American Express offers payment flexibility with Pay It Plan It. You can choose to pay off small purchases on your American Express credit card, or set up a payment plan for larger purchases. If you’re planning to carry a balance, the Plan It option could help you save on interest. Here’s what you need to know about using AmEx’s Pay It Plan It option.
How Does Pay It Plan It Work?
With Pay It Plan It, most purchases of less than $100 can be paid immediately (Pay It). Purchases of more than $100 may be put on a payment plan (Plan It).
Either option can serve two types of credit card customers, says Rutger van Faassen, vice president of consumer lending at Informa Financial Intelligence, a global intelligence analyst firm for retail bankers. “Transactors, who use their credit card to pay transactions and at the end of the billing period will pay off the outstanding balance, (and) revolvers, who hold a revolving balance at the end of the billing period.”
The Pay It feature helps you keep your credit card balance low by quickly making payments through your American Express app. This option can be useful for either type of credit card user.
On the other hand, van Faassen says, Plan It is helpful for people who need to essentially take out an unsecured loan and repay a large purchase in monthly installments. You’ll pay a fixed monthly amount through Plan It, including a baked-in fee, and you won’t be charged interest on that purchase.
How Pay It Works
If you have an eligible card with the Pay It Plan It option, you can choose the Pay It feature to chip away at your overall balance. To initiate Pay It, launch your AmEx app and find an eligible transaction with the “Pay It” label.
Keep in mind that selecting the Pay It option under a specific transaction doesn’t pay that individual transaction. Instead, your payment first is applied toward your minimum amount due for the month. Any excess payment made after meeting your minimum is applied toward the outstanding balance on the account.
The maximum number of payments you can make — regardless of how you pay, whether through Pay It, an online payment or via phone — is five per day. If you’re working on improving your credit score, lowering your outstanding balance is a useful way to lower your credit utilization ratio.
How Plan It Works
The Plan It feature offers AmEx cardholders a way to avoid interest charges on large purchases while paying the charges off in installments.
“(Plan It) works similar to point-of-sale financing that is being offered by different lenders (like Affirm for Walmart), but you utilize your existing credit card as the vehicle to do this,” says van Faassen. “An example could be a laptop you want to buy for, let’s say, $1,000 and you don’t have sufficient income to pay for (it) at the end of the credit card billing cycle.”
[Read: Best Rewards Credit Cards.]
Assuming your credit card offers American Express Plan It, you can see which specific purchases are eligible. Typically, purchases for a plan must be $100 or greater, and only purchases from the current billing cycle can be added onto a plan.
If you’re using your American Express app, you can create a plan for single transactions. If you set up your plan through your American Express online account, you can add up to 10 qualifying transactions onto a single Plan It plan. This is called a “multitransaction plan.”
You’ll then be offered repayment terms for the plan, depending on a variety of factors, including your creditworthiness, account status and purchase amounts. Repayment terms may be as short as three months and as long as 24 months. You’ll also see the fixed monthly payment due that you can expect every month while your plan has a balance; this amount includes the fee.
Once you’ve confirmed your selection and finalized your plan, your monthly plan amount is added to your minimum monthly payment due on the credit card account. Depending on your creditworthiness and credit limit, you can have up to 10 active plans per eligible AmEx account.
What Is the Pay It Plan It Fee?
Pay It fees are billed monthly, but you’ll be shown the total fees for the plan when you sign up. For example, if you select a 24-month plan with a $2.95 monthly fee, you’ll pay $70.80 in fees over the life of the plan.
Fees can vary among cardholders since they are based on a series of factors, like the amount of each purchase put onto a plan and the annual percentage rate that would apply to the transactions if they weren’t on the plan.
Your actual monthly plan fee will be calculated using a percentage between 0.61% and 1.17% of each purchase placed into a plan. For example, if you placed a $500 item into a plan and the percentage for this purchase was 0.75%, you would pay $3.75 per month in fees.
If you pay off an AmEx Plan It early, you can save on monthly fees. Although you can’t direct extra payments to a specific plan as a way to pay it off early, any additional funds you pay that exceed the adjusted balance for the month go toward your plan balance. Your adjusted balance is the amount due on your plan, plus the nonplan portion of your statement.
[Read: Best No-Annual-Fee Credit Cards.]
Pros and Cons of American Express Plan It
Before initiating a new plan, be aware of these pros and cons.
More payment options. More ways to pay give you more flexibility when managing payments on your AmEx credit card.
Fees are cheaper than APR. Since the Plan It fee is a fixed amount, you’ll pay less for an installment plan compared with rolling over purchases and interest with a variable APR.
You’ll still earn rewards. Since this payment option is tied to your AmEx credit card, you’ll earn rewards on your planned purchases.
Pre-purchase calculator helps you plan. If you’re expecting to make a large purchase, you can log in to your AmEx account to use the pre-purchase calculator, based on your credit factors, or this calculator for illustrative purposes.
“The Plan It option gives buyers the means to make purchases, then structure how to pay for them over time,” says Monica Eaton-Cardone, co-founder and chief operating officer of Chargebacks911, a risk mitigation firm for online merchants. “This makes the process much more manageable, especially for larger, unanticipated expenses. Plus, with the fee structure, consumers will typically save money when compared to paying standard interest based on their APR.”
You’ll pay a fee. Though the fee potentially is lower than paying interest for the same amount of time, you’re still paying more for your purchase. Paying off the full outstanding balance at the end of the billing cycle, instead of creating a payment plan, will always be the lowest cost option since you won’t incur interest charges, says van Faassen.
You can’t make changes to plans. Once you’ve created a plan, you can’t add or omit transactions from the account, or cancel it.
Returned purchases aren’t automatically credited to plans. If you return an item that’s included in a plan, the amount returned isn’t automatically applied to the plan. Instead, you must call customer support to have it applied to your plan balance.
“Individuals could also end up with higher minimum amounts due each month on their bills,” says Eaton-Cardone. “The cardholder is effectively paying two separate balances (the regular credit card bill and the Plan It balance). This makes it easier to end up with a bill one can’t afford.”
When Does It Make Sense to Use AmEx Pay It Plan It?
Ideally, you’d have the cash on hand to make credit card purchases and pay them off in full each month. As van Faassen points out, this is the most straightforward way to avoid APR charges and installment plan fees.
Pay It is a simple feature that effectively makes it easy to direct bite-sized payments to lower your overall balance. It’s the same as making multiple payments using your online account, just through a faster process, using the user-friendly app.
AmEx Plan It can come in handy if you’re planning a large expense and are confident you’ll have enough cash to make monthly plan payments on top of the nonplan balance due.
Before deciding on AmEx Plan It for your next big purchase, van Faassen advises calculating the true cost of the installment loan and comparing it against all other options to ensure it’s the best choice for you.
“The Plan It feature is a great alternative for any purchase you would consider a point-of-sale financing option for,” says van Faassen. “Especially if the card provides awards and/or cash back, it might be more favorable to use the Plan It option.”
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Pay It Plan It From American Express: How to Use It originally appeared on usnews.com