With the holiday season just around the corner, booking travel is a top priority. While airlines traditionally accept payment in the form of debit or credit cards, this year a new payment method is available at some checkouts: buy now, pay later.
BNPL offers a convenient and flexible solution – buy a trip now and pay it back over time – and its popularity has grown steadily since the pandemic. While each service works a little differently, this payment method allows you to extend payments in the form of interest-free or interest-free installment plans, depending on the service and your credit score. Popular BNPL providers include Affirm, AfterPay, Klarna, and QuadPay, as well as many new players.
Using BNPL may be right for you if you are on a tight budget but feel like getting away from it all or seeing your friends and family before the New Year begins. “According to a recent Affirm poll, 74% of Americans say they will spend more than ever on travel this holiday season, while 60% fear they won’t be able to afford to travel the way they want,” Affirm Chief said. Sales Manager Silvija Martincevic.
How to book a flight with a BNPL service
Many airlines are integrating BNPL services as a payment method at checkout. But there are also other ways to take advantage of BNPL services when booking flights. We’ll walk you through the top four strategies below.
1. Buy flights directly from airlines with BNPL options
Several airlines have direct partnerships with BNPL services. We recommend that you carefully read the terms of each service before selecting one as your payment method. Some BNPL services have late fees, high interest rates, or require your first payment at the time of purchase. Many services offer different payment plan options, such as four payments every two weeks at 0% interest; a 30-day payment strategy (where the full balance is due 30 days after purchase); or longer financing terms of three, six, 12 or even 36 months at a higher interest rate. It’s important to carefully review each installment plan to avoid high interest where possible and to ensure you can make payments on time.
Airlines with BNPL partnerships (Uplift, Affirm and MarcusPay) currently include:
- Aeromexico – Uprising
- Air Canada – Uprising
- Alaska Airlines – Uprising
- Allegiant Air – Uprising
- American Airlines – Affirm
- Frontier Airlines – Uprising
- JetBlue – MarcusPay
- Lufthansa – Uprising
- Southwest Airlines – Uprising
- Spirit Airlines – Uprising
- TAP Air Portugal – Uprising
- United Airlines – Uprising
To purchase tickets using a BNPL service, you will visit the airline’s website, select your tickets and click on the BNPL option at checkout. You will then be redirected to the BNPL site or application where you can either enter your username or create an account. From there, the BNPL service may offer different options for splitting your payments, explaining the interest rate you are entitled to (if any), and may require your first payment at the time of purchase.
2. Use PayPal Pay in 4
PayPal, an online payment service, can be used as a payment method for most airline tickets. And now you can select PayPal’s Pay in 4 service, which allows you to split your payment into four bi-monthly (automatic) installments at 0% interest. While the first installment is due at the time of purchase, you will have approximately 45 days to pay the remaining balance.
3. Book through a third-party travel site
Some third-party flight reservation services, including Kayak, Priceline, Expedia, and Travelocity, offer BNPL options for all airlines. If the airline you prefer to travel with doesn’t offer a BNPL direct payment option, you can search for tickets on one of these third-party sites instead.
4. Obtain a virtual BNPL card
Do you already have a BNPL service that you want to use? Many businesses that buy now, pay later offer virtual cards, which allow you to purchase items online from websites that don’t offer BNPL payment options.
Services such as Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna, QuadPay and most other major BNPL services offer this option. To get started, you’ll need to know the final cost of your purchase, including taxes. Log into your BNPL account and request a virtual card by entering the total purchase amount when prompted. It is helpful to round up to ensure that the card is issued for an amount that fully covers your purchase. Once approved, you will receive a virtual card number, expiration date and CVV (card verification value), which you can use as a payment method when ordering airline tickets online.
The amount you spend on the virtual card will then be applied to your BNPL account to be reimbursed in installments.
5. Consider a 0% APR credit card instead.
If the BNPL methods you qualify for have high interest rates or if you need more time to pay off your purchase, there is another option: a 0% APR credit card. This type of credit card offers no interest during an introductory period, usually between 15 and 20 months. Just make sure that you can pay off the full balance during the introductory period, otherwise the interest will start to accrue and accumulate on your debt.