You make a purchase at your favorite retailer, maybe online, and opt for the buy now pay later option at checkout. Do you know what you just did? Also known as point-of-sale installment loans, many have grown fond of “buy now, pay later” services.
If approved, which takes seconds, you make a down payment of the overall purchase amount. Then you pay the remaining due in a series of interest-free installments. You can make payments via check, bank transfer, debit card, or credit card automatically.
Increased Popularity of Buy Now, Pay Later
Point-of-sale loans gained popularity by positioning as a trendier credit-card alternative for millennials with few strings attached. The loose credit rules helped attract users. Buy now, pay later loans have increased from $2B in 2019 to $24B last year. They gained traction, with consumers seeking the flexibility of paying for goods and services over time but maybe untrusting of other credit and loan products.
According to a 2021 study by the Strawhecker Group, 39% of Americans say they’ve tried buy now, pay later at least once.
The quick growth of buy now, pay later is driven primarily by younger consumers, with two-thirds of borrowers considered subprime. Nearly half of generation Z shoppers and 70% of millennials are more likely to make a purchase if they can buy now, pay later. The thinking behind buy now, pay later is consumers can get the things they want and need immediately while also getting extra time to pay for them.
Buy now, pay later can be an appealing way to pay for smaller purchases when shopping online. Its popularity grew during the rise of e-commerce in general.
What’s the Deal with Buy Now Pay Later?
Point of sale or buy now, pay loans are essentially an interest-free loan that gives consumers the flexibility to pay for goods and services over time. Often buy now, pay later does not charge fees, but they have a fixed payment schedule comparable to any similar type of unsecured personal or consumer loan. A point-of-sale loan will allow you to sport that $400 Kate Spade handbag and pay for it later in monthly installments. Buy now, pay later encourages consumers to purchase and borrow more. As a result, borrowers can quickly end up taking out several loans within a short timeframe at multiple lenders.
Point-of-sale loans are not new. Banks have been offering them subtly at furniture stores and orthodontists’ offices for years. However, this type of lending has become increasingly popular in recent years as technology has improved.
Your Credit and Point of Sale Loans
As buy now, pay later has become more popular, users have become more prone to overspending and missing payments. Although consumers are choosing buy now, pay later loans as a competitive alternative to high-interest credit products, it does not help you establish and build good credit, and you miss out on any perks.
Buy now, pay later financing offered through credit card companies may carry lower fees or interest rates than the regular variable APR charged on outstanding balances. Typically, buy now, pay later doesn’t affect your credit score; however, late payments or failing to pay can damage your credit score. Some buy now pay later companies only require a soft credit check for approval, which doesn’t affect your credit score. Others may conduct a hard inquiry of your credit, knocking a few points off your score.
Point-of-sale loans are different than a purchase with a credit card because when you use a credit card you are only required to make the minimum payment due on the card each month. Interest accrues on the remaining amount until you pay it off unless your card has a 0 introductory APR.
Point of Sale Regulation
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau CFPB), Last week CFPB outlined plans to regulate the buy now, pay later business. Regulators believe that buy now, pay later poses risks to consumers because they lack protections. They also and encourage over-borrowing and loan stacking or getting approval for multiple loans or lines of credit simultaneously within a short period. Loan stacking generally happens online and can be done by either individuals or businesses.
Regulators plan to regulate buy now, pay later like credit card companies. That means the buy now, pay later industry may have to add pricey safeguards and do more credit checks.
Be More Aware of Buy Now, Pay Later
There are some things that I want you to be aware of with buy now, pay later.
First, be aware of the repayment terms. Some loans may require you to pay the remaining balance with biweekly payments. And others may give you three or six months or longer to pay. Knowing how your payments will help you when creating your spending plan. Also, this will ensure that you can afford your payments and make them on time. A missing or late payment could result in late fees and be reported to the credit bureaus, which could hurt your credit score.
Inflation is causing people to increasingly struggle to pay for necessities up front and fail to repay their loans. During the pandemic, shoppers used buy now, pay later to buy luxuries. Now, 15% of buy now, pay later users are using buy now, pay later to pay for gas and groceries.
Also, remember that though you may be approved for a 0-interest point-of-sale loan, it’s not guaranteed. Point-of-sale loan companies can charge interest on purchases that can easily match or outpace what you might spend on a credit card. And unlike credit cards, you are not earning any rewards on purchases.
Finally, consider return policies and point-pf-sale loans may affect your ability to return something you purchased. The merchant may allow you to make the return, but you may not be able to cancel the point-of-sale arrangement until you provide proof that the return has been accepted and processed.
There you have it, the ins and outs of point-of-sale loans. Be sure to weigh the advantages of point-of-sale installment loans against the benefits of using other financing options. And remember cash still works. What has been your experience with buy now, pay later or pint-of-sale loans? Comment below, I would love to hear from you.