What’s the Best Credit Card for My Big Upcoming Medical Bill?

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female Pediatrician doctor examining her little baby patient with stethoscope in medical room

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  • If you’ve got a big expense in the near future, it can be a great idea to open a new credit card.
  • Accruing credit card rewards is easiest by earning welcome bonuses, which can offer 60,000 points or more.
  • Your large expense can go a long way toward meeting a welcome bonus minimum spending requirement.
  • Read Insider’s guide to the best current credit card sign-up bonuses.

We regularly receive emails from readers with questions about tips and tricks for using credit cards and travel rewards to their full potential. If you’ve got something you’d like us to answer on the site, you can send us an email.

One of the most common credit card questions we hear is a simple one: What’s the best credit card for my large upcoming expense?

Reddit user duranJah asks,

[I] need to pay [a] $2k in medical bill. Which credit card should I get?

Your initial tendency may be to focus on a credit card that gives you the most points for the spending category.

Since medical bills don’t tend to fall into a bonus category, the savvy move would be to funnel that $2,000 transaction through a card that earns a respectable flat return rate on all expenses, such as the Citi® Double Cash Card. It earns 1% back when you make a purchase and another 1% back when you pay off your purchase, giving you 2% everywhere. A $2,000 expense provides a $40 return (in the form of 4,000 Citi ThankYou points).

But there’s a much better strategy to use if you’re trying to get the biggest bang for your expense. 

Insider’s Featured Rewards Credit Cards

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Earn unlimited 3x points on restaurants, travel, gas stations, transit, popular streaming services and phone plans. Earn 1x points on other purchases.

Limited time offer of 30,000 bonus points when you spend $1,500 in purchases in the first 3 months from account opening (offer expires 01/10/2023)

Earn 3x ThankYou® points at restaurants and supermarkets. Earn 3x ThankYou® points at gas stations, air travel, and hotels. Earn 1x ThankYou® points on all other purchases.

80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

Earn 5x points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Earn 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out. Earn 3x points on select streaming services. Earn 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs). Earn 2x points on other travel. Earn 1x point per dollar on everything else.

60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening

We’re focused here on the rewards and perks that come with each card. These cards won’t be worth it if you’re paying interest or late fees. When using a credit card, it’s important to pay your balance in full each month, make payments on time, and only spend what you can afford to pay.

Open a new credit card for large upcoming expenses

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card


Intro offer

60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening


Rewards

Earn 5x points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Earn 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out. Earn 3x points on select streaming services. Earn 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs). Earn 2x points on other travel. Earn 1x point per dollar on everything else.

Chase Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card


Intro offer

60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening


Rewards

Earn 5x points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Earn 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out. Earn 3x points on select streaming services. Earn 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs). Earn 2x points on other travel. Earn 1x point per dollar on everything else.


Rewards

Earn 5x points on all travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Earn 3x points on dining, including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out. Earn 3x points on select streaming services. Earn 3x points on online grocery purchases (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs). Earn 2x points on other travel. Earn 1x point per dollar on everything else.


Intro offer

60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening


Recommended Credit

Good to Excellent

Recommended credit score. Note that credit card lenders may use many different variations of credit score models when considering your application.

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Regular Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

19.74% – 26.74% Variable

Editor’s Rating

4.8/5

Our editor’s ratings analyze fees, bonuses, rewards, and benefits to highlight the simplest and most valuable credit cards available.

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Learning and maximizing bonus spending categories are a critical part of the credit card rewards strategy. Depending on your spending habits, having a strategy to which cards you use for certain expenses could mean a difference of tens of thousands of points each year.

Many starter rewards credit cards offer a meager return rate. For example, the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card earns 1.5% back on all purchases (except for hotels and car rentals booked through the Capital One Travel portal, which earn 5% back). Instead of using this card for your everyday spending, you could instead spend on a card like the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express (annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $95), which offers bonus categories such as 6% cash back at US supermarkets up to $6,000 per year in purchases (then 1%) and 3% cash back at US gas stations and on transit.

If you spend $6,000 on groceries per year, you’d earn $360 cash back with the Amex Blue Cash Preferred card. That’s $175 better than you’d do with the Capital One QuicksilverOne Cash Rewards Credit Card after accounting for the Amex Blue Cash Preferred’s annual fee.

However, if you’ve got a big expense on the horizon, it’s often best to toss bonus categories to the side and focus on something else: credit card intro offers.

There’s almost always a selection of big bonuses that can offset your purchase in a powerful way — and your sizable purchase will go a long way toward meeting the minimum spending requirement. For duranJah’s $2,000 medical expense, they could:

  • Open the $95-annual-fee Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, which comes with 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s worth an average of $1,080 in travel, based on Insider’s valuation of Chase points (or $600 in cash).
  • Open the $0-annual-fee Ink Business Cash® Credit Card, which comes with $900 bonus cash back after you spend $6,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening. That’s worth an average of $1,620 in travel, based on Insider’s valuations (or $900 in cash).
  • Open the $95-annual-fee Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which comes with 75,000 miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening. That’s worth an average of $1,275 in travel, based on Insider’s valuation of Capital One miles (or $375 in cash).

Again, a $2,000 expense won’t automatically unlock any of these bonuses — but it can make earning a bonus much easier. The prospect of being able to offset an expense by $600+ from a single card bonus is enticing. And you can get much more value if you choose to redeem your rewards travel instead of simply cashing them out to pay your bill.

If you’re ever anticipating things like a home renovation, a pricey car repair, medical expenses, and potentially even tax payments, choosing a credit card with a generous bonus is a better strategy than choosing one that simply offers an improved return rate.

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