Buy now, pay later options gain popularity as experts advise caution

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — You’ve likely noticed the option to buy now, pay later on every online shopping platform you use. While these options allow shoppers to make multiple payments within a certain timeframe, experts tell us it’s not without risk.

For Kelci Baker, these options allowed her to purchase a special gift for her dad: tickets to see the Oakland Raiders play the Colts.

“I was able to get him like field tickets, like three rows up, right behind the bench and it completely made his birthday,” Baker said. I wouldn’t have been able to do that without that sort of program.”

Baker said the opportunity to “buy now, pay later” or as you go, allows customers like her to purchase big wants while making smaller payments over time.

“I definitely see the concerns with it, because I mean, you can get yourself in debt that way,” Baker acknowledged. “It looks like something is only $25, you know, four easy payments of $25, but at the end of the day, you’re spending $100.”

Buy now, pay later options are usually offered at online check out, and allow customers to break up large payments into smaller installments so they can afford things they could not otherwise. For Natalie Galor, that was an expensive mattress.

“With Affirm we had to pay absolutely no interest, that was like 16 months no interest,” Galor explained. “So we paid our bed off in 11 months.”

Lending Tree surveyed a little more than 1,000 American Consumers in 2021. Two in three say the “Buy Now, Pay Later” options have caused them to spend more than they would have otherwise.

“In the online era, we can swipe left or swipe right so easily, we sometimes forget what we’ve bought,” Joe Fitter, Senior Lecturer in Finance at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University, said. “Then we have at the end of the month, there in two weeks time, we have a payment due and we don’t have the money to make that payment.”

Experts say people entering into these types of financial agreements must remember to make their payments on time.

“It could benefit your credit score,” Fitter said. “Showing that you’ve taken on a loan and you’re paying that loan off. However, if you miss payments, even one payment, you could see a serious negative impact to your credit score.”

Financial experts also advise researching which program you use.

Some of them might charge you a little bit of interest,” Fitter explained “You always want to charge the lowest interest rate.”

Of course, customers must keep track of their online orders especially if they are using different services.

“They get into a buy now, pay later and they buy three or four items, they’re on different payment schemes and they can’t remember which payment is due this week,” Fitter explained.

Fortunately, the companies we investigated report they do send reminders of dues to their customers. Consumer Reports also encourages people to opt for buying now, paying later to set up automatic payments so additional fees do not add up.

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