Paying Rent With a Credit Card (When it’s a Good Idea) [2019]

Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. 

There’s been an explosion in services that offer to handle rent payments over the past couple of years and it’s become one of the most popular methods of racking up points. In this article, I’ll walk you through everything you need to consider before making a rent payment with a credit card.


Can you pay rent with a credit card?

Yes, it is possible to pay your rent with a credit card but there are certain factors that you want to consider before doing it to make sure that you’re not costing yourself extra money.


Should you pay rent with a credit card?

Whether or not you should pay rent the credit card depends on a few factors. Take the following factors into consideration and you should be able to easily determine if paying rent is a good idea or not.

No fee payments

There are some unicorn landlords out there who do not charge a transaction fee when you use your credit card to pay your rent. Consider your self very lucky if you have one of these because they are very rare to find. But if you are lucky enough to have one of these then paying rent with a credit card absolutely will make sense.

Flat-fee payments

Some landlords will charge you a flat fee for credit card payments. This fee might be somewhere between $25 and $35 and so if your rent is on the higher side, the transaction fee can be quite low from a % perspective. However, some flat fees can be priced outrageously so be on the lookout for those.

Also, some landlords may process different fees for different types of cards (e.g., Visa, MasterCard, etc.), so you may want to check to see what the fee is for different types of cards.

Sign-up bonuses

The most worthwhile time to use a credit card to pay rent is when you are trying to achieve a credit card sign-up bonus. There are a few different types of bonuses that you might use rent payments to achieve.

Standard signing bonuses

Typically, you will have to reach a certain number of spend within a certain timeframe. For example, you may have to spend $3,000 within three months in order to achieve a 50,000 point bonus. When you are talking about credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, 50,000 points could easily be worth anywhere from $700-$1000, depending on how you value Chase Ultimate Rewards.

In that case, paying a 2.5% to 3% transaction fee is not a big deal because you are getting so much value from the sign-up bonus.

Tiered bonuses

There is also an ongoing trend where sign up bonuses are offering points for higher thresholds of spend over a longer period of time. For example, you may need to spend $10,000 over the course of six months in order to unlock a second tier of points, which is an amount much lower than the first tier.

These type of bonuses usually don’t offer quite as good of a return for your spend, but they could still be worth pursing in many cases. Expect the margins to be slimmer, though.

Annual spend bonuses

There may also be a bonus that you can obtain after spending a substantial amount of money in one year. For example, with the Hilton Ascend card you can earn a free night after $15,000 worth spending in one year. With the SPG Luxury Card you can earn Platinum Elite status after making $75,000 in purchases in a year.

Utilizing credit cards to meet those spend requirements could also be worth it despite the transaction fees that you will have to pay. You just need to have a good grasp on how much value those bonuses will net you.

I’d start by calculating what I’d pay in transaction fees over the course of a year and then ask yourself if you’ll get at least that amount of value from your bonus.

So If I’m spending $15,000 at a rate with a 2.5% transaction fee, I’d be paying $375 in transaction fees per year. If the reward is a free Hilton weekend night plus 45,000 Hilton points (worth about $225), then it could easily be worth it since it would be like paying $150 for a free weekend night with Hilton which could easily be worth over $500.

Always keep in mind the opportunity cost of seeking out other bonuses, too. 

Bonus spend

There are some credit cards that are worth using even when you are not meeting a minimum spend requirement and do not receive a special bonus earning rate. Generally, these are going to be cards that offer transferable points to travel programs.

For example, the American Express Blue Business Plus is one of the best cards to use for your rent payments because it earns 2X per dollar spent up to $50,000 per year. If you value American Express Membership Rewards anywhere close to two cents per point then that is like getting 4% back on your purchase.

Other times it will be much closer. For example, with the Chase Freedom Unlimited you’ll earn 1.5X on your purchases and if you value Ultimate Rewards at 2 cents per point, then that’s a 3% return which is still higher than most services.

Of course, those involve subjective valuations so be mindful that you might be overestimating your valuations.

When dealing with some of the most common cash back cards like the Citi DoubleCash that offer an excellent 2% back, those usually do not offer a lucrative enough return for your rent payments. And since their cash back rate is not subject to interpretation, it is very easy to determine whether or not it is worth it to use those cards.

Retention offer

And finally, It could be worth it to put a lot of spend on your card if you are confident that you will receive a retention offer at the end of the year.

For example, if you had a card like the American Express Platinum Card and put a lot of spend on it, you might get a nice retention offer of 20,000 to 50,000 Membership Rewards. Those points could outweigh the amount you pay in fees per year if you stack the points you earn from that spend on top of the value of a retention offer, then that could easily be worth more than the transaction fee you have to pay.


Credit score

Paying rent on your credit cards can also increase your utilization which is 30% of your total FICO credit score. If you’re paying rent on your credit card you might need to pay off your credit card before your statement closes so that you don’t end up closing your card with a high balance and tanking your credit score.


Lates fees

Some landlords may charge you 10%+ for late payments.

By using a credit card, even as just a back-up plan, you can put your rent payment on your card and save by effectively paying a “reduced” late fee which would be the amount of the transaction fee which should be under 3%.

This can also help you stay on good terms with your landlord since you won’t have to broadcast your financial situation to them if things get tight.


Selecting your company

Is the company legitimate?

With so many new start-ups popping up all over the place, you need to be extra careful about choosing the service you choose to go with.

Since you’re dealing with rent payments, chances are that the payment is going to be high and you don’t want some of your funds to get stuck in limbo. If you’re dealing with a company that doesn’t have a proven track record, that’s a real risk.

You’re also not going to want to have to deal with delays. Even some of the more established companies sometimes have issues processing their payments so again only go with proven companies.

What is the transaction fee?

This is really the most important question. These payment services will charge a fee that is usually 2.5% to 3% in order to process your payment.

This can significantly alter the value proposition for these cards so you need to be mindful about them. However, as shown above there are definitely some instances when it is worth it to just eat this fee.

Who has to sign-up?

Some services don’t require both parties to sign-up but some will require your landlord to sign-up in order for you to make a payment. Trying to convince your landlord who may know nothing about the services to sign-up could be a challenge.

Do they have a on-time rent guarantee?

Many of these services now offer a rent guarantee. Basically if there are any hiccups in the payment/postal process they go ahead and cover the late fees.

What type of cards do they take?

Not every service will accept every issuer. For example, it’s not uncommon for some services to not accept American Express.

How do they send payments?

Many of these services will simply cut a check to the landlord but others may require a direct deposit to the landlord. If a direct deposit is involved then the landlord will likely need to join the program which could cause some issues if they are not open to the idea.

What do the purchases code as?

In the past, some of these services have coded as travel for certain cards. For example, in the past we saw some RadPad payments code as travel for the Sapphire Reserve and the Chase Ink Preferred code as 3X with Plastiq.

This is a huge advantage because it meant that in some cases you could earn triple the points and rent payments become a very lucrative way to earn points.

These bonus rates aren’t sustainable which is why they tend to go away but you never know when they might pop back up again.

Do they offer special promotions?

It’s not uncommon for these services to offer special promos that allow you to make payments for reduced transaction fees. Always keep an eye out for these promotions.

Do they offer referrals?

Services like Plastiq allow you to earn fee-free dollars which can be used to offset the transaction fees, allowing to you to essentially make payment for free. Keep en eye out for these referral programs and try to recruit others so that you can mitigate your transaction fees.

Are there issues with cash advances?

Sometimes some of the services will process as a cash advance at least initially. So to prevent any confusion, you may want to lower your cash advance as low as possible. Otherwise, you could get hit with a fee or even interest.


Different credit card rent payment services

Here are a few of the different companies that you might want to look into. Overall, I definitely recommend Plastiq above the others but I’ve included links to some other payment services so you can see how Plastiq compares and stands out.

  • Plastiq
  • Flip.Lease
  • RadPad
  • Urbanr
  • Venmo

Plastiq

  • 2.5%
  • Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American express with strings attached

Plastiq is probably the most well-known service for paying rent with the credit card right now and it is the service that I would likely go with. That is because of the lower transaction fee of 2.5% and the fact that it has been around for a while. It also has a good referral program so that you can easily knock down those transaction fees by earning those fee free dollars.

Plastiq is also a great service because you can send checks for other payments beyond just rent. One thing that I really also like about Plastiq is that it is very clear and straightforward. They advertise the transaction fee in the types of credit cards accepted on the front page while a lot of these other rent services try to hide the transaction fee information.

Plastiq is unable to process American Express cards outside of the permitted industries:
 
  • Government
  • Utilities
  • Education
  • Residential Rent
  • Club Fees & Memberships
If your payment type is unsupported for American Express cards, other payment methods may still be used, including MasterCard, Visa, and Discover payment cards.
 
Here is a small list of categories not approved:
 
  • Mortgages
  • Student Loans
  • Automobile payments
  • Business invoices
  • Contractors
  • Business Utilities and more

Flip.Lease

  • 2.99%
  • Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American express

RadPad

  • 2.99%
  • Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express

RadPad was hot when it coded as travel but it went through some tough times 2016 and eventually came back in 2017. It’s one of the more well-known payment services but with Plastiq offering 2.5% fees, I don’t see a reason to choose RadPad over Plastiq.

They’ve since been acquired by Priority Technology Holdings and maybe we’ll see future bonuses in the future. They also offer other services for finding houses and apartments as well.

Urbanr

  • 1.5%
  • Visa, MasterCard, Discover

This service is a little bit different because it has one of the lowest transaction fees but a lot of strings attached. The fees are set at 1.5% but there are arrangements weren’t the landlord could pay half of that or all of that. I’m not sure the percentage of landlord to agree to pay such fees but I would imagine that it is very low.

Venmo

  • 3%
  • Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express

Venmo Allows you to make any types of payments to other individuals who signed up for Venmo. It is one of the most common payment method symbol likely work with a lot of small landlords if you can convince them to sign up. You might also look into Paypal or Square.


Final word

Before choosing to pay rent with your credit card make sure that you think through all of these factors to ensure that it’s worth it in your individual situation. As long as you do the math and choose a legitimate service to go with, paying rent with your credit card can be a great idea.

UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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