Many people think of Banfield Pet Hospital as pet insurance, but in reality, it is an automatically renewing annual wellness plan. It serves as a useful funnel of business to pet hospital facilities for additional medical services, with a ‘discount’ given to wellness plan members.
Banfield was founded by a veterinarian in 1955 in Portland, OR. When it opened its second pet hospital in 1994 inside a PetSmart store, PetSmart saw the strategic advantage of the combination. It invested in Banfield, as did Mars Incorporated. By 2009, Mars owned a controlling interest.
By 2004, one million pets had received preventive care through Banfield’s Optimum Wellness Plans, and by 2007 two million plans had been sold.
Meanwhile, Banfield grew by selling franchises to veterinarians, then re-absorbed them as company-owned pet hospitals. In 2017, it opened its 1,000th hospital in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Today, Banfield offers four basic wellness plans, targeted at puppies, dogs, kittens, and cats.
As Banfield states, its Optimal Wellness Plans offer proactive (as opposed to reactive) pet care. Its plans cover basic wellness and limited illness care at its facilities. They do not cover any emergency or specialist services provided elsewhere.
Puppy Wellness Plan and Kitten Wellness Plan (under six months) are identical: they are offered as ‘Early Care,’ with a ‘Plus’ version that adds spaying or neutering. The plans include comprehensive physical exams, vaccinations, diagnostic testing, fecal exams, dewormings, and unlimited office visits.
Dog Wellness Plan and Cat Wellness Plan (six months or older): offered at three levels (Essential Wellness, Active Prevention and Special Care) which give discounts on the retail cost of other services at 10%, 15%, or 20% respectively. Maximum services include comprehensive physical exams, vaccinations, diagnostic testing, fecal exams, dewormings, dental cleaning, urine testing, electrocardiograms, and unlimited office visits. (Dogs can get preventive x-rays and eye-pressure tests.)
Add-ons: Parasite Control, Spay/Neuter, Additional Dental, Canine Genetic Analysis DNA Test, and Chronic Care options are available.
The Important Details
Vet Exams: Not required, as plans are not concerned with pre-existing conditions.
Co-Pays and Reimbursement: Do not apply.
Deductibles: No deductibles.
Waiting Periods: No waiting periods.
Renewals: Upon automatic renewal, the new cost of the annual plan will reflect the fee charged at that time to all members at that hospital for that same plan and combination of add-ons.
Pricing: The pet owner commits to an annual fee for a 12-month contract. Monthly installments are deducted directly from a credit card or checking/savings account. Non-Plan services (those not included in the plan) are charged with the appropriate plan discount. Banfield partners with a company called CareCredit if a pet owner needs financing for a costly procedure.
Basic plan fees are the same for all animals in a group: puppies, dogs, kittens, or cats. Location can affect the price. Using the website’s monthly cost calculator for several states for neutered pets under and over six months indicated:
- Puppy: Early Care $29.95; Early Care Plus $41.95
- Kitten: Early Care $27.95; Early Care Plus $32.95
- Dog: Essential Wellness $26.95; Active Prevention $36.95; Special Care $47.95
- Cat: Essential Wellness $21.95; Active Prevention $30.95; Special Care $37.95
Banfield’s documents refer to a ‘membership fee’ beyond the annual commitment but never specify the amount. Third-party sites refer to a one-time membership fee of around $40.
Banfield offers a multiple-pet discount of $15 on the membership fee for each added pet.
What We Liked Most
Banfield has convenient evening and weekend hours in facilities that are often located in local PetSmart stores.
Banfield could be an affordable way to budget your pet’s routine care expenses, smoothing out the cost over the year. Unfortunately, anecdotal accounts indicate unending add-ons and upsells beyond the fixed fee.
What You May Not Like
Banfield makes it extremely difficult to stop a contract from auto-renewing. Also, even if your pet dies, if you try to cancel during the contract year you are obligated to pay the total annual fee.
You must also pay any amount that the undiscounted retail cost of any services rendered to date exceeds that total annual fee. Plans cannot be transferred to another pet or assigned to another person if you must re-home your pet.
Also, Banfield encourages you to ‘drop off’ your pet for a 4-6 hour period, during which it will be attended. Few pet owners want to think of their pet in a carrier for that long.