Whether it’s the latest-and-greatest laptop you’ve been eyeing online or the washer and dryer combination in the flyer of your local big-box store, you’ll notice retailers are adopting a new financing platform to make these big-ticket items more attainable.
Point-of-sale financing (POS).
Rather than pulling out your credit card to finance your next retail purchase, Fintech firms are offering installment loans right at the checkout counter. Instead of analyzing your credit score to decide whether or not you qualify, these companies use advanced algorithms to quantify your creditworthiness. In a matter of minutes, they review your checking account behavior and financial history to decide whether or not you’re a good fit.
But here’s the important question.
Even if you are approved, should you use POS financing for your next purchase?
We all know that increased access to credit can lead to impulse buying and overspending.
So, does POS financing do more harm than good?
We can’t say that these companies are scammers and provide a great financing alternative if the item is needed right away. However, it would help if you were careful before signing on the dotted line. When you’re at the checkout counter, and there’s a lineup of people behind you, you don’t have time to read the loan terms and conditions and educate yourself on the fees.
So, before you opt for POS financing, we have a few recommendations to consider:
While an unsecured personal loan should always be your first choice, POS financing is a viable option after you’ve exhausted all other resources.
What makes POS financing so attractive is it offers fast approval and no credit checking. However, APRs are typically in the 30% range. If you have bad credit, obtaining a $20,000 loan with no credit check and easy approval usually isn’t an option. Thus, if this sounds like your circumstances, a POS loan may be a good fit.
However, if you have good credit, plenty of unsecured loans offer much lower APRs. For more information, check our list of the best personal loans for good credit.
Is POS financing is right for you? Let’s first explain how the process works.
When you purchase in-store or online, retailers use the POS lender’s technology to merge the platform with its payments system. From a retailer’s perspective, integrating the service allows them to immediately receive proceeds from the sale and transfer credit risk to the online lender.
To set up an account with the POS lender, you usually provide your name, date of birth, and phone number. Sometimes, the platform will also ask for your Social Security number’s last four digits. Once your account is approved, you can analyze your APR and the repayment terms. After you agree, then you proceed with the purchase. After the transaction is finalized, you deal solely with the POS lender instead of paying the retail store. You can monitor your loan balance through your account portal and contact the service with any questions you may have.
But what if you decide to return the item?
Well, the process can get a little tricky. Because returns are handled solely by the retailer, the refund is administered by the store where the item was purchased. But, because the lender processes your loan payments, the retailer needs to notify the lender of the return. Once the information is synced, it can take anywhere from 3 to 45 business days for the refund to show up in your account. While you’re waiting for the refund, you still have to make your monthly payments, and interest charges may apply during the refund period.
Some of the major players in the POS lending space include Affirm, LendingUSA, and Klarna.
Affirm is based in San Francisco, California. They partner with online retailers such as Warby Parker, Wayfair, and Expedia. Their APRs range from 10% to 30%, with a duration of 3, 6, or 12 months. Duration up to 36 months are available at select stores. As well, Affirm has no minimum credit score requirement, and your repayment behavior is reported to Experian – a leading U.S. credit bureau.
LendingUSA offers APRs that top out at 29.99%. However, an 8% loan origination fee is applied to each purchase. Loan duration ranges from 3 to 5 years, and financing is only available at merchants in the medical, pet, funeral, and consumer services industries.
Klarna offers two types of financing options: If you repay the loan in full within 30 days, you don’t incur any interest charges. For longer-term financing, you can opt for a line of credit that’s repaid within six months. Its APR for standard purchases is 19.99%, and late payment fees can range from $10 to $35.
To decide whether POS financing is the right option for you, it’s best to perform a cost-benefit analysis.
Before choosing POS financing as the means for your next big purchase, you should consider the product’s pros and cons. While it’s an easy way to obtain financing and provides a great alternative for borrowers with bad credit or no credit, we recommend you tread carefully before taking the plunge. When a lender becomes the middle-man between you and the retailer, it adds another layer of complexity to the purchase – making returns especially difficult. If you have good credit, we recommend you consider a personal loan. You’ll find plenty of reliable options with low through the links above.