Many readers are old enough to recall when retailers offered layaway plans for large purchases.
Layaway let buyers pay for an item over time and then collect their purchase when it was paid for.
Well, some stores still have that service available. But it's been going the way of rotary phones and pagers for quite a while now.
Consumers still want things they can't afford. But they want them now.
So "buy now, pay later" services like Afterpay and Affirm have cropped up. You get what you want right away and pay for it over time.
Sounds like a credit card, right? Well, the difference is these new BNPL services usually don't charge interest as long as buyers make payments on time. And there's the rub.
According to a recent survey, 745 of consumers have used a BNPL service. But 57% say they have spent more than they planned because of it and 46% say they have been late on, or missed, one or more payments.
That's when fee and, in some cases, interest, kicks in.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau warns these services may seem quick and easy, but should be used responsibly. Keep and eye on what you are spending and what you can really afford.
As about 1/3 of BNPL users have found so far, there's no free ride.