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Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL): An Overview

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March 29, 2022


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Remember playing the board game Monopoly? Not the swanky new one with the digital money cards. We’re talking about the good old Monopoly with colourful notes ranging from ₹1 to ₹10,000.

If you’ve ever had a bad spell in the game - you’d know the sinking feeling of watching your pile of cash deplete. 

What’s fascinating is that this has much to do with the mode of payment - tangible cash. Something that’s described in the book The Payoff – How Changing the Way We Pay Changes Everything by Gottfried Leibbrandt & Natasha De Terán.

In the book, the authors mention that pain of payment is experienced much lesser while paying with a tap of your phone or swipe of a card. 

Now, imagine what would happen if you eliminated this pain completely - meaning you pay for what you want and there’s no dip in your finances (not immediately at least).  

It's the perfect recipe for a dopamine riot.

This is why credit and BNPL (Buy Now Pay Later) schemes have caught on like wildfire. 

BNPL - Pros & Cons

Scroll through Instagram and you’ll see a hundred quotes to the effect of “Stay in the present”, “Live like you there’s no tomorrow” or “#YOLO” 

While this may work as life advice, it’s horrible financial advice. But as a generation, we’ve imbibed this way of living. This is what makes credit payments so alluring. When you enter into a BNPL transaction, there’s no immediate sting of money going away, so it’s simpler to forget about the future sting as well. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there” is the universal thought. 

What tends to happen, though, is that when you reach that bridge, you might not be ready to cross it. This is because the “not worrying for the future” part of your brain couldn’t fathom that you needed to save in the present to be able to pay in the future. 

There’s no denying that BNPL has a lot of allure. The fact that there are no credit checks to enter into the scheme makes it widely accessible even to people with a low credit score. Plus, it’s usually tied to fancy brands and merchants that you wouldn’t normally be able to purchase from. You don’t even have to pay interest on these schemes if you pay your instalments on time. 

But, the flip side is that you’re pushing an already debt-heavy, savings-averse generation further in that direction. 

How Do Companies & Brands Use BNPL?

Let’s zoom out a little. The companies offering BNPL are not all banks or NBFCs (Non-Banking Financial Institutions). It’s the Apples, the Amazons, and the Olas of the world that offer it as a way of increasing their sales. 

And it is a tempting offer, isn’t it? Given the YOLO-ness of most of the demographic has only heightened after COVID - you can count on a global pandemic to tempt you to live in the moment. Also, the pandemic left a lot of people with less liquid savings, so most of them would be happy to lean into the BNPL schemes.

One concern here is that these companies are not bound by the guidelines that govern a bank or an NBFC. This could affect the credit score and financial well-being of the users if credit is given out carelessly. If exacerbated further, this could also affect banks, increasing their bad debts and non-performing assets. 

To avoid all that mess, the RBI is currently looking at forming guidelines and regulations in the BNPL market which is expected to hit US$100 billion in gross merchandise value by 2025. 

These could include restrictions on the amount a user can spend on the scheme, pushing brands to be transparent with their fees, and giving the customers a risk analysis of choosing BNPL. 

How Can You Use BNPL to Your Advantage?

BNPL schemes allow you to (more or less) be your own boss regarding payments. And the problem with being your own boss is being your own employee. So, to make sure you make your payments on time, think like your future self. 

Would your future self be happy about the cobwebs in your savings account? No? Then start making a savings plan. Categorise wants and needs and set a threshold of how much you can spend on them. 

Visualise every payment you make as depleting your precious Monopoly notes. Know how many of these notes you’re holding, when you can afford to buy a city, and when you should just pass the dice.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What does BNPL mean?

BNPL stands for Buy Now Pay Later. This scheme helps customers who which to make larger purchases make them without paying the full amount at one go. You can section your payments and pay in monthly instalments till you've paid the entire amount.

2. Is Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) a good idea?

BNPL works greatly for customers who can't make larger purchases at one go. However, if one has a problem in keeping track of their bills or making timely payments, they should go into BNPL with caution.

3. How does Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) work?

In BNPL schemes, customers are offered with the option of making their purchase in instalments through a set of months. If a customer is approved for BNPL, they can make a small down payment and start their purchase. These instalments are generally interest-free.

4. How is Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) different from EMI?

There are only a few key differences between no-cost EMI and BNPL. While BNPL schemes can offer customers to clear their dues in time spans as short as a week or two, EMIs generally section out payments in 6-12 month durations.

5. What is an example of a BNPL?

Some examples of BNPL companies in India are LazyPay, Simpl, Sezzle, Mintifi, and Amazon Pay Later.

6. Which Buy Now Pay Later does not do credit checks?

Amazon Pay Later is one such Buy Now Pay Later company which does not do credit checks.


Fi Money is not a bank; it offers banking services through licensed partners and investment services through epiFi Wealth Pvt. Ltd. and its partners. This post is for information only and is not professional financial advice.
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