American Express taps Opy for its first US third-party BNPL offering

Credit card companies are seeking to push further into the “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) market. American Express (Amex) announced today that it plans to partner with Opy, the U.S. subsidiary of Australian fintech Openpay, to allow all of its U.S. cardmembers to pay in installments for qualifying purchases in the healthcare and automotive segments.

The partnership is American Express’s first third-party BNPL agreement in the United States, a spokesperson for the company told TechCrunch in an email. Amex will help onboard merchants in these sectors onto its platform.

Opy describes its solution as an improved version of the traditional BNPL model, which it calls “buy now, pay smarter.” Opy will lend up to $20,000 at once to a customer, charging them a fixed fee and offering plans as long as 24 months, unlike the shorter-term installments offered by companies like Affirm and Klarna.

American Express already offers its own BNPL options under its “Pay it Plan it” program launched in 2017 for purchases above $100, which also offers a fixed interest rate. The Opy partnership will help Amex meet demand for options to finance large purchases over longer periods of time, Opy U.S. CEO Brian Shniderman told TechCrunch.

“If it’s a big item — and this is where we specialize — things that are $1,000 to $20,000, 60 days isn’t really enough time to pay off something that’s more expensive,” he said.

The company is able to offer lower rates, never higher than 9.99%, because it targets very specific sectors that attract financially savvy customers, per Shniderman. Its average customer is 40 years old, while many other BNPL providers’ average customers are in their 20s, he added. Besides healthcare and automotive, Opy offers financing for home improvement and educational certification, though those two verticals are not set to be included in the Amex partnership.

“[Our product is] predictable, transparent. If you look at the other buy, now pay later companies out there, they have deferred interest, there’s back interest if you miss a payment. They recalculate all of that 0% interest as though you had a very high interest rate for the life of the loan,” Shniderman, who worked closely with Amex in his prior role at Deloitte, said.

Amex’s major competitors have also made recent forays into BNPL in an attempt to keep pace with payments companies like Stripe and Square. Mastercard launched its homegrown Mastercard Installments offering this fall, and Visa announced a brand partnership with Klarna shortly thereafter.

Note: Mary Ann Azevedo contributed to this story.