New research from personal finance comparison site, finder.com has revealed that over 19 million adults in the UK (36%) have already used buy now, pay later (BNPL) services, and a further 13% intend to use them in future.
This would mean that the total number of Brits using BNPL services could reach almost half (48%) of the adult population.
The study also found that a significant 42% of those that have used BNPL services before, did so for the first time during 2022, highlighting the financial struggle of UK residents as a result of the increasing cost of living.
Older generations are turning to BNPL to cope with the cost of living crisis
The study showed that BNPL platforms are generally more popular among younger generations, with 55% of millennials (aged 24-42) saying they had used a BNPL service before. This was closely followed by those in gen Z (aged 18-23) with 43%, and gen X (aged 43-54) with 35%. The older generations were less likely to have used BNPL services before, with 19% of baby boomers (aged 55-73) having done so, and 8% of the silent generation (74+).
Despite these services being more popular with younger generations, the research showed that 50% of those aged 74+ who have used BNPL services had done so for the first time during 2022. This emphasises the impact that the financial crisis is having on this age group. A further 3% also said they plan to start using these services in future, which could result in 1 in 10 of those aged 74+ using BNPL.
Baby boomers appear to be following the same pattern, with 48% of those who have used BNPL services having done so for the first time during 2022. Gen X was next with 42%, followed by 41% of millennials and 34% of gen Z.
Using BNPL for essential spending is becoming more common
When asked about what they were using these services to pay for, the study found that a significant number were using BNPL to purchase essential items.
Of those who have used BNPL before, 17% said that they used it to pay essential bills such as energy and water. A further 16% had used BNPL to pay for essential travel, and 15% had used it to pay for essential food. The most popular essential item was clothing, with 32% of respondents claiming that they have had to use BNPL to pay for essential items of clothes.
Despite this, non-essential items were still top of the list of things people were using BNPL to buy, with 41% of respondents saying that they’d used these services to get non-essential items.
Liz Edwards, editor-in-chief at finder.com, said, “The findings in this research really highlight the extent to which many Brits are struggling to keep up with their day-to-day costs, with such a large proportion turning to BNPL platforms to cover essential spending amid spiralling food costs and rising mortgage rates.
“Previously these services have largely been used by younger generations, but these findings show that this is beginning to change, as older generations struggle to navigate the cost of living crisis, and as awareness of BNPL grows.
“There have been recent murmurs that the UK government might be backtracking on its plans to regulate BNPL, despite the lack of proper information customers get upfront, the lottery of late fees, the lack of proper affordability checks and the lack of access to the Financial Ombudsman.
“If you’re considering using BNPL, it’s so important to be aware of what you’re signing up for. This type of borrowing has the potential to be harmful if you can’t afford the repayments, so I urge any consumers who are thinking of using these services to consider whether they can really afford to pay the money back before using them.”