Buy now, pay later firm Klarna launches physical card in the UK

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Swedish fintech firm Klarna is embedding its “buy now, pay later” service into a physical card in the U.K. The company on Wednesday announced the launch of Klarna Card, a Visa card that lets users delay payments on their purchases, both in-store as well as online.

The card is already available in Sweden and Germany, where it is now used by over 800,000 people, according to Klarna. This is the first time it has arrived in a country outside the European Union. The company has been expanding aggressively in the U.K. and America. The Klarna Card will initially only include Klarna’s “Pay in 30” feature, which lets shoppers pay down their debt within 30 days. The company said it plans to include additional payment options in the future.

Like other buy now, pay later firms, Klarna offers a popular product that splits the cost of users’ purchases over a period of monthly installments, typically interest-free. The firm makes money by charging a small fee on each transaction for retailers offering its payment method.

Its card, which comes in either black or pink, will send out push notifications to a customer’s smartphone when they make a transaction. It will also allow users to extend the due date on their payment by up to 10 days for free.

Klarna plans to roll the card out gradually, with a view to open eligibility to all customers by early 2022. It has opened a waitlist where users can sign up in the meantime. “For online purchases where credit makes sense, buy now pay later has become the sustainable alternative with no interest and clear payment schedules,” said Alex Marsh, the head of U.K. at Klarna.

“The launch of Klarna Card in the U.K. brings those benefits to the offline world, giving consumers the control and transparency of BNPL for all of their instore purchases.”

Klarna has often criticized the credit card industry for loading consumers up with debt, often at high interest rates. The launch of its own physical card may come as a surprise for some, but the firm argues it is a better alternative to credit cards since it does not charge interest or late payment fees.

Nevertheless, the launch comes as the buy now, pay later industry faces growing scrutiny from regulators. The U.K. is readying new rules to bring the sector under the oversight of the Financial Conduct Authority, the country’s financial services watchdog.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has opened an investigation into popular BNPL programs like Klarna, Afterpay, Affirm and PayPal. Klarna spokesman Daniel Greaves said Britain’s FCA is “fully aware of the product and how it works,” and that the firm received the green light from regulators before launching.


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