How do the NatWest and Virgin Money ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes compare?

Several high street banks have launched their own ‘buy now, pay later’ (BNPL) schemes to rival the likes of Klarna, Clearpay and Laybuy. NatWest’s scheme launched in June, while Virgin Money’s version will be available later this year.

The NatWest scheme allows customers to spread the cost of purchases over four monthly instalments with no interest and fees, while Virgin Money’s ‘Slyce’ will let customers pay in three or six instalments with no fee, or spread the cost over a longer period for a fee.

Here, we explain how both schemes work, including what eligibility measures are in place, how much you can borrow, and how they compare to other BNPL schemes on the market.

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How does NatWest’s ‘buy now, pay later’ scheme work?

The NatWest BNPL scheme comes with a virtual card, which will show up in your mobile app and can be added to Google Pay or Apple Pay. Once it’s added, you can use it to shop online or in-store.

When you make a purchase, you can split the cost into four interest-free monthly payments. 

If you use your card for more than one purchase, NatWest will combine what you’ve spent into one monthly direct debit payment. Check out the example below to see how repayment works:

Source: NatWest

When are repayments due?

The first payment isn’t due until 25 days from your statement date – this is usually the date you applied for the product, and you can keep track of this in your mobile app.

You can also choose to make additional payments if you want to pay down the debt quicker, or clear your debt early – you won’t be charged a fee for this.

How much can you borrow?

The maximum credit limit is £1,000, however this is subject to status and you may be offered a lower amount of £500 or £750. 

You can’t use the BNPL card for the following:

  • purchases under £50
  • balance transfers
  • money transfers
  • cash advances
  • foreign currency transactions 
  • gambling transactions.

Credit and affordability checks

To apply for NatWest’s BNPL scheme you must be aged over 18, a UK resident and earn at least £10k per year. You also have to hold a NatWest current account. 

NatWest will gauge your eligibility at the start of your application, with no impact on your credit score, and if you are suitable you’ll be able to continue your application with a full credit check. 

What if you miss a payment?

Late payments should be avoided wherever possible; if you’re more than a day late, you’ll incur a £12 late payment fee – and it may be reported to credit agencies, negatively impacting your credit score.

The late fee will be applied once per statement, per month. NatWest said it may also refer you to a debt collection agent.

Are purchases protected?

NatWest is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), and all purchases will be protected by Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act. This means the company is jointly and severally liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation by the retailer or trader.

How does Virgin Money’s Slyce work?

When it launches, you’ll be able to use the virtual Virgin Money Slyce card online and in-store, and also add it to your virtual wallet using Apple Pay or Google Pay. 

Each month you’ll choose how to pay your monthly balance, with options to pay off the full amount, or pay it in three- or six-monthly instalments for free.

You can also choose to split it into nine or 12 monthly instalments for a fee.

You can spend abroad with no foreign exchange fees or extra charges, and earn cashback on your purchases with specific retailers such as Space NK, Huel and Sweaty Betty.

The service is set to launch later this year, but you can join the waiting list for the Slyce card on the Virgin Money website. If you do, you’ll automatically be entered into a prize draw to win 150,000 Virgin Points and £2,000 spending money.

When are repayments due?

Payments are due around 21 days after the monthly cycle.

Repayments are not automatic, and Virgin Money encourages you to set up a direct debit. You can view and manage Slyce activity in the Virgin Money credit card app, which also has reminders and alerts to keep your payments on track.

You will incur fees if you opt for its nine- and 12-month instalment plans; you’ll pay 7.5% for a nine-month plan and 10% for a 12-month plan.

The fees are introduced when your balance is moved into the plan, and evenly distributed across the relevant time period.

If you have the money to spare, there’s no fee for paying off your balance in full.

How much can you borrow?

Virgin Money told us customers will be allocated a specific credit limit, in the same way as if they were getting a credit card.

Credit and affordability checks

To be eligible for Virgin Money Slyce, you must be over 18 and a resident of the UK.

Virgin Money will carry out affordability checks done by Virgin Money to make sure potential customers can spend within their means. 

Virgin Money said this check will be based on income and outgoings, including customers’ current credit repayments, mortgage or rent, and the cost of living.

What if you can’t make a repayment?

You don’t incur fees for late payments, and you can reduce payments to a more affordable amount. 

However, if your payments are more than 30 days late, they will be reported to credit reference agencies, which could harm your credit score and make borrowing more difficult in future.

Virgin Money says customers can get in touch with its contact centre for help and advice on managing repayments.

  • Find out more: If you’ve experienced issues with a BNPL scheme, let us know via our BNPL complaints form.

Are your purchases protected?

Virgin Money is regulated by the FCA and your purchases will be protected by Section 75.

What other banks offer BNPL schemes?

In addition to NatWest and Virgin Money, Monzo and Barclays also offer ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes. 

One benefit of using BNPL with a bank, rather than an independent provider, is that banks have a more complete view of your spending habits if you already bank with them, helping them better judge your affordability limits.

We’ve compared NatWest and Virgin Money Slyce to other bank BNPL schemes on the market.

You can find out about other BNPL schemes, such as Klarna, PayPal Pay in 3, Laybuy and Clearpay in our ‘Buy now, pay later’ schemes explained guide. 

The article was updated on 3 August to add that you can use Virgin Money Slyce fee-free for three and six months in the introduction.

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