From everyday purchases to splurges, consumers often turn to credit cards. Some even reach for the plastic to pay the rent. But is paying rent by credit card a good idea? And can you pay rent with a credit card even? The answer to both questions: It depends.
Whether you can pay rent with a credit card largely depends on your landlord’s rules, though there are potential workarounds. But even if you can figure out how to pay rent with your credit card, there are pros and cons to paying rent with a credit card that you’ll want to consider.
Do Landlords Allow Payment by Credit Card?
For renters tempted to reach for the plastic, the first likely question is whether this mode of payment is even accepted. The answer to whether you can pay rent with a credit card will depend on the landlord, though many do not allow it.
The reason many landlords don’t allow it is because accepting credit card payments causes them to incur fees. Due to how credit cards work, credit card transactions are subject to fees that are set by the financial institution that issues the card, the companies that partner with the financial institution (like Visa and Mastercard), and the processor responsible for securing and carrying out the credit card transaction.
The amount of these fees depend on a number of things, including the merchant’s total sales volume and how credit cards are processed. Businesses that process between $10,000 and $250,000 in credit card payments annually pay between 2.87% and 4.35% per transaction, according to Square. This means that if a tenant were to charge $1,000 in rent, the landlord would net about $957 to $971 — unless the cost of credit card processing was extended to the renter in the form of a surcharge. To avoid that bite, some landlords do not permit credit card payments for rent.
Even when a landlord does not allow people to pay rent using a credit card, there may be workarounds via third-party apps. These apps effectively charge renters a fee to convert their credit card payment into a form of payment their landlord accepts. Fees can range from 2.75% to 3% of every rental payment. Additionally, the landlord often has to agree to the arrangement.
Pros of Paying Rent With a Credit Card
There’s a famous old saying: “Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.” But there are some scenarios when charging the rent might make sense. Here are some of the potential pros of paying rent with your credit card.
Rent schedules are typically fairly rigid, with payment due at the same time each month. Though this regular schedule can be a boon for budgeting, it can be challenging for gig workers or anyone else with irregular pay periods that don’t line up with when rent is due.But if a cardholder charges the rent, that money becomes due only when their credit card bill is due, providing greater flexibility on the actual payment date.
However, it’s important to stay strict about honoring your credit card due date. Making late credit card payments can result in credit card interest charges, late fees, and even a hit to one’s credit score.
As such, individuals may want to leverage credit cards for flexibility only if they are sure they’ll have the money available when their credit card payment becomes due. In other words, even if charging rent to your credit card offers more flexibility, it’s still necessary to budget for rent each month.
While there are many basic credit cards on the market, there are also cards that reward people for spending. Rewards can come in the form of cash back, points that can be redeemed toward travel and other perks, and airline miles. For those with reward credit cards, paying rent by credit card can represent a great opportunity to rack up spending and earn those perks.
However, it’s important to do the math. Third-party fees or credit card payment surcharges can cancel out any benefit a cardholder may earn, or even ultimately cost more if fees are greater than the reward offering.
Cover Immediate Expenses
If you’re short on cash, paying rent with a credit card can buy you some time. By putting what’s likely one of your largest expenditures on your credit card, you can free up funds for more immediate expenses. Then, you’ll have a bit of time to restock your bank account by the time your credit card bill comes due.
If you do this, however, you’ll want to make sure you’re ready to pay off your credit card balance in full by the end of the month, rather than just the credit card minimum payment. Otherwise, you’ll end up accruing interest on top of the money you’ll still owe for rent.
Also take notice if you regularly charge the rent out of necessity. If you do, this merits taking a closer look into the root causes. You’ll want to figure out how you might address those issues in your monthly budget instead of constantly relying on your credit card for backup.
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Cons of Paying Rent With a Credit Card
Charging the rent can be a risky proposition, given what a credit card is. Here are additional reasons why paying rent with a credit card may not be a good idea.
There May Be Extra Fees
As discussed, some landlords and third-party payment companies may tack on a surcharge for credit card payments. Let’s say the surcharge is 3%, or an extra $30 on $1,000 in monthly rent. While that may not sound like much, it adds up to $360 a year — money some individuals may prefer to spend elsewhere.
Landlord surcharges aren’t the only cost that can make it more expensive to pay rent by credit card. Making a credit card payment even a day late can increase the total amount due, thanks to interest charges and late fees. And the later the debt — in this case, rent — is paid off in full, the more interest that will accrue.
Though interest rates vary by credit card, they are often higher than other lending products, like personal loans. The average credit card annual percentage rate is over 21%. Worse, the interest compounds, so each month that cardholders do not pay off the rent in full, they’ll incur interest on both the balance and the interest that has accrued.
It Can Affect Credit Score
If you put your rent on your credit card but then don’t handle your credit card debt responsibly, it could have negative implications for your credit. Behaviors like regularly missing credit card payments can lead you to have a bad credit score, which can have serious repercussions down the road.
Your credit score reflects your creditworthiness, or the risk you pose to lenders. The number (300 to 850 for the FICO® Score and VantageScore models) affects how likely it is for you to be approved for another credit card (or a mortgage or other loan) and the interest rate you’ll have to pay. You may also need to maintain a minimum credit score to rent an apartment.
Because rent tends to be a significant expenditure in most people’s budgets, you’ll want to ensure that you’ll have the funds on hand to pay the balance in full if you do choose to charge the rent.
It Can Increase Your Credit Utilization Rate
Even if you make your payments on time, paying rent with a credit card can still affect your credit score. That’s because scores are based in part on an individual’s credit utilization ratio, which is the proportion of credit being used relative to the total available amount.
When it comes to credit utilization, the lower the better. Individuals with high credit utilization are at risk of hitting their credit limit (which can also ding their credit score). With rent likely making up a large proportion of the average individual’s expenditures, such payments can significantly increase total credit utilization. The same principle applies to other major charges as well, such as if you were to buy a car with a credit card.
Should You Pay Your Rent With a Credit Card?
Whether to pay rent with your credit card ultimately depends on your financial situation. As discussed, there are some major downsides to paying rent with your credit card, such as paying extra fees and potentially harming your credit score. You could even get into a cycle of debt if you charge your rent and then aren’t able to pay off your credit card balance in full to avoid interest charges.
If you do decide to move forward with paying rent with a credit card, proceed with caution. Do the math to make sure the rewards you may earn will actually offset the cost of any fees you’ll incur. Also verify that you’ll have the funds available within your monthly budget to pay off your accumulated credit card balance, especially since a hefty charge like rent can drive up credit utilization.
Steps for Paying Rent With a Credit Card
How you’ll pay rent with a credit card depends on whether your landlord will directly accept credit card payments for rent or whether you’ll need to go through a third-party app.
• If your landlord does accept credit card payments: In this case, you’ll either pay your landlord directly or through an online payment portal. You’ll need to provide your credit card information, including your account number, expiration date, and CVV number. Make sure to verify the total amount. Also check to see whether there are any fees involved and if so, how much those will run.
• If you need to go through a third-party app: Renters who need to go through a third party in order to pay rent with a credit card will first need to set up an account with one of the apps that provides this service. Make sure to find out what fees are involved before proceeding. You’ll then complete your credit card transaction through the intermediary, which will then pass along the funds to your landlord, either with a check or directly to their bank account.
Alternatives to Paying Rent With a Credit Card
Paying rent with a credit card is more like a last resort than a go-to option. If you’re wondering how to pay rent when you’re in a bind, here are some alternatives to consider:
• Borrow money from family or friends: If you’re really in a pinch, consider asking a trusted family member or friend if they can lend you the funds. This will save you interest, and it will also save your credit score from the impact of a hard credit inquiry. Just make sure to reach an agreement about how and when you’ll pay back the money — otherwise, it could negatively affect your relationship.
• Talk to your landlord: If you’re really struggling to come up with rent for the month, consider reaching out to your landlord. Especially if you’ve been prompt with rent payments in the past, they may be sympathetic and offer a little breathing room. Just make sure to come up with a plan in the meantime, as a break on rent won’t last forever.
• Reach out to rental assistance resources: Another option for those who are having a hard time making rent payments is seeking out assistance. There might be local nonprofits, charities, or even government groups in your area that can offer help to those in need. You may also look into resources like 211.org or the CFPB.
Can you pay rent with a credit card? Sometimes. But is it a good idea to pay rent with a credit card? If all of the numbers make sense, it could be. You’ll want to weigh both the potential pros of charging your rent to a credit card, like possibly earning rewards or gaining flexibility, against the downsides, such as possible repercussions for your credit score.
If paying with plastic is tempting, your choice of card can make a big difference in the ultimate benefits you receive. The SoFi Credit Card, for instance, allows you to earn generous cash-back rewards and possibly lower your APR through on-time payments.
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