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Buy now pay later: what if I can't pay later?

Buy now, pay later (BNPL) is:

  • When you buy something without paying the full price upfront
  • A form of credit. You will have to pay it back:
    • Later, or
    • In instalments
  • Newer BNPL are online services like:
    • Klarna
    • Clearpay
    • PayPal
    • Laybuy
    • Amazon

These are also known as shop now pay later.

BNPL is an easy way to borrow money for shopping. But you must treat it like any other debt.


Make sure to keep track of:


  • What you borrow
  • What you spend
  • What you owe

Find out how we can help if you are struggling to pay what you owe.

What makes ‘buy now pay later’ popular?

Stores have been offering credit and payment options for a long time.

BNPL payment options are flexible which means:

  • You do not have to wait for pay day before shopping
  • You can shop bargains and deals when they are available
  • You can ‘try before you buy’ when you order clothes online

Online stores use BNPL because it helps shoppers feel better about buying.

But that is not a good deal for you.

Protect yourself.

  • Taking out credit is risky
  • Cancel your order if you cannot afford something
  • Falling behind on BNPL will cost you more in the long run
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Is a short term loan right for you?

Short term loans can be an easy way to get money fast. But:

  • They are expensive
  • They can leave you worse off

Types of short term loans include:

If you are going to borrow, you should:

  • Make sure you can afford the full amount – including interest
  • Think about what happens if you cannot pay at some point

household bills iconDo you use short term, high interest credit to pay for essentials?

This may be a sign that you need help. Find out how we can help you.

Cheaper ways to borrow include:

If you have a low income and need emergency help with money, try:

Lease or hire agreements

It can be harder to keep to a budget if you have lots of BNPL agreements.

Make sure you keep note of:

  • How much you paid
  • What you owe
  • What the payments are
  • When the payments are due

What happens with payments on buy now, pay later?

If you are late or cannot pay:

  • Interest and charges can add up
  • The BNPL company can use debt collection methods

Buy now pay later debts are covered by the Consumer Credit Act .

Does buy now, pay later affect your credit score?

Using BNPL can affect your credit score.

Certain BNPL lenders make a ‘hard’ credit check every time you spread payments over a long period.

Missing or late payments can also impact your credit score.

I am on a debt solution. Can I use buy now, pay later?

You are not usually allowed to take out extra credit while on a a debt solution.

  • Buy Now Pay Later is a type of credit
  • You should not use this while you are on a debt solution

Debt management plan (DMP) or token payment plan (TPP)

Get in touch with your plan provider if you are on a debt management plan or a token payment plan.

They need to understand:

  • What you need the credit for
  • What other options there are

Individual voluntary arrangement (IVA)

Speak to your individual voluntary arrangement provider before taking out any form of credit, including BNPL.

What if I need to buy something?

The most common pressures to use BNPL are for:

Keeping a budget can help you prepare for these expenses in advance.

  • Use a realistic budget
    • Add a section for sundries and emergencies
    • Add a section for birthdays and Christmas
    • Try to put money away for these each month
  • Review your budget regularly

I cannot afford my buy now pay later payment

Contact your creditor to find out how they can help.

Think first before you buy

Before you buy something online, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is the cost within your weekly (or monthly) budget?
  • Could you still afford to buy it without BNPL?
  • Do you need to buy this?
  • Can you wait for the item until you next have some extra money?

You may want to think how you can save the money in advance so you don't have to use BNPL.

You could:

  • Budget an amount each month for online shopping
  • Sell unwanted items to raise money you can spend
  • Reduce your spending in other areas

Buy now, pay later help and debt advice

Do you use BNPL?

Are you:

  • Late making payments?
  • Spending too much?

It may be a sign you need debt help. Find out how we can help you.

Answer 5 quick questions to find out. It should only a minute to get a clear picture of whether you are on top of your credit card, store card and catalogue repayments or not.

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Did you pay only the minimum payment last month?


Do you regularly pay only the minimum payment?


Have you had any letters warning you that you are in 'persistent debt'?


Do you ever miss payments to your credit card, store card or catalogue accounts?


Do you worry about not being able to keep up with repayments or not being in control of your credit?

You are in control

Based on your answers it sounds like you are in control of your repayments.

You are reducing your balance. And you are also saving money by not paying interest.

This because you are not missing any payments and you are not just paying the minimum each month.

Stay in control! Make the most of your money with income-boosting, money-saving tips.

Read our budgeting guides

Things are okay

Based on your answers, it sounds as though you are mostly keeping on top of your repayments at the moment.

That is great. By paying more than the minimum payment each month, you can:

  • Reduce your credit card balance quicker
  • Save yourself money because you’ll pay less in interest

Find out more about what can happen if you’re only making minimum payments by clicking the button below.

Find out more about persistent debt

Things could be a bit better

Based on your answers it looks as though you are doing everything you can to keep on top of your repayments. But you might be able to make improvements.

If you depend on making the minimum payment each month, you are at risk of your account being in ‘persistent debt’. Your creditors will contact you and ask you to pay more each month.

Find out more about persistent debt

And if you have missed any payments, you might be struggling to keep on top of your finances. Find out how we can help you.

You need debt help

Based on your answers, it looks like you’re struggling. We can help you out. Please get in touch with us for free debt advice.

Use our online debt advice tool for tailored budgeting advice and a personal action plan.

Get debt help now

Or if you would like to talk to a debt advisor, please call us on 0800 138 1111.

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