Credit Card Buzz: BNPL Boosts Online Holiday Spend; Musk’s X Unveils Payment Platform

January 4, 2024
4 mins read

Key Points:

  • Consumers spent $222.1 billion online during the holiday season, with “buy now, pay later” options driving a significant portion of spending.
  • Elon Musk’s X is set to launch in-app payment services on its social media platform in mid-2024.
  • Only half of Americans believe they can pay off their December credit card balance in full.
  • The Federal Reserve saw inflation easing and job market cooling, signaling potential rate cuts.
  • UK buy now, pay later users face late repayment fees, particularly younger consumers.
  • Using a personal loan to pay off holiday credit card debt may improve credit scores and offer lower interest rates.
  • Florida is considering a ban on cashless payments for most businesses in 2024.
  • Apple has agreed to settle a lawsuit alleging the company allowed scammers to exploit its gift cards.
  • South Korea and Taiwan are tightening regulations around credit card payments for cryptocurrencies.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau highlights the role of big tech firms in mobile payments.


Consumers spent a whopping $222.1 billion online during the holiday season as usage of flexible spending options hit an all-time high, according to new data from Adobe. The figure, up 4.9% year over year, marks a new record for online shopping throughout the holiday season. Adobe noted that the boost in spending was driven in large part by such heavy reliance on “buy now, pay later” options, which allow consumers to pay in installments, often interest-free. The payment option accounted for $16.6 billion in online spending, up 14% on an annual basis, during the season, underscoring how Americans were trying to manage their debt obligations amid persisting inflation, high interest rates and resumed student loan payments.

Elon Musk’s “everything app” X (formerly Twitter) is expected to launch in-app payment services on its social media platform around mid-2024, though crypto integration now seems remote. Musk said he expects payment services to be fully launched sometime by the “middle of next year,” pending the approval of several money transmitter license applications.

Only half of America’s credit card customers believe they can pay off their December balance in full, according to an industry index, signaling a low ebb in “credit card confidence” as the nation emerges from the holidays. The LendingTree Credit Card Confidence Index, a monthly survey published since 2018 by the personal finance site, dipped to 51% in December, an all-time low. In a national survey, only 51% voiced confidence that they could pay off their card balance this month. In November, the Confidence Index stood at 58%.

The Federal Reserve’s policymakers concluded last month that inflationary pressures were easing and that the job market was cooling. In response, the officials chose to leave their key interest rate unchanged for the third straight time and signaled that they expected to cut rates three times in 2024.

Almost one-quarter of UK buy now, pay later users have been charged late repayment fees, with younger consumers hit hardest, according to research that points to how people have turned to the unregulated form of credit to cope with rising living costs. New research found that 22% of BNPL users have missed one or more repayments in the six months to December 2023. Of those people, more than one-quarter took a hit on their credit score as a result or were contacted by a debt collection agency, according to the survey. Young people were most likely to receive late fees, with 34% of users aged 18-34 charged for missing a repayment over the same period.

Using a personal loan to pay your holiday credit cards off will give you one fixed-rate payment that’s easy to track. Replacing credit card debt with a personal loan may improve your credit score if you don’t open any new cards and don’t continue using the open ones. You can potentially pay a much lower interest rate for a personal loan compared to credit cards.

The cashless trend is an inconvenience for people who prefer to use cash. It’s a big problem for others, including lower-income people who don’t have access to noncash payments and some older people who aren’t proficient with app-based payments. And it’s alarming to those who fear moving toward a cashless society could impinge on individual freedoms if, say, technology is used by the banking system or government to prevent people from spending money the way they wish. The Florida Legislature may slam on the brakes. Refusing cash payments could become illegal for most Florida businesses in 2024 under new legislation.

Apple has agreed to settle a lawsuit accusing the company of knowingly letting scammers exploit its gift cards, and keep stolen funds for itself. According to a filing in federal court, Apple and the plaintiffs have agreed on material settlement terms after working with a mediator. The scam involves fraudsters who instill panic or urgency by insisting by phone that victims buy App Store and iTunes gift cards or Apple Store gift cards in order to pay for taxes, hospital and utility bills, bail and debt collection. Victims are then told to share the codes on the backs of the cards. According to the complaint, Apple would typically deposit only 70% of the stolen funds into fraudsters’ bank accounts, and keep 30% for itself as a “commission” for knowingly converting stolen codes into dollars.

South Korea’s Financial Services Commission has proposed amendments to its credit finance act, effectively prohibiting local citizens from purchasing cryptocurrencies using credit cards. The main reason for this is to limit crypto traders from buying crypto on foreign exchanges to mitigate concerns over illegal outflows of domestic funds, money laundering, and speculative behavior.

Taiwan’s primary financial regulator, the Financial Supervisory Commission (FSC), has directed the banking sector to deny virtual asset providers the status of merchants for credit card transactions. This essentially blocks credit card usage for cryptocurrency purchases in the country.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has published an issue spotlight highlighting the impacts of Big Tech companies’ policies and practices that govern tap-to-pay on mobile devices like smartphones and watches. The CFPB explains how regulations imposed by mobile operating systems can have a significant impact on innovation, consumer choice, and the growth of open and decentralized banking and payments in the U.S.

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