One way to avoid fees and black marks against your credit score is to pop your outstanding BNPL debt onto a 0% balance transfer credit card and pay no interest while you pay it off. Here’s how you can do just that (even if your BNPL doesn’t let you).
Being able to transfer a Buy now pay later debt to a credit card isn’t super straightforward, and it depends on your BNPL service. Luckily, we’ve got a nice little hack that can help you do a balance transfer for BNPL services that won’t play nice.
Just so we’re on the same page, let’s define both types of payment service:
Buy now pay later: BNPL services like Afterpay, Zip Pay, Openpay, Humm, and LatitudePay let you spread the cost of your purchase over several weeks without paying interest. The instalments are debited directly from your linked credit or debit card. You can use BNPL services where it’s accepted by the store as a payment method.
Credit cards: a credit card allows you to use a lender’s money for purchases and then you pay it back. If you don’t pay it back in full within the interest-free period, then you’ll have to pay interest on your debt each month. On the flip side, credit cards also offer a ton of perks like rewards that can be cashed in for free travel, retail goodies and gift cards.
If you want a full comparison of credit cards versus Buy now pay later services, you can check out our full guide right here.
Using Buy now pay later is usually free, and you won’t pay any extra to use it as long as you make the regular instalments.
But, if you default on a payment, you’ll get a fee – and that fee applies to each defaulted purchase, not your debt as a whole.
So if, for example, you had four transactions you were paying down with AfterPay, and one week you defaulted on two of them, you’d get a $20 total fine ($10 each). Then, AfterPay would charge $7 on each transaction for every week payment was defaulted, until you’ve paid up to 25% of the cost of the item.
Other services like Zip Pay will also charge a monthly account fee if you don’t pay off all your debts in time. And, if you get to the point where you’re too far behind in your repayments, most Buy now pay later providers may cancel your account and blacklist you. They also have the right to file a report with a credit bureau, giving you a black mark that could hurt your chances at getting a home loan, credit card or personal loan.
Before it gets to that point, you can think about transferring your Buy now pay later balance to a credit card. This way you can potentially avoid fees and gain some breathing space to get on top of your repayments.
We’re talking about a balance transfer, where you can move a balance to a credit card that offers an interest-free period that can be anywhere from 6 months to 3 years.
That way, you can get on top of your debt without paying late fees or getting a black mark against your credit score.
The good news is that it’s possible to transfer your debt, as long as your BNPL service and credit card provider come to the party (bonus: we’ll give you a workaround if they don’t want to hang out together).
This is important because some providers only allow balance transfers from other credit card institutions.
Currently, these providers accept balances from personal loans and lines of credit:
If you’re looking at a balance transfer from other providers, check with them first to see if they’ll accept your BNPL transfer request. With Buy now pay later services becoming more popular, banks may change their rules around accepting them for balance transfers.
Doing a balance transfer requires you to fill out an online form, and input the BPAY number of the institution you want to transfer the debt from.
Currently, only Zip Pay, Zip Money and Humm have BPAY numbers for paying your account. Afterpay states pretty strongly that they won’t allow balance transfers (party poopers).
If you have an account with any other Buy now pay later service, you’ll need to check with them directly about BPAY options.
If you can’t directly transfer your outstanding BNPL debt to a credit card, you could use an existing credit card to pay off the debt, and then transfer your new balance to a 0% balance transfer credit card. This method relies heavily on the shape and strength of your credit file. It’s generally not advisable to apply for multiple credit cards close together in time.
Let’s say you had $1,000 owing on your Buy now pay later account. You use your credit card to pay the full amount. You then apply for a new credit card that offers a 0% balance transfer offer and transfer your debt to the new card. You’ll then have a period of time – up to 36 months, depending on the offer – to pay off the balance.
But what if you don’t have a credit card?
You could look at applying for a very basic credit card with low or no interest and no annual fee, and then pay your AfterPay, Latitude Pay or other BNPL balance. You’ll then need to apply for a 0% balance transfer credit card. Of course, this means you’ll need to have the credit score chops to get two cards in a short timeframe. There’s some risk to this strategy, because you don’t want to hurt your score by failing an application. Check your credit score and your eligibility for the credit cards first.
To transfer your BNPL debt to a balance transfer credit card, you’ll first need to check if your service allows it, and then find a credit card with an offer you like.
You can see a comparison of 0% balance transfer offers here, where you can quickly find the best offer as well as interest rates and annual fees in one click.
A 0% balance transfer offer is usually a bonus when you sign up, so you’ll need to get a new credit card to take advantage of it.
The balance transfer isn’t the only thing to consider, though. You’ll need to weigh up the card to make sure it’s a good fit and you’re not paying too much in fees.
Length of the offer: the 0% balance transfer offer will expire and go back to a hefty interest rate (usually the cash advance rate), so look for a card that gives enough time for you to pay off your balance.
Balance transfer fees: most credit cards waive any fees for doing a balance transfer, but some may charge a one-off fee or a percentage of the amount being transferred.
Balance transfer limits: there may be caps on how much you can transfer, usually 70% – 80% of the card’s credit limit. Make sure you’re eligible for a credit limit that allows you to transfer the full balance of your BNPL debt.
Interest free days: If you have a balance transfer on your credit card, you won’t be eligible for interest free days on new purchases. Make a plan to pay off your balance transfer first, before you use the card for everyday spending.
Minimum repayments: just like any credit card, you’ll need to make minimum repayments each month on your balance, usually 2%-3% of the money owing. Of course, it’s much better to make a plan to pay off the full amount before the balance transfer offer expires.
Annual fees: weigh up the annual fee against the cost of your Buy now pay later fees. Look for a card with a low fee or introductory offer, and plan to pay off your balance transfer before the offer expires.
I explain the key rules of balance transfers if you need more information or help.
If you’re finding it tough to stay on top of your BNPL debt, you might want to think about other options that are comparable to an Afterpay-style service.
Did you know many big lenders provide credit cards with instalment plans, where you can nominate how much you want to pay and at what intervals? And that you often won’t pay interest on purchases that fall under your payment plan?
Credit card instalment plans are typically pretty flexible, and you may get other benefits of the card like discounts with partnering businesses, earning points, cashback or complimentary travel insurance.
You can see our complete rundown on how to use your credit card as a Buy now pay later service here.
Credit card providers with payment-by-instalment plans:
|Citi||Citi PayLite and Citi FlexiBill|
|Commonwealth Bank||CommBank SurePay|
|Humm||Humm90 Mastercard comes with humm90WRAP|
Just be sure to check our full review and the PDS of each card for all the terms and conditions, as not all cards offer instalment plans.
Low interest rates cards that offer low interest rates and no annual fee may work out better than paying Buy now pay later overdue fees, if you’re often behind in your payments.
Credit cards like the NAB StraightUp Card don’t charge any interest or late fees. You’ll only pay the minimal monthly fee if you don’t pay off your card in full each month. Here’s our full review on how the NAB StraightUp Card compares to Buy now pay later services.
Although it comes with an interest rate attached, the American Express Low Rate Credit Card’s rate is exactly what it says – very low – and has no annual fees. You’ll also get 55 days interest free on purchases.
Cards that don’t charge an annual fee, or charge very little, won’t usually don’t have many perks like earning rewards or free travel insurance, but will save you from extra expenses on your purchases. You could also look for credit cards offering to waive or discount the first years’ fees, get great value out of the offer, and then look for a new credit card that suits you when the next fee rolls around.
Many credit cards come with a certain interest free time frame on new purchases, usually up to 55 days but longer in some cases. Interest free days mean you could avoid interest altogether if you make a plan to pay off your purchases within the timeframe.
If you have a Buy now pay later account with Zip Pay, Afterpay, or any other similar service, remember there are options to help with defaulted payments. Balance transfers are a great tool for dealing with debt, and you can use other payment options to help keep you safer from debt in the future, like no-interest credit cards or credit card instalment plans.
You can also ask us a question anytime by clicking the blue help circle right here on this page – we’re here to help you figure out your best solution.
Pauline is a personal finance expert at CreditCard.com.au, with 8 years in money, budgeting and property reporting under her belt. Pauline is passionate about seeing Aussies win by making their money – and their credit cards – work smarter, harder and bigger.
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