Best Buy (BBY -3.50%) presents its version of rent-to-own as progressive leasing, and touts it as a way for people who can't get approved for its credit card to buy big-ticket items. The problem is that this type of program can lead to consumers -- ones who already don't qualify for credit -- paying more than twice the item's upfront cost.
What is Progressive Leasing?
Participants in the program pay for the item they buy in 12 equal installments that are debited directly from their bank account. The program comes with interest fees, which means if customers don't pay off the total early, they pay an average of 2.09 times the original cost of the item, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.
Consumers can buy their way out of the lease if they want to. Best Buy offers a 90-day purchase option and variable buyout rates at later dates. Some prices vary by state so exact numbers aren't public.
Is this a good move for Best Buy?
Rent-to-own has generally been considered a predatory business. On the plus side, progressive leasing provides a way for a consumer to buy a needed item -- like a stove or a refrigerator -- they might otherwise not have the means of acquiring.
The problem, of course, is when people use these programs to buy items they want, rather than need, instead of saving up for them. This program does open up Best Buy's biggest-ticket items to new customers, but many of those new customers should be wary about taking advantage of a program that will have them paying more than list price.