Attorney General Brian Frosh is warning Marylanders that a “buy now, pay later” mentality created by installment plans can rack up debt and cause other financial problems over time.
Installment plans, which often offer little to no interest payments, can allow consumers to buy products that they otherwise might not be able to afford. The cost of big ticket items can be split up and paid off over time in smaller installments.
But Frosh said these plans create a different set of problems:
- Retail items seem cheaper, which can hurt your budget.
- Missing a payment or paying late can cause you to accumulate debt.
- Paying on time won’t boost your credit, unlike with credit cards and traditional consumer loans.
The appeal of many of these plans is that you won’t have to pay interest. But Frosh said consumers should think of them as short-term loans, so paying late or missing a payment could mean creditors charge you with back-interest and/or other fees. That’s debt you didn’t plan to take on.
These plans could be helpful if you need a product and don’t have the cash or a credit card to buy it.
Frosh offers some advice if you opt for avoiding financial problems if you opt for an installment plan:
- Budget to make sure you can pat off the item on time.
- Look at the price of the item, not just the installment plan amount when you budget.
- Know about the fees and how missed payments could hurt your credit.
Consumers who have problems with creditors, can contact the Consumer Protection Division at 410-528-8662 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.