Hungry for Debt?

Debt trap danger lurks at the grocery checkout

Andy Spears

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Photo by WALK_ on Unsplash

$17 trillion. That’s the current total of debt held by Americans — a new record!

We’re always winning!

That total includes a staggering $1 trillion in credit card debt.

While inflation has led to soaring corporate profits — or, maybe the profit padding is part of the inflationary problem — real wages have remained stagnant.

That means less buying power.

Nevertheless, as Rally’s/Checker’s tells us: You Gotta Eat!

Enter our friends in the Buy Now, Pay Later industry.

A small-dollar credit product that became popular during the pandemic for allowing consumers to buy an item and pay for it in installments — thus stretching their uncertain dollars — Buy Now, Pay Later continues to experience remarkable market growth.

The Washington Post notes:

The $309 billion industry is projected to swell more than 25 percent by 2026, according to analytics company GlobalData.

What’s all that borrowing buying?

Groceries!

The Post points out that customers are creative when it comes to stretching dollars and when credit cards are maxed, Buy Now, Pay Later can provide an option that is easier to access:

With a minor screening process, it’s easier to get approved for BNPL service than to acquire a credit card or be approved for a loan.

And there’s typically no interest IF you pay the installments back in full and on time.

While customers may think they are building credit with BNPL, that’s often not the case:

Most BNPL companies also only do negative reporting, Di Maggio said, meaning the only credit information they make public is when a customer misses a payment.

There’s also the issue of consumer protection — while these companies can seem…

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Andy Spears

Writer and policy advocate living in Nashville, TN —Public Policy Ph.D. — writes on education policy, consumer affairs, and more . . .