What Is Affirm?
Affirm is a Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) service provider. With Affirm, you can choose between two payment plans — pay-in-four or monthly payments — and pay for your online or in-store purchases over time in equal installments.
Affirm was founded in 2012 in San Francisco, California, and has since expanded to more than 11 million active customers and 168,000 merchant partners around the U.S.
How Does Affirm Work?
Affirm offers two payment options.
- Pay in 4: Make four payments every two weeks, interest-free. The first payment is due at checkout
- Monthly payments: Choose to space your payments out over 3–60 months. Monthly installments can include an interest rate
The Pay in 4 option is ideal if you use Buy Now Pay Later for smaller, everyday purchases.
Here’s how Affirm’s Pay in 4 plan works. If you make a $200 purchase, you will owe $50 at checkout. The remaining balance of $150 will be divided into three equal installments of $50 to be paid every other week either through autopay or manual payments. You can use a debit card, credit card, or bank account to make your payments, though autopay is usually automatically set up with whichever payment method you use at checkout.
Monthly payments, on the other hand, can be optimal if you use Affirm to purchase large-ticket items or want to pay something off over a longer period of time. The monthly payment option can come with interest charges between 0–36% depending on your credit and where you’re shopping. Your first payment is usually due at checkout or one month after you submit your purchase depending on which loan you qualify for.
All of your payment terms will be laid out for you at checkout so you know exactly how much you owe to Affirm and when.
Affirm also prides itself on being fee free. That means that you won’t get hit with a late fee — even if you miss a payment.
Pros and Cons of Using Affirm
There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to using Affirm.
Pros of Using Affirm
- No fees
- Interest-free loans and payment options
- Soft credit check approval process won’t damage your credit score
Cons of Using Affirm
- Monthly payment plans can charge interest
- No flexibility to reschedule payments
- Potential credit score damage for missed payments
Should You Use Affirm?
There are many different reasons why you may want to use Affirm as a Buy Now Pay Later solution. However, the decision should not be made lightly.
Using Affirm requires you to know on a personal level how you manage your money, whether you are in the right financial position to take on credit, and whether you are able to avoid the temptation that comes with Buy Now Pay Later.
You might want to use Affirm if
You want or need to purchase a big-ticket item
A wedding ring, mattress, electronics, or lodging for an upcoming trip. Expenses pop up, and if you do not have the money in your checking or savings account, sometimes there is no choice but to put it on credit. Affirm gives you an extra financing option without the interest. Just make sure that you’ll be able to pay off your installments when they roll around or you could end up with credit score damage.
You do not qualify for a credit card or have a credit card with a low limit
Affirm affords you the opportunity to make purchases with credit even if you do not have the money in your account right this moment.
However, it is important to only make purchases with Buy Now Pay Later if you are certain that you will be able to pay off the installments when Affirm charges your account. Missing a Buy Now Pay Later payment can result in a late fee and damage to your credit score.
You might not want to use Affirm if
You are trying to build credit
Buy Now Pay Later is not a traditional form of credit. Affirm does offer certain payment plans that involve the company reporting payments to the credit bureaus; however, not all payment plans include this option.
If you select the Pay in 4 payment plan or receive a longer term loan at 0% interest, Affirm will not report your on-time payments to the credit bureaus. But if you receive a loan with anything greater than 0% interest, Affirm will report your payments to the credit bureaus, which can impact your credit score.
At any point, Affirm can report missed payments to the credit bureaus regardless of whether you are paying interest on the loan, so it is important to stay up to date on your payments.
Essentially, using Affirm can occasionally help your credit score depending on which payment plan you select, but it can always hurt you if you do not use it responsibly.
You have a tendency to overspend or can’t avoid the temptation
This requires a long, hard look in the mirror. The fact of the matter is that it’s easier than ever to want things that you see online — and then to turn those wants into purchases. Buy Now Pay Later makes that even easier.
Where Can You Use Affirm?
You can pay with Affirm at some 168,000 merchant partners throughout the U.S. The company partners with brands focusing on apparel, events and experiences, home and furniture, travel, and weddings.
Popular brands that accept Affirm include:
- Expedia Hotels and Vacation Packages
- Pottery Barn
- Sony Electronics Inc.
- David’s Bridal
- Kay Jewelers
Does Affirm Hurt Your Credit Score?
Many creditors perform a hard inquiry on your credit report to determine your creditworthiness before issuing you a loan or credit card.
Affirm is considered a short-term financing option, so the company does not perform a hard inquiry on your credit. The company does, however, run a soft credit check to determine if you are eligible to receive financing, but the check does not hurt your credit score.
Once you’ve made your purchase, you must make on-time payments. If you miss payments, you will not incur a late fee, but Affirm can report your missed payments to the credit bureaus. This can bring down your credit score and hurt your chances of getting approved for financing by Affirm and other lenders in the future.
Affirm also reports any loan payments with greater than 0% interest to the credit bureaus. That means if you make payments on time and in full, it can help your score. But if you miss payments, you may see a drop in your score.
Alternatives to Affirm
Affirm works much like other Buy Now Pay Later services including Afterpay, Klarna, and Sezzle. The BNPL solution that you use often depends on which one is offered by the merchant.
However, if you do not want to use Affirm, there are other options.
0% interest credit card
For smaller, less expensive purchases, a 0% interest credit card can be a better option than Buy Now Pay Later. This is considering that you qualify for the credit card. You should also note that the credit card company will likely do a hard inquiry on your credit report before approving you for the card. This can cause a temporary decrease in your credit score.
When you apply for a credit card, even if it is 0% interest, you should be sure that you can make on-time payments in order to avoid credit score damage.
A credit card can be optimal if you want to take advantage of an introductory offer, earn rewards for your purchase, or boost your credit score, which you cannot do with Buy Now Pay Later.
For larger, more expensive purchases, it may make sense to take out a personal loan rather than using Buy Now Pay Later. Taking out a personal loan isn’t the right choice or is accessible to everyone. However, it can enable you to make a large purchase and pay it back over a longer period of time.
Similar to a credit card, a lender will run a hard inquiry on your credit to determine whether you are eligible for the loan. This credit check can temporarily decrease your credit score. But also similar to a credit card, a personal loan can help you boost your credit score in the long term as long as you make on-time payments. Buy Now Pay Later won’t afford you that opportunity.
When taking out a personal loan, it’s important to find the lowest possible interest rate. You should also make sure that you have a payment plan in place to avoid late fees and credit score damage.