Credit Card Numbers on File

April 1, 2008

We are interested in asking patients who do not pay in full when services are rendered to leave their credit card number on file with our office. When we receive confirmation that their insurance policy does not pay in full, we would like to then charge their credit card. What obstacles, if any, do you see with this collection plan? We already accept credit cards for the payment of their copay, so we have the system in place.

Question: We are interested in asking patients who do not pay in full when services are rendered to leave their credit card number on file with our office. When we receive confirmation that their insurance policy does not pay in full, we would like to then charge their credit card. What obstacles, if any, do you see with this collection plan? We already accept credit cards for the payment of their copay, so we have the system in place.

Answer: Some practices do indeed do this, but there are a couple of risks, primarily credit card piracy. Having all those credit card numbers on file can be a temptation to staff and a theft risk. Some patients won’t want you to do this for these reasons, and they are quite right to be nervous. Indeed, your card processor may prohibit this practice for this reason. Check your contracts.

The other risk is that patients, while knowing you plan to charge their card, may be surprised by the total amount. You risk hurting your relationship with them when they see this charge on their credit card statement and are shocked.

Some other options:

  • Take full advantage of any real-time adjudication you have access to so you can collect at the time of service.

  • Offer bill payment by credit card on your Web site and direct folks there.

  • Tighten up patient collection processes so that you collect or send to collections within 90 days regardless of how patients pay.