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Buy now, pay later (BNPL) mistakes

What happens when buying is made too easy?

Buy now, pay later (BNPL) is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to pay for items both online and even in stores. But what happens when we’re too easily able to purchase something we’d normally give more thought to buying?

Finder looked into BNPL to analyze the types of issues these pay-over-time products are creating for Americans.

Most common BNPL mistakes

Around 1 in 10 (9.9%) American adults admit to making a mistake when using buy now, pay later services. Our most commonly made mistake is buying items on a whim, with 5% of us saying BNPL contributed to impulsive purchases.

Our next most common mistake is buying something and missing an installment payment on it, resulting in 3.2% of Americans having to pay late fees on BNPL purchases. Other issues include buying more expensive options than intended and overstretching the overall budget, both at 2.3%.

Most common BNPL mistakes

Selection% of respondents
Impulse purchase5.0%
Paid a late fee3.2%
More expensive option2.3%
Overstretched budget2.3%
Overdraft bank account1.6%

Women slightly less likely to make BNPL mistakes

There’s not much splitting the gender in regard to making mistakes with buy now, pay later services. Women (10.11%) are slightly less likely than men (10.26%) to admit to these mistakes.

However, the genders differ over a handful of mistakes. Compared to women, men are more likely to make impulse purchases, pay late fees and overstretch their budget while using a BNPL service. Women are more likely than men to buy a more expensive option or have their bank account go into overdraft when paying through a BNPL service.

Most common BNPL mistakes by gender

Impulse purchase5.4%5.0%
Paid a late fee3.4%3.0%
More expensive option2.1%3.0%
Overdraft bank account1.3%2.3%
Overstretched budget2.4%2.3%

Ages 55 to 64 most likely to make mistakes using BNPL

At least 1 in 10 of people ages 25 and older and ages 55 to 65 admit to issues with BNPL services, peaking at 13% for 55- to 64-year-olds having made a buy now, pay later mistake. That age group is followed by 12.0% of those ages 35 to 44, 10.2% of ages 45 to 54 and 10% of ages 25 to 34. At the other end of the spectrum is the 6.1% of those ages 65 and older and 6.8% of ages 18 to 24 who admit to making BNPL mistakes.

BNPL mistakes by age

Age groupMade at least one BNPL mistake
Ages 18–246.8%
Ages 25–3410.0%
Ages 35–4412.0%
Ages 45–5410.2%
Ages 55–6413.0%
Ages 65+6.1%

Most common BNPL mistakes by age

SelectionsAges 18–24Ages 25–34Ages 35–44Ages 45–54Ages 55–64Ages 65+Unknown
Made an impulse purchase2.7%4.5%4.8%6.0%7.3%3.9%4.4%
Paid a late fee1.4%2.3%2.4%3.8%4.8%2.9%3.3%
Had bank account go into overdraft1.4%0.9%0.8%2.3%2.4%1.3%1.8%
Overstretched budget1.4%0.9%3.6%2.3%2.7%1.9%2.4%
Bought a more expensive option0.0%1.8%2.8%1.9%3.0%2.6%2.4%

Northeasterners most likely to make a BNPL mistake

Those hailing from the Northeast are most likely to have made a BNPL mistake, with 11.2% admitting to having done so. At 8.9%, those from the Midwest are the least likely to have made a mistake with a BNPL purchase.

BNPL mistakes by region

RegionMade at least one BNPL mistake


Our data is based on an online survey of 2,001 US adults ages 18 and older commissioned by Finder and conducted by Google Surveys from March 2, 2021, to March 18, 2021. Participants were users on websites in the Google Surveys Publisher Network and were unpaid.

We assume the participants in our survey represent the US population of 255.2 million Americans who are at least 18 years old according to the July 2019 US Census Bureau population estimate. This assumption is made at the 95% confidence level with a 2.2% margin of error.

Our survey asked respondents which BNPL mistakes they had made with the possible selections of:

  • made an impulse purchase
  • paid a late fee
  • had your bank account go into overdraft
  • overstretched your budget
  • bought a more expensive option

Our geographical regions align with the US Census Bureau’s Census Regions and Divisions of the United States.

For media inquiries:

Allan Givens headshot

Allan Givens
Public Relations Manager

Nicole Gallina headshot

Nicole Gallina
Finance PR Strategist

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