For years, the humble lay-by has been a beneficial way for shoppers to buy now and pay off their purchase over a period of time to spread the cost and lock in purchases.

Today, Afterpay, Openpay and zipPay offer similar services – except you get your purchase straight away. You then pay off your bill in instalments.

Sounds convenient right?

But you need to be careful. Consumer watchdog Choice and the ACCC have both warned about the proliferation of these online shopping credit companies. Easy Street has a safer – and cheaper! – alternative.

How does online credit work?

The service needs to be offered specifically by the retailer. You sign up online and provide your account or credit card details so your payments can be deducted when they are due. There are no card applications and you will often get instant approval so you can start shopping right away.

But you need to pay back your purchase via instalments. These payment arrangements can vary.

Here’s what you need to think about

  • Are you spending money that you don’t really have? If the answer is yes, perhaps you should delay your purchase and save instead. Or, consider a traditional lay-by.
  • Are you likely to miss a payment? Fees for late payment can quickly add up to bigger debts and put you in a cycle that can be hard to get out of. Buy now pay later services such as the ones mentioned above earn a healthy income from shoppers not paying on time.
  • As it is a form of store credit, you will need to declare any money owed on an application form for other types of finance such as car loans, personal loans, credit cards and home loans. So if you’re trying to avoid debt or improve your credit rating, this may not help.
  • It’s completely up to you how you fund your purchases and what may be right for one person may not be a great idea for the next. It’s important you understand the terms and conditions of the service, and that you’re aware of any fees you may be charged before signing up.

An alternative way to shop

If you struggle with self-control when it comes to shopping, getting into the habit of relying on credit can quickly become a tricky habit to break. That’s why spending your own money is still the best way to shop.

However we understand that things can get tight and finding the spare cash for everything you need can be a challenge.

Create a “shopping” account

A safer alternative is to have a high interest savings account like the Easy Savings account, separate to your everyday banking. You can deposit money to on a regular basis. Used as your ‘shopping account’, you can arrange an automatic credit to the account each time you get paid so you can accumulate shopping dollars even when you don’t need to shop.

That way, you’ll have at least a head start and you’ll be less tempted to use alternative credit options. When you need to spend the money, simply transfer it back to your spending account.

Use an Easy Street Visa Debit Card

Easy Street also offers a Visa Debit card which can be used for in store purchases, online or overseas. For more information on our Visa Debit card or any of our saving products visit www.easystreet.com.au

The interest on this card could be cheaper than late fees and interest from an online shopping lender.

This information is general advice only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs (your “personal circumstances”). Before deciding whether to buy any product you should consider your personal circumstances. You should read and consider the Terms and Conditions when deciding to use any product (terms and conditions, fees and charges may apply). Our product Conditions of Use are available on our website.

Easy Street Financial Services is a division of Community First Credit Union Limited ABN 80 087 649 938 | AFSL and Australian credit licence 231204 | BSB No 512 170