5 ways to pay your rent or mortgage with a credit card
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Your rent or mortgage is likely one of your biggest recurring expenses. And as of now, there is only one publicly available no-fee option to pay it with a credit card.
Due to bank interchange fees, accepting most credit cards without a surcharge would mean most landlords and banks would lose 2%-3% of the mortgage payment or rent due each month.
One option that has emerged is Bilt Rewards, a new credit card and loyalty program that allows renters to pay rent with no fees at any apartment or rental unit and offers Mastercard World Elite benefits without an annual fee.
However, beyond this one card, there are several other ways to pay your rent or mortgage with a credit card and earn big points and miles. We’ll go over the different methods and determine when it makes sense to do so.
There are few apartment complexes and landlords who will accept a credit card via an online system or through their own small business with no added fee. Consider yourself very lucky if this applies to you.
Anytime you go apartment hunting, this should be a question on your checklist because of the potential reward value in a year’s lease.
For example, if your rent is $1,200 and you pay with a Chase Freedom Unlimited that earns 1.5 % cash back (1.5x points), after 12 payments, you will have earned 21,600 Ultimate Rewards points, worth $432 based on TPG’s valuations.
One new option is paying with the Bilt Mastercard. This no-annual-fee card is currently the only card that doesn’t charge any fees for rent.
After the first month, you can earn up to 2x on rent, with a limit of up to 4,000 points per month on rent spending (but unlimited earnings for non-rent purchases). Bilt points can be used toward a variety of redemptions, including transferring points to the following travel partners at a 1:1 ratio:
- American Airlines AAdvantage.
- Air Canada Aeroplan.
- Emirates Skywards.
- Air France-KLM Flying Blue.
- Turkish Miles&Smiles.
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club.
- Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles.
- World of Hyatt.
Sometimes, you may occasionally find a landlord or even a bank willing to accept a debit card for payment with no added fee. Debit card interchange fees have been limited by the Durbin Amendment in 2010, making it more tolerable as a form of payment.
Options for paying rent with other cards
Some third-party service providers will allow you to pay your rent, mortgage and almost any other bill with virtually any debit or credit card. However, fees range from 2%-3% per credit card payment, or there’s a flat fee for payments made with debit cards.
Here’s a chart of third-party payment providers that accept credit cards, along with the respective fees.
Services to pay your rent or mortgage with a credit card:
|Plastiq||Up to 2.85%||American Express, Discover, Mastercard, Visa, Diners Club|
|PlacePay||ACH payments: $1.95
Credit or debit: 2.99%
|American Express, Discover, Mastercard, Visa|
|RentMoola||Visa/Mastercard debit cards: $6.99
Prepaid debit cards: 2.99%
Visa/Mastercard credit cards: 2.99%
American Express: 3.99%
|American Express, Mastercard, Visa|
|American Express, Discover, Mastercard, Visa|
Some providers, including Venmo, require both landlords and tenants to register in order to use the service. None of the ones I have scanned have lower credit card fees than Plastiq, which is by far the most popular service. Plastiq will occasionally run promotions that cut down on this fee.
When does it make sense to pay a fee?
The easiest time to justify adding an additional fee to your rent is when you need to meet a minimum spending requirement to trigger a sign-up bonus — especially with cards requiring $5,000 or more in a certain time period. Some cards, such as the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, require you to spend $20,000 in the first 12 months from account opening to lock in the full-fledged 100,000 bonus miles.
A hefty rent or mortgage payment can make it a lot more feasible for you to meet the minimum spending requirements to earn a card’s sign-up bonus or welcome offer. Otherwise, calculate the value of the points or miles you’ll earn to determine if they are worth more than the fee you’ll pay. If the fees for paying with a credit card are greater than the earnings you accrue, it’s likely a losing proposition to pay your rent or mortgage with a credit card.
However, when Plastiq has promos, or if you get enough friends and family to sign up through your promo code (which gives you fee-free dollars), you can come out ahead.
Which credit card is best to pay your mortgage?
There’s a card that can make it worth your while during a promo or when you have fee-free dollars: The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, since it earns 2x Membership Rewards points on the first $50,000 you spend each calendar year (then 1x). If you were to use this option to pay a $2,000 mortgage through Plastiq during a 2% promo, you’d be charged a $40 fee and earn 4,080 points.
These points are worth $81.60 based on TPG’s valuations, which peg Membership Rewards points at 2 cents apiece — and you could get even more value from them if you transfer them to certain loyalty program partners. If you aren’t on the Plastiq email list, I suggest you register.
Another great option is the Citi® Double Cash Card, which offers up to 2% cash back (1% at the time of purchase and another 1% when you pay the bill). You can now transfer your rewards to Citi ThankYou points, which are worth 1.7 cents each, according to TPG’s latest valuations. Therefore, you could realize 3.4 cents in value per dollar charged, which is nominally more than the cost of the fees.
What to know before you pay rent or mortgage with a credit card
Besides not earning a higher value from the points you earn compared to the fees you’re paying, there are a couple of things to keep in mind when considering paying your bills through these providers.
The first is to make sure they don’t code as cash advance charges, which earn no rewards and have high interest rates. The services listed above claim to be set up to ensure it doesn’t happen, but I always call my card issuer and request the cash advance fee be lowered as close to $0 as possible before completing a payment.
Second, you should be mindful of the length of time it can take these payments to be completed. If the provider is mailing a physical check to your bank or landlord, you can’t request the payment the day before it’s due. Give yourself plenty of lead time and monitor the payment closely until you have confirmation it was received. You’ll want to allow at least a full week from when you initiated payment for your landlord or mortgage provider to receive your check.
And most importantly, you should never be charging your rent or mortgage to your credit card to finance a payment you can’t afford. As always, with rewards credit cards, you’re only going to come out ahead when you avoid interest charges by paying your bills in full and on time.
Unless you’re one of the lucky few that can pay your rent or mortgage fee-free, you’ll want to decide if using a third-party payment provider makes sense given the extra fees you’ll end up paying by using a credit card. Another new option is the Bilt Mastercard, but it’s important to do the math to see if that card makes sense too.
If you have access to a rewards-earning debit card, I’d inquire if Venmo payments count for your debit card rewards program and ask your landlord to accept payment via the app.
Otherwise, as a last resort, you should only consider paying your rent or mortgage with a credit card that charges a fee (if it makes financial sense) to meet the minimum spending requirements and earn a shiny new sign-up bonus or welcome offer.
Additional reporting by Jason Steele and Stella Shon.
Featured photo by Martin Barraud/Getty Images.
For rates and fees of the Blue Business Plus Amex, click here.
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