Should you pay for Valentine’s Day gifts with credit cards, “buy now, pay later”, PayPal or Venmo?

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There are only a few days left before Valentine’s day and if you waited buy the perfect giftwe recommend that you carefully consider your payment options.

When choosing a payment method for your purchases, you need to consider factors such as security, cash on hand, convenience, and budget.

There is a lot of cash back and rewards credit cards available to choose from. However, shopping is not just a contest between credit and money. The number of checkout options is increasing, both in physical stores and online. Besides Apple Pay and Google Pay, there is PayPal, Venmo and CashApp. You can even pay with crypto using a debit card from Coinbase or BitPay.

Not sure which payment method is best for you? We’ll go over the pros and cons of each so you can decide.

Credit card

A good way to earn money or other rewards

There are many reasons to pay with a credit card. Most of them offer security features, such as EMV chip technology (designed to protect your card information), protection against fraudulent charges and purchase protection.

Some credit cards also offer rewards every time you spend, such as cash back, travel miles, or points. If you need more time to pay off your purchases, a 0% introductory credit card might be worthwhile. Plus, strategic credit card use — like paying off your balance in full each month — can help boost your credit score.

Credit cards, on the other hand, are risky if you can’t afford to pay off your entire balance on time. Using them to buy expensive items that you can’t repay within 30 days can result in interest charges and hurt your credit score.

“Be honest about your intentions,” says CNET Money Editor at Large Farnoosh Torabi. “If you want to use a credit card as a tool to give yourself a few weeks to pay in full and possibly earn points or cash back in the process, that may work in your favor. Otherwise, it’s better to save your money before making a purchase.”

Debit cards

A great way to stick to your budget

In the most basic sense, paying with a debit card simplifies things – you can only spend what you already have, since the funds are taken directly from your checking or savings account. This can make it easier to track your spending and protect you from overspending.

Some debit cards also offer security features, such as EMV chips, but generally have fewer protections than credit cards. (If you continue to swipe instead of inserting your debit card, we recommend calling your bank and requesting a replacement chip card.)

However, debit cards do not offer the same benefits as most credit cards. You can’t earn rewards when shopping, for example. And if you’re short on cash and need to bridge the gap between paydays, a debit card won’t help.

Buy now, pay later

A great way to spread out payments

BNPL services like Affirm, Afterpay and Klarna allow you to make a purchase now via an installment loan and pay off the balance over time. If you’re worried about paying off your balance in full at the end of the month, a BNPL service could give you some much-needed respite. When used strategically, these installment plan options can help you stretch your Valentine’s Day budget with little or no interest.

Each BNPL service works a little differently. Some providers offer 0% financing while others charge interest, and repayment plans can be spread over 30 days or up to 36 months.

An important distinction between BNPL services and credit cards is how interest is charged. Credit cards charge compound interest – this means that interest accrues not only on the borrowed balance, but also on previous interest charges. BNPL services that charge interest do not charge compound interest, and they allow you to see the total interest you will pay over the pre-agreed period of time.

BNPL options can be useful if you need more time to pay off a balance and don’t want to be hit with high interest charges. Just be sure to compare BNPL reimbursement plans before committing to one. “Beware of late fees and how the payment company may report your failure to pay on time to credit reporting agencies. Although you do not need credit approval to use these types of payment services, failure to pay on time can impact your credit score,” says Torabi.

To find a “buy now, pay later” plan, you can purchase through the provider’s app or website. You can also choose a BNPL option when paying on a participating merchant’s website.

Read more: Here’s how to book a flight using buy now, pay later

PayPal

A good option for online shopping

If you’re shopping online for Valentine’s Day, PayPal can help protect your payment information while providing additional options for funding gifts. Although PayPal has traditionally been used as an online payment option, it now offers QR codes for shopping at participating stores.

Here’s how you can use PayPal to shop for Valentine’s Day:

  • Third party processor: By using the classic PayPal service, you can link payments through your preferred payment source, such as a bank account or debit card, to make shopping safer and more convenient. It’s similar to a virtual wallet, but it’s accepted at major online retailers.
  • PayPal credit: This payment option works like a credit card and, if approved, you will be able to charge online transactions, often with deferred interest. You can also request to receive a physical PayPal credit card that you can use in physical stores.
  • Pay in 4: Paypal’s BNPL service allows you to split the total cost of your purchase into four equal interest-free installments. The first is due on the day of your purchase, and the others are billed automatically every two weeks.

Read more: Pay in 4 from PayPal allows you to pay for your purchases over time. Here’s how it works

Venmo

Another way to shop online or at participating stores

PayPal-owned Venmo is most popular for letting you send money to friends and family, and easily split shared bills when you go out for brunch or grab a drink. You can also use the Venmo app to pay for purchases online (with select merchants), the Venmo QR code at stores like Target and Walmart, or apply for a Venmo debit card. This option may make the most sense if you receive frequent payments through Venmo and want to make purchases using money from your balance.

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