Are Buy Now, Pay Later Flights Worth It?
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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.
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 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.
» Learn more: The best airline credit cards
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.
» Learn more: The guide to booking a Delta vacation package
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 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.
Like Frontier and Alaska, Southwest Airlines uses Uplift to finance flight purchases. Interest rates vary depending on your credit score.
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 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.
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%.
» Learn more: Is buy now, pay later a smart way to finance travel?
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 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.
» Learn more: A beginner’s guide to traveling on points and miles
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 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card