approval can be granted in as little as 60 seconds with official approval and funds often received within 24-48 hours.
Can I get a medical loan with bad credit?
There is no way to be certain that you’ll be approved for a medical loan and if you’ve had a chequered past when it comes to borrowing cash it could be a little harder or you may have to pay a premium when it comes to the interest rate on your loan. However, it certainly isn’t impossible and there are even a few easy ways to improve your chances of being approved.
- Start small - Smaller loans are less of a risk for lenders and also require less of an income to service, so make sure you’re not blowing yourself out of the water by asking for too much cash unnecessarily.
- Show you’ll be able to meet repayments - Lenders will look upon your application more favourably if you’ve shown that you’re a steady saver by making regular deposits into a savings account as it will show them that you’ll be able to meet your new loan repayments. This is especially important if you haven’t previously applied for credit in the form of a different personal loan or credit card.
- Keep on top of bills and payments - Even if you haven’t been so diligent in the past, make sure you keep your recent credit history as clean as possible. A missed repayment two years ago doesn’t look so bad when you’ve consistently made the last 18 months worth of repayments on your credit card.
Should I choose a secured medical loan?
If you’ve got a home loan, you might be able to opt for a secured loan for your medical expenses. ‘Securing’ your loan means that you’re offering up an asset as security for the loan and in return, providers will offer you a more competitive interest rate. But keep in mind that if you default on the loan, they could then seize the asset you’ve placed on the table.
If that isn’t an option for you or just not something you’re comfortable with, not to worry, you can always choose an unsecured personal loan.
What types of procedures can I use a medical loan for?
Whether you’re after a facelift, some liposuction or in need of something a little more structural like a knee reconstruction or hip replacement, medical loans can help cover the costs for a range of procedures and surgeries. This includes elective surgery, which is when you go under the knife for non-essential procedures, like cosmetic or laser eye surgery. But you can also use a medical loan to pay for dental procedures as well as to help cover the costs of any essential surgeries - like an appendectomy if you suddenly fall victim to appendicitis.
Are medical loans just for surgeries and procedures?
No, you can use medical loans for a host of health-related expenses including travel costs for overseas procedures or to pay for a series of specialist appointments. Just bear in mind that if you do plan on fueling a trip overseas for a medical procedure with one of these loans, the money you receive into your bank account will be in Australian dollars. If that’s the case for you and you’re looking for a way to use that money overseas, head over to our travel money hub to find the perfect way to spend your money abroad.
Are there any restrictions on what I use my medical loan for?
When you apply for a personal loan you’ll usually have to nominate what the money will be used for and more often than not, medical expenses will be an option you’re given by the provider. Aside from that, there are very few restrictions on how you spend the money you’re approved for. One thing to keep in mind, however, is that you don’t want to be using a medical loan for everyday expenses - like groceries or utilities - as it’s a form of income that can dry up quickly, especially if you’re taking some time off work to recover from a big procedure or serious illness.
Will medicare or private health insurance help cover my medical costs?
Medicare - Australia’s publicly funded form of healthcare - will definitely help cover the cost of a range of medical expenses, whether it be an unexpected few days at the hospital or an elective surgical procedure. But you’re at the mercy of the public health system which often means lengthy waiting times for consultations and procedures.
For this reason, a lot of Australians choose a private health insurance provider to help cover their medical costs as well as provide them with a few added health perks like choosing a specific surgeon or hospital. But even then, medical costs can easily balloon beyond the caps and coverage levels provided by health insurance providers in Australia, which is where a medical loan can come in handy.
Is a medical loan a good choice for ongoing medical expenses?
Generally speaking, medical loans are a good choice if you’re trying to fund a large, one-off medical expense that your budget can’t accommodate rather than any ongoing costs. This is because eventually the loan amount will run out, meaning you’ll have to find another way to stump up for your continuing medical expenses.
If you’re looking for a way to accommodate any ongoing health-related costs into your current budget, why not run a refresh using Mozo’s budget calculator. It will give you the option of adding in the cost and its frequency alongside all of your other expenses so that you can build a budget that works for you in the long-term