San Joaquin County
District Attorney's Office
January 3, 2023

Want to Buy Now but Pay Later? Read this first!

SOURCE:  Andrew Rayo, Consumer Education Specialist

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Some businesses offer “buy now, pay later” plans, which let you get your purchase right away and pay for it over a few weeks or months, sometimes without paying interest. Here’s what to know before you decide if a buy now, pay later plan is right for you now — and later.

Buy now, pay later plans might charge you low or no interest, and offer you a way to pay without using a credit or debit card. But that doesn’t mean the plans are risk-free. Many plans charge high late fees, per-transaction fees, or change fees, among others. When you use a buy now, pay later plan, you might not have the same protections you would if you paid with a credit or debit card. For example, the credit card protections for disputing a payment may not apply. Also, some plan providers may report your payment history to the three nationwide credit bureaus, so if you pay late or miss a payment, it could hurt your credit score.

Before you use a buy now, pay later plan to buy your purchases, know what you’re getting:

Know the costs. Are there interest charges or fees? Will the plan provider report your payments to the credit bureaus?

  • Check the reviews. See what others have to say, especially about disputing charges or making returns.
  • Understand the risks. What happens if you miss a payment?
  • Prepare for a credit check. Some plan providers require a credit check before you use a plan. To check your credit, order your free credit report at or call 877-322-8228.

If you have a bad experience with a business when you’re buying now and paying later, tell the FTC at