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Buy now pay later products, often referred to as BNPL, allow you to purchase something without paying for it up front.
These products are a form of borrowing. You borrow money to pay for your items and then pay them back later. It’s important to note that some buy now pay later products are unregulated, although the government has announced that regulation will be introduced for these in 2023.
On this page, we’ll look at how buy now pay later usually works and the impact it may have on your credit rating.
How does buy now pay later usually work?
Buy now pay later products typically work in the following way:
The main benefit of this process is that you'll normally pay back the money you owe in regular instalments, spreading the cost of your purchase over several weeks or months. Some buy now pay later products usually offer an interest-free or fee-free period depending on the length of the plan. It may be possible to flex the length of this but it’s important to note that longer plans may charge interest or fees.
Before taking out any buy now pay later product you should understand the terms of your borrowing and how much it will cost you.
Remember, with buy now pay later, you simply spread the cost over time. You're not making your purchases any cheaper.
Is using buy now pay later a good idea?
There are occasions when using buy now pay later products can be both helpful and convenient, if managed correctly. For example, making expensive purchases like furniture more affordable by spreading the cost over several months so you’re not paying a large lump sum that could wipe out most of your monthly budget in one go.
Buy now pay later is a form of borrowing and there could be extra fees and consequences if you fail to keep up repayments, including a potential negative impact on your credit score. For that reason, it’s essential you assess whether buy now pay later is the right option for you. Ask yourself the following:
There are a few things to be aware of before deciding whether buy now pay later is right for you:
You should check your terms and conditions to check whether you are covered under Section 75 and by the Financial Ombudsman.
How does buy now pay later affect your credit score?
While it may not seem that way, buy now pay later is a form of borrowing, which means it could impact your credit score.
At the moment it isn’t always reported to credit reference agencies.
It’s important you know what this means for you. If your buy now pay later product is reported to the credit reference agencies and you manage it well, this could improve your credit score. However, if you miss a payment, it could negatively impact your credit score.
With the use of buy now pay later products increasing and increased regulation on the horizon, it’s likely to become mandatory for them to report buy now pay later lending to the credit reference agencies. It’s also more likely a full credit check will be carried out when you apply. Too many full credit checks in a short space of time may negatively impact your credit score and make it harder to borrow in the short term. So, it’s a good idea to avoid taking out multiple buy now pay later products in a short period.