Don't Use ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ for Prime Day Purchases

You don't want to overshadow your Prime Day deals by taking on new debts.

Don't Use ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ for Prime Day Purchases
Many different Amazon packages piled on a couch

Credit: Manu Padilla / Shutterstock

Amazon's biggest sale of the year—and arguably the biggest sale of any retailer—is right around the corner, set to take place in July. Amazon's Prime Day sales event is a tempting time to take advantage of major discounts and do some shopping. But one payment option you'll want to avoid is "buy now, pay later" financing. While these plans can allow you to pay for purchases in installments without interest, they come with significant risks and downsides that make them unsuitable for Prime Day splurges. Nearly 20% of consumers using BNPL have missed payments, and 30% have overspent, according to a Bankrate survey. Let's take a look at the hidden costs of "buy now, pay later," and why you're better off paying upfront for all your Prime Day deals.

High late fees

The biggest danger with buy now, pay later is missing one of the recurring payments. If you fail to make an installment on time, you'll typically be hit with a late fee of $7 or more from the lender. And those fees can really add up quickly if you miss multiple payments. Suddenly that discounted Prime Day deal doesn't look so affordable after expensive late fees get tacked on.

Unexpected interest charges

Buy now, pay later plans are marketed as interest-free financing. However, in many cases, that 0% interest offer only applies if you pay off the full balance by a specific due date. If you have even $1 remaining after that cutoff, interest starts accruing at rates that can exceed 25% in some cases. So buyer beware—it's easy to inadvertently end up with interest charges if you're not vigilant about paying off the balance before the promotional period ends.

Impact on credit scores

Even though buy now, pay later isn't a traditional credit card or loan, the lenders do report payment activity to the credit bureaus. So if you miss payments or default on the installment plan, it can cause damage to your credit score that makes it harder to get approved for mortgages, auto loans, credit cards, and other financing down the road. Using buy now, pay later irresponsibly can easily offset any of your upfront Prime Day savings.

Limited purchase protections

When you use a credit card, you get valuable purchase protections like extended warranty coverage, price protection, and the ability to dispute fraudulent charges. Buy now, pay later plans generally don't come with these safeguards. So you're on the hook if something goes wrong with the Prime Day purchase or the retailer doesn't make things right. The smarter move is to only buy what you can afford to pay for outright using cash, debit card or a low-interest credit card during Amazon's Prime Day event.

Although buy now, pay later plans are helpful if you really need to finance something big, it’s best to avoid taking on debt for everyday expenses. A little patience and fiscal responsibility will serve you better than getting in over your head with these financing options.

Keep checking back for more Lifehacker coverage of Prime Day to get the best deals available—plus the ones you should stay away from.

Meredith Dietz

Meredith Dietz

Senior Finance Writer

Meredith Dietz is Lifehacker’s Senior Finance Writer. She earned her bachelor’s degree in English and Communications from Northeastern University, where she graduated as valedictorian of her college. She grew up waitressing in her family restaurant in Wilmington, DE and worked at Hasbro Games, where she wrote rules for new games. Previously, she worked in the non-profit space as a Leadership Resident with the Harpswell Foundation in Phnom Penh, Cambodia; later, she was a travel coordinator for a study abroad program that traced the rise of fascist propaganda across Western Europe.

Since then, Meredith has been driven to make personal finance accessible and address taboos of talking openly about money, including debt, investing, and saving for retirement. Outside of finance writing, Meredith is a marathon runner and stand-up comedian who has been a regular contributor to The Onion and Reductress. Meredith lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Read Meredith's full bio