By Stacey Leasca – 5 minute read
Book now, pay later vacations are on the rise.
As more people set off on adventures around the world, they’re realizing that travel can be expensive. However, there are a growing number of options to pay for those getaways, including vacation payment plans.
Here’s what would-be travelers need to know about this travel hack and newer payment option and how to decide if it’s right for them before they take off in a plane, train, or automobile.
What a Payment Plan Vacation Really Means
Buy now, pay later vacation plans work in a similar way to traditional layaway options at stores. Travelers pay a little upfront and pay off the rest over an agreed-upon timeline. However, unlike traditional layaway where a person can pick up their item only when payments are complete, travelers get their item — their trip — upfront.
There are several book now, pay later payment options on the market including Afterpay, Affirm, and Uplift. When booking a vacation using a payment plan option, you’re actually paying the financing company rather than the travel company itself. For example, if you book a Carnival cruise (one of the companies now offering this as an option), you’ll pay via Uplift. Uplift will then pay Carnival directly for the vacation in full. When you make payments, you’ll be paying Uplift, not Carnival.
Payments can be made over weeks or months, depending on the trip you’re taking, how much it costs, and which payment option you choose. Before signing on the dotted line, you’ll be assigned an interest rate based on data including your credit score, much like you would when applying for a credit card or loan. The rate will always be displayed before you click “book,” but reading the fine print is important so you are aware of all the terms of the agreement, not just the interest rate.
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Many Popular Travel Companies Are Now Offering This Option:
The love for vacation payment plans is growing across the travel industry. Here are a few of the major players entering the game.
Expedia: Expedia is now offering book now, pay later vacations. Travelers can choose monthly payments at checkout via Affirm. The website and Affirm offer three-, six- or 12-month payment plans.
Priceline: Like Expedia, Priceline also offers book now, pay later vacation payment plan options with Affirm. Interest rates range from 10% to 30% APR, with 0% APR for eligible customers.
Hotels.com: Hotels.com is offering payment plan options with Quadpay. Customers can split their payments into four installments over six weeks.
VRBO: VRBO is also getting in on the book now, pay later vacation option with Affirm. Customers can pay the total cost of the trip in three, six, or 12 monthly installments. Fixed payments come with interest rates ranging from 10% to 30% APR based on your credit profile.
Airlines are also utilizing book now, pay later for those looking to fly to their destination. United, Alaska Airlines, Air Canada, Allegiant, and Spirit are all offering this option as well as some of the airline subsidiaries Delta Vacations and United Vacations.
Cruise lines are also getting into the act. Carnival, Norwegian, and Royal Caribbean are all offering vacation payment plan options to cruise lovers looking to stretch their vacation budgets out over months.
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The Pros and Cons of Book Now, Pay Later Vacations
An obvious benefit of utilizing book now, pay later for vacations is that you can book a vacation now and pay for it later, rather than having to save money in a travel fund to pay for a vacation you take only after it’s paid for in full. Globetrotters can live out their vacation dreams sooner rather than later, maybe even taking advantage of fare sales that only last for a few hours or a few days, rather than once again having to wait to book until they’ve saved enough cash.
However, there are drawbacks to this option as well. Travelers may run the risk of overextending themselves financially when they see a vacation option they want to book, but are financially unprepared to pay back. One study by C+R Research found that 57% of online consumers polled said they overspent when they used a buy now, pay later program and they now regret using the option.
The other major caveat travelers should be wary of is how these book now, pay later options could affect their credit scores. Though not all companies run a credit check, some do. If you are asked for your Social Security number when booking a trip, the service provider may run a credit check, which could affect your credit score. The service may also report late payments to the national credit bureaus, which could also affect your score. If this is something that concerns you, try reaching out to the service directly to see if they run a credit check before booking.
Before utilizing a book now, pay later option, travel consumers can consider if it’s the right choice for them by calculating the true cost of the vacation—including both principal and interest—to ensure they feel financially comfortable and confident they can make these payments on time.
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Personal Loan as an Alternative to Buy Now, Pay Later
If you want to take a vacation without having to save the money to pay for it first, an alternative to a book now, pay later vacation may be an unsecured personal loan. Taking out a personal loan is still taking on debt, but the rates and terms of a personal loan may vary from financing companies that offer book now, pay later vacation options.
An unsecured personal loan allows a borrower to take out the amount needed to pay for a vacation with fixed interest rates that are generally lower than credit card rates and possibly lower rates than those offered by buy now, pay later financing options. Comparison shopping for rates and terms will help you find the best option for your financial situation. SoFi personal loans have no fees and have fixed rates, so payments stay the same over the life of the loan. Eligible SoFi members can also access perks like a rate reduction or discount on a new loan, the Unemployment Protection Program for borrowers with loans in good standing, and others.
Book now, pay later vacations are on the rise. Many popular travel retailers, airlines, and cruise companies are now offering the option as a way for travelers to book their vacations upfront and then pay them off over time. However, vacation payment plans do come with their own pros and cons, including potentially high-interest rates upon repayment. Travelers should look at all their payment options, including personal loans when deciding which payment option is best for them.