UPDATED: Nov 30, 2018
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The first Banfield pet hospital was founded in Portland, OR in 1955. The practice grew, and in 1988 first offered their Optimum Wellness Plan, designed to help pet owners prepare for the costs of routine veterinary care.
In 1994 the practice opened a second location, this time inside a PetSmart store. The following year, PetSmart signed an agreement with Banfield to form a partnership, and in 1999 Banfield purchased 114 other veterinary practices that were located inside PetSmart stores. Today they are the preferred provider for PetSmart and locations can be found across the country. In 2017 the 1,000th location was opened.
Banfield’s original Wellness plan format continued to grow under the PetSmart partnership. Today they offer several levels of plans for dogs and cats. They do not offer any major medical coverage and do not operate in the same way as most pet insurance; instead, these plans are designed to allow pet owners to pay a monthly fee that covers all routine care needs for their pet for the year.
Banfield today is a giant in the veterinary industry, and it operates a large standalone animal hospital outside Portland. They are engaged in many charitable efforts to help both animal welfare and improve veterinary science.
Banfield Optimum Wellness Plans
All of the Optimum Wellness plans provide coverage for routine care on a monthly payment basis. There are plans for puppies, dogs, kittens, and cats, each with slightly different inclusions. All of the plans, however, include the following:
- All recommended annual vaccinations
- Twice yearly wellness checks
- Advance screening for serious illness
- Unlimited office visits
- Discounts on most Banfield products and services
These plans are not insurance. Instead, they allow pet owners to pay a predictable monthly fee that helps spread out the cost of annual care while providing discounted services as well. Coverage for illness or injury is not included, but Wellness plan members do receive a discount on treatment. These discounts range from 5-20% and include things like heartworm, flea, and tick prevention medications, grooming products, and medical testing and diagnosis.
The plans start at the core level, and additional services can be added to customize. Core plans are puppy, adult dog, kitten, and adult cats. Some of the optional add-ons include:
- Spay & neuter coverage
- Additional dental cleaning (basic dental care is included in the core plan)
- Heartworm prevention
- Flea & tick prevention
The two juvenile core plans for puppies and kittens are available for pets up to 6 months of age, after which they must be switched to an adult plan. The juvenile plans are designed to cover the more frequent visits required in the first six months of life for vaccinations and well checks.
Unlike insurance, there are no waiting periods, deductibles, or increases in monthly fees based on breed or age. The plan can only be used at Banfield locations.
A very important thing to note regarding the wellness plans is that the cost of the annual services is essentially spread out over the full year during which the plan is in force. This means that the customer may still have to pay even after the decision to cancel in order to pay for services that have already been rendered by would only have been paid in full if the plan stayed in force all year.
Wellness plans have a flat monthly rate based on the core plan selected. This can then increase due to any add-on options, but otherwise has no fluctuations based on the pet’s size, breed, or other details. The site states that prices do vary based on location. This is common and is due to the differences in the cost of veterinary care.
There is a cost estimator on the website, but at the time of this review it was not functioning and we were not able to obtain a rate quote.
The site also offers more accurate quoting over the phone or by submitting an online form to request further information.
Since this Banfield’s plans are not insurance plans, there is no need to worry about claims or claims forms. The monthly fee simply covers everything that is included in the plan without additional costs or reimbursements. Anything not covered during a particular visit will be paid at the time of the visit.
Discounts that are included as part of the plan are automatically taken off the price at the time of payment.
Enrollment in the Banfield Optimum Wellness plans requires a visit to a Banfield office for a veterinarian examination of the pet. As a result, enrollment is not available online, although you can start the process of requesting rates and information online.
Enrollment can take up for four days to complete from the time of the application; this process is faster for current Banfield customers whose vet records are already available.
Ratings and Consumer Reviews
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) page for Banfield covers all of their veterinary services, and it is not specific to the Wellness plans. They currently have an A+ rating overall. There have been 722 complaints filed in the past three years, and 218 of those were closed in the past 12 months. Again, it is important to note that these complaints encompass all of the services of more than 1,000 veterinary locations across the country, which makes the complaint volume reasonable.
While the same caveat applies to the 1,719 reviews on Consumer Affairs, the review content does offer plenty of comments regarding the wellness plans. One of the most common complaints was to do with being charged even after cancellation; as explained above, this is the system by which Banfield spreads out the cost of annual care. If services that have already been provided have not been paid for by the time of cancellation, that remaining amount will be charged. While this is explained up front, many customers do not appear to understand or be aware of this.
Complaints also center on the lack of coverage for illness and injury, which again is mainly the result of a failure to understand how this plan works. Banfield’s plan does not cover anything outside of preventative care, which is made clear but still appears to surprise some customers.
Some of the complaints regarding the veterinary practice itself have some bearing on whether or not the wellness plan is worth purchasing. These include difficulty with getting appointments and issues with communication. This seems to vary by location, which is not surprising to see.
The Bottom Line
Banfield’s Wellness plans are not insurance and do not act like insurance; it is key that anyone looking into these plans read all of the fine print and has a clear understanding of what they are getting and how the monthly payment and cancellation process works. For those who prefer the convenience of paying annual costs on a monthly basis rather than as they occur, these plans may well be worth it. If you are seeking true pet insurance for major medical needs, however, you are best to look elsewere as Banfield’s plans are not designed for such needs.