From Atome to Hoolah to Grab, there’s now a whole slew of Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) services on the market. Similar to credit card 0% interest instalment plans, these services let you split big ticket purchases into multiple small payments.
While we always advocate making smart financial decisions and spending within your means, we know that these services are awfully attractive given these dark economic times. Even if you can afford the full amount, you might still want to pay by instalment just to free up your cash flow for urgent use.
We’ll take a look at the Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) providers in Singapore below to find out if there’s a catch.
1. What does Buy Now Pay Later mean?
The idea of splitting an expensive purchase into multiple instalments isn’t new. Credit cards have been offering this for the longest time via their 0% interest instalment plans.
With credit cards, banks conventionally charged a one-time processing fee ranging from 3 to 5%, depending on the value of your transaction. They also charge an early payment or early termination fee if you try to pay up earlier or cancel the credit card with which you paid!
On the other hand, the new breed of Buy Now Pay Later providers like Grab PayLater, Atome, Hoolah and Rely are non-bank startups offering similar services, except (seemingly) without the strings attached.
For a start, they don’t charge us processing fees and early repayment fees. Instead, they make money by charging their partner merchants transaction fees.
That said, you need to pay each instalment on time. BNPL providers will not hesitate to charge you a late payment fee if you miss a payment on the stipulated date, and will suspend your account until you’ve made payment.
It’s also worth noting that most BNPL plans are in the exclusions list for eligible spend tied to your credit card. Be sure to double check the terms and conditions of your credit card before charging the purchase to your credit card!
2. Buy Now Pay Later: Atome vs Hoolah vs Grab
What websites allow you to Buy Now and Pay Later in Singapore? Here’s a quick list of common BNPL services you might come across while shopping.
|Buy Now Pay Later Provider||Tenure||Late Payment Fee|
|Grab PayLater||4 months||$10|
|hoolah||3 months||$5 to $30|
|LatitudePay SG (former OctiFi)||3 months||From $15|
|Pace||3 months||From $10|
|Rely||3 months, or 4 payments every 2 weeks||Up to $40 depending on order value|
You may not have the chance to compare and choose your preferred Buy Now Pay Later service if the online store you’re buying from is only be working with one provider.
Still, it’s good to know what you’re signing up for if you’re deliberating between instalment vs paying the full amount. More details on each provider below.
3. Atome Review
|Atome Installments||Late Payment Fee||Atome Promo||Atome Merchant List|
|3 months||$15 admin fee for each late payment||$10 off your first purchase on Atome||3Arts Pottery, DrGL, anothersole, Agoda, Anytime Fitness, Charles & Keith, ezbuy, Huawei, etc.|
Atome is one of the more aggressive BNPL providers in Singapore, and has a presence both online and in-store. For in-store purchases, you need to scan and pay via QR code. Do note that the entire process occurs on your phone, which might be quite troublesome to some.
To entice you to shop more, Atome’s app has some online shopping vouchers which may allow you to save a bit on your purchase.
Make sure you weigh that against the cost of opting to pay by instalment though. For example, if your cashflow is shaky and you end up missing payments, you will be charge $15 every time you’re late on a payment.
Reviews: There are multiple threads about Atome on forums such as Reddit. Even though Atome is legit, it is a slippery slope for consumers since it’s easy to overspend and lose track of your spendings on such BNPL apps. Savvy online users seem to make use of Atome for the added discounts and vouchers. Two months ago, an alleged part-time Atome brand ambassador exposed the company’s reported rigged giveaways and tricky terms and conditions on Reddit.
4. Grab Pay Later Review
|Grab Pay Later Installments||Late Payment Fee||Grab Pay Later Promo||Grab Pay Later Merchant List|
|4 months||$10 admin fee to reactivate account||Bonus 98.8% cashback in GrabReward points for new Grab Pay Later users (min spend $15, cap 7,410 points equivalent to $14.82)||Secretlab, Hipvan (need to activate Grab PayLater on your app to see full list)|
Grab PayLater is integrated with the Grab mobile app, and is only available for online purchases. You’ll have to be an existing Grab user to activate the Grab Pay Later function.
To activate Grab Pay Later, open your Grab mobile app. From the bottom menu bar, select “Finance”, followed by “PayLater”. You’ll be prompted to click “Activate”, choose your credit card for automatic funds deduction.
The Grab Pay Later website is super dodgy and ambiguous about earning GrabRewards Points via Grab PayLater. Here’s what the FAQs on Grab Pay Later website says:
“Easily track if you’re earning GrabRewards points for your selected Grab payment method by checking it during the checkout flow. Get up to 1.2% back in GrabRewards points (or up to 6 GrabRewards points per S$1 spent) for every PayLater transaction.”
That means you’ll earn anywhere from 0% to 1.2% GrabReward Points if you pay with Grab PayLater. Also, seems like only certain shops are eligible. You can only tell if you will earn Grab Rewards points upon checkout. Ick!
Reviews: Given that Grab Pay Later was launched in 2019, it’s relatively unknown compared to Grab’s other offerings. A browse through major forums in Singapore such as Reddit and Hardwarezone revealed few reviews about Grab’s Buy Now Pay Later service. While forum users were skeptical about how Grab was making money out of Grab Pay Later and wary of any other hidden fees, there hasn’t been any negative reviews about the product.
5. Hoolah Review
|Hoolah Installments||Late Payment Fee||Hoolah Promotion||Hoolah Merchant List|
|3 months||$5 for orders under $99
$15 for orders between $100 to $999.99
|None currently||Zalora, Pomelo, Secretlab, By Invite Only, Charles & Keith, Zenyum, Daniel Wellington, Eu Yan Sang, Nike, Converse, etc.|
Hoolah is probably one of the most well-known Buy Now Pay Later providers in Singapore. It was the second BNPL providers to launch in Singapore in 2017 – coming after Rely which launched in 2016. The biggest draw about Hoolah is its comprehensive and useful network of partner merchants.
Hoolah charges a late payment fee ranging from $5 to $30 on every instalment that you miss. So, if you missed all three instalment payments, you’ll be charged a maximum of either $15, $45, or $90 depending on the item that you purchased.
Reviews: Hoolah is generally a well-accepted Buy Now Pay Later service in Singapore with few obvious negative reviews. The negative reviews they got in Google Reviews surrounded its discounts, difficult mobile app interface, and users’ struggles to cancel payments for cancelled orders. In 2021, there was also a Hardwarezone thread about a Hoolah scam.
6. LatitudePay SG (former OctiFi) Review
|LatitudePay SG Installments||Late Payment Fee||LatitudePay SG Promotion||LatitudePay SG Merchant List|
|3 months||$15 for every late payment and reactivation of suspended account||None currently||Gain City, Harvey Norman, M1, OSIM, Ogawa, iStudio, Mobot etc.|
OctiFi was a Singapore-based company that launched their Buy Now Pay Later service in 2020 in Singapore. A year later in 2021, an Australian Latitude Financial bought OctiFi, and dropped the OctiFi branding in favour of their own LatitudePay brand identity that’s already present in Australia.
Reviews: At this juncture, there are close to no reviews about LatitudePay in Singapore. Anyone wants to try first and let us know?
7. Pace Review
|Pace Installments||Late Payment Fee||Pace Promotion||Pace Merchant List|
|3 months||$10 initial late payment, increased by $1 per day after the due date
For orders under $40, only one $10 payment is levied for every late payment
For orders above $40, late fees will be 25% of the original order value or $60, whichever is less
|$10 to $100 off with promo codes here on Pace Weekend 22 – 24 July 2022||Razer, Uniqlo, Poh Heng, H&M, Longchamp, Goldheart, Prism, Novelship etc.|
Pace’s design is clearly meant to attract millennials — probably the most broke generation to have ever existed in the history of corporate capitalism.
Pace’s late payment fee structure is both confusing and scary. Not only will you be charged a late payment fee, the fee increases along with the size of the purchase as well as the tardiness of your payment. So yeah. Make sure you pay on time!
Reviews: Officially launched in Singapore in 2021, Pace is a relatively new company and Buy Now Pay Later player in Singapore with few user reviews to boot.
8. Rely Review
|Rely Installments||Late Payment Fee||Rely Promotion||Rely Merchant List|
|3 months or 4 fortnights (every 2 weeks)||$1 to 40 depending on order value||None currently||Not available|
Rely’s website currently shows “Database Error” – a hint at the company’s recent acquisition by their competitor (above) Pace.
Rely’s fee structures were known to be incredibly vague and non-existent. The Rely FAQ page about late payment fees, for example, only states: “A late payment fee will be charged if you miss your scheduled payments”.
They just tell you not to miss payments without telling you what the charges are. Scary, huh? It’s worth double checking with their customer service about the late payment fees before you decide to use Pace.
That aside, there are no Rely promo codes or promotions, but you will be able to find discounts with Rely’s partner merchants.
Reviews: Rely was the first Buy Now Pay Later company in Singapore, having launched in 2017. In March 2022, Rely was acquired by Pace. The official Rely websites and pages are all down as of time of writing.
9. Buy Now Pay Later vs Credit Card
For comparison’s sake, let’s also check out the more popular banks and credit cards’ 0% interest instalment plans:
|Credit Card 0% Interest Instalment Plans||Instalment Tenure||Processing Fee||Other Fees|
|DBS 0% Instalment Plan||3, 6, 12, 18 or 24 months||One time processing fee (previously 0% – 6%)||$100 Late payment fee, $250 Early repayment fee|
|OCBC PayLite||3, 6 or 12 months||3 or 6 months: 3%
12 months: 5%
|Standard Chartered EasyPay||3, 6, 9 or 12 months||0.1% to 1%||$150|
|UOB SmartPay||3, 6 or 12 months||3 or 6 months: 3%
12 months: 5%
Compared to Buy Now Pay Later companies, it seems like a bad idea to opt for credit cards’ 0% interest instalment plans because not only do they tack on processing fees, they also penalise you for paying early.
According to DBS’ Chatbot, when you take on a DBS credit card 0% instalment plan, you’ll be charged a one-time processing fee. The DBS website, unfortunately, doesn’t explicitly state how much you’ll need to pay – previously we found that it was anywhere from 0% for shorter tenures up to 6% for 2 year tenures. When you ask the DBS website’s Chatbot for the 0% instalment plan’s late payment fee, it’s $100, and $250 for early repayment.
If you really, really need to split your purchase into instalments, we’d say that the Buy Now Pay Later services are the lesser evil compared to credit cards. At least the tenures are reasonably short, and you can repay your mini-loan early and not get charged for it.
The only time you might need to consider a 0% credit card instalment plan is if you’re hit with a big medical bill, as some credit cards offer this service with medical providers.
- Cashback from Netflix, Spotify, fast food joints and more. *T&Cs apply.
- Interest 3-month EasyPay with no processing fee. Earn Rewards Points on your instalments
- Minimum Spend
Apply and spend S$350 to get S$337 Cash via PayNow OR an Apple Watch SE (worth S$419) OR Titan V1 7 Speed Foldable Bike (worth S$399) as soon as 6 weeks from Credit Card approval. T&Cs apply.
- Cash Back on Eligible Spend
- Min. Spend per month
- Cash Back Cap
Get an Apple iPad 10.2-inch Wi-Fi 64GB (worth S$499) OR an Nintendo Switch OLED (worth S$579) OR eCapitaVouchers (worth S$400) OR S$407 Cash via PayNow as soon as 6 weeks from Credit Card approval. PLUS stand a chance to win a ROLEX or PlayStation 5!!! T&Cs apply.
10. Is Buy Now Pay Later good?
The reasons for opting for Buy Now Pay Later services or 0% instalment plans may vary between people, but it’s widely agreed that increased cash flow is one of them.
For example, let’s say you need a PC monitor or decent office chair for your WFH setup but don’t have that much cash right now. You could probably save up for it in 3 months, but what would be the point? We might all need to be back at work by then.
In this case, a BNPL plan might make sense. You could benefit from an improved WFH setup right away, while breaking up the payments into more manageable instalments. And you’d still have money left over for food this month.
You should only Buy Now Pay Later if you’re confident about your income in the immediate future and have good discipline. Otherwise, you face the risk of late payment fees, which can snowball into debt.
But be careful about buying things on instalment…
While Buy Now Pay Later services may be a godsend during these lean times, we should still save up for our purchases the good old fashioned way wherever possible.
Remember that opting to “pay later” is essentially borrowing from yourself in the future. Should you run up some emergency expenses next month, you might end up regretting your BNPL purchase.
Buy Now Pay Later services may also create a false sense of affordability around consumer goods by splitting up the cost of an item into smaller packets. And since there’s no credit check process, it’s almost too easy to rack up debt with multiple purchases on instalment — a reported problem in countries like Australia and the UK.
Note that Buy Now Pay Later services are on MAS’s radar, and was most recently addressed in Parliament in October 2021.
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