Millions would struggle to pay for Christmas without Buy Now Pay Later

22nd November 2023

Almost half of adults (48%) have used Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) to spread the cost of purchases. In 2023, 7.4 million more people used BNPL compared to the year before. The increased usage of BNPL, isn’t expected to slow down as we enter the busy festive shopping period, in fact it has become essential to many, according to the Equifax UK BNPL Barometer.

Equifax data reveals that average monthly BNPL payments made by customers have increased by almost half (46%), in the last two years – from £105 in 2021 to £153 this year. Expectedly, there is a clear seasonal pattern, with average payments peaking in December each year. Last December, payments reached £172, and given continued growth in BNPL usage, it is expected that we will see a similar spike again this year.

Nearly one in three (32%) consumers intend to use BNPL for upcoming Christmas, Black Friday or Cyber Monday shopping; with nearly a third (30%) of Christmas BNPL users (7.5% of all respondents) stating that they will struggle to afford Christmas without the help of BNPL, up from 27% in 2021. Similar to last year, 18 to 34 year-olds are the cohort most likely to use BNPL over the coming festive period, with 42% intending to use BNPL for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. However, the research shows that 35 to 55 year-olds are going to be relying on it the most for Christmas (34%).

The cost of living can be attributed to the increased usage of BNPL, as shoppers look to spread the cost of their purchases. Usage of BNPL for purchases has not been uniform across sectors; the Barometer found BNPL usage was highest in the following sectors; fashion, interiors, white goods, electronics and concerningly everyday consumables.

Alongside the increased use of BNPL, there has been an increase in failed payments, with 17% of consumers report missing a repayment. Almost half (46%) of 18 to 34 year-olds have failed to make a BNPL repayment on time. Additionally, given over half (57%) of BNPL users tend to spend more when using the service.

On top of monthly payments increasing, so have the number of monthly BNPL transactions consumers make. Equifax data shows that, on average, the number of payments consumers make on BNPL increased from four and a half in 2021, to over seven in recent months.

Contrary to what half (49%) of UK adults believe, BNPL isn’t currently regulated by the FCA. The Government announced its intention to regulate BNPL in February 2021, and earlier this month, Labour’s Shadow City Minister, Tulip Siddiq MP, wrote to the Government calling for the regulation urgently.The biggest users of BNPL are the 18 to 34 year-olds, over half (54%) have used it in the last year, up from 29% in 2021. However, the biggest growth is in the 55+ age group, 13% have used a form of BNPL this year, up only 4% in 2021.

Alongside this increased usage, data from Equifax reveals that average monthly repayments for this group have also increased at a greater rate than for younger age groups, growing 12% year-on-year for those aged 55+. Whereas those under 55 have shown a more modest growth of 6%.

Craig Tebbutt, Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer at Equifax UK, said “Over the last three years we have witnessed a surge in BNPL use by consumers, and the products have become an essential part of many people’s shopping experience. However, while consumers are using BNPL more and making bigger payments on BNPL, we’re seeing a slower growth this year, compared to last. It’ll be really interesting to see in the next year or so how BNPL trends respond to the changing economy.”

“As with any form of credit, when shoppers use BNPL, it can be a great budgeting tool, or way to spread spending out over the festive period. Shoppers should treat BNPL in the same as other types of credit: make sure you can afford the repayments and educate yourself on the risks. Caution from both lenders and consumers needs to be taken to ensure repayments can be made. Equifax supports the call for regulation for BNPL, as not only will it protect consumers, but also help those with thin credit files to build up a healthy credit score.”