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Fine print, Living with credit

I clearly see interest-free financing for my Lasik surgery

Sienna Kossman

Until now, I’ve used credit cards primarily as a tool for building my credit score — charging a bit on each card every month and paying off balances as soon as possible. But after being approved for a card boasting a 21-month-long 0-percent APR, I’ll now be using credit to help finance a pricey (and totally optional) surgical procedure.

A little bit of backstory.

I got my first pair of glasses when I was seven after struggling to read the chalkboard at school and since then, I’ve needed eye exams, new glasses and contact lenses almost every year since. It’s been almost 18 years of $500 annual expenses, mostly-out-of-pocket, seven years of which I’ve paid for myself.

I’m so over it. When I learned I’m a good candidate for Lasik, a type of corrective eye surgery using a laser, my interest piqued. The doctor said I could go about two decades not wearing or paying for contact lenses or prescription glasses. And even after that, I might just need reading glasses. Sign me up!

But then I saw the procedure’s price tag. Lasik isn’t cheap.

Prices vary slightly depending on the region and surgeon, but Lasik generally costs around $2,000 per eye. The almost-$4,000 total includes preop testing, surgery, postop care and six months of checkups.

If I went ahead with the procedure, I had to explore possible financing options:

Option No. 1: Care Credit
The surgical center I’d be going to offers Care Credit financing, but after the six-month, 0-percent APR introductory period, the APR jumps to 25.99 percent. That just sounds like a recipe for expensive trouble if something happened and I couldn’t pay the balance off in six short months. No thanks.

Option No. 2: Pay out of pocket
Between my savings account and a few income windfalls coming in over the next two months, I’d have enough to cover the full cost of Lasik out of pocket, but I’m not crazy about that idea. I want to use part of my savings, not all, after working so hard this past year to build up the balance.

Option No. 3. A 0-percent APR credit card
While calculating LASIK costs, I remembered that I’d recently set aside a few pre-approved credit card mail offers that seemed like especially good deals, one of which was for the Citi Diamond Preferred card.

This card offer advertised a 21-month long, 0-percent purchase AND balance transfer rates.

To take advantage of this deal, I intend to use the card solely to pay for my Lasik procedure and spread the expense across almost two years of careful budgeting with no additional costs. Even after the introductory offer expires, the card would have a reasonable 16.24 percent APR and no annual fee, so it will be a fine card to use post-Lasik debt, too.

Option No. 3 seems like the best way to go. I applied for the card, was approved and received my EMV chip-equipped MasterCard last week.

Now that I’ve secured this financing option, here’s the plan: Next month I will go through a series of vision tests to help the doctors determine how to correct my vision. After that I’ll be given a final Lasik price quote and have a firm idea of how much to pay out of pocket without breaking the bank.

Once the doctors sign off on the surgery and my budget is in order, I’ll schedule the procedure and pay for it using my new 0-percent card. If I make that charge by the end of April, I will still have about 19 months to pay off the balance interest-free. Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me!

After surgery, I’ll immediately pay off a large chunk of the new card balance using about $2,500 from my savings. Then, going forward I’ll pay at least $175 of the remaining balance off each month. At that rate, I’ll have it all paid off well before the interest-free period ends.

I’m not making this decision lightly. I’m still paying down my student loans and a small remaining portion of my auto loan, but if I can comfortably work this Lasik payment plan into my budget, it’s worth it. The younger I am, the more years I’ll have to enjoy quality eyesight without fumbling between prescription glasses and sunglasses. My super-sensitive eyes will be glad contacts are gone, too.

Plus, the procedure will pay for itself in about eight years, based on how much I typically spend on vision care each year. I’m almost 25 now, so if I can make it to age 40 without paying for any further vision supplies, the surgery will be well worth it.

Fingers crossed the next two months pan out as expected. But for now, I’m thankful for quality credit that can help greatly improve the quality of my life.

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