Buy now, pay later schemes under the spotlight this Christmas

Comparison site and consumer advocate RateCity.com.au welcomes the Australian Securities and Investments Commission’s initial review into the ‘buy now, pay later’ industry.

ASIC’s report serves as a timely warning not to over-indulge financially this Christmas, with an alarming $903 million outstanding in buy now, pay later balances.

RateCity.com.au research director Sally Tindall said consumers need to be careful about how much they spend using these platforms.

“Payment platforms like Afterpay and Zip let people buy things, even if they don’t have enough money in their bank account,” she said.

“While these services do aim to lend responsibly, and typically have lower credit limits and more stringent repayments terms than most credit cards, the bottom line is you can still get yourself into financial trouble if you’re not careful.

“The fact that one in six customers have become overdrawn, delayed their payments or borrowed extra money is concerning. This is a service that targets young shoppers that are short on cash.

“If you’re using one of these payment plans this Christmas, just be aware it can leave a nasty sting in the tail if you don’t have the money to clear your debt.

Tips for using buy now, pay later services

  • Before signing up to a buy now, pay later service, understand how it works and think about the consequences if you don’t have funds in your nominated account to clear it.
  • Find out from your bank to see if they will let you go into overdraft or in the case of your credit card, over the limit and what the penalties are for doing so.
  • Don’t impulse buy – delay any large purchases for at least 24 hours. If you still think it’s worth buying the next day then work out a way to pay for it.

Learn more about Afterpay

Afterpay is one of the most popular buy now, pay later payments platforms. It lets you buy an item in store or online and pay it back in four installments over eight weeks, automatically deducted from your nominated transaction account or credit card. Already 1.8 million Australians have signed up to the service.

One of the key selling points for Afterpay is that there are no additional costs if you pay on time, however there are late payment fees if you can’t pay the money back.

Afterpay fees

If you miss a repayment, you’re typically charged a $10 fee by 11pm the following day, followed by a $7 late payment fee if you haven’t paid the installment within seven days. If you miss all four repayments it will typically cost $68 in fees.

However, for orders below $40, a maximum of one $10 late fee is applied. For orders $40 or above, the total of the late fees is capped at 25 per cent of the original order value or $68, whichever is less.

Overdraft bank fees

The majority of people use their debit card to make Afterpay installments. The key is to make sure you have enough money in your account to cover the repayments.

If the balance in your transaction account falls below zero, the majority of debit card providers will let you go into overdraft on your account. While you will still make your Afterpay installment and avoid their fees, the majority of banks will slug you with an overdraft fee every time you do. 

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Learn more about credit cards

How do credit cards work?

Think of credit cards as a short-term loan where you use the bank’s money to buy something up front and then pay for it later. Unlike a debit card which uses your own money to pay, a credit card essentially borrows the bank’s money to fund the purchase. When you apply for a credit card, the bank assesses your income and assigns you a credit limit based on what you can afford to pay back. At the end of each billing cycle, which is usually monthly, the bank will send you a statement showing the minimum amount you have to pay back, including any interest payable on the balance.

What is a credit card?

A credit card is a payment method which lets you pay for goods and services without using your own money. It’s essentially a short-term loan which lets you borrow the bank’s money to pay for things which you can pay back – potentially with interest – at a later date. Credit cards can also be used to withdraw money from an ATM, which is known as a cash advance. Because you’re borrowing money from a bank, credit cards charge you interest on the money you use (unless you repay the entire debt during the interest-free period). When you apply for a credit card, the bank gives you a credit limit which sets the maximum amount you can borrow using your card. Credit cards are one of the most popular methods of payments and can be a convenient way of paying for goods and services in store, online and all around the globe.

How to pay a credit card

There are a few ways to pay a credit card bill. These include:

  • BPAY - allows you to safely make credit card payments online.
  • Direct debits - set up an automatic payment from your bank account to pay your credit card bill each month. You can choose how much you want to pay of your credit card bill when you set up the auto payments.
  • In a branch.
  • Via your credit card provider's app.

How do you use a credit card?

Credit cards are a quick and convenient way to pay for items in store, online or over the phone. You can use a credit card as a cashless way to pay for goods or services, both locally and overseas. You can also use a credit card to make a cash advance, which gives you the flexibility to withdraw cash from your credit card account. Because a credit card uses the bank’s funds instead of your own, you will be charged interest on the money you spend – unless you pay off the entire debt within the interest-free period. If you pay the minimum monthly repayment, you will be charged interest. There are many different credit card options on the market, all offering different interest rates and reward options.

How do you use credit cards?

A credit card can be an easy way to make purchases online, in person or over the phone. When used properly, a credit card can even help you manage your cash flow. But before applying for a credit card, it’s good to know how they work. A credit card is essentially a personal line of credit which lets you buy things and pay for them later. As a card holder, you’ll be given a credit limit and (potentially) charged interest on the money the bank lends you. At the end of each billing period, the bank will send you a statement which shows your outstanding balance and the minimum amount you need to pay back. If you don’t pay back the full balance amount, the bank will begin charging you interest.

How do you pay off credit cards?

The best way to pay off a credit card bill is to set a realistic spending budget and stick to it. Each month, you’ll get a credit card statement detailing how much you owe and how long it will take to pay off the balance by making minimum repayments. If you only make the minimum repayments, it will take you years to pay off your outstanding balance and add extra costs in interest charges. To avoid any extra charges, you should pay the entire bill. 

How to pay a credit card from another bank

Paying or transferring debt from one lender to the other is called a balance transfer. This involves transferring part or all of the debt from a credit card with one lender to a credit card with another. As part of the process, your new lender will pay out the old lender, so that you now owe the same amount of money but to a new institution.

Many credit card providers offer an interest-free period on balance transfers to help new applicants better handle their debt. During this period, cardholders are not required to pay interest on the debt they brought over from the other card. This can be a great opportunity for consumers to pay off credit card debt with no interest. There are often fees associated with balance transfers; normally, these are a percentage of the amount transferred.

So make sure you read the terms and conditions of the card before transferring any debt across.

How do you cancel a credit card?

It’s important to cancel your old cards to avoid any additional fees. Unless you’re doing a balance transfer, you’ll need to pay the outstanding balance before you cancel your credit card. If you’ve opted for a card with reward points, make sure you redeem or transfer the points before you close your account. To avoid any bounced payments and save yourself an admin headache, redirect all your direct debits to a new card or account. Once you’ve done all the preparation, call your bank or credit card provider to get the cancellation underway. Once you receive a confirmation letter, destroy your card and make sure the numbers aren’t legible.

How to get a credit card for the first time

A credit card can be a useful financial tool, provided you understand the risks and can meet repayment obligations.

If you’re a credit card first-timer, review your options. Think about what kind of credit card would suit your lifestyle, and compare providers by fees, perks and repayments.

Once you’ve selected a card, it’s time to apply. Credit card applications can generally be completed in store, online or over the phone.

When you apply for a credit card for the first time, you must meet age, residency and income requirements. As proof, you must also provide documentation such as bank account statements.

Can we pay stamp duty by credit card?

Different states also have different rules about whether you can pay stamp duty with a credit card. Check the payment options for stamp duty on your local state revenue office website.

Some allow payments only from a savings or chequing account, whereas others allow payment through BPAY using your credit card. Also read the fine print to see if BPAY payments on your credit card are considered cash advances, as this could attract a higher interest rate.

What happens if I have a bad credit score?

If you have a bad credit score, you might encounter two main problems. First, the lower your credit score, the more likely you are to be rejected when you apply for a loan or any other credit product. Second, if your application is accepted, the less likely you are to qualify for the lowest interest rates.

Why should I check my credit rating?

There are two reasons you should check your credit rating: so you have a better understanding of your financial position, and so you can take action (if necessary) to improve your credit rating.

Lenders use credit ratings or credit scores to assess loan applications. The higher your score, the more likely you are to get approved, and the more likely you are to be charged lower interest rates and lower fees. Conversely, the lower your credit score, the less likely you are to get approved, and the more likely you are to be charged higher interest rates and higher fees.

Why do different credit reporting bureaus use different scores?

The reason Equifax, Experian and Illion use different scores is because they are independent companies with their own different methodologies. As a result, a score of, say, 700 would mean different things at different credit reporting bureaus.

However, the one thing they have in common is that they divide their scores into five tiers. So if you receive a tier-two credit score from one bureau, you will probably receive a tier-two score from the others, as well.

Can I get a credit card on part-time/casual work?

Yes, as credit card providers look at your annual income amount as well as your occupation. Minimum income requirements tend to be between $30,000 – $40,000 for standard and rewards credit cards, however low income credit cards can have minimum income requirements as low as $15,000 per year.