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25 MARCH 2021


Before the days of e-commerce we had mail order catalogues, post-dated cheques, and the “lay-by” system – where merchants put aside goods like clothes, furniture or appliances for customers who would pay for them later in instalments. This is where Buy Now Pay Later, or BNPL as it is known comes from – and today it is all about online shopping.

People everywhere like BNPL – but it is the Japanese, Koreans, Israelis, Greeks, Turks, Croatians, and Brazilians who have been BNPL users for several decades, often combining credit cards with BNPL instalment loans. Along the way and particularly in the past few years BNPL caught on in many continental European countries – as well as in Australia, Africa, the Middle east, UK and the US. 

BNPL intermediary businesses like Klarna are nowadays called fintechs – and some of them are growing global at a rapid rate.

The extent of BNPL usage in individual countries is sometimes surprising. According to dLocal, 54 percent of ecommerce expenditure in 2020 in Brazil was made accessing an instalment plan offered by merchants. The retailers, in turn typically factor the future instalments due to them with the local banks. With the role of merchants increasing rapidly elsewhere factoring is expected to become commonplace in many other countries.