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The 6 best buy now, pay later apps: Pay off that big purchase over time

What is the best buy now, pay later app? Affirm is our favorite because it offers flexible repayment terms: you can pay for purchases in four installments or finance it (credit approval needed) for longer repayment terms. Buy now, pay later apps make it easy for consumers to make a large purchase and pay it off in small installments. Here are some of the best apps to provide wiggle room when buying.
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Written by Erin Gobler and  Sean Jackson on
Reviewed by Elyse Betters Picaro

Buy now, pay later apps have become increasingly popular to help consumers pay off purchases over a longer period of time. Their ease of use, low fees and often interest-free payments have made them attractive options for shopping both online and in-person. And in an era when many people are living paycheck to paycheck, these apps help people to make purchases they otherwise couldn't afford.

Buy now, pay later apps are useful tools, but they aren't all created equally. Below we've rounded up our six favorite apps to help you choose the right one for you.

Affirm
Affirm

Features

  • Interest charged: 0-36% APR
  • Repayment terms: 3-12 months
  • Borrowing amounts: $17,500

Founded in 2012, Affirm is one of the original buy now, pay later apps. Affirm allows you to finance purchases of up to $17,500 and split it into multiple payments, choosing between multiple repayment plans. You can pay your purchase off over three, six or 12 monthly payments. You can also use the pay in 4 feature, allowing you to make a purchase now and pay it off over four installments-the first is due at checkout. With this option, you won't pay any interest fees. 

Affirm does conduct a soft credit check on applicants as well as conducts a soft pull of your credit, but neither will hurt your credit score. Using an Affirm loan to make a purchase, however, may impact your credit score, so make sure to be on top of your monthly loan payments to ensure you're building your credit. 

Affirm doesn't charge any fees, including late fees, prepayment fees or annual fees. You might pay interest depending on the size of your purchase, where you're shopping and the payment plan you choose. If you do owe interest, you'll know exactly how much upfront.

Pros: 

  • You can finance purchases up to $17,500.
  • No fees, including late fees, prepayment fees, or other.
  • You can choose from multiple repayment plans.
  • Accepted at most major retailers.

Cons:

  • Some transactions require paying interest.
  • Although they conduct a soft pull during your loan application, accepting the loan may impact your score. 
Afterpay
Afterpay

Features

  • Interest charged: None
  • Repayment terms: 4 installments every 2 weeks
  • Borrowing amounts: Depends on your history with Afterpay

Afterpay was founded in 2014 in Australia and has since expanded across the globe to the US, Canada, the UK, New Zealand, and, as Clearpay, in the EU. It allows customers to finance purchases across four payments over six weeks. And it stands out among other buy now, pay later services in that you'll never pay interest.

To shop with Afterpay, simply shop online or in person as you normally would at participating stores. When you're ready to check out, you'll make the first of four payments. The rest of your payments will happen every two weeks over a period of six weeks.

Afterpay never does credit checks or report late payments, so using it won't affect your credit score. Spending limits start at $500 and increase as you responsibly use the app. Keep in mind that Afterpay does charge a fee on late payments, which can be 25% of your original order amount or $8, whichever is higher.

Pros: 

  • Never conducts a credit checks or reports late payments.
  • You won't pay interest no matter the size of your purchase.
  • Your spending limit increases as you use Afterpay responsibly.

Cons:

  • A fee of up to $8 per late payment may be charged and your account is paused until current.
  • Each transaction is approved separately, and some may be declined.
  • Shorter repayment periods of only six weeks.
Klarna
Klarna

Features

  • Interest charged: 0-19.99% APR on financed purchases
  • Repayment terms: Up to 36 months on financed items, or 4 installments every 2 weeks
  • Borrowing amounts: Limit determined by payment history, balance owed, and credit history

Klarna is another one of the most popular buy now, pay later apps on the market. It was founded in 2005 in Stockholm, Sweden, and launched in the US a decade later.

The most significant benefit of Klarna over its competitors is that it comes with plenty of flexible repayment plans. First, you can choose to pay off your purchase in four interest-free payments paid every two weeks. With this payment plan, you won't pay any interest. You can also choose to buy your item now and pay for it in full in 30 days. Like the Pay in 4 option, you won't pay interest. Finally, you can finance a purchase over periods of 6 to 36 months. 

Klarna runs soft credit checks when approving you for its services, meaning it won't impact your credit. You won't pay interest for the Pay in 4 or Pay in 30 options, but you will if you finance your purchase over a longer period. If you miss a payment, you will be charged a late fee of $7 per missed payment, but late fees won't exceed 25% of your order value.

Pros: 

  • Flexible repayment options up to 36 months.
  • No interest on the six-week and 30-day repayment plans.
  • It can be used anywhere that accepts Visa.

Cons:

  • A late fee of $7 for missed payments.
  • Potentially high-interest rates on longer financing terms.
PayPal Pay in 4
PayPal

Features

  • Interest charged: None
  • Repayment terms: 4 installments every 2 weeks
  • Borrowing amounts: $30-$1,500

You've probably already heard of (and may already use) PayPal, but you might not have known that they offer a buy now, pay later option. This feature is available for PayPal users 18 years or older with an account in good standing. The service isn't available with all merchants yet, but can be used with many retailers you already use PayPal for.

When you use PayPal's Pay in 4 feature, you'll be able to split your purchase into four payments. You'll make the first payment at the time of purchase and subsequent payments every two weeks until the purchase has been paid off. You'll know a purchase is eligible for Pay in 4 at checkout when you use PayPal.

PayPal only runs soft credit checks, meaning it won't impact your credit score. The company doesn't charge interest for purchases on its Pay in 4 service, and it can be used for purchases ranging from $30 to $1,500.

Pros: 

  • Requires four interest-free payments.
  • PayPal is a recognizable brand that many people already have an account.

Cons:

  • Not available for all purchases made with PayPal.
  • A soft credit check may be needed.
  • Not available for residents of Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Wisconsin, or any US Territories.
Splitit
Splitit

Features

  • Interest charged: None
  • Repayment terms: Up to 24 months
  • Borrowing amounts: Based on your credit card's available balance

Splitit was founded in 2012 in New York City with the mission of empowering consumers to use credit while living an interest-free life. What's unique about Splitit is that when you check out, you use your existing credit card. Then Splitit uses your credit card to turn your purchase into smaller purchases over your desired payment term.

Splitit stands out from other buy now, pay later apps with its generous repayment terms. First, unlike many providers that allow you to split your purchase up into four payments, Splitit allows you to pay your purchases off over 24 payments. And no matter how long your repayment term, you won't pay interest.

Because you're using your existing credit limit, Splitit doesn't require a credit check to sign up or make purchases. There are also no late fees if you miss a payment or pay after the due date.

Pros: 

  • Interest-free payments.
  • Payment terms of anywhere from three to 24 payments.
  • No credit check since you're using your existing credit.

Cons:

  • Requires that you already have a credit card you can use.
  • Not available with AmEx or Discover credit cards.
Perpay
Perpay

Features

  • Interest charged: None
  • Repayment terms: Repayment tied to your employment 
  • Borrowing amounts: Spending limit tied to your income

Perpay is a buy now, pay later app specifically designed for those who need help building their credit. When you sign up and make purchases, you won't be subject to hard credit checks. But as you make your payments, Perpay will report them to the three credit bureaus -- Equifax, Experian and TransUnion -- helping you to boost your credit history and credit score.

When you make a purchase with Perpay, your first payment won't be due until your next payday. The catch is that your items won't ship until you make that first payment. You'll make payments that correspond with your pay schedule. For example, if you're paid monthly, then you'll make monthly payments.

While Perpay doesn't require a hard inquiry to sign up, they do require that you hold a reliable job. You'll have to submit pay stubs to prove your income. You won't have to pay interest and won't pay any fees on your purchases.

Pros: 

  • No hard credit inquiry required to borrow.
  • Reports to credit bureaus to help you build credit.
  • Flexible repayment that corresponds with your pay schedule.
  • No interest or fees.

Cons:

  • Items aren't shipped until you make your first payment.
  • Spending is limited to Perpay's online marketplace.
  • You have to set up direct deposit for your payments.

What is the best buy now, pay later app?

Affirm is the best option available. It offers a pay-in-4 model, allowing you to spread out your purchase over six weeks with no interest. And if you need more wiggle room when repaying, you can finance purchases up to $17,500 (with credit approval). 

Buy now, pay later apps

Interest charged?

Repayment terms

Borrowing amounts

Affirm

0-36% APR

3-12 months

$17,500

Afterpay

None

4 installments every 2 weeks

Depends on your history with Afterpay

Klarna

0-19.99% APR on financed purchases

Up to 36 months on financed items, or 4 installments every 2 weeks

Limit determined by payment history, balance owed, and credit history

PayPal Pay in 4

None

4 installments every 2 weeks

$30-$1,500

Splitit

None

Up to 24 months

Based on your credit card's available balance

Perpay

None

Repayment tied to your employment 

Spending limit tied to your income

Which buy now, pay later app is right for you?

If you're considering using a buy now, pay later app, it can be difficult to know which is right for you. After all, they all serve a similar purpose but have some critically different features. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when choosing the right buy now, pay later app for you:

What is your credit history like?

If you have poor credit, then you may be better off choosing a service that doesn't require a credit check. In fact, you may be best served by one that reports to the credit bureaus to help you build your credit. Perpay is a good example of such a service.

How much are you spending? 

Each buy now, pay later app has its own spending limits, and for larger purchases, you may be more limited in which you can use. Certain apps, such as Affirm, are specifically designed for larger purchases.

How quickly can you pay it off? 

Certain buy now, pay later apps only allow for six-week payment terms or charge interest on longer payment terms. Consider how long you need to pay off your purchase and whether you'll be charged interest during that time.

Where are you shopping? 

Each of the buy now, pay later apps on our list is only accepted at certain retailers, so be sure to choose a service that is compatible with the retailers you plan to shop at.

Choose this buy now, pay later app...

If you want or are…

Affirm

Best for large purchases

Afterpay

Want no interest

Klarna

Flexible repayment terms

PayPal Pay in 4

For PayPal users

Splitit

Longer repayment terms

Perpay

Best for bad credit 

How did we choose these buy now, pay later apps?

With so many buy now, pay later services on the market, you might be wondering how we narrowed it down to our favorites. We considered factors like loan terms, interest rates, fees, credit checks, and unique features to help choose our favorites. We specifically sought to include apps that offered something their competitors didn't to ensure that every consumer could find the right service for them.

How do buy now, pay later apps work?

Buy now, pay later apps allow you to make purchases and pay them off over a longer period of time. You'll usually make one payment at the time of the purchase and then subsequent payments every week, two weeks, or monthly until your purchase is paid off.

How is a buy now, pay later service different from using a credit card?

Buy now, pay later apps serve a similar function as credit cards, as they allow you to make a purchase and pay it off over time. One difference between the two is that buy now, pay later apps often don't charge interest. Additionally, you don't have to qualify with a hard credit check like you would with a credit card. 

Finally, buy now, pay later apps don't come with many of the perks that credit cards do, such as cashback and other benefits.

Do you need good credit to use buy now, pay later apps?

Some buy now, pay later apps require either a hard or soft credit check and satisfactory credit to qualify. However, some don't require a credit check at all.

Are there alternative buy now, pay later apps worth considering?

There are many buy now, pay later apps available. While these represent the best of the best, one worthy alternative to consider is Zip. 


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