A Sezzle logo is shown in a person’s online shopping cart on a laptop in Vernon, B.C. on Wednesday, November 18, 2020. Canadians shopping for Sephora makeup, Herschel Supply Co. backpacks and Lush beauty products might have recently noticed a new option during the checkout process: buy now, pay later. The offers come from fintechs like PayBright, Afterpay, Sezzle, Klarna, QuadPay and Affirm. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jesse Johnston

A Sezzle logo is shown in a person’s online shopping cart on a laptop in Vernon, B.C. on Wednesday, November 18, 2020. Canadians shopping for Sephora makeup, Herschel Supply Co. backpacks and Lush beauty products might have recently noticed a new option during the checkout process: buy now, pay later. The offers come from fintechs like PayBright, Afterpay, Sezzle, Klarna, QuadPay and Affirm. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jesse Johnston

Be careful with buy now, pay later deals for nominal purchases: experts

These new services focus on nominal purchases and allow consumers to pay in instalments, sometimes interest free

Online shoppers may have recently noticed new options on the checkout pages of their favourite retailers: buy now, pay later.

In addition to standard payment methods like credit cards and PayPal, companies such as Sephora makeup, Herschel Supply Co. backpacks and Lush beauty products offer new options from fintechs like PayBright, Afterpay, Sezzle, Klarna, QuadPay and Affirm.

These new services focus on nominal purchases and allow consumers to pay in instalments, sometimes interest-free — which can be enticing for Canadians who are low on cash during the COVID-19 pandemic.

However the options are not without their pitfalls.

After a qualifying process, the services allow shoppers to pay for their purchases in small increments spread out over weeks or months and sometimes offer access to a tracking portal where they can adjust their payments if unforeseen circumstances come up.

Some, like Afterpay, make most of their revenue from retailers and don’t charge fees or interest to shoppers, but experts advise against them because they often encourage consumers to spend beyond their means.

“The thing that can really get you in trouble is thinking of it as ‘oh $20 here, $60 there is not a big deal,’ but those little purchases can add up really quick,” said Julia Faletski, a Vancouver-based financial adviser at CI Direct Investing.

“You just don’t want to get yourself in this situation where that leather jacket is the thing that sinks your finances.”

However, despite the danger of getting too deep in debt, the services do have their upsides, she said.

For example, if you agree to zero per cent interest rates or rates that are lower than your credit card and can pay something off speedily, then the services can work for you.

Laura Nadler, the chief financial officer of AfterPay U.S., said her company’s service is ideal for consumers who want to stagger payments to line up with a budget or match when a bi-weekly paycheck comes in.

AfterPay’s offering, she said, is also good for people who don’t want to take out a traditional loan or pay upfront fees or interest.

When deciding whether to use a pay now, buy later service for a nominal purchase, think about it in steps, said Chantel Chapman, the Vancouver-based founder of the W-T-Finances blog and a former financial literacy consultant.

The first step is to ask yourself why there is so much urgency to purchase something. A lot of people spend to avoid emotions like boredom, pain or feelings of inadequacy, which can be handled in more healthy and alternative ways, she said.

The second step is to think about why you’re considering a plan.

“You may feel a sense of shame for spending that much money on yourself and it feels less painful to spread it out over four months, so that’s something to look out for,’” said Chapman.

The last step is to think about what you’re getting yourself into.

Buy now, pay later plans can be difficult to understand and carry a mental cost because you’re suddenly adding an extra and recurring payment to your monthly budgeting, she said.

The plans can become a bad deal if you’ve overextended yourself by too much, have no prospect of being able to afford whatever you’re buying or haven’t looked closely at the terms.

“Make sure that you have a really clear idea of what you owe and…make sure that you abide by the payment schedule because if you fall behind, this is where the penalties really become significant,” said Faletski.

AfterPay’s Nadler said more than 90 per cent of its customers pay on time and those who don’t are prevented from purchasing more items.

However, Faletski warned that users of buy now, pay later services who aren’t careful can rapidly see their credit score take a hit and end up with even more debt to pay off.

If you end up in that situation, Chapman said it’s often time to turn to credit counselling or professionals to help put together a plan for recovery.

The bottom line, she said, is that you should think long and hard when mulling buy now, pay later plans and don’t ignore the red flags.

“If you’re in a situation where you only have this small amount of money…or if you don’t even have any money to pay for this stuff…you should not.be using these payment plans.”

Tara Deschamps, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Ponoka Red Apple. (Photo submitted)
Ponoka Red Apple’s toy drive has begun

Store is partnering with Ponoka Secondary Campus’ Santa’s Anonymous to distribute donations

Alberta had 1,571 active COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta’s central zone now has 1,101 active COVID-19 cases

Provincial death toll has risen by nine

(Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
FortisAlberta’s ‘Lights of Joy’ bring smiles to Ponoka seniors

Residents of Golden Leisure Lodge treated to a light display

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Alberta reports 1,731 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday

The province’s central zone has 992 active cases

(Photo submitted)
Ermineskin citizen graduates vet school, is part of busy practice

Dr. Justin Hodgson is rolling up his sleeves in Meadow Lake, Sask.

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Janelle Robinson owns and operates Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. The Ranch, just north of Stettler, is an animal therapy ranch that helps those with special needs and conditions ranging from PTSD to anxiety. Mark Weber/Stettler Independent
Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler provides support through animal interaction

‘I also come from a family of doers - if something that is needed isn’t there, you just figure it out’

A pedestrian makes their way through the snow in downtown Ottawa on Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Wild winter, drastic swings in store for Canada this year: Weather Network

In British Columbia and the Prairies, forecasters are calling for above-average snowfall levels

NDP Leader John Horgan, left, speaks as local candidate Ravi Kahlon listens during a campaign stop at Kahlon’s home in North Delta, B.C., on April 18, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
A B.C. Ambulance Service paramedic wearing a face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 moves a stretcher outside an ambulance at Royal Columbia Hospital, in New Westminster, B.C., on Sunday, November 29, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Top doctor urges Canadians to limit gatherings as ‘deeply concerning’ outbreaks continue

Canada’s active cases currently stand at 63,835, compared to 53,907 a week prior

A Canadian Pacific freight train travels around Morant’s Curve near Lake Louise, Alta., on Monday, Dec. 1, 2014. A study looking at 646 wildlife deaths along the railway tracks in Banff and Yoho national parks in Alberta and British Columbia has found that train speed is one of the biggest factors. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Study finds train speed a top factor in wildlife deaths in Banff, Yoho national parks

Research concludes effective mitigation could address train speed and ability of wildlife to see trains

A airport worker is pictured at Vancouver International Airport in Richmond, B.C. Wednesday, March 18, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Canada extends COVID restrictions for non-U.S. travellers until Jan. 21 amid second wave

This ban is separate from the one restricting non-essential U.S. travel

In this undated photo issued by the University of Oxford, a volunteer is administered the coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca said Monday Nov. 23, 2020, that late-stage trials showed its coronavirus vaccine was up to 90% effective, giving public health officials hope they may soon have access to a vaccine that is cheaper and easier to distribute than some of its rivals. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Moderna chairman says Canada near head of line for 20 million vaccine doses

Trudeau created a firestorm when he said Canadians will have to wait a bit to get vaccinated

Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre speaks during a news conference Monday, Nov. 16, 2020 in Ottawa. Poilievre says building up the Canadian economy post-pandemic can't be achieved without a massive overhaul of the tax system and regulatory regime. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Conservatives attack Trudeau’s ‘reset’ but they have ideas for their own

‘We don’t need subsidized corporate welfare schemes that rely on endless bailouts from the taxpayer’

Most Read