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Fly Now, Pay Later. How to Buy Plane Tickets with Uplift, Affirm and PayPal Pay in 4

Give yourself some breathing room when booking a vacation with "fly now, pay later" options.

Courtney Johnston Senior Editor
Courtney Johnston is a senior editor leading the CNET Money team. Passionate about financial literacy and inclusion, she has a decade of experience as a freelance journalist covering policy, financial news, real estate and investing. A New Jersey native, she graduated with an M.A. in English Literature and Professional Writing from the University of Indianapolis, where she also worked as a graduate writing instructor.
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Courtney Johnston
4 min read

Buy now, pay later options are popping up everywhere. And if you haven't bought flight tickets since before the pandemic, you may not know that you can buy tickets now and repay the balance later using BNPL apps
Paying for flights with travel and airline credit cards can earn you miles and rewards points -- but credit cards also come along with high, compounding interest rates, which are steadily rising as inflation continues to surge. Also, unlike credit cards which charge compound interest (which means interest accrues on the balance and any previous interest charges), many BNPL services are interest-free and those that aren't often only charge simple interest on the balance borrowed.
Though debit cards eliminate the interest rate issue, if you need more space to pay for a trip, using a BNPL service to book your flight may make sense.

Here's everything you need to know about fly now, pay later options.

How to book a plane ticket with BNPL

Many airlines are incorporating BNPL services as a payment method at checkout. But there are also other ways to take advantage of BNPL services when booking flights. We'll run you through the four best strategies below.

1. Buy tickets directly from airlines with BNPL plans

Several airlines have direct partnerships with BNPL services. We recommend thoroughly reviewing the terms of each service before selecting one as your payment method. Some BNPL services have late fees, charge high interest rates or require your first payment at the time of purchase. Many services offer different installment plan options, like four payments every two weeks at 0% interest; a pay-in-30-days strategy (where the entire balance is due 30 days after making the purchase); or longer financing terms of three, six, 12 or even 36 months at a higher interest rate. It's important to review each installment plan closely to avoid high interest when possible and be sure that you can make payments on schedule.

Airlines with BNPL partnerships (Uplift, Affirm and MarcusPay) currently include:

  • Aeromexico - Uplift
  • Air Canada - Uplift
  • Alaska Airlines - Uplift
  • Allegiant Air - Uplift 
  • American Airlines - Affirm
  • Frontier Airlines - Uplift 
  • JetBlue - MarcusPay
  • Lufthansa - Uplift
  • Southwest Airlines - Uplift
  • Spirit Airlines - Uplift
  • TAP Air Portugal - Uplift
  • United Airlines - Uplift

To buy tickets using a BNPL service, you'll visit the airline's website, select your tickets and click the BNPL option at checkout. You'll then be redirected to the BNPL website or app where you'll either enter your login or create an account. From there, the BNPL service may offer different options for splitting up your payments, should explain the interest rate you qualify for (if applicable) and may require your first payment at the time of purchase.

PayPal, an online payment service, can be used as a payment method for most airline tickets. And now you can select PayPal's Pay in 4 service, which lets you divide your payment into four biweekly (automatic) installments at 0% interest. While the first installment is due at the time of purchase, you'll have around 45 days to pay off the remaining balance.

3. Book via a third-party travel site

Some third-party flight booking services -- including Kayak, Priceline, Expedia and Travelocity -- offer BNPL options for any airline. If the airline you prefer to fly with is not offering a direct BNPL payment option, you can search for tickets on one of these third-party sites instead.

4. Use a virtual BNPL card

Do you already have a BNPL service you like to use? Many buy now, pay later companies offer virtual cards, which allow you to purchase items online at websites that don't offer BNPL payment options.

Affirm, Afterpay, Klarna, ZIP (formerly QuadPay) and most other major BNPL services offer this option. To get started, you'll need to know the final cost of your purchase, including tax. Log in to your BNPL account and apply for a virtual card, inputting the full purchase amount when prompted. It's helpful to round up to ensure that the card is issued for an amount that fully covers your purchase. Once approved, you'll be given a virtual card number, expiration date and CVV (card verification value), which you can use as a payment method when ordering airline tickets online.

The amount you spend on the virtual card will then be applied to your BNPL account to be repaid in installments.

5. Alternatively, consider a 0% APR credit card

If the BNPL methods you qualify for have high interest rates or if you need more time to repay your purchase, there is another option -- a 0% APR credit card. This type of credit card offers no interest for an introductory period, usually between 15 and 20 months. Just be sure you can repay the total balance within the introductory period, otherwise interest will begin accruing and piling on to your debt.

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