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Paying rent and mortgages with a credit card

The Points Guy logo The Points Guy 3/9/2020 Jason Steele
a house covered in snow © Provided by The Points Guy
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There is no publicly available, fee-free way to pay your rent or mortgage with a credit card. Because of bank interchange fees, accepting credit cards without a surcharge would mean most banks and landlords would lose 2-3% of the mortgage payment or rent due each month. a sign on the side of a building: (Photo by Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images) © The Points Guy (Photo by Michael Short/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Nevertheless, it can still make sense to talk to your own bank or landlord about the way to pay for your housing that works best for you. Let’s look at the ways to pay your rent and mortgage with a credit card and earn big points and miles.

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Fee-free possibilities

There are rare apartment complexes and landlords who will accept a credit card via an online system or through their own business with no added fee. Consider yourself very lucky if you have this ability. Any time I’ve gone apartment hunting, this is actually a question on my checklist because of the potential value in a year’s lease. For example, if your rent is $1,200 a month and you pay with a Chase Freedom Unlimited earning 1.5% cash back (1.5x points when paired with an Ultimate Rewards credit card), after 12 payments you’ll have earned 21,600 Ultimate Rewards points, worth $432 based on TPG’s valuations. (Those cards are the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and the Ink Business Preferred Credit Card.)

Related reading: The power of the Chase Trifecta: Sapphire Reserve, Ink Preferred and Freedom Unlimited

Likewise, 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, making it more tolerable as a form of payment. Because of that legislation, most rewards-earning debit cards have disappeared, but you may find a few out there from local credit unions or a product like BankDirect or Bask Bank.

Options for paying rent or mortgage with a credit card

There are third-party service providers that will allow you to pay your rent, mortgage and almost any other bill with your debit or credit card. Fees range from 2.5-3% per credit card payment or 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:

Company Fees Cards Accepted
Plastiq Debit: 1%

Credit: 2.5% (occasional promotions)

American Express, Discover, Mastercard, Visa, JCP, Diners Club, pre-paid and gift cards
Radpad Debit: $4.95 for payments under $5,000/$9.95 for payments over $5,000

Credit: 2.99%

ACH (bank account) payments: Free

American Express, Discover, Mastercard, Visa, Apple Pay
PlacePay ACH payments: $1.95

Credit or debit: 2.99%

American Express, Discover, Mastercard, Visa
RentMoola Debit: $6.99

Prepaid debit cards: 2.99%

Credit (Visa/Mastercard): 2.99%

Credit (American Express): 3.99%

American Express, Mastercard, Visa
Venmo Debit: Free

Credit: 3%

 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.

When does It make sense?

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 three- or five-month time period. A hefty rent or mortgage payment can make meeting that minimum a lot more feasible. Otherwise, simply calculate the value of the points or miles you’ll earn to see if they are worth more than the fee you’ll pay.

Unless you need all the charges you can get to meet a minimum-spending requirement, extra fees make paying with a credit card a losing proposition most of the time. 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.

a man smiling for the camera: Online bill payment site Plastiq has the lowest fees for credit card payments and routinely runs promotions. © The Points Guy Online bill payment site Plastiq has the lowest fees for credit card payments and routinely runs promotions.

There is 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 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 points at 2.0 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). But better yet, you can now transfer your rewards to Citi ThankYou points. Since ThankYou points are currently worth 1.7 cents each according to TPG’s latest valuations, you could realize 3.4 cents in value per dollar charged, which is nominally more than the cost of the fees.

Caution

Besides not earning a higher value from the points you earn compared to the fee you pay, 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. These providers claim to all 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 is 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.

And most important, you should never be charging your rent or mortgage to your credit card in order 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.

Bottom line

Unless you’re blessed with a landlord accepting payments without a fee, there are only a few circumstances where I’d recommend paying your rent or mortgage with a credit card. 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, I would only pay your rent or mortgage with a credit card as a last resort to meet minimum spend on new credit cards.

Featured photo by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades for The Washington Post via Getty Images

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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.

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