Buy Now, Pay Later Versus Credit Cards: What You Should Know

CEO and Founder of Plinqit, the only savings app of its kind that pays users for learning about finance and savings. Between inflation, rising interest rates and other economic uncertainties, many Americans are concerned about their personal finances. These concerns impact their financial decisions. For some, this means relying on buy now, pay later (BNPL) products. In fact, a new survey from Credit Karma revealed that nearly 60% of consumer respondents said inflation is driving them to use BNPL products for items they need.

The survey also revealed that 13% of BNPL users surveyed rely on the service to pay for items at the supermarket, 18% are using it at warehouse stores and 17% are using it at discount stores. These stats indicate consumers are using BNPL services to pay for food and other household necessities.

Overall, BNPL usage has grown rapidly in recent years, and the BNPL market is expected to hit $3268.2 billion by 2030. It is more important than ever for consumers to understand how these products work so they can make informed financial decisions, especially in the current economic environment. Whether they opt to use BNPL or not, consumers need to know the risks, the difference between BNPL and traditional credit products, as well as the pros and cons of each, and the potential implications of using BNPL when it comes to their financial goals.

If It’s Available, Why Not?

Just as you would with any credit product, look out for overuse of BNPL. Most Americans believe they can handle one BNPL installment, but what happens when one installment turns into three? Juggling multiple BNPL payments makes it easy to overextend your budget and potentially lose track of payment due dates, resulting in a cycle of debt that’s hard to get out of.

If a person fails to pay their BNPL payment, their debt can be sent to collections, which can seriously damage their credit score. In fact, according to a Credit Karma survey of Americans who have used BNPL, 38% reported they have missed at least one payment. Of those, another 72% saw a decrease in their credit score afterward.

Additionally, BNPL is different from other forms of financing because BNPL providers currently do not review consumers’ other outstanding debts. This makes it difficult to understand whether a consumer can take on more debt. Consumers must also expect the unexpected. What if an unexpected expense comes up? Will this impact their ability to make payments toward their BNPL debt and other debts?

BNPL Versus Credit Cards—What’s Better?

BNPL is gaining popularity as an alternative to credit cards, particularly among younger consumers. Many younger adults fear getting into debt, so they avoid using credit cards for purchases and instead reach for the tech-friendly BNPL solution. Both methods come with their own pros and cons, and consumers should weigh the benefits and risks of each before blindly making purchases.

Due to the increase in online shopping during the Covid-19 pandemic coupled with the demand for convenience, many consumers started using BNPL services. Popular BNPL providers like Afterpay, Affirm and Klarna have little to no interest and no hard credit check. Some options carry no fees, essentially making it free financing for the customer. However, if a customer misses a payment, it can affect their credit score and there can be substantial fees for late payments.

Also, some BNPL providers do not currently report positive payment history to the major credit bureaus, which means consumers cannot build their credit score like they could by making on-time payments for a credit card.

On the other hand, credit cards can be used almost anywhere and are more versatile for things like groceries and gas. Credit cards also build credit history and offer rewards and points that can be used on travel and cash back. However, carrying a balance over to the next month can incur a significant amount of interest, making it even harder to pay off the new balance.

BNPL’s Implications For Financial Goals

No matter what a consumer’s financial goals are—whether it’s early retirement or buying a home or car—taking on debt has implications for those goals. When deciding between BNPL financing and other forms of credit, it is best for consumers to consider how the line of credit will impact their ability to save.

Do they need to build up their credit score in the long term to buy a house? If so, a credit card might be best. Do they need to make a necessary purchase now and pay it off over time without impacting their credit score? If so, BNPL may be a good choice.

It is also important to consider economic changes that can impact budgets and financial well-being. While the economy is still in recovery from the pandemic, inflation continues and the cost of everyday goods remains at record highs. Consumers should avoid overextending their budgets and steer clear of financing that may hurt their credit score and send them deeper into debt.

The Role Of Community Financial Institutions

For individuals considering alternative financing options, it’s worthwhile to leverage the resources at their bank or credit union to make an informed decision. Financial institutions are well equipped to educate consumers on the benefits and risks of BNPL, as they can accurately assess these financing solutions and determine whether they will help or hinder a consumer from achieving their goals.

The appeal of BNPL is clear, thanks to its convenient enrollment process and widespread availability. These services have become common among online retailers, and apps such as Afterpay and Affirm are quickly becoming household names. While these financing options appeal to many, individuals should be aware of the implications of using BNPL, and they need to look no further than their community financial institution for guidance.

With the help of their local bank or credit union, consumers can become more financially literate so they can weigh the pros and cons of BNPL versus traditional credit products. This will ensure consumers make smart financial decisions and take the right steps to create a positive financial future.

CEO and Founder of Plinqit, the only savings app of its kind that pays users for learning about finance and savings. Read Kathleen Craig’s full executive profile here.

Source: Buy Now, Pay Later Versus Credit Cards: What You Should Know

Critics by movi

Buy now, pay later is a type of short-term financing. These point-of-sale installment loans are offered by a number of companies, including Movi

BNPL can be used at a variety of major retailers, which differ from plan to plan. Some credit card companies, also offer installment payment arrangements for eligible cardholders. Each buy now, pay later plan is unique to its provider, but generally they share a few things in common.

For example, BNPL loans typically require an upfront deposit payment representing a portion, such as 25%, of the purchase amount. After that, the remaining balance must be paid off in installments over a period of a few weeks or a few months. Some BNPL services set the total number of payments at four, while others allow borrowers to select their own payment schedule.

In terms of cost, buy now, pay later plans often charge no interest and no fees, with the exception of late fees for missed payments.

Just over half, 51%, of Americans used a buy now, pay later service at least once during the coronavirus pandemic. Among the most commonly purchased items were clothing, furniture, appliances, electronics, housewares, and cosmetics.

How Credit Cards Differ

Like buy now, pay later loans, credit cards can be used at retailers. But they can also be used to buy gasoline, make utility bill payments, and for other kinds of expenses. If the cardholder pays their balance in full each month, they won’t owe any interest. Otherwise, their balance will accrue interest at the card’s annual percentage rate (APR).

Credit cards may also charge fees, including:

  • An annual fee
  • Balance transfer fees
  • Cash advance fees
  • Foreign transaction fees
  • Late payment fees

A credit card is an example of revolving credit. With this type of credit agreement, you have a set credit limit that you can borrow against. As you make purchases with a credit card, your available credit is reduced by that amount. When you make a payment, that frees up your available credit.

Buy Now, Pay Later vs. Credit Cards: Which Is Better?

Buy now, pay later plans and credit cards are both options to consider when making purchases online or in stores. But each has some advantages and disadvantages.

Buy Now, Pay Later Pros

  • Convenience: You can apply online and be approved almost instantly
  • Get approved without a hard credit check, which can lower your credit score
  • Pay off purchases in installments, typically with no interest charges
  • Choose a payment frequency that fits your budget (at some BNPL providers)

Buy Now, Pay Later Cons

  • Since you don’t have to pay in full right away, it’s easy to overspend
  • Payment plans aren’t always interest-free
  • Missing a payment or being late with one could hurt your credit score
  • Not all retailers accept buy now, pay later

Credit Card Pros

  • Can be used at a wider array of retailers and for other purposes
  • Pay off purchases over time at your own pace, without fixed installment payments
  • Potential to earn cash back, miles, or points on purchases
  • Cards may offer other perks, such as travel and rental car insurance

Credit Card Cons

  • Interest charges can add up quickly if you carry a balance from month to month
  • A hard credit check is typically required to qualify
  • Late payments can be damaging to your credit score
  • Credit cards can charge numerous fees, which add to your overall cost

How to Choose a Buy Now, Pay Later Plan

When comparing buy now, pay later plans, pay particular attention to:

  • Which retailers accept it
  • Initial deposit requirements
  • Number of installment payments required
  • Interest charges, if any
  • Fees, if any
  • Limitations or exclusions on purchases
  • Credit check requirements
  • Shipping policies
  • Refund and return policies

Also, consider how a buy now, pay later agreement might affect your credit. While many BNPL companies only perform a soft credit check to approve shoppers for loans, your credit score could still suffer if you’re late in making a payment and the company reports it to a credit bureau.

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The 6 Biggest Money Secrets Most Rich People Won’t Tell You

Life would be a whole lot easier if someone would just Venmo us $1 million, but unfortunately the chance of that happening is, well, probably zero. (Venmo doesn’t allow transactions that large anyway.)

But even though our chances of becoming a millionaire are slim, we can still manage our money like one. No, we’re not going to tell you how to buy hundreds of shares of Apple stock. Or how to pick out the perfect yacht.

These are simple money moves any normal, non-millionaire person can make today. Each secret can get you closer to achieving your big goals.

Take a look:

1. You Can Cancel Your Car Insurance

Did you know you can save some serious money just by switching car insurance companies?

Its true — rates are at historic lows, and you could be paying way less for the same coverage. All you need to do is look for it.

But don’t waste your time hopping around to different insurance companies. Use a website called EverQuote to see all your options at once.

EverQuote is the largest online marketplace for insurance in the US, so you’ll get the top options from more than 175 different carriers handed right to you.

Take a couple of minutes to answer some questions about yourself and your driving record. With this information, EverQuote will be able to give you the top recommendations for car insurance. In just a few minutes, you could save up to $610 a year.

2. You Can Stop Paying Your Credit Card Company

If you have credit card debt, you know. The anxiety, the interest rates, the fear you’re never going to escape…

And the truth is, your credit card company doesn’t really care. It’s just getting rich by ripping you off with high interest rates — some up to 36%. But a website called Fiona could help you pay off that bill as soon as tomorrow.

Here’s how it works: Fiona can match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every credit card balance you have. The benefit? You’re left with just one bill to pay every month, and because the interest rate is so much lower, you can get out of debt so much faster. Plus, no credit card payment this month.

If your credit score is at least 620, Fiona can help you borrow up to $250,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 2.49% and terms from 6 to 144 months.

Fiona won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online. It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars. Totally worth it.

All that credit card debt — and the anxiety that comes with it — could be gone by tomorrow.

3. This App Will Pay Off Your Credit Card Debt

Credit card debt is the worst. It’s the most expensive kind of debt you can have.

First, you fall behind on your payments. It can happen to anybody. Next thing you know, the credit card companies are gouging you — charging you more than 20% interest on your balance.

But an app called Tally can pay off your credit card debt. Like, all of it. Here’s how it works: Tally gives you a line of credit with a lower interest rate (rates start as low as 7.9%) that you can use to pay off your high-interest credit card debt. Then you’ll just have one monthly payment — and you’ll save tons of money on interest.

If you qualify and have a FICO score of 580 or higher, you can get a line of credit from $2,000 to $25,000 pretty much immediately.

It’s easy to get started, and it won’t affect your credit score just to check your rates. See how much money you could save.

4. Get Paid up to $80/Month — Just for Sharing Your Opinion

Taking surveys might not sound like the best way to make money, but if you’re just vegging out on the couch — or pretending to be interested in your partner’s new favorite show — why not click a couple buttons? It could earn you up to $80 a month. Seriously.

There are a bunch of paid survey sites out there, but one of the best we’ve found is Survey Junkie.

They’ll ask you questions about things like, what kind of laundry detergent you use, or if you prefer Pepsi or Coke. You get points for answering, and many people accumulate enough points to request a check within a few hours.

More than 10 million people already use Survey Junkie, and it has 4.5/5 stars on TrustPilot.  Give it a try by visiting Survey Junkie and clicking the “Join Now” button. It’s free.

5. See if You Could Lower Your Car Payment by Hundreds a Year

You know you can refinance your house to save money on your monthly mortgage payment — but did you know you can refinance your car, too?

It’s not a money-saving tactic people talk a lot about, but it could save you a ton of money. A website called Upstart is helping borrowers save an average of $1,025 a year on their car payments. That’s about $4,800 back in their pockets over the lifetime of their loan.

There are no origination fees, and you only need a minimum FICO score of 510. You don’t even need to enter your car’s VIN, and you won’t get any spam calls.

And with an APR range of 2.20% to 29.99% Upstart is saving customers over 17% per month when they refinance. Upstart has helped borrowers save more than $20 million on their car payments in the past year alone*.

Ready to start saving? It takes just minutes to check your rate and see how much you could save

6. Scared to Invest? This App Gives You Between $2.50 and $200 in Free Stock

If you feel like you don’t have enough money to start investing, you’re not alone. But guess what? You really don’t need that much — and you can even get free stocks (worth $2.50 to $200!) if you know where to look.

Whether you’ve got $5, $100 or $800 to spare, you can start investing with Robinhood.

Yeah, you’ve probably heard of Robinhood. Both investing beginners and pros love it because it doesn’t charge commission fees, and you can buy and sell stocks for free — no limits. Plus, it’s super easy to use.

What’s best? When you download the app and fund your account (it takes no more than a few minutes), Robinhood drops a share of free stock into your account. It’s random, though, so that stock could be worth anywhere from $2.50 to $200 — a nice boost to help you build your investments.

Source: The 6 Biggest Money Secrets Most Rich People Won’t Tell You – The Penny Hoarder

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If You Have More Than $1,000 in Your Checking Account, Make These 4 Moves

If You Have More Than $1,000 in Your Checking Account, Make These 5 Moves

You’ve done it. You’ve built up a little cushion in your bank account — $1,000! It feels good, right? Those days of checking your account balance in a panic are behind you.Congrats! You’re on the right path. Now it’s time to think about some longer-term goals. What do you want to accomplish next with your money? Do you need to save more? Do you want to buy a home someday? Invest?What’s the next step you should take? What are some specific things you can do to take your finances to the next level?

We’ve got some ideas for you:

1. You Can Cancel Your Car Insurance

Did you know you can save some serious money just by switching car insurance companies?Its true — rates are at historic lows, and you could be paying way less for the same coverage. All you need to do is look for it.But don’t waste your time hopping around to different insurance companies.

Use a website called EverQuote  to see all your options at once.EverQuote is the largest online marketplace for insurance in the US, so you’ll get the top options from more than 175 different carriers handed right to you.Take a couple of minutes to answer some questions  about yourself and your driving record. With this information, EverQuote will be able to give you the top recommendations for car insurance. In just a few minutes, you could save up to $610 a year.

2. Give Your Family $1M

Have you thought about what would happen to your family after you die? How will they pay the mortgage? Send the kids to school?We know; it’s not fun to think about. But getting a life insurance policy is one of the most important things you can do if you have people who depend on you.A company called can help you get a policy for as little as $10 a month — and in just two minutes.

Maybe you’ve considered it before, but it felt like an expensive hassle — or like something you only need to do when you’re older. But the truth is, even if you’re young and healthy, it’s often smart to lock in a cheaper policy now. Rates tend to go up as you will show you quotes from different companies so you can compare and find the right policy for you. You never have to leave the house or take a medical exam. You don’t even have to speak to a human if you don’t want to.Take two minutes to answer a few quick questions to make sure you protect the ones you love.

3. Invest in Famous Art (Even if You’re Not a Millionaire)

Here’s the deal: If you’re not investing in contemporary art, you might be missing out on an asset whose prices have outpaced the S&P by 164% from 1995 to 2020. (FYI, the S&P tracks 500 of the largest companies in the stock market) Monets, right?

But a company called Masterworks lets normal people like us invest in multimillion-dollar works of art — something typically only available to the super rich. You don’t need hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy a masterpiece outright; with Masterworks, you can invest in multimillion dollar paintings with only $1,000. Investing in contemporary art is a long-term strategy, so patience pays off here — literally. But once your piece of art sells, you get your share of the potential profits.

4. Stop Overpaying at Amazon

Wouldn’t it be nice if you got an alert when you’re shopping online at Amazon or Target and are about to overpay? Just add it to your browser for free, and before you check out, it’ll check other websites, including Walmart, eBay and others to see if your item is available for cheaper. Plus, you can get coupon codes, set up price-drop alerts and even see the item’s price history.

Let’s say you’re shopping for a new TV, and you assume you’ve found the best price. Here’s when you’ll get a pop up letting you know if that exact TV is available elsewhere for cheaper. If there are any available coupon codes, they’ll also automatically be applied to your order.

In the last year, this has saved people $160 million.

5. Ask This Website to Help Pay Off Your Credit Cards

No, like… the whole bill. All of it.

While you’re stressing out over your debt, your credit card company is getting rich off those insane interest rates. But a website called Fiona  could help you pay off that bill as soon as tomorrow.

Here’s how it works: Fiona can match you with a low-interest loan you can use to pay off every credit card balance you have. The benefit? You’re left with just one bill to pay every month, and because the interest rate is so much lower, you can get out of debt so much faster. Plus, no credit card payment this month.

Fiona can help you borrow up to $250,000 (no collateral needed) with fixed rates starting at 2.49%.

Fiona won’t make you stand in line or call a bank. And if you’re worried you won’t qualify, it’s free to check online . It takes just two minutes, and it could save you thousands of dollars. Totally worth it. All that credit card debt — and the anxiety that comes with it — could be gone by tomorrow.

By The Penny Hoarder Staff

Source: If You Have More Than $1,000 in Your Checking Account, Make These 5 Moves – The Penny Hoarder

Creating a budget is an important financial step that can help you get your finances in order and track how much money comes in and out of your bank account every month. While it may seem like a lot of work to create a budget, there are numerous online resources and apps that can help you. Plus, once you have one, the majority of the work is done, and you can tweak it as your spending habits or income change. After you create a budget, it’s important to stick to it. Regularly check-in with your budgeting goals so you don’t spend more than you can afford to repay.

And if you share expenses with someone else, make sure you both have access to the budget and hold each other accountable. Establishing a good credit score is key to qualifying for the best financial products, like credit cards and loans. Plus, the higher your credit score, the better terms you’ll receive, which can save you thousands of dollars in interest in the long-run (we always recommend you pay your balance on time and in full each month). One of the catches of building credit is you need to have some credit history in order to qualify for a credit card, but it’s hard to qualify for a card without any credit history. One option is to become an authorized user on a family member or friend’s credit card.

You could also consider applying for a secured card, which works the same as a regular credit card, but you’re required to put down a deposit (typically $200). There are also a few options that can help you raise your credit score without a credit card, like *Experian Boost™. This is a free feature that lets you link positive payment history for monthly utility, phone and Netflix bills, potentially boosting your FICO® score. Once you have a credit card, the easiest way to improve your credit score is to regularly use the card, be mindful to spend within your means, make sure you pay at least the minimum on time every month and pay in full whenever possible. Check out more tips to improve your credit score.

One of the best steps you can take in your 20s is to establish an emergency fund to cover any unexpected expenses that may arise, such as medical bills or car repairs. The money in your emergency fund can help you avoid taking out a loan or carrying a balance on a credit card, which can save you money on interest charges. When you set up an emergency fund, consider keeping the money in a high-yield savings account, like Marcus by Goldman Sachs High Yield Online Savings or Ally Online Savings Account. These online accounts only allow you withdraw money up to six times a month without penalty, which might help reduce the temptation to withdraw money for non-emergencies.

Experts generally recommend putting three to six months of expenses into an emergency fund, but amid the coronavirus pandemic and high unemployment rates, some financial experts are offering more realistic advice about how much people should try to save. Instead, you should focus on saving as much as you can afford, after covering necessary bills. It’s OK to start with a smaller goal. Saving $20 a week (roughly $3 a day) adds up to $1,000 in a year, which is a good cushion to get you started. It’s never too soon to start saving for retirement, and the earlier you start putting money toward your future, the more it can grow. When you get your first full-time job, your employer may offer a retirement account, such as 401(k), that you can open and deposit a percentage of every paycheck into each pay period.

Many employers also match your contributions up to a certain percentage, which is a great way to maximize savings. As a general rule of thumb, opt to save at least a percentage that is equal to your employer’s match. So if they match up to 6% of your contribution each paycheck, choose to transfer 6% or more to your 401(k) every pay period.

While employer-sponsored retirement accounts are helpful, you don’t have to wait until you have a full-time job to start saving for retirement. Roth IRAs are a great alternative to a 401(k), and you can set up recurring transfers from every paycheck so you never have a chance to miss the money. If you have student loan or credit card debt, you should make paying it off a priority in your 20s. Owing money to a lender has the potential to hurt your credit by increasing your utilization rate (the percentage of credit you use), which can result in a lower credit score.

Lenders may also consider you a high-risk borrower if you have a large amount of debt, which may reduce your chances of qualifying for other financial products. And beyond affecting your credit score and qualification chances, you’ll wind up paying a lot of money in interest charges the longer you carry debt. Take the time to make a clear debt repayment plan and stick to it. After you create a budget, consider how much money you can put toward your debt every month. Some experts recommend that 20% of your take-home pay should be earmarked for debt repayment and savings. If you want to pay your debt down faster, you might divert more of your income toward that goal.

You can also consider debt consolidation if you have balances spread across numerous cards. Debt consolidation can help you minimize the number of accounts you need to pay each month and sometimes offer lower interest charges than a credit card. While you’re in your 20s, consider ways you can build good money habits and be proactive with your finances. Get into the habit of regularly checking your different account balances. Avoid paying unnecessary monthly fees by switching to a no-fee checking account, like the Capital One 360 Checking® Account, or earning a competitive interest rate with a high-yield savings account like Marcus by Goldman Sachs High Yield Online Savings.

Make sure to spend within your means and avoid racking up unnecessary credit card debt and paying high interest charges. You can also consider optimizing the credit card(s) you use and opening a card that has rewards tailored to your spending habits. There are hundreds of cards offering bonus rewards on groceries, gas, dining out, travel and more. You may also want to consider a simple flat-rate cash-back card that earns you the same amount of rewards on every purchase, such as the Citi® Double Cash Card (2% cash back: 1% on all eligible purchases and an additional 1% after you pay your credit card bill).

In addition to saving money and earning rewards, you should be proactive and monitor any changes to your credit history. Spotting fraud early can save you time and money in the long run, but it’s not easy to do on your own. Signing up for a credit monitoring service can provide you with an early notice of potential fraud, so you can take steps to protect your personal information. There are a lot of services to choose from, so Select ranked the best free and paid credit monitoring services, so you can make an informed decision before you sign up. IdentityForce® UltraSecure and UltraSecure+Credit services rank as our top picks if you plan on paying for a service, providing alerts for changes to your credit reports from all three credit bureaus, as well as up to $1 million in identity theft insurance.

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Fintech’s Fraud Problem: Why Some Merchants Are Shunning Digital Bank Cards

When Robyn Mathis, a 41-year-old food production plant worker from Brunswick, Georgia, stepped off a flight to Philadelphia last June, she expected an easy passage to her destination. She was set to pick up her rental car and charge it to her Chime card, as she had done several times before. For the last few years, the digital bank’s debit and credit cards had been her payment methods of choice. But at the Budget car rental desk at Philadelphia’s International Airport, Mathis got an unpleasant surprise.

Budget would not accept her Chime credit or debit card. Frustrated, Mathis, who was traveling with her two college-aged children, called other airport rental outlets—Enterprise, Avis and Dollar. All said they wouldn’t take her card. After two hours, Mathis finally gave up and called an Uber. Fintech had failed her. Upon returning home, she moved most of her money from Chime to her account at Bank OZK, a regional institution with more than 200 branches and roots stretching back to 1903.

Digital-first “neobanks” like Chime are one of the hottest sectors in the fintech revolution. They offer fast approval and low- or no-fee accounts, all without any brick-and-mortar branches—a powerful selling point during a pandemic. Chime grew from 7 million U.S. customers at the start of 2020 to more than 13 million by the end of this year, according to estimates by eMarketer.

Chime’s valuation hit a stunning $25 billion in August, and an initial public offering that could value the enterprise at $45 billion is in the works. Square’s Cash App, which began as a peer-to-peer money transfer service and has evolved into a digital bank, added 12 million users in 2020. Square’s stock has more than tripled since the pandemic began, and it now boasts a market capitalization of about $90 billion.

But the same “frictionless” signup and ease-of-use features that make digital banks appealing to customers have given crooks an opening to wreak havoc through various schemes. That includes “first-party fraud,” where customers (with accounts in their own names) do everything from racking up charges and yanking the money to pay those charges out of their accounts before a transaction settles to illegally collecting unemployment insurance in states where they don’t live or work.

Another tactic: exploiting America’s tortoise-like bank-to-bank transfer network by moving money from one account to another and then withdrawing the same funds from both accounts while the transfer is in process. Fintech providers also appear to be more susceptible to identity theft and “account takeovers,” where swindlers get access to another person’s account and start spending.

Take the case of Shayla King, a single mother of four from Tampa, Florida, who became a Chime fraud victim in July 2021. She first noticed the problem when she woke up on a Friday to see dozens of automated texts on her iPhone asking if she had made 62 transactions totaling $744 from different businesses in India. She texted back “no” and then got an automated text confirmation that the charges would not go through. King says she also immediately rang Chime’s customer support line to report the charges were fraudulent. But come Monday, her Chime account was nearly emptied.

“Companies used to build financial products starting with the risk … Everything today is built starting with marketing, and risk oftentimes comes way further down the funnel.”

King disputed the charges, but Chime denied her claim. She tried twice more, eventually copying an investigative consumer reporter at a local ABC affiliate on her email to Chime. Four days later, after the reporter contacted Chime, it returned the money, more than a month after King first reported the incident. (Chime admits it made an “initial error” in its dealing with King, but says it corrected the problem after King appealed, and not because of the TV reporter’s inquiry.)

“I will never in my life bank with an online bank again,” adds King, who says she spoke on the phone with more than a dozen different customer service reps during the ordeal. “That’s my car payment, my electricity bill … I’m a paycheck-to-paycheck person, and I’m still trying to climb out of that hole.”

According to data from Aite-Novarica Group, fintech companies like neobanks and robo advisors have an average fraud rate of roughly 0.30%. That’s as much as double credit cards’ historical rates of 0.15% to 0.20% and three times higher than debit cards’ less than  0.10% fraud rate. While these percentage differences might seem small, they’re significant given that banking profitability is measured in basis points or hundredths of a percent.

And these seemingly tiny percentages add up. In 2020, identity fraud alone caused $56 billion in losses across all U.S. financial services firms, according to research firm Javelin. Facing growing incidents of fraud, some merchants have begun limiting or even blocking the debit and credit cards being offered by Chime, Cash App and other neobanks.

“Companies used to build financial products starting with the risk,” says a fraud expert and executive at a San Francisco fintech company. “Everything today is built starting with marketing, and risk oftentimes comes way further down the funnel.”

Rental car agencies and hotels have so far taken the most consequential actions in response to fintech’s fraud problem. In March, Avis, which owns the Budget and Payless car rental brands too, blackballed Chime. Said one tweet to a customer, “Only Chime cards we no longer accept due to many fraud reports. Have a great day!” Avis also hung up signs at branch locations announcing the ban and over the summer its FAQ singled out “prepaid debit/gift cards and Chime debit/credit cards” as not acceptable for vehicle pick-ups. 

Avis’ restrictions prompted a backlash from Chime and its card network, Visa, in late summer. Visa has a strict “honor all cards” policy for merchants who generally must accept any Visa card from any issuer. After Forbes reached out to Avis for comment, its policy page was updated to remove mention of its Chime restriction. An Avis spokesperson declined to explain the reason for its Chime ban, simply saying that Chime cards are accepted as payment upon returning a rental car, which would still require customers to have a different card for vehicle pick-up.

Enterprise and Hertz, the two largest rental car agencies in America, have also instituted fintech card bans. Forbes spoke with 10 Hertz storefronts across ten states, and most said cards tied to Chime were not welcome, with Cash App, Paypal or Venmo also rejected by some. An Enterprise customer service rep said locations at airports don’t accept Chime cards either. Some of the non-airport branches called by Forbes said they do accept Chime, though they cited various special restrictions such as requiring a utility bill. Nearly half of the dozens of Marriott Courtyard, Holiday Inn, Extended Stay America and La Quinta franchise locations Forbes spoke with said they don’t accept Chime or Cash App cards, either.

Spokespeople for Hertz and Extended Stay America said company-managed locations had banned Chime or Cash App cards, while spokespeople for Marriott and Enterprise claimed the cards are accepted. (Enterprise failed to clarify its airport policy.) The owners of the La Quinta and Holiday Inn brands did not respond to multiple requests for comment by Forbes.

Brian Mullins, Chime’s senior vice president of risk, downplays the problem. “In July, we had 50,000 transactions across all Marriott and Courtyard Marriotts … There may just be some individual locations where [a rejection of Chime cards] had occurred.” Chime had already done $150 million in Enterprise car rental transactions in 2021, he said in late August. “If it’s an issue, it’s not affecting our customers,” he insisted.

According to experts, much of the fraud seen by rental car agencies and hotels is so-called first-party fraud, where card holders run schemes under their real identities. One way they can do this involves taking advantage of a quirk in the U.S. payments system, says Mary Ann Miller, a vice president at identity and fraud company Prove. When someone picks up a rental car or checks into a hotel, the merchant processes a pre-authorization charge on their debit or credit card that puts a  “hold” on a set amount of money.

That hold expires after a short period of time—say, three days, depending on the terms set by the bank that issued the card. Once it expires, a bad actor, who might have rented the car for a week for example, can spend the money, since it’s no longer locked up. When the rental car agency finally goes to charge the customer after the car is returned, the bank account tied to the debit card is empty or the limit on the credit card is exhausted, and the merchant or bank can’t collect.

Another fraud tactic is for a customer to dispute large numbers of legitimate charges. Chime says its systems try to weed out serial disputers, but its frictionless interface makes refusing Chime charges as easy as a few taps on its mobile app. “Account takeovers” are another scam that fintechs like Chime are particularly susceptible to, because fraud rings often target new technology, thinking it’s more likely to have holes. In one rip-off, scammers buy information on the dark web to figure out Chime customers’ usernames and passwords, then gain access to their accounts and go on a buying spree.

Can’t traditional banks’ accounts be taken over too? Yes, but the digital banks may be both more vulnerable and more likely to be targeted. “Digital-focused banks have a target on their backs because fraudsters know that the banks want to make the user signup flow and banking experience as seamless as possible,’’ says Vice President of Trust and Safety Kevin Lee at fraud prevention firm Sift.

Because of Visa’s and Mastercard’s dispute protection policies, merchants hit with various forms of fraud can often escape being held liable for the unauthorized charges themselves. But trying to clean up a rash of illicit activity is costly, involving many hours of research and internal meetings across different corporate teams.

Chime vigorously denies that its app has become a haven for fraud. Still, part of its problems may stem from the company’s aggressive customer acquisition campaigns, often using social media to attract unbanked or underbanked prospects who have little or no credit histories. In September, the company offered cash prizes of up to $1,000 to TikTok users who made videos including the hashtag “ChimeHasYourBack.” Two months later, TikToks sporting the hashtag had collectively garnered 7.3 billion views.

Chime declined Forbes’ request to provide its overall fraud rates, saying only that they’re significantly below the maximum thresholds set by Visa and Nacha, the nonprofit association that runs ACH, the U.S. bank-to-bank payments network. The fintech’s CEO Chris Britt instead blames the merchants for any problems that have developed.

“I think there’s a limited number of merchants that are not applying the industry standard of due diligence before giving consumers access to these rental cars,” he says. He adds that Chime doesn’t run credit checks on its users—it’s the rental car agencies’ job to determine consumers’ creditworthiness.

Chime isn’t the only fintech wrestling with fraud and delinquency problems, and these issues date back to the earliest fintech companies in America. From July through October of 2000, two years after PayPal got off the ground, the company lost $6 million to fraud at a time when its revenue was less than $5 million. PayPal was losing $1,900 an hour to fraud. More recently, phony jobless claims have been a problem for Green Dot and Square’s Cash App, as well as Chime.

Ten residents of Palm Beach County, Florida were arrested in September for attempting to raid other states’ unemployment benefit coffers. According to court records, the defendants typically opened accounts at Chime, Cash App or Green Dot under their own names, then applied for unemployment checks from states they had neither lived nor worked in. Explaining how to commit the fraud to an unnamed associate, one 21-year-old defendant suggested using the three fintechs for direct deposit of the swindled funds: “States like Arizona and Pennsylvania hittin fasho…FREE GAME,” he wrote in an Instagram message reprinted in court records. “Chime Greendot cash app.”

“There’s no risk of needing to show identification in person, no surveillance video to show who’s utilizing the bank account.”

-Kyle Kinney, detective at a local Florida police department

Kyle Kinney, a detective at the local Florida police department who investigated the cases, says the offenders likely preferred digital banks for their convenience, compared to brick-and-mortar alternatives. “There’s no risk of needing to show identification in person, no surveillance video to show who’s utilizing the bank account,” he explains. “Transferring and receiving funds to and from co-conspirators is pretty easy.”

The flood of extra unemployment money tied to the pandemic, as well as the expanded categories of people eligible for payments, has likely exacerbated the problem.  The U.S. Labor Department’s Inspector General recently estimated that, based on an historical mispayment rate of 10%, between March 2020 and September 2021, $87 billion in enhanced benefits could have been improperly paid, with “a significant portion attributable to fraud.”

But, the IG added, the actual number—based on a preliminary audit—was likely higher. Frank McKenna, cofounder of fraud prevention firm Point Predictive, suspects that Chime was “one of the preferred ways that a lot of these fraudsters took money from the government, because they could easily go online, set up a Chime account very quickly, have the funds transferred into the account, and then quickly have those funds diverted elsewhere …

I think what you’re seeing now is the result of a lot of growth, and a lot of the fraud that might have gotten into the portfolio while all the stimulus came in.” He also says that there’s an active market on messaging app Telegram for people to buy Chime accounts.

It’s not just the merchants who have become wary of doing business with big fintechs like Chime and Cash App. HMBradley, a three-year-old, Santa Monica-based online bank with $375 million in assets, saw a startling rise in fraud coming from the transfers it gets from Chime and Cash App accounts. The schemers would typically open an HMBradley account, then connect it to an existing Chime account.

They’d request to transfer funds from Chime, and when the money reached HMBradley, they’d quickly ferry it into a third bank account. Often, the funds HMBradley was pulling in from Chime didn’t exist—and that’s possible because of the way the U.S. bank-to-bank transfer network, or the Automated Clearing House (ACH) system, works.

The ACH network, first built in the 1970s, lacks real-time verification and it can take days for transactions to settle through ACH. So when a neobank allows a customer to pull money from an outside account via ACH, it takes on the risk of finding out several days later that the customer only had $1 in his account even though he requested to transfer $1,000. ACH still underlies most money transfers, to the tune of $62 trillion in 2020, and is run by Nacha, a nonprofit association funded by financial institutions.

While HMBradley typically only sees about $500 worth of fraud per month, in May it lost tens of thousands of dollars, split between Cash App and Chime users, according to CEO Zach Bruhnke. To stop the bleeding, Bruhnke put longer holds on transfers so that a customer trying to pull in funds from a Chime or Cash App account would have to wait a few more days to see the funds arrive in HMBradley.

Another new online bank called One has also placed longer holds on Chime transactions. “It’s a reflection of how frequently the accounts tend to be fraudulent and how much loss tends to be taken on those transactions,” says One CEO Brian Hamilton. Chime CEO Chris Britt again prefers to shift the blame. He says that small companies like HMBradley and One “probably don’t have the same level of sophistication in terms of how to process things like ACH transactions and transfers from online accounts.”

Betterment, a robo-investing app with $29 billion in assets, blocked all new connections to Chime, Cash App, Square, Robinhood, Green Dot and Metabank in May due to “a trend of attempted fraudulent activity,” according to an email Betterment sent to some customers that was reviewed by Forbes. Britt says there are a “number of companies” that Chime “runs much more volume through … that are managing just fine.”

According to Bruhnke, Chime’s team was helpful in troubleshooting HMBradley’s fraud spike. Bruhnke tried to work with Cash App to get help, too, but their support was “almost non-existent,” he says. Today, HMBradley no longer puts longer holds on Chime transactions, but for most Cash App customers, he extends HMBradley’s typical two-day hold period for transfers to five business days and caps daily transactions to between $100 and $500.

Bruhnke says of Square’s rapid customer growth, “They’re a public company, and they’re sort of padding their user numbers by perpetuating this.” Square declined to make an executive available for an interview, but told Forbes via email that fraud prevention is a top priority and that Cash App maintains teams dedicated to resolving merchant acceptance issues.

Stock trading app Robinhood recently highlighted its own ACH fraud challenges. “Customers initiate deposits into their accounts, make trades on our platform using a short-term extension of credit from us, and then repatriate or reverse the deposits, resulting in a loss to us of the credited amount,” it wrote in its second quarter regulatory filing. As a result, its provision for credit losses for the first half of the year surged 54% to $37 million.

In February, a payments processing company that works with hundreds of merchants that sell age-restricted products like alcohol saw 45% of its fraudulent ACH transactions come from Chime, according to an executive at the payments company.

It noticed a pattern where some people had used multiple Chime accounts under slightly different names but with the same IDs. They’d buy alcohol from one merchant, but before the transaction settled, they’d quickly pull the rug out by moving that money into another Chime account, a maneuver made possible by the settlement lags of the ACH system.

The liquor stores saw tens of thousands of dollars of losses, and when the payments company determined that Chime wasn’t going to do anything to fix the problem, it permanently blocked Chime transactions altogether. Says the payments company executive, “If they’re not actively doing anything about it, then we have to actively do something about it.”

I’m a reporter on Forbes’ wealth team covering the world’s richest people and tracking their fortunes. I was previously an assistant editor for Forbes’ Money & Markets section, and I

I lead our fintech coverage at Forbes and also cover crypto. I edit our annual Fintech 50 list and 30 Under 30 list for fintech, and I’ve written frequently about leadership and corporate

Source: Fintech’s Fraud Problem: Why Some Merchants Are Shunning Digital Bank Cards


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