Buy Now Pay Later deals – what’s the risk? 

We know the feeling… money is tight and you need a new winter coat, or it’s a while off pay day but you’ve still got all your Christmas presents left to buy. It’s easy to see why Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) deals are so popular, particularly during a cost-of-living-crisis, but are the deals risk free? The short answer is no - here we explore the risks of BNPL deals, how they affect your credit score and ultimately whether they’re worth using. 

A young person is holding an hour glass and looking anxious. There is a ticking clock behind them representing the looming prospect of paying back the debt from a buy now pay later deal

What are Buy Now Pay Later deals? 

If you’ve been on any big retail website recently, you’ve probably been given the option to pay using a Buy Now Pay Later deal. You can even order a takeaway from Deliveroo using a BNPL scheme now. 

The big players in the game are companies like Klarna and Clearpay, but other companies and banks are starting to offer similar services. They basically give you the option to pay (up to 30 days) later or to split your payment into instalments, giving you the chance to buy something even if you don’t actually have the money for it in your bank account. They’re particularly popular because unlike credit cards or bank loans, they are interest free, meaning you can borrow the money and pay back later without having to pay anything extra (provided you pay the money back on time). 

What are the risks of Buy Now Pay Later deals? 

So far, BNPL deals sound pretty good eh? So what are the pitfalls? 

They can encourage us to spend more than we can afford 

These companies know the temptation to buy something – whether it’s a pair of jeans or a takeaway – is often strong enough to override the fact we can’t actually afford it. With BNPL deals, it’s easy to get caught up in a spending spree without considering the consequences. 

They can land you in debt 

Problems with BNPL deals really start to heat up when you can’t pay back the money on time. This is the sticky situation thousands of people find themselves in, and the consequences aren’t pretty. Some companies will charge late fees which quickly start racking up, and other companies will pass your details onto debt collectors. Debt collectors will persistently write you letters, ring your phone and turn up at your door if you haven’t paid the money back and they’re struggling to get hold of you. If you’re struggling with debt, check out these useful resources.

Buy Now Pay Later deals can affect your credit score 

According to the good people at Experian, some longer-term BNPL deals are already reported to credit reporting agencies like themselves and it is presumed that all BNPL deals, including shorter-term transactions from the likes of Klarna, will be reported before long and, eventually, factored into credit scores. This means, if you have used a BNPL deal and haven’t paid the money back on time, it could affect your credit score, either now or in the future. 

What is my credit score and why is it important? 

Your credit score is a score based on your financial history, showing how reliable you are when it comes to borrowing and paying back money. It tracks all the times you’ve borrowed money in the past, how much you borrowed, and whether you paid it back on time – this means any kind of money borrowing including credit cards, mortgages and as of recently, BNPL deals too.

Your credit score is important because it affects whether lenders will lend you money in the future. If, for example, you’re looking for a loan to buy a car or are hoping to get a mortgage on your first house, the bank will firstly check your credit score. If you have a bad credit score, they are unlikely to lend you the money. If you want to check your credit score you can do this for free using the Experian tool. For more info and tips on how to boost your credit rating, check out this article

Should I use Buy Now Pay Later deals? 

Not everyone has a nightmare experience with BNPL deals. If you are someone who is very organised with your money and you know you can pay the money back on time, they could be helpful in those times when you’re waiting on pay day. 

But you’re asking us, we’d say avoid using them if you can. The risks tend to outweigh the benefits and as many people have proven, they can land you in a tricky financial situation. For more tips on how to manage your money better, read our article here.

For more support with money

The Mix would like to thank Experian for their support with this article.

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By Olivia Capadose

Updated on 21-Nov-2022

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