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Compare Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) services in Singapore: Atome, ShopBack, Grab PayLater and more

Compare Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) services in Singapore: Atome, ShopBack, Grab PayLater and more
PHOTO: iStock

Looking to make a purchase but are short on funds? Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL) providers have a solution for you. They allow you to break down your payments into manageable monthly instalments, all at 0 per cent interest.

If this concept sounds familiar, you’re not crazy. It is, after all, similar to the banks’ credit card 0 per cent interest instalment plans, albeit typically more lenient on late payment fees.

Now, we all understand the importance of responsible spending and not going overboard on unnecessary items. But, as adults, the choice to utilise these instalment programs to enhance your cash flow for other priorities ultimately rests with you.

Given the enduring presence of these BNPL providers, we’ll take a look at the key players in Singapore, how consumers are finding them, and checking to see if they come with 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 0per cent interest instalment plans.

With credit cards, banks conventionally charge a one-time processing fee ranging from 3 to 5per cent, 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, ShopBack and Pace are non-bank startups offering similar services, except (seemingly) without the strings attached.

For a start, they don’t charge 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 on 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 it!

2. Overview of Buy Now Pay Later services in Singapore

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
Atome 3 or 6 months $15 to $30
Grab PayLater 4 months $10
ShopBack (formerly Hoolah) 3 months $5 to $30
LatitudePay SG (former OctiFi) 3, 6 and 12 months $5 or 1.5per cent of order value, whichever is higher
Pace 3 months From $10
Payslowslow 4 months $15

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 working with one provider.

Still, it’s good to know what you’re signing up for if you’re deliberating between instalments vs paying the full amount. More details on each provider below.

3. Atome review

Atome Instalments Late Payment Fee Atome Promo Atome Merchant List
3 or 6 months $15 for orders under $1,000

$30 for orders over $1,000

DrGL,Agoda, Audio-Technica, Bershka, 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-stor 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 installments though. For example, if your cashflow is shaky and you end up missing payments, you will be charged $15 every time you're late.

At select merchants, Atome also offers the option to split your bill into a 6-month instalment plan. However, this options comes with a one-time processing fee of up to 3per cent of the total value of the purchase.

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 spending on such BNPL apps. Savvy online users seem to make use of Atome for the added discounts and vouchers. Last year, 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 Instalments Late Payment Fee Grab Pay Later Promo Grab Pay Later Merchant List
4 months $10 admin fee to reactivate account (chargeable for every missed payment, up to a max. of S$30) Crumpler, Swee Lee Music Co, iStudio, JBL, Samsung, Xiaomi, Wine Connection

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 fund deduction.

You can earn up to 1.2 per cent back in GrabRewards points whenever you pay using Grab PayLater. In practice, for lowest tier Grab members, the actual earn rate is as low as 0.6 per cent when you use PayLater to pay for Grab rides and deliveries. Likewise, when you shop at merchant-partners using PayLater, you only get 0.5 per cent back.

Also, it seems like only certain shops are eligible. You can only tell if you will earn Grab Rewards points upon checkout. Ick!

Reviews: Although Grab Pay Later was launched in 2019, it's still 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 sceptical about how Grab was making money out of Grab Pay Later and wary of hidden fees, there haven't been any negative reviews about the product.

5. ShopBack review

ShopBack Instalments Late Payment Fee ShopBack Promotion ShopBack Merchant List
3 months $5 for orders under $99

$15 for orders between $100 to $999.99

$30 for orders over $1,000

$5 off your first PayLater order Zalora, Charles and Keith, Jean Yip, Nike, Vans, Love Bonito, Sephora, BHG, etc

Hoolah was rebranded as ShopBack following their acquisition by the latter in November 2021.

Back in their heyday, Hoolah was probably one of the most well-known Buy Now Pay Later providers in Singapore, being the second such service to launch here in 2017, after Rely which launched in 2016. Its biggest draw was and still is its comprehensive and useful network of partner merchants.

ShopBack PayLater charges a late payment fee ranging from $5 to $30 on every instalment that you miss. So, if you miss all 3 instalment payments, you'll be charged a maximum of either $15, $45, or $90 depending on the item that you purchased.

Reviews: ShopBack/Hoolah is generally a well-accepted Buy Now Pay Later service in Singapore with few obvious negative reviews. The negative reviews received on Google Reviews were mostly about their 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 Instalments Late Payment Fee LatitudePay SG Promotion LatitudePay SG Merchant List
3 months $5 or 1.5per cent of order value, whichever is higher 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 company, Latitude Financial, acquired it and dropped the OctiFi branding in favour of their own LatitudePay brand identity, already present in Australia at the time.

Reviews: At this juncture, there are close to no reviews about LatitudePay in Singapore. Anyone want to try first and let us know?

7. Pace review

Pace Instalments 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 25per cent of the original order value or $60, whichever is less

Harvey Norman, Gain City, M1, OSIM, iStudio, Extreme Fitness, Jal Yoga, 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 with few user reviews to boot.

8. Payslowslow

Payslowslow Instalments Late Payment Fee Payslowslow Promotion Pace Merchant List
4 months $15 10per cent off with promo code Backpackers Gallery, AC Ryan Karaoke, Ez Motor, GP Motoring, Genkibikez, Wagggies Training School, Vietsea

Payslowslow is one of the less annoying BNPL services to use because you don't need to download yet another hardly-used app to your phone. You can just pay using a link or QR code.

You might notice that as compared to the aforementioned providers, there aren't that many partner merchants on Payslowslow's list.

However, there are some more unusual partner merchants that don't appear on any other BNPL providers' lists, including car and motorbike shops, a dog training school, an e-bike shop, a home karaoke merchant, and even a Thai amulet shop! So it's worth checking out the list to see if there's a big ticket item you want to buy from 1 of their niche merchants.

Reviews: Payslowslow was launched in 2022 and there haven't been too many comments about it online so far.

8. Buy Now Pay Later vs Credit Card

For comparison’s sake, let’s also check out the more popular banks and credit cards’ 0per cent interest instalment plans:

Credit Card 0per cent Interest Instalment Plans Instalment Tenure Processing Fee Other Fees
DBS 0per cent Instalment Plan 3, 6, 12, 18 or 24 months One time processing fee (previously 0per cent – 6per cent) $150 Early repayment fee
OCBC PayLite 3, 6 or 12 months 3 or 6 months: 3per cent 12 months: 5per cent $150 Early repayment fee
Standard Chartered EasyPay 3, 6, 9 or 12 months 0.1per cent to 1per cent
UOB SmartPay 3, 6 or 12 months 3 or 6 months: 3per cent 12 months: 5per cent $150 Early repayment fee

Compared to Buy Now Pay Later companies, it seems like a bad idea to opt for credit cards’ 0per cent interest instalment plans because not only do they tack on processing fees, they also penalise you for repaying early.

According to DBS’ Chatbot, when you take on a DBS credit card 0per cent 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 per cent for shorter tenures up to six per cent for two year tenures.

If you really, really need to split your purchase into installments, 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 per cent credit card instalment plan is if you’re hit with a big medical bill, as some credit cards offer this service in conjunction with medical providers.

9. Is Buy Now Pay Later good?

The reasons for opting for Buy Now Pay Later services or 0per cent instalment plans may vary depending on the person, 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 three months, but that would mean spending all your WFH days in bed and decreased productivity for another three months, by which time your boss might have lost patience with you.

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 installments. And you'd still have money left over for food at the end of the 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 emergency expenses in the following months, you might end up regretting your BNPL purchase.

Buy Now Pay Later services may also create a false sense of affordability when it comes to 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.

10. Are BNPL services governed by anyone?

BNPL services are on MAS's radar. In Octocber 2022, new guidelines were put in place to stop customers from accumulating more than $2,000 in outstanding payments per BNPL provider unless they pass an additional credit assessment to be shared across all BNPL providers.

The guidelines also urge BNPL providers to stop customers from making further BNPL purchases when they have overdue payments. That said, these remain guidelines and are not legally binding, so it remains to be seen what the BNPL providers will actually do.

ALSO READ: Buy now, pay later: Atome vs Hoolah vs Grab PayLater vs Pace

This article was first published in MoneySmart.

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