45 to 50-year-olds most likely to use BNPL schemes, study finds

More than half (57%) of adults aged between 18 and 50 have now used Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) schemes, new research by OpenMoney has found.

The financial advice service revealed that the figure is up from 49% last year.

According to the research, the largest rise in usage has been among 45 to 50-year-olds, where 16% growth in the last year makes it the age group most likely to choose the payment method, with 58% having done so. This compared to 56% of those aged between 18 and 24, which OpenMoney suggested “contradicts the belief” that BNPL is largely a tool for youngsters.

The study, carried out among 2,000 UK adults aged 18 to 50, found that the most frequently bought items using BNPL include laptops, phones and other tech items, followed by clothes and holidays. Two fifths (41%) of respondents suggested they had used it because they can’t afford to pay for an item in one go, double the number who feel it makes financial sense to spread the cost (20%).

“BNPL has largely been seen as a way for young people to fund their fast-fashion habit, but our research shows the payment method is now more likely to be used by older people and often for big-ticket items like laptop and phones,” OpenMoney managing director, Hayley Millhouse, commented.

“While from a budgeting perspective, spreading the cost of expensive items could make financial sense, it is worrying to see that two-fifths of users struggle to pay off the resulting debt, with many turning to friends and family or other forms of borrowing to make repayments.”

Among 45 to 50-year-olds, those who use BNPL because they can’t afford an item upfront increased by 20% on last year.

OpenMoney also found that the number struggling to pay off their BNPL debts has also risen, from 38% last year to 43% this time around, while one in three (29%) users have turned to friends and family for help with repayments. This represents an increase of 10% on 2020 figures.

“The FCA consultation into regulating BNPL products is open until 6 January 2022, but in the meantime, many more people will be using BNPL to finance their Christmas purchases, without necessarily considering how they will make the repayments or fully understanding the consequences if they don’t,” added Millhouse.

“One in six of our respondents didn’t even class BNPL as debt. The sooner these schemes are regulated and brought in line with the consumer protections required for other forms of unsecured debt, the better.”

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