If you’re wondering if you can charge your rent to a credit card, the answer is yes. Even if your landlord doesn’t accept credit cards, there are third-party providers that can make it happen, with or without the landlord’s involvement.
The more pertinent question then becomes: Does it make sense? You’ll likely have to pay a hefty fee—maybe 2.5% or 3%—so the benefits must be worth the cost. Often they’re not, but here’s what you need to know to figure out what’s best for your particular situation.
Is Paying Your Rent With a Credit Card Worth It?
It all depends on your goal. If you’re dreaming about all the cash back or frequent flyer miles you could get from your credit card issuer, you may be sorely disappointed. The fees are generally higher than the rewards you’ll earn, unless you’ve gotten a new credit card that’s dangling a big sign-up bonus.
If you’re just looking to make paying your rent faster and more convenient, there are usually better options, like ACH or electronic checks that are typically free.
And if you’re looking to stretch out your costs because you’re in a tight financial patch, well, you may not have the luxury of choosing the most sensible option. You’re going to end up paying more to get that time because of the finance charges you’ll incur as well as the transaction fee the landlord or payment service will charge.
How To Pay Rent With a Credit Card
If you do decide to charge your rent payments, check with your landlord first to see if they accept credit cards. Some property management companies now accept online payments, including credit and debit card payments.
Be prepared to pay a transaction fee, though, unless you choose an e-check or ACH transfer that links directly to your bank account. Although you may be lucky enough to find a landlord who processes credit cards for free, most charge a fee to recoup their own costs. It’s much more expensive for them to process credit cards than it is to accept cash, ACH transfers or a check, and a 3% or 3.5% fee is not uncommon.
A debit card option may not make sense for you, especially if the fee is just as steep as the credit card fee. A debit card isn’t going to help if you’re looking for extra time to pay off your rent, and probably isn’t going to earn you much—if anything—in cash back or travel points.
If your landlord or property management company doesn’t accept credit cards, you can enlist the help of a third-party company that specializes in facilitating credit card rent payments, or you can investigate a peer-to-peer payment service.
- Third-party payment companies usually charge 2.5%-3% of your rent. But you may not even have to ask your landlord for permission. Many will simply process your card payment and then mail a check to your landlord on your behalf. Others require your landlord to sign up with the service.
- Peer-to-peer payment apps such as PayPal, Venmo, Google Pay, or Apple Pay are other options. However, the landlord may need to be a user of the service, and you’ll still have to pay a fee to use a credit card, if they even let you use one. Apple Pay and Google Pay only allow you to use a debit card to privately send money, but it’s free.
Even if your landlord does accept credit cards, make sure to compare transaction fees because outside providers may charge less.
When Do Credit Card Rewards Tip the Scales?
Many third-party service providers tout a user’s ability to earn credit card rewards when rent is charged to a card. However, this kind of marketing can be misleading. If you do the math, you’ll often find that the fee more than cancels out the rewards.
The most a rewards credit card is likely to pay is 2% cash back (or the equivalent in points or miles), and the fee is likely to be at least 2.5%. So, for example, if you were to charge $1,600 in rent on your card, you’d probably earn a maximum of $32 in cash back, but owe at least $40, depending on the fee.
There may be some instances, though, when the rewards outweigh the fee. Those are often when you’ve just gotten a credit card and need to spend enough to earn the sizeable sign-up bonus. Charging your rent is a good way to meet the requirement without overspending on things you don’t need.
Let’s say you’ve just opened a card and need to spend $4,000 in your first three months to get a bonus worth $750. If you charge your $1,600 rent for each of those three months, you’ll meet the requirement and probably pay about $120 to $144 in fees. That’s still a net gain of more than $600. (Of course, if you can charge enough on your card without your rent, you’ll save yourself the $120 to $144.)
Or maybe you’re trying to pile up frequent flyer miles quickly to help pay for an upcoming trip or earn elite flying status on an airline. In that case, the travel perks you get may be so valuable that they’re more than worth a fee.
If you happen to have one of the few rewards debit cards, charging your rent may be worthwhile if you choose a provider with a low fee for debit transactions. For example, if you used the Discover Cashback Debit Card to debit your $1,600 rent through the provider RadPad, you’d pay a $4.95 fee, but earn $16 in cash back. For the year, that’s a net gain of about $132.
Charging for Convenience or To Buy Time
If you’re just looking for a more convenient way to pay your rent, you’re better off avoiding credit cards and pay directly from your checking account (ACH transfer or electronic check), because this option is usually free.
In select cases, using a debit card is also free, or at least less expensive. The setup process with your landlord or third-party provider is similar to the process for a credit card, then paying is just as quick and easy.
If your main goal is borrowing some time to catch up on bills, consider taking out a credit card with an introductory offer of 0% interest for a limited period. You won’t avoid the transaction fee, but at least you won’t be hit with finance charges, too. Just make sure you pay off your rent payments in full before you’re charged the ongoing annual percentage rate. You don’t want to be paying 15% or 20% interest on your rent, of all things.
When comparing third-party payment companies and peer-to-peer payment services, don’t just look at the fees they charge. You should also consider the amount of time it takes for your landlord to get the money and whether they offer a guarantee against late payments. You could come to regret using a middleman if it takes too long to mail your rent check and your landlord hits you with a late fee as a result.
With a peer-to-peer app, you should know quickly that your money was received. But with a third-party service provider, you may have to wait a week or more to get confirmation that your payment was successful. (Some offer real-time notifications with updates on the status of your payment.)
Here are five options for charging your rent if your landlord doesn’t accept card payments directly:
|Company||Credit Card Fee||Debit Card Fee||After charging your card...||Processing Time|
|Plastiq||2.5%||1%||Plastiq will mail a check or transfer the money via ACH or wire transfer.||Checks arrive within eight business days. Domestic wire transfers and ACH transfers are same day or next day.|
|Caretaker (formerly Flip)||2.99%||2.99%||Caretaker will mail a check to your landlord.||Checks typically arrive within eight to 10 days.|
|RadPad||2.99%||$4.95 if under $5,000; $9.95 if over $5,000||RadPad will mail a check to your landlord.||It may take up to four business days for your check to arrive.|
|PayPal||2.9%||2.9%||PayPal will route your payment to your landlord’s account. (Your landlord must have one with PayPal.)||Instant|
|Venmo||3%||Free||Venmo will route your payment to your landlord’s account. (Your landlord must have one with Venmo.)||Usually instant|
Professional Property Management of Northern Virginia. "Make a Payment."
Caretaker. "Rent Payments."
Plastiq. "Maximize Your Cash Flow."
PayPal. "Send Money With PayPal."
Apple. "Set Up Apple Cash."
Google. "Send & Receive Money With Gmail."
RadPad. "Pay Rent Online Easily."