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Using a credit card to pay your rent has its advantages. For starters, you don't have to go through the trouble of writing a paper check and waiting for it to be cashed.
Plus, it gives you flexibility. If your rent is due before payday, you can cover the expense with your card and pay yourself back when your paycheck arrives, all while avoiding an awkward conversation with your landlord about late fees.
Even if your landlord doesn't accept credit card payments, you still have options. Some rent payment services will facilitate credit card payments — for a fee. It’s convenient, though it may end up costing you more than you would have paid if you'd simply opened your checkbook. These days, though, you may be able to avoid such processing fees on rent payments, and even earn rewards on those payments, with the right credit card. (See below.)
How to pay rent with your credit card
Several options offer tenants the opportunity to make rent payments online. Some require your landlord’s involvement, while others don’t.
Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card
The $0-annual-fee Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card offers rewards when you use it to pay rent, and it doesn't charge a processing fee. Whether your landlord accepts payments directly as part of the Bilt Alliance or not, you can earn rewards on rent payments as long as you pay through the card's app. When you can't pay a landlord directly, Bilt sends a check on your behalf. Other purchases also collect points. You'll earn 5 points per $1 spent on Lyft, 3 points per $1 spent on dining, 2 points per $1 spent on travel, 1 point per $1 spent on rent, and 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. Rewards can be redeemed for a variety of options, such as rent, a future home down payment, travel, fitness, and home decor and curated art.
Note, however, that if you can’t pay off your credit card bill in full every month, interest charges will apply, and that will wipe out the value of any rewards you might earn. If you have a large rent payment, the balance and the steep interest charges can quickly cause finances to spiral out of control. It's also worth keeping in mind that to be eligible for rewards with the Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card, you’ll have to put at least five purchases on the card per billing cycle.
Plastiq lets you pay your landlord with a credit card, and it doesn’t require your landlord to have an account. You pay Plastiq a fee equaling 2.9% of your payment every time you use a credit or debit card. Payments can be made manually or scheduled automatically. Plastiq then cuts your landlord a check or delivers an electronic payment.
PlacePay, formerly known as RentShare, requires landlords to accept direct deposit. It charges a fee of 2.99% for every credit card or debit card payment, and a $1.95 flat fee per ACH payment — a payment made directly from your bank account. The platform allows roommates to split the cost of rent and choose their own payment method. You can schedule payments automatically or pay manually via the mobile app for iPhone and Android devices.
“Ask your landlord whether he or she already reports your rent payments to credit bureaus.”
“When a landlord reports rent payments to a credit bureau, it is presented as a separate tradeline or account on your credit report, much like an auto loan or a credit card,” John Danaher, president of consumer interactive at TransUnion, said via email. (TransUnion is a NerdWallet business partner.) “Lenders will review that, along with your other payment information, to determine your riskiness as a borrower. They will look favorably on consumers who demonstrate they have responsibly managed credit in the past.”
Factors to consider before paying rent with a credit card
Although paying rent with a credit card is convenient, it may not be the best move for your budget. Consider the following factors first:
Some rent payment services tout the opportunity to earn incentives for paying rent with rewards credit cards, but the cost of the processing fee can eliminate any reward earnings. If you have a rent payment of $1,000 and you’re paying a 2.99% processing fee, that’s an additional $29.90 every month.
For most cards, though, credit card reward rates vary and they usually won’t exceed the cost of the fee. One exception: Your rent payment can help meet the spending requirement for a hefty credit card sign-up bonus.
“Some rent payment services tout the opportunity to earn incentives for paying rent with rewards credit cards, but the cost of the processing fee can eliminate any earnings.”
Some of these services offer ACH payments for free, but of course you'll lose the flexibility of paying with a credit card. In some cases, ordering checks from your bank and paying your rent the old-fashioned way may still make the most sense.
It can be tempting to put rent on a credit card if you want to free up that money for something else, or if you can't afford it that month. But if you don’t pay your credit card bill in full every month, the interest payments on your ongoing balance can pile up. Add that on top of the processing fee for the convenience of using a credit card, and your total costs escalate.
Effect on your credit score
Paying rent with a credit card could affect your credit score by increasing your credit utilization ratio — the total amount of debt you have compared with the amount of available credit you have. If, for example, you have a $10,000 credit limit and a $5,000 balance, your credit utilization would be 50%.
Your credit utilization ratio is a key factor in your credit score, so typically you should aim to keep it low, generally at no higher than 30%. But putting thousands of dollars in rent on a credit card can temporarily push that ratio higher.
Of course, if you’re struggling or experiencing an emergency and have no other immediate option, it may be necessary to make such a transaction. Just remember that as long as you keep up with your bill and can pay it back over time, your credit score will eventually bounce back.
Still, aim to exhaust all other options before going that route.
“Paying rent with a credit card could affect your credit score by increasing your credit utilization ratio — the total amount of debt you have compared with the amount of available credit you have.”
If you want to pay rent with a credit card, consider doing it with the credit card that has the lowest interest rate, and try requesting a credit limit increase from your issuer first. And then, of course, pay off the amount in full every month, or contribute as much as possible.
Should you pay rent with your credit card?
If you're looking for flexibility and want to avoid the hassle of writing checks, paying rent with a credit card can be a good option — especially if you pay your credit card bill in full every month and you're earning rewards that can help defray the cost of convenience fees.
But if you have a low credit limit or your income is unstable, putting your rent on your credit card could be risky. It could hurt your credit score and your wallet if you fail to pay it off in time. Weigh the pros and cons and make the best decision for your situation.