Should you use a credit card to pay rent?
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The biggest monthly expense for many households is the rent. The average rent in the United States is approximately $1,200 per month, so using a credit card to make your rent payment could theoretically mean getting a nice chunk of cash back or travel rewards each month.
Unfortunately, you typically can’t swipe your credit card to pay your rent, at least not without being charged a fee that offsets most if not all of the value of any rewards you’d earn. But there are actually a few ways to use your credit card to pay your rent that make sense — one of these methods doesn’t even charge a fee, while other options have fees that could be worth paying under some circumstances.
So put your checkbook aside and consider whether you should pay your rent using a credit card to earn rewards by utilizing one of these four methods.
Bilt Mastercard is a relatively new no-annual-fee credit card with one main focus — it’s designed as a way to pay rent without a fee. In fact, it’s currently the only credit card that offers renters the opportunity to pay for their biggest monthly expense at no cost and still earn rewards. Best of all, any landlord can be paid with a Bilt Mastercard, even if they don’t accept credit cards — and also for no fee.
The Bilt card was originally introduced back in June, but the company recently announced several changes to the way its card holders earns rewards. You’ll earn 3 points for every dollar you spend on dining (including food delivery services), 2 points per dollar on travel when booked directly with an airline, hotel, car rental or cruise company and 1 point per dollar on all other purchases, including up to $50,000 in rent payments per year.
Even better, for the first 30 days that you’re a card holder, you’ll earn 2 points for every dollar you spend in the non-bonus categories, which is double the normal amount. This is essentially the card’s sign-up bonus, as it doesn’t have a typical large welcome bonus for new card holders.
The one major caveat to the Bilt card is that you must have a minimum of five transactions per statement period in order to earn any rewards. So if you’re looking to primarily use this card to pay your rent, you’ll need to make sure to swipe it at least a few other times throughout the month on additional purchases as well.
When it comes to redeeming Bilt points (which are called Bilt Rewards), the easiest option is to use them toward your rent itself — 1 Bilt point is worth 0.55 cents when redeemed that way, That may not sound like a ton, but if you’re paying $1,200 a month in rent, it adds up to nearly $80 back in your pocket each year.
Or, if you’re planning to buy a home of your own in the future, you can hang onto your Bilt points for now and use them toward a down payment when you’re ready to make the purchase. You can potentially get a lot more value for your Bilt points this way — up to 1.5 cents per point.
However, if you want to use your points now and you’re willing to do a little extra work, you can transfer your points to any of Bilt’s nine airline and hotel partners, which include American Airlines, Air Canada, Air France/KLM, Emirates, Turkish Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, and the hotel chains IHG and Hyatt. Bilt points transfer to all of these travel partners at a 1-to-1 ratio, meaning for every 1,000 Bilt points you transfer, you’ll get 1,000 points or miles in the airline or hotel program.
Once you transfer points to a travel partner, you’ll need to book your flight or hotel using that partner’s award system, which means finding available award space and potentially being flexible with your travel dates. But it also means you can get outsized value for your points, since it’s not uncommon to find redemptions that are worth as much as 1.5 to 1.7 cents per point, and sometimes even more.
The Bilt Mastercard offers several other intriguing benefits, such as cell phone insurance, purchase protection, rental car insurance, trip cancellation and delay coverage, up to $60 per year in Lyft credits, up to $120 per year in DoorDash credits and Mastercard World Elite Concierge services.
Plus, the company also has its own elite status program, with your status level based on the number of points you earn in a calendar year. Here are the four Bilt elite status levels with the perks you’ll have access to at each level and the number of points you need to earn within a calendar year to get status.
Of particular interest is the opportunity to actually earn interest on your Bilt points. For those with Silver, Gold or Platinum elite status, Bilt will pay interest in the form of points to a member’s Bilt Rewards account every month, based on their average daily points balance for each 30-day period and using the National Deposit Rate for savings published by the FDIC. You can learn more about this and the other status benefits directly on the Bilt Rewards site.
Bilt currently has a waiting list to get its card, but applicants that use the code EABILT921 will be able to skip the waitlist and apply immediately. Go to biltrewards.com/waitlist and enter your email and contact info to join the waitlist, then use the code when you’re prompted for an early access code. Note that this code is limited to the first 100 applicants who use it, so you’ll need to move quick if you want a Bilt card now.
Plastiq is an online bill payment site that allows you to use a credit card to pay many different types of merchants that typically don’t accept cards, such as rent. While Plastiq is one of the least expensive bill payment options, unfortunately it’s not free — and with a standard fee of 2.85%, many times it’s not worth the cost.
The only reason to use this service is if you’re getting more than 2.85% in value from the rewards you’re earning by using a credit card, or if you’re trying to reach the minimum spending requirement to earn a big sign-up bonus on a card you recently opened.
For example, one of our favorite travel credit cards for beginners is the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which currently has a record-high 100,000-point bonus offer for new card holders. However, to earn that bonus, you need to spend $4,000 on the card within the first three months after opening the account.
Let’s say you typically spend around $950 a month on your credit card — after three months, you’ll have spent a total of $2,850 on your everyday purchases. But if your rent is $1,200, you can also pay one month’s rent through Plastiq to make it to the $4,000 total. While you’ll spend $34 in fees to make that payment, the 100,000 points you’ll earn from the sign-up bonus are worth at least $1,250 toward travel.
There are also instances where it can make sense to use Plastiq on a card you already have. The Discover It® Miles card earns 1.5% cash back on everything you buy, but your rewards are doubled at the end of the first year you have the card. This means you’re earning 3% cash back on all purchases, including rent paid through Plastiq — a 0.15% gain over the fees you’d pay. Again, it doesn’t sound like much, but over the course of a year, it could add up to hundreds of dollars depending on your rent.
Or consider our benchmark credit card, the Citi® Double Cash Card. It earns 2% cash back on everything you buy — 1% when you make a purchase, and another 1% when you pay it off. While that’s well below the fees you’d pay for using Plastiq, there’s a way to increase the value of your rewards.
If you also have a Citi Premier® Card, you can convert your Double Cash rewards to Citi ThankYou points and then transfer them to any of Citi’s 16 airline partners. And when you redeem Citi points this way, you can get a lot more value for them than you would by just taking cash back. In fact, frequent flyer website The Points Guy values Citi ThankYou points at 1.7 cents apiece, which means you’d effectively be earning a 3.4% return on your rent purchase when using the Citi Double Cash card — which beats the 2.85% Plastiq fee by a decent amount.
You can use a credit card if you pay your landlord using Venmo, but you’ll pay a substantial fee.
Venmo is a popular fee-free app for sending money to friends, and many landlords already accept rent payments via Venmo. But instead of having Venmo withdraw money from your bank account when you send it, you also have the option to use a credit or debit card. The bad news is that Venmo charges a 3% fee for using a credit card, making it an even more expensive option than Plastiq.
However, there’s actually no fee for using a debit card on Venmo, and while most debit cards don’t offer much in terms of rewards, there are a few that earn small amounts of cash back, such as the Delta SkyMiles World Debit Card from SunTrust bank and the Discover Cashback Debit card.
So if you have a debit card, this is the perfect opportunity to look into its rewards program to see if you’ll earn anything in return for paying your rent with the card.
This might sound like an obvious option, but some apartment buildings or complexes run by large management companies allow you to pay your monthly rent directly by using a credit card. However, it’s important to check if your landlord charges a fee for this service. If there’s no fee, then you’re in business, but if there is a fee, you’ll want to calculate whether the rewards you’ll earn from using the card are worth more than what you’re being charged.
Also, since “rent” isn’t a typical bonus category on most credit cards, you’ll want to use a card that earns a high return on everyday purchases. This makes credit cards such as the Citi Double Cash, the Chase Freedom Unlimited and the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card your best options.
Find out which cards CNN Underscored chose as our best credit cards of 2021.