From Brian X. Chen’s “Should You Buy Now, Pay Later? Tread Carefully.” in Thursday’s New York Times:
[A] friction-free option to pay off items in chunks — called “buy now, pay later” — was popularized by Afterpay, a financial tech firm based in Australia and founded in 2014. Throughout the pandemic, as people hunkered down at home and sought to fill voids with material possessions, installment payment plans gained traction. Afterpay, which Square acquired for $29 billion in 2020, spawned copycats, including Affirm, Klarna and Fingerhut. This month, Apple announced that it would offer a similar program.
While the financing programs offer upsides like interest-free payments, there are potential dangers. The rule of thumb for financial security is to be aware of your budget and in control of your spending, personal finance experts said. But buy now, pay later programs seem intended to make people perceive a product to be cheaper than it truly is and lose control of their spending, critics said.
In December, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau opened an inquiry into these programs, expressing concern that people could accumulate debt with multiple purchases.
“They can be helpful to consumers in the sense that they don’t carry interest if paid on time, but consumers can end up buying more than they planned,” said Laura Udis, a program manager at the bureau.
My take: This is one of the quirks of the news business. A problem that has been festering for some time becomes news when Apple enters the picture.