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Older Brits increasingly turn to buy now, pay later for essentials

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Brits aged 55 and over doubled their use of buy now, pay later lending in 2022, with many of the older generations turning to this short-term borrowing for the first time amid the cost-of-living crisis.

An estimated 19 million Brits have used buy now, pay later services – three times as many in 2021.

It’s a payment deferral service offered by companies which allows customers to spread the cost of their purchases over weeks or months, often with no interest.

This shopping trend is generally more popular with younger generations, with 55% of millennials (aged 24-42) saying they had used BNPL.

This was followed by Gen Z (aged 18-23) with 43% of users, while Gen X (aged 43-54) use was recorded at 35%, according to comparison site Finder.

While older generations were less likely to have used BNPL services before – 19% for baby boomers (aged 55-73) and 8% for those aged 73+, Finder said Brits aged 55+ doubled their use during 2022.

And half of those aged 74+ who have used BNPL services, did so for the first time during 2022, “emphasising the impact that the financial crisis is having on this age group”.

Many said they were using BNPL to buy essential items and bills, such as energy, water, travel, food and clothing.

Meanwhile 3% said they plan to start using these services in the future, which could mean one in 10 Brits over the age of 74 using the payment deferral schemes.

Baby boomers appear to be following the same pattern, with 48% of those who have used BNPL services having done so for the first time during 2022. Gen X was next with 42%, followed by 41% of millennials and 34% of Gen Z.

Across the generations, Finder said 13% of the population intends to use BNPL which could mean its use could reach one in two of the adult population – up from the c. 36% now.

BNPL figures show ‘cost of living struggle’

Liz Edwards of Finder, said: “The findings in this research really highlight the extent to which many Brits are struggling to keep up with their day-to-day costs, with such a large proportion turning to BNPL platforms to cover essential spending amid spiralling food costs and rising mortgage rates.

“Previously these services have largely been used by younger generations, but this is beginning to change, as older generations struggle to navigate the cost-of-living crisis, and as awareness of BNPL grows.

“There have been recent murmurs that the UK Government might be backtracking on its plans to regulate BNPL, despite the lack of proper information customers get upfront, the lottery of late fees, the lack of proper affordability checks and the lack of access to the Financial Ombudsman.”

Edwards added that for anyone considering using BNPL, it’s important to be aware of what you’re signing up for.

“This type of borrowing has the potential to be harmful if you can’t afford the repayments, so I urge any consumers who are thinking of using these services to consider whether they can really afford to pay the money back before using them,” she said.