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Affirm vs. Afterpay vs. Klarna: Everything you need to know

Are buy now pay later services all they’re cracked up to be?

Cartoon graphic of money in shopping bags next to hourglass with money inside. Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / Praneat / Talshiar / agungsptr / Adam Höglund

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Editor's Note: October 6, 2022

This article has been updated to clarify that Klarna does not share any data with credit reporting agencies.

If you’re one of the 80% of the population who spends any time shopping online, you've no doubt encountered payment options like Affirm, Afterpay, or Klarna during checkout. These buy now pay later (BNPL) services offer consumers an interest-free option to spread out their purchases into installments.

There’s no denying that these buy now, pay later services are convenient. With a few taps or mouse clicks, you can immediately get the item you want and only pay it in full a few weeks or months later. But what service should you choose? We compare Affirm, Afterpay, and Klarna for the best pay now, buy later service.

Affirm vs. Afterpay vs. Klarna: What services do they offer?

Affirm: Four interest-free payments in fortnightly or monthly installments

Afterpay: Four interest-free payments over six weeks.

Klarna: Klarna has quite a few payment options, including the option to pay the full price outright. Other options include Pay in 4 which splits purchases into four interest-free purchases, Pay in 30 which allows purchasers to pay the full amount after 30 days. Finally, Klarna offers financing plans that range up to 36 months with interest rates between 0% and 24.99% APR.

Affirm vs. Afterpay vs. vs. Klarna: How it works

Cartoon graphic of mobile wallet feature on smartphone.
Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / LvNL / VectorUp / Afterpay

With digital wallet, you can bring your Afterpay buy now, pay later shopping pass on the go and in-store.

Affirm: Go shopping online or in a store and pay later with Affirm. You’ll see Affirm at the checkout, or you can request a virtual card in the Affirm app. You also can set up autopay for automated payments.

With Affirm, customers can pay over time with term lengths from six weeks to 60 months. Split pay, Affirm’s biweekly pay-in-4 option, is always interest-free. Affirm’s monthly payment options can be interest-free or interest-bearing with simple interest ranging from a 10% to 30% APR. Simple interest means the interest is based on a fixed percentage that never compounds, so customers never owe a penny more than what they agree to at checkout.

Afterpay: Shop thousands of brands online or in stores and pay with the Afterpay app. You can set up a digital Afterpay card with the in-store tab in the app. Next, follow the prompts to add it to your Apple Wallet or Google Wallet. Tap to pay when you are ready to shop.

Klarna: As with the other BNPL options in this guide, Klarna is often available as a payment option on the checkout page. In addition, shoppers can access partner and non-partner stores using the Klarna app, KlarnaCard, or Klarna browser extension.

Affirm vs. Afterpay vs. Klarna: Where can I use these services?

Affirm: You can use Affirm to shop at stores in multiple categories. Retailers include:

Afterpay: With Afterpay, you’ll find deals and offers in categories at retailers such as:

Klarna: With Klarna, there are many shopping categories on its website, and partner stores include:

Affirm vs. Afterpay vs. Klarna: How does it affect my credit score?

Cartoon graphic of credit score next to credit card.
Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / Oleg Lyfar

Not to worry, your score won't be affected by the soft credit pulls required by Affirm and Klarna.

Affirm: Affirm does a soft pull of potential customers’ credit histories. But this soft pull won’t affect credit scores. But if you don’t pay as agreed with Affirm, your credit score may be impacted since Affirm reports some loans to the credit reporting agency Experian. Partial and late payments also may hurt your chances of getting approved for another loan from Affirm.

Afterpay: Using Afterpay does not affect your credit score. Afterpay never does credit checks and never reports late payments. But Afterpay will pause your account if you miss a payment.

Klarna: A soft credit check happens when you apply for Klarna’s buy now, pay later option. This soft credit check will not affect your credit score. Klarna does share some information with credit reference agencies in the United Kingdom, but this is not the case for United States customers.

Affirm vs. Afterpay vs. Klarna: What happens if I pay late?

Affirm: Affirm reports some loans to Experian, including delinquent payments. Affirm doesn’t charge late fees, but partial or late payments may hurt your credit score and chances of getting another loan with Affirm.

Afterpay: If you are 10 days late with a payment, Afterpay may charge a late fee of up to $8. Late fees may not exceed 25% of the order value.

Klarna: If you miss a payment, Klarna will inform the payee and attempt to draw payment again within 10 days. If you do not make the payment in time, Klarna will charge a late fee of up to $7 or up to 25% of the installment amount. Any additional late fees will not exceed 25% of the order total.

Affirm vs. Afterpay vs. Klarna: What happens if I return an item?

Cartoon graphic of money flowing from smartphone back into wallet.
Credit: Reviewed / Getty Images / Muqamba / Praneat

In most instances, if you decide to return before your balance is paid off, your remaining payments will be canceled and you'll be refunded for what you already paid.

Affirm: The refund amount will show up in your account and your Affirm account balance in 3 to 10 business days. If the refund is less than your total balance, you will receive fewer monthly payments or a smaller final payment. If the refund is more than the balance, you will get back the difference less any interest you paid.

Afterpay: For a full refund of the purchase, Afterpay will cancel upcoming payments, and any payments made will be refunded to you.

Klarna: Once a payment refund has been approved, Klarna will cancel all remaining payments. You will receive a refund for any payments you have already made.

Affirm vs. Afterpay vs. Klarna: What about Paypal Pay in 4?

Paypal Pay in 4: This service from Paypal lets you split your purchases into four payments with a down payment at the time of purchase and three additional payments every two weeks. Purchase amounts range from $30 to $1,500. Paypal Pay in 4 does not charge late fees but will freeze your account if you pay late. Users with frozen accounts cannot make purchases until the account balance is paid off.

Affirm vs. Afterpay vs. Klarna: How to use buy now pay later services

To get the most value out of a buy now, pay later service, you’ll need to follow the payment plan to the tee. Take a close look at your budget. Will you be able to manage each payment, or are you cutting it close? If you cannot make a payment, you may be hit with a late fee, which could be $7 or $8. So only charge what you can handle paying off in full in a few weeks. Avoid taking on multiple buy now, pay later purchases because these could be difficult to juggle.

Affirm vs. Afterpay vs. Klarna: What is the final verdict?

For the sheer variety of payment types, Klarna is tops. With Klarna, you can split purchases into four interest-free purchases, pay in 30 days or sign up for a financing plan for up to 36 months. Just be on time with those payments, as Klarna does charge late fees.

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