Is BNPL replacing Credit Cards?

BNPL is a red-hot phenomenon now both in the financial and retail worlds. Because most BNPL transactions are funded using debit cards or checking accounts rather than credit cards, one of the main debates is whether it is replacing or will replace credit cards.

When asked about BNPL and its impact on credit card balance, the CFO of Discover, John Greene, had this to say:

What we’ve seen to date is consumer appeal has been on the lower credit quality folks. I think there will be a natural evolution that, that will come up the credit spectrum. We’ve also seen in terms of the firm, some higher credit quality customers actually electing to do a buy now pay later transaction, whether it’s paid in for or something else.

We haven’t seen any discernible impact whatsoever. So where I would likely see that is through new customer acquisition, and that’s — that activity has been very, very robust. The balance sheet on existing customers here, so loans, that’s been impacted by stimulus and kind of how they’ve allocated their dollars within their household. Nothing from the details we’ve looked at that would indicate that buy now pay later’s impacting the portfolio.

Discover Financial Services – Barclays Virtual Global Financial Services Conference

Echoing that sentiment, Brian Wenzel, CFO of Synchrony Bank, said there was no visible impact from BNPL on their credit card portfolio:

Yes. So first, we have studied buy now, pay later impact over the last couple of years as it really has grown, and we partnered with an outside firm to kind of do a deep analysis really on the — at the customer account level to kind of understand the behavior patterns it has. So when we see it and the data we’ve seen, I think, 75% of the buy now, pay later accounts are funded out of a debit account, right? So the view is that they are — you’re using cash and taking what would be a debit transaction through the buy now, pay later. We then looked — and really the impact of our business, and we looked at it and talked a little bit about it in Q&A last week about the impact on our business.

Are we seeing anything that says buy now, pay later is impacting credit? And so when you look at it versus a cohort population of our Mastercard as well as our Dual Cards, we see a low penetration, and we have not seen any changes certainly with how they use credit with us. In fact, they are more engaged with us than our average customer. They generate more revenue for us, but we have not seen any change. So as we look at it — when we look at applications come through, go over some of these products are offering, we have not seen any change, discernable changes.

So when you think about the impact to us in credit, we don’t really see it yet. We think that there is a shift that’s happening probably from cash as a tender type. And I think this is where the merchants and our partners are taking a step back. They are saying, “Yes, we understand your offer, consumers like it. But is this driving incrementality for us, true conversion?

Synchrony Financial – Barclays Virtual Global Financial Services Conference

One may argue that the main business of Discover and Synchrony is credit card so they had to put on a brave face. They might have. But since they are publicly traded companies; which often require them to be truthful to investors, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. More importantly, what they say seems to be in line with what Marqeta sees in their 2021 State of Credit report.

Recently, Marqeta released a 2021 State of Credit Report with some interesting insights into how consumers in the U.S, the U.K and Australia use BNPL and credit cards. The report is based on a survey of 3,500 people across three countries. Here are my take-aways regarding consumer preferences in the U.S:

  • 78% of respondents in the U.S use credit cards while 25% actively use BNPL
  • 50% of U.S consumers use credit cards because of rewards, something that is still a weakness of BNPL providers but they are working on it
  • “60% of U.S. 18-25-year-olds said they made more than five purchases on their credit card online each week, compared with 19% of 50-65-year-olds”
  • “79% of consumers surveyed who use BNPL reported having three or less BNPL plans open at a given time, with 45% of people reporting their average BNPL purchase at less than $100.”
  • “Older consumers however, were decidedly against, with survey respondents 51-65 years old voting overwhelmingly (63%) in favor of the credit card-first status quo.”
  • “Americans were again slightly worse off, with 30% responding that they’d struggled to meet payments”

3 out of 4 U.S consumers use credit cards. 60% of the younger segment use their cards regularly every week while the older and wealthier crowd want to keep the status quo. That, to me, is the sign that the credit card business is still healthy and well, at least for now. By no means do I insist that BNPL doesn’t have a chance to overtake credit cards. More and more issuers such as Citi, Amex or Chase introduced the ability to put qualified transactions on installment plans (BNPL). All the major retailers in the country allow shoppers to have a payment plan. Even Apple is reportedly working on their own version of BNPL. Who knows what the future holds? But for now, all signs point to a healthy credit card industry holding their ground.

Weekly reading – 3rd July 2021

What I wrote last week

My thoughts on why investing is hard

Business

Credit Suisse 2021 Report on Payments, Processors & Fintech. This deck is long and has tons of information. You can get a lot of pointers out of it, but be aware that many slides have quite old data.

The economics of dollar stores. An excellent post by The Hustle on how dollar stores work. The most interesting things to me are 1/ unit prices on some items at these stores can be higher than those at bigger chains such as Target or Walmart. The absolute prices are lower, but they are also on a much smaller volume. 2/ These stores seem to be more concentrated in poorer neighborhoods. I read somewhere that richer customers don’t mind the stigma of buying stuff at dollar stores. I wonder if that’s still true and how much the trend is a boost to these stores’ business.

How a Beer Giant Manages Through Waves of Covid Around the World. A great story of how a global business uses data analytics to make decisions in the tumultuous pandemic. Even when the AB Inbev’s data team accurately predicted the second surge in India, it did get the previous predictions wrong. Nobody has a crystal ball to see the future. All we can do is to increase the odds with a wealth of data and machine computing.

Mac sales in India tripled after online Apple Store opened. One aspect of Apple’s business that I think should be discussed more is its retail stores and website. The report here credited the presence of Apple’s website for the significant increase in sales. I also learned from the article that to launch own-brand eCommerce sites in India, companies need to source locally 30% of their production. I guess there is a side benefit of expanding supply chain in India, apart from lowering the risk of over-reliance on China.

What does MongoDB do?

An interesting article on the next CEO of Amazon, Andy Sassy. The level of detail orientation described in the article is admirable. I love the concept of the Wheel of Death. People naturally tend to get complacent. Having them on their toes and preserving the unpredictability is a great way to ensure that they perform to the level required.

What I found interesting

Inside Wikipedia’s endless war over the coronavirus lab leak theory. Content moderation is super difficult at scale. Especially when you are widely considered to be neutral and often accurate. And during a global pandemic.

Equipping cargo ships with puffy sails could help Michelin improve a vessel’s fuel efficiency by 20%

The 5 coolest trends in urbanism … in Europe

Stats that may interest you

U.S online grocery sales hit $7 billion in May 2021, just a bit higher than the figure in March 2020, right before Covid

1/3 of U.S grocery sales comes from independent supermarkets

1 out of 3 men in the U.S reported to have fewer than 2 close friends, excluding relatives, according to a survey in May 2021

According to Bain, Covid increased the forecast online sales as % of all grocery sales in the US in 2025 from 8% to 13%

Average Prime Day order in 2021 was $47.14, down from $54.64 and $58.91 in 2020 and 2019 respectively

Amazon Pay Later hit 2 million sign-ups in India

97% of customer auto purchases in the U.S involves online research, but auto eCommerce only makes up 1%