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Paying rent with a credit card will typically be expensive and not worth it for most consumers. Even if you factor in any potential rewards you may earn, you're likely to walk away losing money. The average cost of making a rent payment through a credit card is around 2.9% of the total payment amount. Therefore, if the tenant pays $1,000 per month, they can expect to pay $29 for the convenience of using a credit card. This doesn’t factor in the added cost of interest, should the cardholder not fully pay off their credit card bill at the end of the month. Since few credit cards provide rewards beyond 2% on things like online rent payments, you'd be walking away with a 0.9% deficit in the best case scenario.
Despite the high average cost, services that offer credit card rent payments vary their price. Some even allow the landlord to waive the fee entirely. However, in such a case the landlord will eat the cost and likely pass it off to the tenant in one form or another. Here is a listing of some of the most popular services that allow you to pay your rent with a credit card.
|RadPad (No longer available)||2.90%|
|AppFolio||$17 to $37||One of the few services to charge a flat fee, instead of a percent|
|PayPal, Square or Venmo||2.9% - 3%||Least likely. Requires your property manager to have a merchant account set up through these services|
|Convenience Checks||3% - 5%||Not recommended. See our section below for more details|
|ClickPay||Property managers decide fee|
In most cases, you need the landlord’s cooperation for this kind of payment to work. Most services require both the tenant and the property owner/manager to register for an account. A select few will simply take your payment and mail a check to your landlord on the tenant’s behalf.
Should You Pay Rent with a Credit Card?
The main benefit of paying your rent with a credit card can come from using a rewards credit card. If you earn cash back, miles or points with each transaction, the payment can offset some of the cost. However, if you are charged a fee for the transactions, you will almost always be walking away with a net loss. Most credit card rewards will not exceed 1.5% to 2% returns on something like a rent payment. Therefore, you will still be losing about 0.9% on the transaction.
Credit card bonuses are the only exception to the above. If you use a rent payment to hit the requirements for a sign-up bonus, you are likely to walk away with more in return than the fee took out. On the low end, most cash back bonuses are worth around $100 to $150. If you are using a travel rewards credit card, those can climb to well over $1,000. Therefore, if all you’re paying is a $30 fee, you will still be getting a lot more out of the transaction.
This should be a last-ditch effort to earn your bonus. It is always preferable to earn credit card bonuses through traditional purchases, since they will not be eating away into your total returns.
You Shouldn’t Allow Rent Payments to Max Out Your Credit Card
Using a credit card to pay your monthly rent can hurt your credit score. One of the main factors in calculating your FICO 8 score is something called “credit utilization”. This looks at the percentage of your total credit line that you utilize month-to-month. Though there is no clear consensus, most experts agree that using more than 60% of your available credit limit can hurt your FICO score. Keep this in mind when you decide to pay for rent with a credit card. Those who are concerned about their credit score should only do this if the rent will max out their credit card, or even get above 60% utilization.
Why You Shouldn’t Pay Rent Using Credit Card Convenience Checks
Credit card convenience checks count as cash advance transaction. This is a different from ordinary purchases and comes loaded with heavy fees. Cash advances also tend to charge extremely high APR. The average cash advance APR is around 25% and it doesn’t come with any grace period. That's around 7 to 8 percentage points higher than the average purchase interest rate. When you make a regular purchase on your credit card, you are given some period of time to repay the debt without incurring any interest charges. This is typically 25 days from the date of purchase. With cash advances, the interest charges begin accumulating from day one.
The other important thing to note is the cash advance fee. You will be typically charged anywhere between 3% and 5% for simply using it. This is significantly more expensive than all the other methods you could use for paying your rent with a credit card.
To find out more about cash advances and how they work, check out our in-depth guide on the topic.
Other Electronic Rent Payment Options
If you are looking for alternatives to paying rent with cash or check, you have other options than just credit cards – many of which come with significantly lower fees. Many banks allow online bill pay, which can sometimes be set up to include rent. If your landlord supports this type of feature, you can use prepaid cards and debit cards to make payments.
As we mentioned, the major advantage of these systems is their significantly lower cost. For example, Chase bank’s online bill pay is free to use for customers.
You can also use debit cards to pay rent using some of the services outlined in the beginning of the article. These can have fees associated with them as well, however they will be significantly lower than using a credit card. It’s not uncommon for debit card fees for rent payments to be a flat dollar amount, as opposed to a percentage of the total bill.