Deferred Interest: What You Need To Know

 

When hunting for a credit card, a loan, or another financing arrangement, you may come across offers advertising “no interest for 12 months” or “same as cash” financing. Take care, because often times, this arrangement will entail deferred interest. Deferred interest financing carries risks that are typically not well understood and often not explained clearly by the lender.

In this article, we’re going to tackle the murky subject of deferred interest.

What Is Deferred Interest?

Deferred interest is defined by Investopedia in the following way:

Deferred interest is the amount of interest added to the principal balance of a loan when the contractual terms of the loan allow for a scheduled payment to be made that is less than the interest due.

That’s the textbook definition of the deferred interest — interest that has accrued on a loan but hasn’t been paid. But how does deferred interest actually work in the real world? Let’s explore.

How Deferred Interest Works

Let’s say you purchased some exercise equipment with a store credit card offering deferred interest for 12 months in order to avoid having to pay the full cost up front. As the months go by without your balance being paid in full, interest will accrue on your card, but you won’t be responsible for paying it off — yet.

Now, if you pay off your balance within 12 months, this accumulated interest will not come due, and you will have paid for your purchase with what is essentially an interest-free loan. However, if you don’t pay off your purchase in its entirety within that 12 months, all the interest accumulated over that 12-month period (not just the interest on the portion of the balance you have yet to pay) is then added to the amount you owe.

One insidious aspect of this arrangement is that the kind of store credit cards that typically offer deferred interest financing normally have high APRs, thus increasing the interest charges you’ll be hit with if you don’t pay the balance in full within 12 months.

Deferred Interest VS 0% APR Introductory Rate

A credit card offering deferred interest financing under the sophistry of “no interest for 12 months” is not the same thing as a credit card offering an introductory 0% APR. I explained how deferred interest works in this particular context with the above example, but let’s say that instead, you purchased the exercise equipment with a newly-obtained credit card that sports a 12-month intro 0% APR period.

You’ll be able to pay off your balance over the course of your first 12 months without being responsible for any interest payments, just as with the deferred interest card. The difference comes after your first 12 months are up. After this point, you’ll become responsible for any interest that accumulates on the remaining balance of your card, but not for the interest you didn’t pay during your initial 12 months with the card.

If that sounds like a better, fairer, and safer arrangement, that’s because it is.

Pros & Cons of Deferred Interest

If everything goes right and you’re able to pay back the principal of a deferred interest loan in full before the period of deferred interest ends, congratulations! Your deferred interest loan has worked out for you and has not caused you any harm.

However, lenders bank (literally) on the increasingly high likelihood that everything will not go right for you during this period. Americans, particularly working-class families, face constant unexpected financial “challenges” from which they enjoy little to no protection. So if you lose your job or your child gets sick and you can’t pay your balance in full before the end of your deferred interest period, your lender will reap the financial benefits of your misfortune and you will be left high and dry.

Best Practices When Using Deferred Interest

Before signing up for a deferred interest loan or credit card, seek out all possible alternative financing arrangements first. If you’ve exhausted these alternatives and find yourself in the unenviable position of having to rely on a deferred interest loan to pay for an expense, make absolutely sure you can pay off the purchase before the deferred interest period ends to avoid being hit with retroactively-applied interest charges.

Additionally, if you use a deferred interest credit card to finance a purchase, avoid charging anything else to this card if you possibly can. That’s because if you ring up additional charges on your card after your initial purchase, the standard purchase APR may apply to those additional charges, and under the terms of the CARD Act (legislation meant to protect consumers in other contexts), any payments you make on your debt will apply first to these additional charges, not to your initial purchase (the purchase on which the unpaid deferred interest is accumulating). That’s because the CARD Act mandates that when you make a payment on your card greater than the minimum due, the amount beyond the minimum due must be applied to the balance with the highest interest rate first.

So while you might assume that your payments will first apply to your initial balance, this is not the case. To go back to my example, you might think that you’ve paid off that exercise equipment you purchased once you’ve made payments on your card equal to the amount of said purchase. But if you’ve made any subsequent purchases on that card, a portion of what you’ve paid will go towards those balances first, leaving a portion of your initial balance unpaid.

And remember, even if you have just one dollar of that initial purchase left outstanding at the end of your deferred interest period, you’ll become responsible for paying all the interest that has accumulated over 12 months on that entire purchase, not just on that one dollar left unpaid.

In short, if you make a purchase on a deferred interest card, don’t use that card to make any further purchases. It can only get you in trouble.

Final Thoughts

The parasitic purveyors of deferred interest loans know that the consumers their products are aimed at are overworked, harried, and dealing with an unholy myriad of escalating financial demands — housing, education, health care, etc. These consumers often don’t have the financial literacy required to make sense of deferred interest offers and can easily find themselves hit with large interest charges on purchases they believed to be interest-free, leaving the most vulnerable people in our society open to being fleeced by unscrupulous lenders.

As a result, the cosseted 1% benefits at the expense of the beleaguered 99%. It’s as if a familiar pattern were at play here.

The most direct advice I can give on the subject of deferred interest financial products: Get a traditional credit card with a 0% introductory APR offer instead. Many popular credit cards (both business and personal) are offered with a 0% intro APR period of 9-12 months, though there are other cards offering 15 or even 21-month 0% APR periods. With these cards, you’ll never have to pay retroactive interest, only interest that accumulates on your card’s balance after your 0% APR period ends.

Credit Card 0% Introductory Period Next Steps
American Express Blue Business Plus 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 15 months Compare
Chase Ink Business Unlimited 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 months Apply Now
American Express SimplyCash Plus 0% APR on purchases for the first 9 months Compare
Capital One Spark Cash Select For Business 0% APR on purchases for the first 9 months Compare
Bank of America Business Advantage Cash Rewards Mastercard 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 9 months Compare

If such a credit card appeals to you, let Merchant Maverick help you out in your search!

  • Best Business Credit Cards For 2019
  • APR VS Interest Rate: Know The Difference
  • Top Business Credit Card Balance Transfer Offers
  • Credit Card Balance Transfers Demystified

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How Does Customer Financing With Square Installments Work?

Square is best known by online sellers and brick-and-mortar shops for its secure credit card processing solutions. With a free mobile point of sale app — and free credit card reader–, Square has made it easier for the everyday small business owner to start taking credit cards. Card readers like Square’s also make it more convenient for shoppers to buy without carrying cash. That can be a win-win for everyone involved with the sale.

Because a business owner no longer has to purchase an expensive POS system to process credit card payments, it’s no wonder that the use of Square has rapidly grown over the last few years. In fact, a surprising number of businesses still did not accept credit cards at the time Square was launched. For a solo entrepreneur or a smaller shop, it used to be a lot more expensive and time-consuming to get started (not to mention more than a little intimidating, given PCI compliance and other regulations). Nowadays, you can find these portable credit card readers everywhere — from your favorite ice cream place to high-end boutiques, salons, and even consulting agencies. If you’re buying at a local shop, there is a good chance that Square is the company processing your payment.

In typical Square fashion, Square Installments provides a more accessible option for businesses that want to offer financing to their clients. If your company sells higher ticket items — from $250 to $10,000 — and you’d like to offer on-the-spot approval and financing to your customers, read on to find out more about Square Installments. But first — a little primer on customer financing.

What Is Customer Financing?

Before we dig too deep into Square Installments, let’s cover the basics of customer financing. By financing a purchase, customers can take home a product or use a service right away without paying for it in full at the time of purchase.

A common example of customer financing would be heading to the dealership and leaving with a new-to-you car — and a payment plan for the next three years to pay it off. Getting the newest version of your phone and rolling payments into your mobile phone bill is also another (more painless) way to finance an upgrade for your phone with less sticker shock.

Financing makes things a little easier on your customer, but it shouldn’t require you to wait for the cash. When you offer to finance through a third-party like Square Installments, you sell your product or service and permit payment to be settled directly between the lender (in this case Square Capital) and your customer. Square pays you in full at the time of purchase.

Financing customers is all about convenience and accessibility. For your customers, financing can make large ticket items easier to purchase with predictable monthly payments spread out over time. Instead of shelling out the entire lump sum, they have more time to pay. This makes for an easier sell for your salesperson and a more comfortable decision for your customer.

When a purchaser thinks about what they are buying in terms of monthly vs. the total amount of dollars, financing can significantly lower the “sticker shock.” Giving purchasing flexibility to your customers will make buying from you a more attractive and accessible option — and of course, that’s good for your business, too.

Companies that invoice monthly payments for ongoing services are also offering a financing option to their clients, in a way. Yet anyone who has a business model based on retainers or monthly agreements knows that sometimes when the bill comes due, it doesn’t always get paid — possibly because the person you invoiced has bad credit or is in financial trouble. These issues can be virtually nonexistent when you let Square Installments pre-screen and approve your clients — and take on the financial risk.

Read on to find out how Square Installments works and how much it costs so you can decide if Square Installments services are right for you.

How Does Square Installments Work?

There are two ways you can use Square Installments for your business: at the point of sale or via Square Invoices. Once you sign up for Square Installments, your business will get a custom URL. This web address is just for your business and is the link you’ll send to every customer who wants to apply for financing.

The Square Installments Process For In-Store Sales

Once you share the link with your customer, they’ll follow the instructions from their smartphone and fill out a short online application. In almost all scenarios, customer approval happens in real time, right when they’re ready to purchase at your shop.

If approved, they can accept one of the financing options on offer and will receive a one-time-use number for a digital card they use to pay you for their purchase. The number is valid for seven days, and your customer can only redeem it at your business.

When your customer is ready to buy, they’ll present you with the digital card number given to them by Square Installments; you will key that number directly into your Square Point of Sale app, online through Square API, or through your virtual terminal.

Square pays you in full for the amount at the time you process the approved application.

Square Invoices From Square Installments

Square Invoices allows you to send your customers invoices through Square as well. After you are approved and set up, the option for installment payments will appear on your invoice automatically. Once your customers receive your invoice, the process is similar to the one above — they fill out an online application, can pick a plan, and once approved, you get paid upfront and in full.

To spread the word, Square will also send you some free marketing material — both in print and in the form of a banner for your website so your customers won’t miss this new option for buying with you.

You Don’t Need To Be A Financing Expert

Worried about the fine print and fielding financing questions? Don’t be. If your customers have questions about Square Installments, they’ll contact Square directly. In fact, because this is considered a “highly regulated financial product,” it’s essential to pass any questions or concerns off to Square’s own customer service folks. And of course, this arrangement means you’re not burdened with the nitty-gritty details of financing or payment collection.

How Much Does Square Installments Cost?

If you’re a business owner considering whether or not the cost is worth the convenience of the service, here are some figures to help you crunch the math.

Square Installments for Square Invoices costs 2.9% of the purchase price plus $0.30 per transaction. Square Installments at your Point of Sale costs 3.5% of the purchase price plus $0.15 per transaction. If a custom rate applies to your business for keyed-in Square Invoices transactions, this rate also applies to any Square Installments transactions.

The good news is that there are no recurring monthly usage fees or long-term commitments. You can cancel the service any you time want with no fees or contracts for your business to worry about.

For a customer who is considering using Square Installments to pay for a purchase, the annual percentage rate will vary depending on a few different factors. However, every customer will have more three options when it comes to repaying the loan. Square makes things upfront and easy to understand for the borrower, with ease of use in mind.

Should You Use Square Installments?

Small Business Owner Using Square Customer Service

The main benefit of Square Installments is that customers can pay over time — making them more likely to buy and making your business more likely to sell more inventory. Whether to break up payments for a big purchase that a customer normally couldn’t afford, or simply to offer a convenient option other than cash or checks, financing through Square Installments can be a valuable tool for your sales team to leverage.

When the average business owner thinks about customer financing, one of the biggest concerns is that the customer gets possession of the product or service without paying in full. While that may be a concern if you offer in-store financing and manage it yourself, in this case, Square takes on the financial risk entirely. You get paid right away and let Square manage the installments.

There are some important things to keep in mind when you consider whether Square Installments services are right for your business, however. As noted above, Square Installments isn’t free. Also, keep in mind that Square Installments is only applicable for purchases between $250 and $10,000 — so businesses that deal with higher ticket products or services will need to consider other options for financing.

When you make the final decision to use Square Installments, consider the benefits vs. the costs. Here are a few questions to ask:

  • Would your target market and current customers likely make the purchase anyway? (In other words: How “warm” or “cold” are the people who come to your online sales page or place of business?)
  • Does opening up financing options also open up the possibility of a new target customer or a larger final sale?
  • If you send out invoices, will Square Installments give you a more convenient or secure option to take secure payments and prescreen users, despite the cost?

For any business owner, the benefits and conveniences should outweigh the cost of Square Installments per sale. Because you don’t need to sign any long-term contracts to use Square Installments, it might be worth it to try the service for a bit, see what you think, and compare sales over the next few sales cycles to be sure either way.

Learn More About Square

While you consider whether or not you want to jump in and offer Square Installments as an option for your customers, check out some of the other reviews for Square services. Find out how much Square charges for their primary services and get armed with more information about Square processing to see if these payment options are right for your business. If you want to see the service for yourself, sign up for a free Square account today and check it out!

Reader eCommerce Retail Food Service
Free App & Reader Square eCommerce Square for Retail Square for Restaurants
Get Started Get Started Get Started Get Started
Free, general-purpose POS software and reader for iOS and Android Easy integration with popular platforms plus API for customization Specialized software for more complex retail stores Specialized software for full-service restaurants
$0/month $0/month $60/month $60/month
Always Free Always Free Free Trial Free Trial

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