Buy now, pay later self-regulation missing some teeth: RateCity

Buy now, pay later self-regulation missing some teeth: RateCity

The buy now, pay later industry’s new code of practice is a step in the right direction but it’s unlikely to stop many customers from overspending.

The code, which came into effect today, includes caps on late fees, support for vulnerable customers and freezing of accounts when repayments are missed. The code also requires by now, pay later (BNPL) members to write their terms and conditions in plain language, prominently display information about fees and send customers reminders when payments are due.

However, the code doesn’t prevent people from signing up to multiple platforms, a key issue identified by ASIC in a recent report into the sector. It also allows platforms offering less than $2,000 worth of debt to, in most cases, skip credit checks.

RateCity.com.au research director, Sally Tindall said: “The code is a step in the right direction, but when you get into the detail, it’s missing some teeth.”

“It’s hard to see what substantial changes the main players have needed to make and if they’re not changing the way they operate, then the same issues are likely to prevail,” she said.

“The industry has always had some good protections in place to stop customers getting on a debt treadmill with things like caps on late fees and the freezing of unpaid accounts, but the new code doesn’t force all providers to check whether their customers have debts on multiple platforms.

“Credit cards are regulated by the National Consumer Credit Act, and yet they still get people into trouble through excessive interest rates, high fees and low minimum repayments.

“That said, a couple of years ago the government introduced tougher new rules, preventing people from getting access to big credit limits across multiple cards that they couldn’t afford to repay within three years.

“The buy now, pay later industry needs to properly assess how much credit a person has access to, and their ability to repay this debt in full, to make sure people aren’t racking up mountains of debt,” she said.

ASIC’s 2020 report: key findings

ASIC’s November 2020 survey of buy now, pay later users found that over a 12-month period:

  • 21% had missed a payment.
  • 20% had cut back or gone without essentials such as meals as a result of overspending on these platforms.
  • 20% were late paying other bills in order to make their BNPL repayments.
  • Of those that missed payments, 52 per cent were using at least two different buy now, pay later platforms at the time.

How to avoid getting into trouble using BNPL platforms:

  1. Read the terms and conditions and understand what fees you could get hit with.
  2. Set yourself strict spending limits.
  3. Limit yourself to one platform, and one purchase at a time.
  4. Don’t impulse buy. Sit on any major purchases for at least 24 hours.
  5. If you get into trouble, pull the pin and call for help. Each platform should have a hardship policy available.

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Learn more about credit cards

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. 

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 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 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.

How to get rid of credit card debt

  1. Calculate your debt. Credit card calculators make it easy to determine the repayments required to chip away at your debt in the shortest timeframe possible for your budget.
  2. Repayment plans. Take some time to formulate a credit repayment plan. Consider increasing your income, scaling back your lifestyle or refinancing.
  3. Talk to your credit provider. If you’re still struggling with your debt, give your credit provider a call. You may be able to come to a new arrangement.

How to get a free credit card

There's no such thing as a free lunch. All credit cards come with associated costs when used to make purchases, even if it’s simply the cost of making repayments.

However, many lenders offer incentives for customers such as a $0 annual fee or 0 per cent interest on purchases during an introductory period. Additionally, paying off your balance in full during an interest-free period means you could only have to pay back the cost of purchases without interest. You could also be eligible for additional rewards such as cashback during that time, saving you more money.

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 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 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 does the Citibank credit card instalment plan work?

The Citibank credit card instalment plan is designed to help you make repayments on purchases over a predetermined period of time.It is similar to buy now, pay later services, and you can choose a plan that suits your financial situation.

You can set up a fixed payment option for up to five recent purchases each worth at least $500. Alternatively, there’s a cash-out option, where the issuer pays you between $500 and the maximum credit limit via a cheque, which can then be repaid in fixed instalments over your chosen duration.

How does the ANZ credit card instalment plan work?

While you usually need to settle all or part of your credit card dues at the end of your statement period, some credit cards afford you the option of setting up instalment plans. This allows you to settle your credit card debt at a pace that's more convenient for you, paying a fixed amount over a fixed period, thus making it easier to budget your repayments every month.

With the ANZ credit card instalment plan, you can set up a structured repayment schedule for part or all of your balance, or even for specific purchases over a certain value.

Some of the benefits of instalment repayment include: 

  • Structured repayments: You’ll have a fixed sum to pay each month.
  • Easier to budget: A fixed repayment sum makes it easier to make your monthly budget.
  • Account benefits: You might also get benefits such as discounted interest rates or debt-tracking tools.

There are disadvantages of opting for instalment repayment, however, and they include:

  • Less flexibility: You will not be able to pay a smaller amount once you set an instalment plan.
  • Different interest charges: In case the instalment plan only covers part of the balance, different interest charges could apply, making it challenging to budget.
  • Additional fees: You might have to pay fees or penalty charges in case of missed payments.

How to get a new credit card

To get a new credit card, generally you need to be at least 18 years old and have a good credit rating. You don’t need to be an Australian citizen. Usually you can apply online or in person at a branch of the card issuer. You’ll typically have to supply information like:

  • Your income and living costs (e.g. rent/mortgage, loan repayments, living expenses)
  • Your employer’s contact details
  • Details of your assets and any debts you are paying off

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.

How easy is it to get a credit card?

For most Australians, there are no great barriers to applying for and getting approved for a credit card. Here are some points that a lender will consider when assessing your credit card application.

Credit score: A bad credit score is not the be all and end all of your application, but it may stop you being approved for a higher credit limit. If your credit score is less than perfect, apply for the credit limit that you need, rather than the one you want.

Annual income: Most credit cards have minimum annual income requirements. Make sure you’re applying for a card where you meet the minimum.

Age & residency: You need to be at least 18 years old to apply for a credit card in Australia, and most require that you are an Australian citizen or permanent resident. However, there are some credit cards available to temporary residents.