Bringing “buy now, pay later” to everyday purchases

Pay-as-you-go services have skyrocketed in popularity online. One tech company is bringing the model to local businesses.

“Buy now, pay later” (BNPL) financing has shaken up the credit card industry in recent years. It gives customers the option of purchasing an item immediately, then paying for it over the course of several weeks or months, in more manageable installments—often without any interest.

As the COVID-19 pandemic pushed people toward online shopping over the past two years, e-commerce-affiliated BNPL services skyrocketed in popularity. According to a report by Adobe, e-commerce got a boost of $183 billion during the pandemic and use of BNPL grew by 215% year over year in just the first two months of 2021.

BNPL is still largely associated with online shopping. It gives customers the financial flexibility to purchase big-ticket items they might not normally be able to afford, like designer clothes or home goods. But the pay-as-you-go model can benefit local communities too. This is the guiding belief behind Sunbit, a Los Angeles–based tech company that partners with retailers and service providers throughout the United States to bring BNPL technology to everyday purchases and necessities, like car repairs, prescription eyeglasses, and dental work.

“I liked the concept of BNPL but wanted to make it available and affordable for people to pay for their everyday needs,” says Arad Levertov, cofounder and CEO of Sunbit. 

Today, 10,000 U.S. businesses offer Sunbit’s BNPL technology. After a 30-second application process, 90% of customers are approved for payment plans for purchases up to $10,000. Merchants get paid immediately, after a small processing fee. It’s a formula that works: The company’s valuation is $1.1 billion, after receiving a $130 million Series D round of funding in May 2021.

Sunbit’s partner businesses are already seeing huge benefits—like Dossett Dental, in Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas. Under its previous financing solution, 60% of patients were declined. During its first month with Sunbit, 92% of patients were approved, and the group generated an additional $104,000.

“Sunbit is a win-win,” says Levertov. “Merchants get more sales, and consumers aren’t forced to choose between paying their rent and getting their cars fixed.”