It should come as no surprise that not everyone has — or wants — a credit card these days. And while consumers need to build a credit history for serious investments like buying a house, these cards aren't always the easiest option for doing so. Then there are people who simply don't want to have to pay upfront to shop the items on their wish lists. That's where "buy now, pay later" sites come in — and they're rising in popularity.
As the name suggests, these services allow you to shop for items you want now and then pay them off over time. Curious about the best buy now, pay later sites we found? Keep reading to learn all about them.
What Does 'Buy Now, Pay Later' Mean?
Buy now, pay later is a payment option that lets you buy your items now and pay them off later. Most — if not all — of these programs require you to pay at least the first installment at the time of purchase, or even provide a down payment. However, buy now, pay later sites typically utilize a "pay in 4" method, where shoppers make the first payment at the time of purchase and then have six weeks to pay the other three installments.
Even though they're not credit cards in the traditional sense, many of these programs still provide customers with an available spend. And that amount can also be increased with responsible usage and on-time payments. For some, paying this way is simply easier than trying to apply for and receive a credit card via traditional means.
Do Buy Now, Pay Later Companies Check Your Credit?
Practically every buy now, pay later site requires at least a "soft" credit check — that is, they still check credit reports, but it won't affect your score because the check isn't attached to a specific application for credit.
Most of the time, buy now, pay later companies specify whether or not their method of checking will impact your credit score. However, if you have any hesitations, it's worth reaching out to the company's support team to get your questions answered.
The 5 Best Buy Now, Pay Later Sites
Buy now, pay later programs are becoming so ubiquitous that if one doesn't fit your needs, there's bound to be a couple of others that do. You may be used to seeing names like Affirm, Afterpay, and Klarna as payment options when shopping online, but the sheer number of these programs has seriously expanded since they began. And many popular retailers are partnering with them now. Here's a rundown of five buy now, pay later apps and sites that are worth considering, and how you can use them.
Affirm is probably one of the best-known buy now, pay later sites, with dozens of retailers providing it as a payment solution. You can use this service at a ton of different retailers across a wide variety of categories, including accessories and apparel, electronics and home, and travel and wedding. There are even categories like Black-owned businesses, which makes it easier to support this specific community.
What's more, Affirm states that there are "no hidden fees — not even late fees." However, it's important to note that using the service means your annual percentage rate — or APR — will be 0% or 10% to 30% based on credit, and is subject to an eligibility check. Payment options through Affirm come from a selection of lending partners, and options depend on your purchase amount, going up to $17,500. Additionally, you may have to make a down payment.
How it works: Shop your favorite supported retailers, and then when it's time to check out, select "Affirm" as your payment option. You'll have to enter a few details, then choose your preferred payment schedule. The good news is that you'll see right upfront the amount of the item, along with the interest you'll pay — if any — and the total you'll pay when it's all said and done. Then you just have to sign in to the website or download the app, and make your payments on time through there. Plus, if you shop multiple stores, you'll see how much you owe overall in the interface, so you don't have to hunt down every store you've shopped at.
Afterpay is another popular buy now, pay later site you'll see many online retailers offer as a payment alternative. You can sign up on the company's website or through their app — just have your email, phone number, address, date of birth, and a debit or credit card handy. Afterpay clarifies that the service involves "no external credit checks, no interest, no fees when you pay on time, [and] no surprises." But it's important to know that, similar to credit cards, you have an "available spend" (like a credit limit). And if you're late on payments, you'll have to pay fees; they're capped at 25% of the purchase price.
With Afterpay, you make your first payment when you purchase an item, and then you'll owe the rest of the money at a later time. You'll get an available spend initially, which can help you stay within your budget. And as long as you make timely payments, that available spend should increase over time. Worried about missing a payment? Afterpay sends reminders, but if you do miss one, they'll pause your account until you're caught up.
How it works: First, you'll have to download the Afterpay app. Then you can shop your favorite brands. When it's time to check out, view the installment plan and choose Afterpay as your payment option. You'll pay the first of four payments upfront, then pay the remainder off in three more installments over the next six weeks.
Additionally, this service is available in-store now at select retailers. In order to use Afterpay in-store, you'll have to download the app, set up the Afterpay Card, and then add it to your Apple or Google wallet. You can browse the in-app map to find a participating store nearby. Then, when you're done shopping and are ready to pay, you just have to authorize the card for payment. Select "pay in-store now with Apple Pay or Google Pay," and tap to pay. Then you can take your items home and pay for them in four payments over the course of six weeks.
Shop via the Klarna app and you can save your favorite items, then set price alerts for when the cost drops. You're also able to use the app to browse exclusive deals, and if you join the rewards program, you can earn rewards on every purchase. You can get curated wish lists, too, so you can easily find ideas tailored to your tastes. And you can shop online with the Klarna Chrome extension.
When you use Klarna's Pay in 4 plan, the service does run a "soft" credit check. But that shouldn't affect your credit score. And as long as you "Pay in 4" and make your payments on time, you won't be charged interest. Klarna sends reminders when payments are due, but if you do miss one, you could be subject to a late fee. Fortunately, Klarna states that the late fee is "no more than $7."
How it works: Shop online or in-store with the app, and then check out using Klarna. According to their website, the service allows you to "try before you buy, or pay over time," and provides a few different options to fit any budget. If you opt for Pay in 4, you'll split the cost of your purchase into four interest-free payments to be paid every two weeks. If you choose Pay later in 30 days, you'll be able to start enjoying your purchase immediately. Keep what you like and return the rest. When you're happy with your order, you can then pay your final balance with a valid credit card, debit card, or through your bank account. And you won't have to pay interest or fees.
There's also the option for 6- to 36-month financing, which is ideal for larger purchases. However, note that the APR in these cases is 19.99%, and interest will be charged in qualifying situations. You don't have to pay an annual fee, but there are late payment fees and returned payment fees — both up to $35. Klarna charges no over-the-limit fee, though.
Using Quadpay, shoppers can do everything from booking a trip, to shopping online or in-store, to even ordering groceries and paying bills. Quadpay is accepted anywhere Visa is. Quadpay users don't have to undergo a hard credit check, so there's no impact to your credit score. While the company doesn't charge interest, you do have to pay a $1 convenience fee for each payment. In the big scheme of things, that's a small price to pay to buy now, pay later!
How it works: Like other buy now, pay later sites, Quadpay provides the ability to buy today and then pay four interest-free installments over the course of six weeks. Shop online with the app by finding your favorite stores, then add products to your cart. When it's time to pay, make sure your cart amount matches the payment request. Quadpay autofills your payment information, allowing you to check out quickly.
If you want to shop in-store, you'll need the app there, as well. You should see an available balance in the app and will need to toggle in-store, then enter your purchase amount, including taxes and shipping, if applicable. Generate a virtual card, and swipe, dip, or tap to complete your purchase. For even easier access, add Quadpay to your Apple or Google wallet.
Buy now and pay later with Sezzle online or in-app, and you'll be able to shop more than 34,000 stores. That number includes big box stores like Target, as well as retailers like Brandless, Melt Cosmetics, Crunchyroll, and tons more.
How it works: Sign up for the service and get an instant approval decision. Then shop at the tens of thousands of eligible stores, and select Sezzle when it's time to check out! You'll split your entire order into four interest-free payments over the course of six weeks. As long as you pay on time, you'll avoid fees and there won't be any impact to your credit.
Big Companies Are Joining In
These stand-alone buy now, pay later programs have grown in popularity enough that bigger companies are throwing their hats in the ring. Recently, reports came out about Apple launching their own buy now, pay later program called Apple Pay Later, and PayPal has its own service called Pay in 4. With these two giants getting on board, it's only a matter of time before others join in.
Like other buy now, pay later sites, PayPal's allows you to choose Pay in 4 during checkout and then make one payment every two weeks to pay off your purchase. Apple Pay Later will reportedly offer similar capabilities, including spreading the purchase out across four interest-free payments made every two weeks. However, Apple will apparently let you pay across several months with interest, as well.
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