BNPL appeals to broad spectrum of users: report

If there’s a point of sale, there’s Buy Now, Pay Later.

As the option to pay du jour, BNPL — a new twist on an old financing offering to consumers that allows them to pay for their purchases over time — is seemingly everywhere now, as common a POS sight as tried-and-true as debit and credit cards.

And while BNPL has been criticized as an easy way for shoppers to run up high debts, it’s also being touted as a payment method that’s attractive to all.

According to the 2023 POS Choice Satisfaction Survey from J.D. Power, it is drawing users from a wide swath of the U.S. consumer range — from the financially vulnerable to the more affluent — because it’s easy to understand.

Miles Tullo of J.D. Power

“(Consumers) like buy now pay later because it’s simple. You buy something, split it into four equal payments, you make those payments and life is good, whereas with the credit card transaction, it goes into this pile of other transactions that you’ve made,” Miles Tullo, managing director of banking and payments for J.D. Power and author of the survey’s report, said in an interview.

“They’re saying it’s simple, and the more you can do for me as a consumer to make it really clear what I’m getting, the better I feel, and some of the lenders in Buy Now Pay Later do a better job of that than others, so that’s where the opportunity is — just being super clear. No gimmicks, no asterix, no nothing.”

Almost 30% of consumers used BNPL in 90-day period

The J.D. Power report says 28 per cent of all U.S. consumers surveyed have used it at least once in the last 90 days, trailing debit cards (78 per cent), cash (74 per cent), credit cards (66 per cent), digital wallets (36 per cent) and gift cards (33 per cent).

A modern alternative form of payment is something more than half of Americans tried in the 90 days of the survey run April to June: it found 55 per cent used digital wallets, BNPL, merchant apps and cryptocurrency.

The number of financially healthy consumers using BNPL in the survey period came as a surprise. While 32 per cent of the consumers at risk of being unable to cover their basic financial needs used BNPL during the survey period, 23 per cent of those who are able to cover their financial needs used it.

“There’s been so much coverage about this being a product that is potentially targeting financially unhealthy consumers, putting them in even more risk than they were before they used it, and so on … What we found out normally, basically, a quarter of all the users are financially healthy,” Tullo said.

“They can pay their bills, they have savings, they have long-term investments, but they like it because it’s really simple, and it enables them to transact in a way that it reduces the risk. It makes it easier to budget and so on. It’s being used by all types of consumers, not just those who don’t have a better way to shop.”

  • Craig is a freelance writer and editor. He has toiled in various positions for newspapers across Western Canada, including the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald.