What’s Missing to Boost Apple Pay’s BNPL Tool Above the Competition?


You’ve likely heard by now that Apple has taken the veil off of its BNPL tool, Apple Pay Later. The tech giant announced Apple Pay Later at its World Wide Developer Conference on Monday.

If you haven’t read coverage of the announcement yet, here’s the gist– the new tool will enable Apple Pay users to split any purchase made where Apple Pay is accepted into four installments, paid out over the course of six weeks (check out the video announcement at the bottom of this post for more details).

Apple is coming in late to an already over-saturated BNPL market and faces a lot of competition from well-established players. However, the company is not showing up to compete empty handed. Apple Pay Later has a handful of advantages over other contenders.


Acceptance at physical retailers
As mentioned earlier, users can pay with Apple Pay Later anywhere Apple Pay is accepted. This includes many physical retailers. And because 90% of retail purchases are made in-store as opposed to online, Apple already covers a lot of territory that other players haven’t been able to access yet. BNPL giant Klarna currently offers in-store services at just over 60,000 retail locations. As a comparison, Apple Pay is accepted at more than 250,000 retail locations.

The success of a BNPL tool not only hinges on retailer acceptance, but also on underwriting. After all, if your users aren’t paying you back, what’s the point?

Because Apple is working with Goldman Sachs as the lender, and because Goldman Sachs is also the card issuer for the Apple Card, the two already have data on users’ payment history. Further poised to assist in the underwriting process is Credit Kudos, which Apple purchased earlier this year.

Physical and virtual card
Some BNPL players already offer both physical and virtual payment cards. However, Apple having both will be a leg up for the company. Having both a physical and virtual presence takes up space consumers’ digital and physical wallets, making it more likely to be top-of-mind (and top-of-wallet).

Brand trust and recognition
According to Statista, Apple has the second most valuable brand in the world at $612 billion. This value is driven by having a brand that consumers trust, recognize, and value. It is widely believed that when Apple releases a hardware product, it will be top-notch. Consumers will expect the same from Apple Pay Later, and will therefore be less hesitant to trust the new tool.

What’s missing?

Apple has thought of almost everything when it comes to Apple Pay Later. One thing I’d love to see is a retroactive payment-switching feature similar to Curve’s Go Back in Time. The tool allows users to free up cash by switching payments from one card to another up to 30 days after the purchase was made.

Apple could allow customers to choose to use Apple Pay Later even after a transaction has been completed in order to free up emergency cash flow. While I wouldn’t advise this as a personal finance strategy, it would offer Apple an even greater leg up on BNPL competitors (including Curve’s when it becomes more widely available in the U.S.).