Buy Now, Pay Later Already Comes Standard on Many Credit Cards

More credit card companies are offering features that allow you to pay off purchases over a series of fixed installments.

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Buy now, pay later services — also known as BNPL — allow shoppers to spread their payments out over time instead of paying the full price upfront. If that sounds familiar, it's because it is: Credit cards have been letting consumers "buy now and pay later" for decades.

But the difference is that BNPL services split a single purchase into a handful of set installment payments, instead of allowing the consumer to continue to delay payment (and potentially rack up additional purchases) as interest concurrently accrues on a credit card.

Those predictable BNPL installment payments have proved to be wildly popular with consumers, and credit card companies have taken notice. In fact, many major credit cards now offer BNPL-type features themselves. So before you sign up for BNPL from a provider like Affirm, Klarna or Afterpay, it's worth checking to see if you already have access to something similar through your current credit cards. Here are some examples:

Credit card features that function like buy now, pay later

AmEx Plan It

With AmEx Plan It®, eligible American Express cardholders can opt to divide up qualifying purchases of $100 or more over a fixed period, generally for a fixed monthly fee instead of interest. You'll know how much you'll pay each month. (It's separate from the AmEx Pay It® feature, which lets you pay off small purchase amounts under $100 right away. AmEx Pay It® is available only through the American Express app.) Terms apply.

How it works

As an AmEx cardholder, you can log into your account online, check which purchases are eligible for Plan It®, and opt-in by clicking. Then, you can select your plan from the available options (you'll be offered up to three). Those options include the number of payments and the applicable fees. Your next payment is added to the "minimum due" amount on your next statement.

What else to know about it

Plan It® is available on most of AmEx's consumer credit cards. But you can only have up to 10 payment plans active at once, and some transactions — such as those that include foreign transaction fees — aren't eligible. When you book flights at AmexTravel.com, you have the option of paying in installments with Plan It®, which means you can use it to finance your next vacation.

  • Is there an additional hard pull on your credit? No, but creditworthiness plays a role in the plan options available to you.

  • Can you change the plan once you're enrolled? No.

  • Is there an early payoff penalty? No.

  • Can you still earn rewards as you normally would? Yes.

My Chase Plan

My Chase Plan lets you sign up to pay off purchases of $100 or more in monthly installments for a fee but no interest. (It's separate from My Chase Loan, which lets you borrow money against your card's credit limit.)

How it works

To sign up for a My Chase Plan, log into your account and select an eligible purchase. Then, you can see up to three payment plan options — which as of this writing ranged from three to 18 months with varying fees — and select one. You can also get an estimate of your plan options before making a big purchase on the My Chase Plan dashboard.

What else to know

My Chase Plan is available on most Chase consumer credit cards, and you can have up to 10 plans on your account at once. However, transactions like balance transfers or cash advances do not qualify for My Chase Plan.

  • Is there an additional hard pull on your credit? No, but creditworthiness plays a role in the plan options available to you.

  • Can you change the plan once you're enrolled? No.

  • Is there an early payoff penalty? No.

  • Can you still earn rewards as you normally would? Yes.

Citi Flex Pay

With Citi Flex Pay, you can pay off large purchases — $75 or greater — in fixed payments for no fee but at a fixed interest rate over a set period. It's separate from Citi Flex Loan, which lets you borrow money against your card's credit limit.

How it works

Log into your card account and search your transaction history online for purchases that qualify for Citi Flex Pay. When you select a transaction, you'll see the option of signing up for a monthly payment over a fixed period, along with the total estimated interest. In general, the interest rate may be lower than what you would pay if you carried a balance on your card. Terms apply.

What else to know

As of this writing, Citi Flex Pay payments can generally be spread out over a few months to three years. Typically, you would enroll in a plan post-purchase, but an exception is possible when you use Citi Flex Pay through Amazon. In that instance, at checkout you might be presented with an option to finance your Amazon purchase over equal monthly installments through Citi Flex Pay.

  • Is there an additional hard pull on your credit? No.

  • Can you change the plan once you're enrolled? No.

  • Is there an early payoff penalty? No.

  • Can you still earn rewards as you normally would? Yes. Holders of the Citi® Double Cash Card – 18 month BT offer can still earn 1% when they buy and 1% when they pay but they won't earn additional rewards or cash back.

Barclays Easy Pay

Barclays Easy Pay shares similarities to other credit card issuers' offerings. For example, if you are eligible, you can opt into a financing plan that lets you pay off eligible large purchases in set installments over time and at an APR that's lower than your card's standard interest rate on purchases. There is no fee for Easy Pay plans.

How it works

If eligible, you will see the option to select "Easy Pay" from within your account. If you choose it, you can opt in to set payments at a fixed interest rate spread over six or more months, depending on your offer. The Barclays app includes a payment planner tool so you can view your different options.

What else to know

If you miss a payment, then the remaining balance will go back to your total card balance, which carries the higher, or non-promotional, interest rate.

  • Can you change the plan once you're enrolled? No.

  • Is there an early payoff penalty? No.

U.S. Bank ExtendPay

If you’re a U.S. Bank credit cardholder, you might qualify for an ExtendPay plan, which offers repayment plans of varying lengths depending on the purchase amount. For the duration of a plan, you pay a fixed monthly fee instead of interest. Eligibility may vary depending on your credit card account activity, according to U.S. Bank’s website. If your credit card account qualifies for an ExtendPay Plan, the issuer will notify you via email or note the eligible transactions in your online credit card statement.

How it works

ExtendPay offers three-, six- or 12-month repayment plans on eligible purchases of $100 or more. Purchases of $2,000 or more may qualify for longer repayment plans. (For example, for a purchase of $5,000, a 24-month plan might be available.) Terms apply. Purchases that might be eligible for an ExtendPay Plan are those that were made within the last 60 days before you accept an ExtendPay plan, are over $100, and are less than your current purchase balance. You can bundle purchases and choose the length of your ExtendPay plan within certain parameters.

You'll make payments toward your plan every month. Your monthly minimum payment will include your ExtendPay Plan balance and monthly fee. Per the U.S. Bank website, that fee is calculated based on the plan’s original principal amount, your credit card’s purchase APR and other factors.

What else to know

There is no limit to the number of ExtendPay Plans that you can have open at one time, but you are restricted to using 50% of your credit limit.

  • Is there an additional hard pull on your credit? No.

  • Can you change the plan once you're enrolled? No. Plans remain active until your entire balance is paid off. You can’t extend the length of your plan.

  • Is there an early payoff penalty? No.

  • Can you still earn rewards as you normally would? Yes.

The Upgrade cards

The entire premise of the Upgrade credit cards — the Upgrade Visa® Card with Cash Rewards, the Upgrade Triple Cash Rewards Visa® and the Upgrade Bitcoin Rewards Card — is that you can make purchases and then convert those charges to installment loans with a fixed interest rate.

How it works

Unlike most credit cards, any balance you carry on the Upgrade cards is automatically converted into fixed monthly payments over a period ranging from 24 to 60 months.

What else to know

The cards aren't available in all states, so you'll want first to check your eligibility. Unlike many other cards, you can see your offer — including your APR and credit limit — before you officially apply and agree to a hard credit inquiry.

  • Is there an additional hard pull on your credit? No. Once you officially apply for an Upgrade card, your credit will be pulled — but only that one time and not on future uses of the card.

  • Can you change the plan once you're enrolled? No. (Terms can vary by transaction, but not once they're set.)

  • Is there an early payoff penalty? No.

  • Can you still earn rewards as you normally would? Yes, but rewards differ depending on which Upgrade card you have.

Mastercard Installments

Mastercard's BNPL program, called Mastercard Installments, currently offers payment plans consumers can use in a store or online with eligible merchants that enable the option. Among the plans is an option to make four equal payments at 0% interest. (Longer terms will be available, but with interest.)

Eventually, participating banks and other financial services apps that have partnered with Mastercard will also provide Mastercard Installments to their customers directly, allowing eligible consumers two potential paths to access these offers.

How it works

Mastercard is a payment network, not a lender, so it does not issue any credit cards. Currently, you may be able to obtain instant approval at checkout if a merchant enables this option, meaning you can pick an installment plan at the point of sale.

Mastercard is also working with issuing and lending partners to make their buy now, pay later options available to their customers through their debit or credit card accounts. If a customer is approved, the funds will be distributed to a virtual card that can be stored in a digital wallet (Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay) and used anywhere Mastercard is accepted.

What else to know

When using Mastercard Installments, you can still benefit from zero liability fraud protection. If you notice any fraudulent charges, you may not be responsible for these transactions if you have been responsible for protecting your credit card against loss or theft and you act fast to report the transaction to the proper financial institution.

How these features differ from other BNPL options

These credit card offerings have a lot in common with existing third-party BNPL services, including the fact that neither offering tends to require a credit check. But here are the main differences to keep in mind when it comes to credit card-based BNPL features:

  • These are primarily post-purchase plans: BNPL offerings from third parties like Affirm, Afterpay and Klarna let you sign up for a payment plan before making your purchase, meaning you won't owe the total amount upfront. But BNPL offers from credit cards tend to be made available to you only after your purchase (with a few exceptions). That means you'll pay the full amount upfront on your credit card and spread it out over installments afterward.

  • They may be more widely accepted: Some third-party BNPL services partner with specific merchants, meaning you can use their services only on particular purchases. But a credit card from one of the major issuers above can be used practically anywhere, meaning so can its BNPL features.

  • You'll generally still qualify for card benefits: While some third-party BNPL services don't offer rewards or perks like insurance or purchase protection, credit cards most certainly do. And you'll typically still be eligible to collect on those benefits if you pick one of these card-based installment plans.

  • You will likely still owe interest or fees: Some third-party BNPL offerings may offer essentially free financing, with no interest or fees at all. On the other hand, plans offered by credit card companies will likely charge you for the financing, one way or another.

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