Money at 30: How to Pay Rent Using a Credit Card
Over the past few months, I’ve found myself spending (a concerning amount of) time on forums such as Reddit reading about credit cards and how people are using them to their advantage. As I’ve done so, one question I keep seeing come up again and again is “can you pay your rent with a credit card?” Well, as it turns out, the answer may be “yes” — although there are also some reasons you might not want to bother.
If you’re wondering about this eternal question then let’s take a look at some reasons why you might want to pay rent with a credit card, a few things to watch out for, and some of the services currently available.
Reasons You Might Want to Pay Rent with a Credit Card
Meeting a minimum spend requirement
There are several ways credit card issuers attempt to entice individuals into opening new accounts. One of the most popular methods is to offer a sign-up bonus of some sort. Often times these offers will take the form of “Spend $X in your first three months and earn $Y/points.” Given how lucrative these sign-up bonuses (or “SUBs” as many enthusiasts call them) and that you’ll only have one shot at scoring it, it’d be a real heartbreaker if you didn’t manage to meet the minimum spending requirement. Thus the idea of paying large bills, such as your rent, via a credit card might come to mind. This is especially true for premium cards where a SUB might require you to spend $5,000 or more in your first three months.
Obviously it’s always a good idea to consider minimum spend requirements and how realistic it is for you to reach them before applying for a new card. Nevertheless, if you are coming up short and looking for a solution to ensure you don’t miss out on a juicy SUB, you might just determine that using a service to temporarily pay rent with your card is a worthy investment.
Earning general credit card rewards
This one is actually a bit iffy but it belongs in this section because it’s most likely what brought you to the subject in the first place. If you’re like me, you’ve probably pondered the possibility of paying rent with a credit card in a bid to earn cash back or points on such a large monthly purchase. Unfortunately while that may be possible, as you’ll see the fees you’ll likely incur may well diminish or overtake the potential payback you’d get from such a scheme.
In most cases, unless you’re getting a discount on fees or have some awesome credit card that earns you more than, say, 3% back, this probably won’t be worth it.
Whether you’re a freelancer, small business owner, or just someone who’s endured some unexpected expenses, there may be times when you find yourself a little short on cash while waiting to get paid. In these cases, the ability to cover your rent — which is important to pay on its due date — with a credit card might buy you some time. That’s because credit card balances are typically not due for several weeks after the close of a given statement. This means you might not have to pay off your purchase until as many as seven weeks later.
A word of warning here: this can be a bit dangerous — especially if it lands you in long-term credit card debt. To be clear, in this example I’m suggesting that you still pay your balance in full when it is due so that you don’t incur interest. If the alternatives in your situation are personal or payday loans, perhaps using a credit card to essentially move your rent due date while you await your paycheck isn’t such a bad thing.
Considerations for Why You Shouldn’t Pay Rent with a Credit Card
Transaction and service fees
As I’ve already alluded to, the biggest problem with paying your rent with a credit card is that you’ll typically be charged a service fee for doing so. Those fees can range from 2.5% to 3%. In other words it’s quite possible that you may actually be spending more in fees than you get back from your rewards credit card. Multiply that difference times the number of months you plan on living in your current abode and you can see that making a habit of these services might end up costing you.
Interest and “cash advance” fees
If you’re going to use one of the services mentioned below, you’ll want to ensure that you’re paying off your credit card balance in full. Otherwise you’ll end up paying interest on top of the fees you’ve already paid for the “privilege” of putting your rent on a card. What’s more, if you’re not careful, you may even run into cash advance fees or cash advance interest rates that run even higher than normal. While most services say that your payments shouldn’t run as cash advances, accidents can happen and policies can change. Because of this I’ve seen several suggestions that customers should contact their card issuers ahead of time to see if they can shut down the ability to perform cash advances altogether.
Lastly something else to be mindful of if you’re putting large bills on your credit card is your utilization rate. Even if you have a credit limit large enough to accommodate adding your rent to your card, there’s still the chance that doing so could do damage to your credit score. That’s because experts recommend that you use less than 30% of your given credit limit — with lower utilization being even better. Admittedly this might be the least of your problems (and the positive payment history you can get from paying your balance off in full afterward can actually be a good thing) but it’s still something to keep in mind.
Services for Paying Rent with a Card
This is easily the service I hear the most about whenever the topic of paying rent or other non-traditional credit card-friendly bills (although I haven’t tried it nor any of the others on this list personally). Part of the reason for that is that Plastiq has one of the lowest fees for their service at 2.5%. Another factor is that they support payments with Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover, and Diner’s Club… to some extent. On that note, you’ll want to explore their FAQ to see what limitations certain cards may have if you plan on paying bills other than rent with your card.
Another reason that Plastiq is popular is because it doesn’t require your landlord to join as a participant. Instead it simply sends them a check on your behalf. Finally the company also has a referral program that could allow you to unlock discounted transactions — which would probably explain why word of mouth for the service is so strong.
You may have heard of RadPad as a way to find available properties but the company also offers the ability to pay rent with ACH, debit, or credit card as well. Like with Plastiq, RadPad says they’ll send your landlord a paper check, meaning they won’t need to sign up for anything themselves. The service also accepts the “big four” credit card options as well as Apple Pay. Meanwhile their fees for credit cards are a bit higher than Plastiq’s, currently coming in at 2.99%.
One feature RadPad offers that might be helpful for roommates is the ability to link your accounts together (after signing-up separately). That way you can see your share of the rent and its due date — although neither will be able to view the other’s credit card info. Then RadPad will send a single payment check to the landlord.
Other services offered by your property manager or landlord
Lastly, there are other options for paying rent via a credit card but they are actually offered by your landlord or rental company. For example PlacePay allows owners to offer their tenants the ability to pay with a card as do other smaller services. If your property participates in any such program, be sure to carefully research any fees associated with these payments to decide whether the convenience and possible rewards are worth it for you.
In theory, paying rent with your credit card sounds like a no brainer hack that will keep you swimming in rewards. Unfortunately the reality is far less exciting due to the various fees and other potential risks you may run into along the way. Of course the choice is always up to you — just be sure to weigh the pros and cons before signing onto one of these services for yourself.