LAS VEGAS (KLAS)– Rising prices have caused shoppers to reach for alternative payment methods for everyday purchases. This is a concern for consumer advocates who say the surge in the use of “buy now pay later services,” leaves them wondering just how much debt Americans are getting into.
“I think a lot of the rise of it is people are leaning on it, like credit cards at times when they find themselves a little light on money,” said Nathan Grant from MoneyTips.com.
Grant said typical BNPL consumers are younger, primarily Gen Z and Millennials. They use these services to split a purchase into four or more installment payments over a few weeks or months.
These services are typically offered with zero or minimal interest and often come without a credit check.
While other household debt, such as credit card spending and auto loans, is gathered and tracked by the federal reserve, buy now, pay later data is not included because non-bank sources typically provide the financing.
“You’re not getting any benefit from that, those payments aren’t helping you out, they’re not being reported to Experian or Transunion, not seeing credit report reflected in a positive way,” said Grant.
Despite its rapid growth, some experts worry users could get into debt fairly easily without realizing it.
“But I’d say any financial agreement you get into, a loan, short time installment loans, you want to read the fine print, make sure you know everything you are getting into,” said Grant.
The three major credit bureaus have said they’ll start including buy now pay later activity on credit reports, but they still need to rely on the providers for that information.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said it plans to address these concerns and expects to publish its findings later this year.