Should I Pay My Roommate’s Rent With a Credit Card?

Mar 29, 2017

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

“Reader Questions” are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.

TPG reader Riles has an interesting situation involving roommates, rent and the Chase Sapphire Reserve…

I live with two roommates who sublet from me. They pay me their shares and then I pay the landlord. Is it worth the 2.95% credit card fee to put the rent on my Chase Sapphire Reserve considering I pay one-third of the rent but receive all of the points?

TPG Reader Riles

Excellent question, Riles. First, it’s important to note that whenever a fee is involved for using a credit card to make a purchase or pay for a service, it means the points aren’t “free.” And when the points aren’t free, it only makes sense to pay that way if the cost of the points is significantly lower than what you can redeem them for later. So it’s vital to make some calculations before proceeding.

In this case, the Chase Sapphire Reserve earns Ultimate Rewards points that TPG currently values at 2.1 cents each. However, Riles’ landlord charges a 2.95% fee for paying by credit card, which means that Riles is effectively paying an extra 2.95 cents for each dollar of rent. Since we only earn a basic 1x for paying rent, that means we’re effectively paying 2.95 cents for each point. Unless you know for certain you’re going to get more than that for a specific redemption, that’s not a good deal and you’d be better off paying with cash.

But in this case, the situation is a little different. Since Riles is getting two-thirds of the money from roommates, the points are tripled. Does that make it worth it?

Not really. Because even though the points are tripled, the 2.95% fee is charged on the entire purchase amount, not just Riles’ share. So unless we’re getting the roommates to also kick in their share of the fee, we’re still paying 2.95 cents for each point.

It might be easier to think about this by using sample dollar amounts. Let’s say the entire rent is $3,000 with each roommate paying $1,000, so that’s 3,000 Ultimate Rewards points. But we’re paying an $88.50 fee for the charge (2.95% of $3,000), not a $29.50 fee. It’s still paying 2.95 cents per point for points that are only worth 2.1 cents each.

Now, if we weren’t talking about rent but instead a 2.95% fee for booking travel, the calculations change somewhat. Because travel on the Chase Sapphire Reserve gets a 3x category bonus, you’d be getting 9,000 points for $3,000 in charges but still only paying a fee of $88.50. In that case you’ll be paying just slightly less than 1 cent per point for points that are worth 2.1 cents each on average. That’s a better deal, though you’d still want to consider if paying cash and not being charged any fee at all makes more sense than accumulating points at a cost.

The other situation in which it might make sense to pay a fee is if you’re working on meeting the minimum spend for a sign-up bonus. Since the bonus on most cards is tens of thousands of points, it might make sense to eat the cost in order to reap that large pot of extra rewards. But again, the best choice is always to use your credit card on purchases where there’s no fee at all, so you should only do this if you’re concerned that your normal monthly spend isn’t going to be enough to make it to the bonus threshold.

So unless you’re working on a sign-up bonus, Riles, or can get your roommates to cough up an extra $29.50 each so you can earn cheap points, you’re probably better off using a check to pay the rent. Thanks for the question, and if you’re a TPG reader with a question you’d like answered, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or send an email to

Featured image courtesy of itakdalee/Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new card in the first three months of card membership. Offer ends 11/10/2021.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 Bonus Miles and 10,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer expires 11/10/2021.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below 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.