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Vacation Planning: Buy Now, Pay Later [2023 Survey]

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Alex Miller

Alex Miller

Founder & CEO

Countries Visited: 34U.S. States Visited: 29

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business...
Edited by: Keri Stooksbury

Keri Stooksbury


Countries Visited: 41U.S. States Visited: 28

With years of experience in corporate marketing and as the Executive Director of the American Chamber of Commerce in Qatar, Keri is now Editor-in-Chief at UP, overseeing daily content operations and r...

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We’ve all been there — casually browsing travel destinations one moment and impulsively booking an all-inclusive getaway with a credit card the next. While credit cards can provide financial flexibility for many Americans, they can also bring headaches when the monthly statement arrives.

To dive deeper into the psychology behind the buy now, pay later (BNPL) travel phenomenon, we conducted a survey of 1,000 Americans. We asked them questions like, “How likely are you to use credit cards to pay for vacations?” and “How comfortable are you with carrying credit card debt from vacations?” Join us as we explore whether the allure of a dream vacation is worth the burden of credit card debt.

4 in 10 Americans Would Finance up to 100% of Their Vacation With a Credit Card

Image Credit: Upgraded Points

From indulgent luxury cruises to chasing the elusive northern lights in Iceland, many of us fall into the trap of using vacation payment plans and dealing with the consequences later. In our survey, we set out to uncover how Americans finance their vacations, pinpoint the trip expenses most frequently charged to credit cards, and understand their feelings toward credit card debt incurred during trips.

  • Most Americans finance their vacations with a credit card (78%), followed by personal savings (17%) and BNPL services (3%).

Some credit cards have specific travel perks that give cardholders benefits like lounge access, elite status, and statement credits.

While using a credit card to cover vacation expenses can be a strategic move, as consistent payments can boost your credit score, our survey revealed interesting repayment patterns. Among the 78% of Americans who typically charge their vacations, 50% manage to pay it off in full in 1 payment, while 29% opt for gradual payments — chipping away at the debt over time.

  • 4 in 10 Americans (41%) would be willing to put up to 100% of vacation costs on a credit card.
  • When it comes to vacation spending, a majority of Americans opt to use their credit cards for different aspects of their trips, including accommodations (77%), air travel (73%), dining (68%), transportation (59%), entertainment (59%), and shopping (57%).
  • Over half of Americans (56%) are willing to put travel expenses on a credit card without paying them off immediately.
  • 6 in 10 (60%) Americans are uncomfortable carrying credit card debt from previous vacations.

However, not everyone feels uneasy about having credit card debt due to vacations. Surprisingly, 28% of Americans are actually comfortable with this situation, with younger individuals more inclined to accept it.

Some Americans are fans of BNPL services that allow them to book trips, relax, and make travel payments down the road. We found that roughly 1 in 5 Americans (19%) have previously used BNPL services for vacation expenses. Younger Americans are much more likely to use these services than older ones, with 34% of Gen Z and 23% of millennials having used them, compared to just 13% of Gen X and 11% of baby boomers. 

You can opt out of using credit cards and use services such as Uplift that allow you to pay over time with fixed monthly payments. Uplift also only charges simple interest, while credit cards charge interest on interest.

Vacation Swiping: Does Buy Now, Pay Later Lead to More Flexibility or Regret?

Image Credit: Upgraded Points

With different vacation payment plans, such as BNPL, Americans can charge their travel to a card. Who wouldn’t enjoy an all-inclusive resort trip to a sunny destination, even if you don’t have the cash up front to finance it? We asked Americans their thoughts on financing travel, including the impact of credit cards on their vacation budget.

  • 62% of Americans believe that paying for vacations with credit cards and paying the cost over time gives them more flexibility in planning their trips.
  • 37% of Americans say payment options significantly influence the vacations and destinations they choose to take.
  • Over 3 in 5 Americans believe BNPL services can encourage impulsive vacation spending.
  • 2 in 5 Americans say that using credit cards tends to boost their overall vacation spending.

Running up the tab while on vacation is easy to do. Americans tend to overspend most when using credit cards for dining (35%), accommodations (21%), and entertainment (15%). What’s a good vacation without a strawberry daiquiri?

Some Americans may prefer to make purchases through apps like Klarna, which does allow you to BNPL. Plus, there are no fees with Klarna when you pay on time.

When it comes to planning their next big trip, 46% of Americans would prioritize paying off previous vacation debts over saving for future ones. Meanwhile, 23% would aim to strike a balance between the 2, and 8% would prioritize saving for future vacations over settling previous debts.

We also discovered that the most significant factors influencing Americans’ choice of payment method for vacations include rewards or points (60%), convenience (48%), the flexibility of payment timelines (28%), perceived affordability (22.6%), and interest rates (15.9%).


To find out how big of a role credit plays in the vacationing habits of Americans, we surveyed 1,000 people from across the U.S. We asked questions about how they typically finance their vacations, how the perception of BNPL impacts their buying decisions, and what parts of a vacation they might overspend on when paying with credit cards. The survey was conducted in September 2023 and ran over a 5-day period. 

Final Thoughts

When booking a vacation, credit cards seem to be the go-to choice for most Americans as they are comfortable using a credit card for everything from dining and air travel to entertainment. Plus, more than half of Americans believe paying for vacations with credit cards and making repayments over time gives them more flexibility when planning.

We hope you can use these insights to decide the best method for paying off your next vacation. Happy booking!

About Alex Miller

Founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, Alex is a leader in the industry and has earned and redeemed millions of points and miles. He frequently discusses the award travel industry with CNBC, Fox Business, The New York Times, and more.


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