Nearly one-third (31%) of Australians believe it will take 12 months or more to get their finances, careers and lifestyles back to pre-COVID-19 conditions, with 37% having used buy-now-pay-later (BNPL) or instalment plans to manage their finances more so in the last six months.

In response, American Express has launched a new instalment feature, Plan It, on its consumer credit cards, allowing card members to move a portion of their statement balance into a payment plan spread over three, six, nine or 12 months with a fixed monthly fee and zero interest.

Customers can create instalment plans themselves in their online account, or via the American Express app, with terms and fees displayed upfront.

Research commissioned by American Express found that while three quarters of Aussies (77%) plan ahead for their finances, more than a quarter (28%) don’t plan for unexpected expenses. The research indicates that due to COVID-19 more than half (52%) have considered taking out personal micro loans, while one third (31%) have thought of using lay-by or in-store instalment plans.

American Express vice president of consumer lending, Austin Huntsdale said the company aims to help card members better plan for their expenses, particularly during a time when they may need extra financial flexibility.

“Australians are looking carefully at their personal finances. They are planning more diligently to be able to absorb unexpected expenses. Life’s a bit different now, and customers want more control over their finances. Plan It is one of the ways we can help our card members gain that control,” he said.

Unlike BNPL options that require set-up, Plan It is a built-in feature of existing American Express credit cards. Plans are created against the balance rather than specific purchases or retailers, giving card holders the flexibility to shop at their favourite businesses or find the best deal that suits them. Card members can continue to spend within their existing credit limit and create plans for balances of $150 or more.

To launch Plan It, American Express is reducing its monthly plan fee by more than 25% on participating cards until 30 September 2020.