Access to travel has never been easier, but paying for it remains an issue for many Americans living paycheck to paycheck. Still, people aren’t staying home, opting instead to finance vacations with a new breed of travel sites.
“In a recent study we conducted, 41% of US travelers expressed an interest in using installment payments for trips that cost $2,000 or more,” said Henry Harteveldt, founder of travel industry research firm Atmosphere Research Group. “We believe that in the next 2-5 years, installment payments will become a ‘must have’ feature for all consumer-focused travel sellers – suppliers and intermediaries alike.”
While financing is an option, some experts warn that it’s not always the best choice for every traveler. Greg McBride, chief financial analyst at Bankrate, says that some financing options could rival payday loans. “The interest rates for these products are all over the map, ranging from low cost to exorbitant. If you’re having to finance your trip, that’s an indication you shouldn’t be making the trip.”
The key here is to fully research interest rates, compare services, and then weigh if the financial commitment is worth the vacation. Here are a few of the most popular sites that let consumers pay for travel in alternative ways.
If you prefer layaway
This summer we wrote about a startup called Airfordable, which allows travelers to buy plane tickets on a payment plan. The process is pretty simple: After finding your flight, you take a screenshot of the itinerary and upload the photo to Airfordable. From there, the site calculates the deposit amount, and applies an interest rate of 10% to 20% of the ticket cost. This interest rate is determined by demand, the date of travel and the period between when you book and when you travel. Users pay the ticket off before the trip, so it’s a short-term layaway plan designed to let you travel while remaining debt-free. In less than a year, Airfordable has amassed a community of 10,000 users and shows no signs of slowing down.
Then there’s Flight Layaway, which does exactly what its name suggests. To apply, you enter the flight information and cost before submitting it for consideration. If approved, Flight Layaway will buy the ticket and set up weekly or bi-weekly payments for a two, four, or eight-week period. The ticket must be paid off before the day of departure.
If you prefer a loan
If you’d like a little more financial help without the pressure of paying off the fare before departure, then a short-term loan might help you afford your dream vacation.
Similar to how car companies use financing to boost sales, Uplift works with travel brands to do the same thing. The travel technology company has partnered with Spirit Airlines, Mark Travel, Southwest Vacations, United Vacations, FunJet Vacations and Golden Nugget, to give customers the option to pay for travel with a monthly plan. When visiting one of those sites, you choose your travel itinerary and select “payment plan” once you get to the payment page. After that, you’re directed to Uplift, which will do a quick credit check and present the terms of your loan. The site has interest loans as low at 4.99% (up to 20%) and does not charge late fees or retroactive interest fees.
“With Pay Monthly, we’ve reinvented online payments as a marketing tool for major travel brands. Together with our partners, we will expand the entire travel business, making trips possible for millions who otherwise would never have left home,” said UpLift CEO and co-founder Brian Barth.
Some may choose to use Uplift instead of putting the cost of their trip on a credit card, which might have a higher interest rate. Even so, those users can still get perks out of their loyalty programs because Uplift allows users to make payments with their co-branded loyalty cards. So if you have a Mileage Plus United credit card issued by Chase, you can use it to make your monthly payments and earn loyalty points in the process.
Not to be left out, Cheapair unveiled its airline ticket financing option in August. The website is a popular destination for travelers looking for airline deals, and users now have the option to select “Monthly payments” at checkout. Cheapair directs users to Affirm, a financial services company, that takes your personal information to determine if you qualify for a loan. If your purchases is over $100, Affirm will offer you either a 3, 6, or 12-month loan with an interest rate ranging from 10% to 30% depending on creditworthiness.
Would you use a payment plan to purchase airline tickets? Tell us in comments below.
Brittany is a writer at Yahoo Finance.