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Cash, credit or loan: How to pay for fertility treatments?

Not every health insurance policy covers fertility treatments.

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Mayte Torres | Moment | Getty Images
Select’s editorial team works independently to review financial products and write articles we think our readers will find useful. We may receive a commission when you click on links for products from our affiliate partners.

When TJ Farnsworth, founder of Inception Fertility, embarked on his family's fertility journey in 2012, he had no idea it would take him and his wife two years and multiple rounds of in-vitro fertilization (IVF) to become parents.

Fortunately, Farnsworth and his wife had the means to pay for doctor's visits and fertility treatments, but cost can be an insurmountable barrier for many hopeful families.

The average cost of IVF is $12,000, and it often takes up to two or three cycles before having a successful pregnancy. In fact, over 70% of fertility patients require more than one treatment cycle before they are successful.

Though more health insurance plans now cover IVF and fertility-related expenses, not all states mandate this coverage. And once you do pay for the costs of fertility treatment and/or IVF, there's never a guarantee that you'll go home with a baby.

"I've always wanted children," Farnsworth tells Select. "But I never in a million years grew up dreaming it would happen in a laboratory somewhere and cost over $100,000."

The fertility journey can be long, frustrating and lonely. Cost shouldn't be another obstacle, believes Farnsworth. If you're facing fertility treatments and/or IVF on your path to growing your family, it's certainly worth looking at the options, from insurance to paying out of pocket with cash.

Ahead, Select speaks with Farnsworth and Albert financial planner Michaela McDonald, CFP about what to consider when paying for expensive fertility procedures.

Check with your insurance provider first

Usually, your initial fertility consultation and diagnostic blood tests will be covered by a qualifying insurance plan. But depending on the state you live in, coverage could stop there.

"There are some states that require insurance coverage for IVF," explains Farnsworth. "Over the next 12 or 18 months will see a lot more insurance coverage for IVF in New York, but in a place like Texas or Florida or California, there is no mandated insurance coverage and so the vast majority of patients will be out of pocket."

And even if you have insurance coverage, whether you live in a state that mandates it or your plan comes with great benefits, coverage tends to have limits.

"It's usually enough to cover one or two cycles," says Farnsworth. "It's very common to see a $25,000 lifetime maximum on the benefit, which is basically enough to cover a single IVF cycle."

If it ends up taking two or three cycles to have a child, or if you want to have more than one child through IVF, you should expect to pay.

Be careful using a credit card

Despite the high cost of IVF and/or fertility treatments and the powerful wish to have a child, you should avoid paying for costly medical procedures with a credit card unless you have a plan to pay it off, argues McDonald.

"You really wouldn't want to put these larger treatment dollar amounts on just a run-of-the-mill credit card because the interest rate on credit cards will typically be high, anywhere from 23% to 30%, depending on the card," she advises.

"Putting tens of thousands of dollars on a credit card can also hurt credit utilization and ultimately impact your credit score."

On the other hand, if you have the cash to cover IVF, you could put the treatment on a rewards-earning credit card and get some serious cash back on such a large expense. Charging $25,000 to a card like the Citi® Double Cash Card, which earns 1% back on all eligible purchases and another 1% back when you pay your bill, would net you $500 in cash back.

Explore lower-cost alternatives

If you don't have $100,000 cash ready to go, or you don't want to drain your savings before starting your family, a low-interest loan might be a viable option.

"There are some low interest rate personal loans online these days," says McDonald. Check for any hidden fees, such as origination fees and early payoff penalties, before you take out any loan. Before applying for the loan, improve your credit score so you qualify for the best interest rates and payment plans.

Also check with your fertility clinic to see if there are lower-risk financing options, such as payment plans or point-of-sale loans. Always check the interest and the cost you pay over time.

Participating locations within the Prelude Fertility Network offer a financing product called Bundl which, according to Farnsworth, was designed to help people from becoming "emotionally bankrupt" — a phrase Farnsworth uses to describe the painful process of one's hopes going up and down while waiting for news about pregnancy.

With Bundl, you can buy multiple rounds of IVF (three is the most common amount, according to Farnsworth) at a packaged discount price. Patients put a deposit down (the amount will vary patient by patient) then finance the rest of the cost with a flexible payment plan. Terms range from several months to years, and no principal payments are required for either the first year or until the couple has a baby (they will have to pay interest, however).

"Then, if at the end of three rounds, you don't have a baby at home, it's a 100% money-back refund guarantee," says Farnsworth.

The Bundl approach allows fertility clinics to take on some of the financial risk. The money-back guarantee reduces the amount of people who might default on the loan, with the intent of expanding access to borrowers with different risk profiles.

The best personal loans to qualify for low-interest installment plans

Start talking about family planning now

As the world begins to reopen after the coronavirus pandemic, couples and individuals should start thinking about family planning early if they want to have children in the future.

"We're seeing a major surge in people who want to have kids later in life," says Farnsworth. "It's a more common discussion I think."

Whether you want to simply start fertility preservation (aka egg and sperm freezing) — which is essentially just the first half of IVF — or move ahead with having kids as soon as possible, you'll encounter costs at every stage of the process.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.