Following the news that Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) transactions are set to exceed 1.5 billion transactions by 2026, the personal finance experts at money.co.uk have released their latest Shop Now, Stress Late report to find out if the British public is still shopping now, and worrying about the consequences later.
Money.co.uk surveyed more than 2,000 adults to reveal the UK’s attitudes towards BNPL services and to what extent shoppers are being tempted into taking on unsustainable debt, without fully realising the risks.
Young shoppers were found to be particularly susceptible to the marketing tactics of BNPL brands. One in eight (13%) 18–24-year-olds highlighted social media influencers in their decision to shop now and pay later. This figure is up by a quarter (+26%) when compared to the data from 2020.
18–24–year–olds are more likely to use BNPL schemes (54%) than credit cards (49%) as the marketing tactics employed by BNPL brands entice younger shoppers.
The Shop Now, Stress Later report also asked people how long it took them to pay off their BNPL debt. The typical BNPL user owes £244.37 and can take an average of nine months to repay, up from £232.29 per person in 2020.
Average debt and time to repay per BNPL platform
Average debt per platform
Time to pay (months)
BNPL platforms expect payment after an average of 49 days (depending on the individual 0% interest repayment product), but the research reveals that the average consumer said it took them 261 days to pay – an additional 186 days in debt.
In contrast to the 2020 report, mental health overtakes finances as the biggest current concern in the lives of shoppers, with more than a third (35%) admitting they were worried about their mental well-being.
Just one in 12 (8%) said they were concerned about their credit score indicating that BNPL users may not fully understand the financial implications of borrowing through payment spreading schemes.
James Andrews, a senior personal finance editor at money.co.uk, said: ‘Despite Buy Now Pay Later schemes like Klarna, Clearpay and Zilch offering consumers a quick and easy payment option, for some they may be an entry point into a world of potentially damaging debt.
‘Our research shows that BNPL providers’ youthful marketing appeal and use of social media influencers, continue to encourage shoppers to sign up and potentially spend more than they can realistically afford.
‘As with any form of debt, it’s important to fully understand the risks associated before committing yourself to any kind of contract or agreement. A failure to do so could easily spiral into a cycle of debt you cannot get out of.
‘Customers tempted to use BNPL schemes should take note of all terms and conditions and make sure they understand how much they’ll be repaying and when. Shoppers who make their repayments on time are unlikely to run into any issues, however, impulse spenders and those purchasing more than they can reasonably afford may be putting themselves at risk.’
The marketing and branding of BNPL schemes are part of the wider problem, with James adding: ‘Younger audiences who spend a significant amount of time on social media are bombarded with bright, colourful and age-appropriate adverts for these payment platforms on a seemingly daily basis, and this is clear to see from the research.
‘According to the Klarna website, as many as 44% of users would have abandoned a previous purchase if the option wasn’t a viable option. Although this impressive statistic may be welcomed by online retailers attempting to recoup pandemic-related losses, it also raises questions about how shoppers perceive BNPL debt.
‘If you are struggling with debt there are free advice services available, such as StepChange, the UK’s leading debt charity, which you can contact to get expert debt advice and fee-free debt management to help you tackle your debts.’
Sue Anderson, Head of Media at StepChange commented on our Shop Now, Stress Later reports: ‘While we wait for the proposals on how the Buy Now Pay Later regulation will be implemented, we’d very much like to see retailers and providers of these services putting in place clearer communication and stronger consumer protections – though we believe these cannot be left to chance, and need regulatory underpinning.
‘It would be a good start to improve cancellation policies, and also not make BNPL an over-promoted option at checkout. Consumers must be put in full control of the services they use, and not put in a situation where they inadvertently find themselves acquiring debt that may cause them difficulty.’
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