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Online shopping continues to soar in popularity and won’t be slowing down anytime soon. According to the National Retail Federation, non-store and online sales are on track to grow between 11% and 13% in 2022, reaching between $1.17 trillion and $1.19 trillion.
As retailers look to cash in on the e-commerce fever — and consumers look to participate in it — the option of delayed payment on purchases is gaining steam. Australian fintech company Afterpay has emerged as a frontrunner in this space, with literally tens of thousands of online retailers leveraging its trendy “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) offerings.
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Millions of consumers use Afterpay. Clearly, it’s a booming success, but what exactly is Afterpay and how does it operate? What stores accept Afterpay and, in a nation buried in consumer debt, is it really a smart way to shop?
Afterpay was launched in 2014 in Sydney, Australia and has since rolled out services in not only the U.S, but also Canada, the U.K., New Zealand and the E.U., where it is called Clearpay. Afterpay employs more than 1,300 people and is in the process of expanding.
Afterpay is a free-to-use digital payment platform/app that allows users to BNPL, meaning they can buy something now without having to pay the full amount up front. Instead, they can pay it off later, over a set period of time.
You may be thinking, “Why, this sounds like a credit card,” but Afterpay is indeed different, namely because it doesn’t charge interest or tack on any other user fees — with the exception of late fees, capped at 25% of the order value. Shoppers pay for a purchase by putting down some money upfront — 25% of the purchase cost — and pay the remaining balance in four installments over the next six weeks.
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Spending limits start at $600, but increase gradually once you build a history of consistent payments.
Afterpay may conduct a soft credit check on new members. This won’t affect your credit score and is pretty common.
Still, if something pops up that is perceived as a red flag by Afterpay, this could result in your being turned away by the company. Using Afterpay will not affect your credit score because Afterpay doesn’t report to credit reporting agencies.
Afterpay has become a huge sensation, with over 63,000 shops using the platform. From behemoth brands like Gap, AMC Theaters and Sephora to droves of small businesses, there’s really no retail category that Afterpay doesn’t have a prominent stake in. Here’s some of the superstars on the list in addition to those mentioned:
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Getting started with Afterpay is simple; in fact, you don’t even need to register. Just visit the participating online retailer of your choice and pick out what you want to buy. Then, upon checkout, choose Afterpay as your method of payment. At this point, you’ll enter your payment info to finalize your purchase, and once your first order is approved, voila: your Afterpay account is created.
Your next step is to visit the Afterpay website, or download the Afterpay app, upon which you’ll set up a password and then finalize checkout using your new login credentials.
Keep in mind that you must meet the following requirements in order to be eligible to use Afterpay in the U.S.:
If you’re bombarded with piles of consumer debt, Afterpay — and really all BNPL services — might be problematic because it could give you the illusion that you have more money to spend than you actually do, or that the bulk of the payment for a purchase is something you can worry about later, even if you can’t actually afford to do so. The last thing you want to do is be slammed with late fees, which are substantial.
Afterpay is perfect for the consumer who is only temporarily strapped for cash but knows with absolute certainty that they’re getting paid in the next couple weeks and so can promptly handle full payment of any purchases made with Afterpay.
The service is also great for people who are getting rid of credit cards, or at least minimizing usage of them, and the outrageous interest they charge — but still want a secure option to BNPL without the catch of interest.
This is a digital age, with new e-commerce retailers popping up everyday. These stores are vying for your hard-earned dollars, which is why so many of them accept Afterpay. Afterpay is a super easy, convenient, safe and free option for shoppers and, considering the millions of consumers embracing the service, it’s satisfying a widespread need for a BNPL tool that has no strings attached — unless you default on timely payments.
Signing up for the app takes practically no time at all and you can be off and shopping within minutes, if not seconds. Many stores have implemented Afterpay into their suite of payment options, and more are expected to join the club, particularly as the company makes proactive social moves, such as helping to raise more than $80,000 for a variety of LGTBQ+ organizations, which it did last July.
This was a highly publicized progressive maneuver that should satisfy millennial and Gen Z shoppers who are increasingly invested in businesses that are politically minded and back initiatives that are important to them.
And of course, isn’t everyone getting tired of feeding the monstrous system that is credit card interest? With Afterpay, you can use a debit card to pay and, ideally, break free of the consumer debt machine enabled and powered by the credit card industry.
If you’re in a secure financial position and could use some flexibility in your shopping life, Afterpay might just be worth testing out — and there are plenty of participating online stores to pick from.
Editorial Note: This content is not provided by any entity covered in this article. Any opinions, analyses, reviews, ratings or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author alone and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any entity named in this article.
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