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The Dangers of “Buy Now Pay Later” Apps

Updated: Mar 22, 2023

Plenty of fully grown adults have fallen into financial peril by using buy now pay later apps (BNPLs) unwisely. Because many children and teens are using their parents’ credit cards to shop online as early as age 12, it’s imperative to teach them how to shop online safely. Part of this education should be aimed at helping them to avoid getting hacked or scammed. However, kids should also understand the risks of using legitimate services like BNPLs, which are largely unregulated—and even somewhat predatory.


This is especially important to teach them ahead of the busy holiday shopping season, when you’ll have less time, energy, and attention for monitoring their online purchases. Here’s what they (and possibly you) need to know:


  • BNPLs aren’t just apps; they’re binding financial loans. When you use a BNPL service (such as Klarna, Zip, or Afterpay), you’re taking out a loan, and you become responsible for loan payments. If you pay them late, BNPLs may charge additional fees or interest and report late payments to the credit bureau. This can damage your credit (financial reputation among banks and lenders). Plus, what starts out as one purchase can quickly snowball into massive debt if you make using these services a habit.


  • Don’t use BNPLs for unnecessary purchases. BNPLs can be the most dangerous when you’re tempted to make an impulse purchase, especially one you know you don’t need and probably shouldn’t spend money on. The fact that you don’t have to pay for it right now might make it seem harmless up front, but when all of your BNPL bills start to add up and come due, you may have some real buyer’s remorse.


  • BNPLs unfairly target young people. Although BNPLs are legal, they are not well-regulated by financial institutions, and the rules for how they can operate are always changing. This means they can use unethical methods for tempting people into overspending, especially young people who know plenty about social media trends, but not much about good financial habits. Because BNPLs profit from loan debt, they try to lure vulnerable consumers into buying things they can’t afford, now or later.


Teach Kids Safe Tech Use With Net Positive


The mission of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Utah County is to inspire and enable all young people, especially those who need us most, to realize their full potential as productive, caring, and responsible citizens and leaders. We accomplish this by providing evidence-based programs with a focus on those that improve academic engagement, build character, and improve healthy behaviors.


Our Net Positive Program educates K-12 students about digital safety, health, citizenship, and leadership. After participating in our program, students are 97% better prepared to face internet dangers. Contact us to learn more and ask your school to schedule a Net Positive Presentation, or support us with your donation today!


References


Jackpedigodc. “Understanding the Risks of Buy Now, Pay Later Apps.” CNBC, CNBC, 21 Sept. 2022, https://www.cnbc.com/2022/09/13/understanding-the-risks-of-buy-now-pay-later-apps.html.

Wang, Penelope. “The Hidden Risks of Buy-Now, Pay-Later Plans.” Consumer Reports, 14 Feb. 2021, https://www.consumerreports.org/shopping-retail/hidden-risks-of-buy-now-pay-later-plans-a7495893275/.


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