EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is part of our Money254 Partner Series produced in partnership with Absa Bank Kenya for the launch of the new Absa Buy Now Pay Later service for Credit Card customers. Our partners may suggest topics they would like readers to know about but do not influence what/how we write about it.
The global high cost of living has been skyrocketing, making it harder for consumers to make their routine spending decisions. In Kenya, the average annual inflation rate hit 8.7% in June 2023. This is to say that the Ksh1,000 you had in June 2022 is now worth (purchasing value) about Ksh913.
If your monthly shopping budget was Ksh15,000 a year ago, you may have noticed that you are walking home with increasingly fewer items for the same amount, and if you are taking the same items, the cost is significantly high.
Financial institutions have come up with innovative solutions that allow customers to enjoy the same goods and services that they were able to afford before, without having to drastically adjust their budget.
While doing your shopping over the past three years, you probably have come across signposts asking you to shop through a “Lipa Pole pole”, “Buy Now Pay Later”, “Lipa Mdogo Mdogo” option. This new trend is referred to as the Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) service - one of the fastest-growing forms of short-term credit.
BNPL allows you to make purchases and pay for them over time, typically over 3-12 months.
On June 30, 2023, Absa Bank Kenya launched a BNPL service for credit card customers. It is the first BNPL credit card to be offered exclusively by a Kenyan commercial bank.
Christened “Buy Now Lipa Pole Pole”, the Absa BNPL service allows credit card customers to extend the repayment period for their purchases by up to 12 months.
The service is open to all Absa Credit Card holders. If you already have an Absa Credit Card, you can convert new purchases into BNPL instantly.
If you do not have an Absa credit card and would like to apply for one, there are various options to choose from based on your income and personal preference.
The Absa Classic Credit Card, for instance, does not charge any signup, maintenance or annual fee for life and comes with a limit of up to Ksh200,000. To qualify, you only need to be earning a minimum net salary of Ksh20,000. You can apply here.
Note that the purchase amount has to be within your credit card limit and not less than Ksh10,000.
There are four instalments options to choose from when making an Absa Credit Card BNPL purchase.
BNPL purchases are much more affordable. There is no processing fee on transactions or converting the purchases to instalment. Monthly interest is charged and is much lower than the regular credit card purchase interest.
You can also cancel the instalment at any time on the Absa mobile App when you have extra funds and only pay the outstanding principal balance.
The BNPL service is available across leading retail stores and service providers who have an agreement with Absa. Examples include Hotpoint, Victoria Furniture, Kenya Airways, etc. The activations are continuously done with different merchants, as the product is rolled out. The conversion process can be summarised into these 5 easy steps:
One major difference between a routine credit card purchase and a BNPL credit card purchase is that the BNPL offering has a longer repayment period. A routine credit card purchase falls due after the lapse of the billing cycle.
With all Absa Credit Cards, you get up to 50 interest-free days after which if the balance is not cleared, interest starts accumulating.
For example, all purchases made in the June billing period (from June 1 to June 30) are billed at the end of the month. However, despite the bill being sent on June 30, the amount falls due on July 20 - which is when the 50-day interest-free period ends.
On the other hand, a credit card purchase converted into a BNPL on 1st June for a duration of 12 months will be cleared in June 2024 - with monthly instalments respective to the amount taken.
It is important to note that when a credit card is used to make a cash withdrawal (cash advance), there is no grace period and the money starts attracting interest immediately. A credit card cash advance, however, cannot be converted into the BNPL service.
The conversion is instant and is facilitated through Absa mobile and internet banking platforms. This means that once you have your credit card, you do not need to make any new applications to enjoy the BNPL service.
Other differences are highlighted below:
Absa Credit Card Purchase
Monthly Interest of 3.99%
Cash advance available
No limitation on the items or services that qualify
No limits on the minimum purchase
Absa Credit Card Purchase Converted into BNPL
Monthly interest starts at 2.5%
Not possible to convert cash withdrawals into BNPL
Some items do not qualify for BNPL conversion
Transactions need to have a minimum value of Ksh10,000 to convert into BNPL
BNPLs have been gaining traction in the Kenyan market over the past decades. The Absa BNPL Credit Card service stands out in the following ways:
Relatively Lower Interest Rates: A spot check by Money254.co.ke shows that the Absa BNPL interest rate sits on the cheaper end of the BNPL spectrum.
Increased Use Range: Most BNPL services presently available in the Kenyan market only apply to physical items. However, the Absa BNPL Credit Card has a greater range of use as it also covers services including airline tickets, vacation packages, medical services, and school fees.
Discounts and Offers: Since the Absa BNPL service is linked to your credit card, you get to enjoy discounts and special offers from local merchants and service providers who have a partnership with Absa. These discounts may be helpful in reducing the cost of the item or service you are buying. For example, a 25% discount on a cooker valued at Ksh40,000 will save you Ksh10,000 - lower than the interest you will pay for the BNPL conversion.
Offered By a Commercial Bank: The Absa BNPL credit card service is the first one in Kenya to be exclusively offered by a commercial bank. This offers greater convenience, particularly in servicing your instalments or getting your statements. Most BNPLs will require you to make a manual payment when your bill falls due. However, the Absa BNPL Credit Card enables you to have automatic deductions from your bank account when the instalment is due. You are also better able to access your statements through Absa’s Internet banking and mobile app.
Simplified Conversion Process: The majority of BNPL services operating in the Kenyan market require an application to be made in order for you to access an item or a service. This often involves sending in an application form, bank or mobile money statement to confirm the ability to repay, and a status check on the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB). However, the Absa BNPL Credit Card is instant and requires no application or approval.
The Absa Credit Card BNPL allows customers to maintain a healthy cash flow while being able to make the purchases they deem necessary.
One is able to divide a big purchase amount into smaller, more manageable instalments over a period of up to 12 months. This flexibility can be particularly helpful when one is faced with unexpected expenses.
For example, you have budgeted your salary for the next 6 months and your laptop is lost or irreparably damaged. You have a budget for miscellaneous expenses but it is not enough to buy a new laptop.
The Absa Credit Card BNPL service may be helpful in this case because it enables you to get a new laptop, be productive, and use a portion of the miscellaneous budget to make instalments every month.
The Absa Credit Card BNPL service enables users to make purchases that can aid their income-generating activities without having to fork out the full amount all at once.
This could be helpful for entrepreneurial customers who can access capital-generating purchases and use them to boost their incomes.
For example, if you are self-employed and running a side hustle as a freelance baker, you could use the Absa Credit Card BNPL service to acquire an oven, increase your productivity, and use the extra profits to meet your monthly instalments. All this without having to adjust your regular personal expenses.
The Absa BNPL service offers a seamless and convenient shopping experience. The conversion to BNPL is quick and straightforward, with no paperwork required - allowing for a hassle-free shopping experience.
Let’s say you are shopping online and find a highly discounted item that you had intended to purchase a year from now. With the Absa BNPL service, you would not need to make a loan application or seek approval as with other forms of financing.
All you do is swipe your credit card and convert the purchase into a BNPL with the instalments that fit your budget.
The Absa BNPL service may be a great helper for those struggling with sticking to a personal budget. By breaking down payments into smaller amounts, you are better able to manage your expenses more easily and avoid overspending.
For example, you may be working to buy a new fridge that will use significantly fewer power units. However, you have been unable to stick to the savings goal and you keep channeling the funds to other expenses. Purchasing the fridge through the BNPL service may be an easier option since the instalments will be deducted automatically, without you having to actively think about it.
The BNPL service offers great advantages to consumers, but responsible spending is essential. The convenience of accessing items and services and paying for them later comes with the need for responsible spending. Here are some tips:
Buy What You Can Afford: It is important to make BNPL purchases when you are confident of your ability to repay. Take a comprehensive look at your financial situation, including your income, savings, debts, and ongoing financial obligations.
Ensure that the instalments, and the resulting interest does not exceed your budget for the duration you will be servicing your BNPL purchases. By buying only what you can afford, you can avoid unnecessary financial strain and make more informed decisions.
Once you make a BNPL purchase, Stick to the Budget: After you have assessed your ability to pay and incorporated the instalments into your expenses, it is important to stick to the budget. Having a budget is essential in avoiding the temptation to overspend or channel your money into unnecessary expenses. In this regard, you could consider these tips:
Prioritise Needs Over Wants: When making purchasing decisions, prioritise your needs over your wants. Ensure that essential expenses, such as rent, power bills, medical bills, food, and debt repayments, are covered before considering wants. Once the basics are covered, you are better able to enjoy the wants - by directing the extra income to your BNPL instalments.
The Absa BNPL credit card service is a new product that adds on to the growth of the BNPL service in Kenya and globally. It is also the first BNPL credit card that is exclusively offered by a Kenyan commercial bank.
The Absa BNPL Credit Card service allows Absa’s credit card customers to make purchases without straining their budgets, particularly when it comes to big-ticket items such as school fees, travel, and electronics. The Absa BNPL service also offers greater flexibility to those who may have the cash for an outright purchase, but wish to preserve their liquidity - say to use it to generate income through a side hustle.
Like every other credit service, it is important to exercise responsible spending and ensure you only make purchases that you can afford, and those that are necessary to make your life better.
Some of the tools that can help you manage your Absa BNPL credit card expenses include: