Woman using a credit card to make a purchase online

No Credit Card? Here’s How To Pay Instalments Using Your Debit Card

Do you want an iPhone or a new work chair? Well before, one would usually need a credit card in order to pay for that in instalments. But, how can we purchase these items and pay instalments without a credit card? However, there are now services in Malaysia that help even debit cardholders do the same, without accruing debt! These services are called ‘Buy Now, Pay Later’ or BNPL for short. This service doesn’t need a credit card, and it doesn’t usually check your CTOS Score. 

Man using a credit card to make a purchase online

Many Malaysians do save up money in order to buy what they want, but the worry of spending something and then an emergency popping up is always there. This is a valid worry, as BNPL has both upsides and downsides to it – scroll to know what they are and what BNPL services we have!


Disclaimer: This piece does not include professional financial advice and is purely based on the personal preference of the writer.


How useful is it?

Say goodbye (for now) to credit cards, as BNPL has multiple benefits that ease the process of instalment-based purchases. But what are they?


Applying for credit cards can be a truly vexing process, as there are many qualifications that are needed to be met. In most cases, you have to be a full-time employee for at least 6 months. However, with BNPL, one only has to go through a short checklist in order to be eligible. 


BNPL allows you to finally split purchases into instalments. It also doesn’t impose an interest rate on top of your purchase, and even if you were late for repayment, the reactivation fee is as low as RM10! Late repayments with BNPL also don’t affect your credit score, so no worries about these services ever hurting your ability to get a loan. Another key difference is that BNPL does set a much lower limit on how much you can spend, but it’s really to ensure you don’t max out your debit card.


What’s the catch?

You’re probably wondering what’s the catch here? Wouldn’t this retire the concept of credit cards? Sorry to break it to you, but there are a few red flags to be aware of.

Woman using a credit card to make a purchase online

First off, although there are no interest charges under BNPL, which means that your credit score won’t ever improve. The reason why people own credit cards in the first place is so that you can prove that you have a good track record of repaying things on time. That track record will dictate if you can get a loan in future. With BNPL, no matter how good you are with repayments, it brings you no benefits.  


One could also dangerously go into debt if they signed up for multiple different BNPL services, as they will all deduct money straight from your debit card (which is usually tied with your savings account if you don’t keep it separate). Another underlying issue is that debit card fraud does exist. If a BNPL merchant’s website isn’t surely encrypted well enough, a hacker could gain access to your PIN number and account number. They can then make unauthorized transactions with your card. The follow-up problem? There are not a lot of proper ways to know if a merchant has solid cybersecurity.


1. Grab PayLater

Now that you know the pros and cons of BNPL, it’s time to check out one of the most popular versions of it – on Grab!

Grab PayLater


Late Repayment Fee: RM10 to reactive account 

Charges: Interest-free 


Grab PayLater is a BNPL service that you can easily sign up for directly from your Grab app. Not only is the sign-up process extremely easy, but they also have many notable partner merchants such as Machines, TTRacing, All IT Hypermarket and more! Do note that Grab PayLater sets a ‘quota’ on how much you can spend based on your past overall spending on their app. How they calculate this isn’t publicly shared. Once you’ve signed up for it though, it will immediately tell you how much you have to spend. 


Grab PayLater also funnels your spending into 2 things; postpaid balance and instalment balance. So you can opt to ‘pay later’ for your mobile postpaid bill, Grab Ride and Grab Food purchases. To know more on how this works, head over to the Grab PayLater page here. However, with any purchase you wish to split into instalments, you need to pay the 1st instalment on the spot, but it’s still better than having to wait forever to buy it at full price. The other great thing is that late repayments only incur an RM10 charge to reactivate your account. One pain about the UI design of Grab PayLater though is that the merchant directory is not user-friendly as one must scroll continuously, and you can’t just type in the name of the store you want.


2. Hoolah

Hoolah has been around since 2018 and is one of the few BNPL services which is extremely reliable. So what’s so good about it?

Right off the bat, Hoolah does what any BNPL service should do; allow you to purchase via interest-free instalments! Customers can buy anything from their partnering stores and pay in 3 instalments. Speaking about merchants, they also have a long list of partner merchants and are constantly updating it monthly, 


For Hoolah, you can also pay in instalments for both online and in-store shopping. The other benefit they also are upfront about is that one can increase their spending limit by purchasing with them more. In case you do have more questions though, they have a short FAQ list. As of late though, Hoolah has proven to be responsive by email enquiries, so do feel free to email them your questions!


3. Atome

Atome is another BNPL service that has been around for as long as Grab’s PayLater!

Atome Pay Later

With Atome, any instalment-based purchases are also interest-free. You don’t have to worry about how many years you’d be in debt for, as Atome allows you to pay your instalments 3-ways. Similarly to the rest, you do have to pay the first instalment at the point of purchase as well. 


There are over 2,000 brands that are partnering with Atome, so you should be glad to know that renowned brands like Hush Puppies, 176 Avenue and more are in their store’s directory. Speaking about that, you can also shop either online or offline, depending on your preference



One must keep in mind that using any BNPL system requires you to be disciplined, just like how you would have to be if you had a credit card. The other thorn to remember? BNPL services directly take out money from your bank – as our debit cards are usually our savings account too. You also should practise not buying anything ‘small’; purchase less on instalment and only for big items only like an RM800 chair or an RM4000 phone.


For further reading, check out this article on whether you need to own a credit card in your 20s. A really great article to read is also about what are financial credit scores and how to improve them!

A realism artist and an aspiring filmmaker. She’s also a devotee to R&B music and an advocate for racial equality.

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