Fifth of buy now, pay later users ‘struggling to repay Christmas spending’

A fifth (20%) of shoppers who used buy now, pay later (BNPL) schemes over Christmas will be unable to meet their repayments without borrowing more money, a survey suggests.

The average amount spent by BNPL consumers during Christmas 2020 was £211, slightly up from £201 in 2019, found.

The highest average spend was by those aged 45 to 54, at £277.

More than two-fifths (44%) of UK adults who used a BNPL scheme to fund their Christmas shopping are now concerned about their ability to repay, the research found.

Concerns have been mounting about some consumers taking on unsustainable debts. But it has also been argued that, when used responsibly, such schemes can help prevent people turning to higher-cost forms of credit to finance purchases. found 36% of BNPL users saw it as a way to spread the cost of Christmas over a longer timeframe.

However, the findings also suggest that schemes may encourage unnecessary spending, as nearly a third (32%) felt it made them spend more than they usually would and more than two-fifths (44%) bought more extravagant gifts.

James Padmore, head of money, said: “When used responsibly, buy now, pay later schemes can be an effective and alternative way to spread out the payments of large purchases.

“It’s easy to see why it’s popular at a time like Christmas when people may be spending larger sums than usual.

“However, the ‘I’ll deal with it later’ attitude to using this type of financing may mean that some people are now really feeling the strain.

“Our findings show that this has unfortunately caught up with some customers, who are now having to take on more debt to cover the cost of their Christmas spending.”

– More than 2,000 people were surveyed across the UK in January.