Are Buy Now, Pay Later Flights Worth It?

If you can't afford the ticket now, you likely can't afford the interest that buy now, pay later tickets accrue.
Carissa Rawson
By Carissa Rawson 
Updated
Edited by Meg Lee

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Nerdy takeaways
  • Most major U.S. airlines and online travel agencies offer buy now, pay later financing options.

  • Interest rates are typically linked to your credit score and get worryingly high, costing you more over time.

  • Alternatives to buy now, pay later financing include 0% APR credit cards and covering costs with travel rewards.

MORE LIKE THISTravel

Have you ever wanted to book a trip but didn’t have the funds available to pay for it? Travel companies know this happens, so they make it as easy as possible to purchase a flight — even if it requires financing. But are these “buy now, pay later” flights worth it?

Here's a look at the airlines that offer buy now, pay later, the risks involved with these purchase programs and alternatives to using this type of financing.

Who offers buy now, pay later flights?

All major U.S. airlines offer some version of buy now, pay later financing, as do online travel agencies. The provider for these differs depending on where you book.

American Airlines

American Airlines is unique in that it maintains an in-house version of buy now, pay later financing. Customers have the ability to open an American Airlines credit card upon approval. Purchases over $150 will pay no interest if paid in full within six months. Otherwise, you’ll face a hefty 28.24% APR dating back to the day you purchased your flight.

Alaska Airlines

Alaska customers can use Uplift to finance their flights, which is offered at checkout. There’s a minimum purchase of $117 and interest rates vary depending on your credit score.

Delta Air Lines

Delta’s website doesn’t offer buy now, pay later financing. However, you can access this benefit by booking through Delta Vacations, which uses Affirm to generate loans. You can choose to spread payments over six, 12 or 18 monthly installments.

Frontier Airlines

Frontier also partners with Uplift for financing, with the option to select a monthly payment at checkout. The interest rate will vary based on your credit score; payments are spread out over 12 months.

JetBlue

JetBlue relies on MarcusPay as its preferred buy now, pay later vendor. Interest rates vary between 8.99% and 29.99% (24.99% for New York residents) and loan terms are six, 12 or 18 months. The better your credit score, the more favorable rates and payment terms you’ll receive.

Southwest Airlines

Like Frontier and Alaska, Southwest Airlines uses Uplift to finance flight purchases. Interest rates vary depending on your credit score.

Spirit Airlines

Spirit also uses Uplift for its book now, pay later program. You’ll spread your payments out over 12 months, with a minimum purchase of $143. Interest rates are based on your credit score.

United Airlines

United also uses Uplift, which is by far the most popular option. The minimum purchase requirement is $100 and payments are spread out over a year. The interest rate you’ll pay is based on your credit score.

🤓Nerdy Tip

If you book a United Airlines flight with Alternative Airlines, the online booking engine, you can use Afterpay.

Online travel agencies

Online travel agencies such as Priceline also offer buy now, pay later options. At Priceline, you’ll be banking with Affirm. Interest rates vary according to your credit score as well as the loan term you choose, but they can be as high as 30%.

Risks of buy now, pay later flight tickets

It can be tempting to use a buy now, pay later program, especially if you’re worried about flight prices. However, it’s probably not a good idea. If you don’t already have the money on hand, taking on debt can just cost you extra in the long run.

As noted above, interest rates for using these programs can vary dramatically. If you have an excellent credit score, it’s possible you could pay 8.99% interest on your flight. But you could also be hit with a 30% interest rate, and spreading your payments out over a year can become costly.

Let’s say you wanted to purchase a $1,000 flight, but decided to use buy now, pay later financing. After checking your credit score, the lender offered you a 25% APR with a loan term of 12 months.

Afraid of missing out on the ticket, you agree. Now, instead of paying $1,000 for a ticket, it’s costing you $1,250. If you couldn’t afford $1,000 initially, paying an additional $250 may not be a smart financial decision.

You’ll also want to consider the impact this will have on your credit score. Most of these lenders don't report to the credit bureaus, so any history of making on-time payments will be lost. If your credit score could be improved, these buy now, pay later programs won’t help.

Alternatives to airline ticket financing

So if using a buy now, pay later option isn’t necessarily a smart money move, what are some alternatives?

0% APR credit cards

If you really need to purchase a flight and don’t have time to save up the funds, consider opening a credit card with a 0% intro APR. These cards come with a limited-time interest-free promotion, during which purchases won’t accrue interest.

Personal loans

Personal loans aren’t a great idea in general, as they can face some of the same high-interest rates as buy now, pay later financing programs. However, if you’re also looking to improve your credit score, personal loans lenders report your payments to credit bureaus.

Points and miles

Purchasing airfare with points or miles can heavily subsidize your costs. Although your flight won’t be completely free, it may be deeply discounted. Some flights can cost as little as $5.60 in taxes and fees — in addition to the miles you’ll be redeeming.

Buy now, pay later flights, recapped

Buy now, pay later programs are widely available for those looking to finance their travel. However, there are risks involved with the prospect — and using these companies isn’t necessarily a good idea financially.

Instead, see if you can take advantage of other options, such as 0% APR credit cards, taking out a small personal loan or redeeming frequent flyer miles to trim flight costs. Or, start putting a small amount into a savings account each month and you’ll have saved enough for a vacation before you know it.


How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2024, including those best for:

Travel Cards from Our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.

Points
Chase Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-6.5%

Enjoy 6.5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel; 4.5% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and 3% on all other purchases (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). After your first year or $20,000 spent, enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

$300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
See more travel cards
Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.