Why Don't Landlords Accept Credit Card Payments for Rent?
You’re not alone if you've been denied when trying to pay your rent with a credit card. The vast majority of rental offices and landlords don’t accept credit cards. Instead, they prefer cash, automatic withdrawals from a bank account, post-dated checks, or even money orders over plastic. But why is this? What benefit does a property owner have for not accepting credit cards when it’s so incredibly easy and
Instead, they prefer cash, automatic withdrawals from a bank account, post-dated checks, or even money orders over plastic. What benefit does a property owner have for not accepting credit cards when it’s so incredibly easy and efficient?
Quick answer: It costs money to accept credit card payments. Landlords and property managers prefer not to pay for these card processing fees.
It’s not necessarily that property managers and landlords can’t accept credit cards. In fact, services like Square have made it easier than ever for them to accept card payments. The reasons have more to do with expense and legislation. Find out why and how people don't like to accept credit cards for rent payments.
Credit card chargebacks are common and they pose a major headache for people collecting rent. It is possible for any credit card holder to dispute a charge, particularly if it’s for a larger charge like rent. While this service is intended to prevent and fix issues with fraud or stolen cards, unfortunately, some people abuse it.
In the event that someone who is renting is able to convince the credit card company that they didn’t approve the charge, the charge can be reversed and the rental property owner would be out the money for that month. This can also become costly for the property owner.
Issues With the Date Paid
Rent, for many Americans, is due on the first day of each month. For some, it may be due every two weeks, every week, or every three to six months. Regardless of the length of the lease, one thing is widely true: every lease has a specific date on which the payment is processed. Rental providers rely on this income when budgeting for everything from their own salaries to maintenance for the building.
Unfortunately, credit card companies don’t necessarily fully process payments on the day the card is used. There can be (and often is) a gap of approximately 3 to 5 business days before the merchant has the money in hand. This can lead to problems for the rental property provider if he or she doesn’t maintain a float account and emergencies arise.
Questioning Whether the Tenant Actually Paid
Should a payment not process on time, the landlord could also assume that the tenant didn’t make the payment at all. In some jurisdictions, that’s enough to begin processing an eviction order. By the time the payment is discovered, the eviction order has already gone through and the landlord and tenant are both out money, time, and effort. Property managers must also consider the fact that tenants who want more time to pay or move may also claim that they’ve paid and it’s in processing even though it’s not true.
Property managers must also consider the fact that tenants who want more time to pay or move may also claim that they’ve paid and it’s in processing even though it’s not true.
Costly Interchange Fees
It isn’t exactly affordable to be a merchant in many cases. Visa, Mastercard, and Discover all tack on fees to every single transaction you run through the system. If you use a credit card machine, you may also need to pay for the machine or access to the platform itself. All these fees can start to significantly cut into a landlord’s profits, making it financially questionable to offer the ability to pay rent by credit card.
All credit card companies charge what is known as an “interchange fee.” This interchange fee “is a small fee paid by a merchant's bank (acquirer) to a cardholder's bank (issuer) to compensate the issuer for the value and benefits that merchants receive when they accept electronic payments.”
If you’ve ever purchased an item at a small store only to encounter a small $0.50 fee to use your credit card, this is the merchant passing on the interchange fee to you. This fee has benefits and disadvantages. For major corporations like banks, it can help to reduce the heavy fees they would normally pay for issuing cards to end users. But it acts like a burden for small businesses and corporations, who must either swallow the fee or pass it on to those making payments. This includes tenants.
Expensive Percentage Deductions
Additional fees are extremely common in the industry. Merchant accounts often deduct between 2.5 and 5 percent of the total payment each time a payment is made on the system. For a landlord accepting a $500 payment, that’s a whopping $25 deducted every month, or $300 per year. Multiply that by 100, 200, or 300 (if the complex is large), and he ends up losing $30,000 to $90,000 per year for all of his apartments, assuming they all pay by card.
Keep in mind that many landlords don’t make an exceptional amount of profit, either. It costs money to keep a building running and in excellent shape. Although $25 a month might not seem like a great deal of money in the grand scheme of things, if you’re only making 10% profit each month from that $500 rent charge, that’s half of the property owner’s profit gone right there.
In most areas of the United States, credit card fraud is, unfortunately, an issue. So, too, is identity theft. It isn’t unheard of for people to steal someone’s identity and use it to rent an apartment. The moment they’re discovered, they simply cut ties and run – leaving the landlord in the lurch for everything the credit card company reversed.
Fraudulent use of credit cards also limits the landlord in how he can approach issues of non-payment or damage; most courts will consider the credit card owner the true payor, rather than the renter. It can be extremely difficult to determine exactly who is paying, and thus, who to hold responsible if non-payment or damage occurs.
What You Can Do About It
Many savvy credit card users want to pay their rent with their card in order to take advantage of travel rewards or cash back programs. This not only makes your payment a little less, but it can also help offset any additional fees you are charged for the rent payment. For instance, Citi® Double Cash and Capital One® Venture® Rewards cards essentially award as much as 2% rewards. If you can limit the fees you are charged and avoid paying interest by paying your balance in full, the rewards could be worth it.
Card users can also earn significant sign-up bonuses when they sign up for a new credit card. Many of these bonuses require you to meet a specific spending amount within a certain amount of time in order to qualify. For some people, it’s difficult to meet those spending requirements without payments like rent. And, some of these bonuses, depending on the credit card, are worth hundreds of dollars or free award flights. If this is the route you plan to take, make sure you are using a card with the best sign up bonus. As an example, the following cards offer valuable bonuses.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
New cardholders can earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 in the first 3 months. Depending on the cost of your rent, a couple of months could be enough to earn a bonus worth $625 in travel. Plus, you earn 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants and one point on all other purchases.
Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express
This card awards new cardholders a bonus worth $150 after spending $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months. This is an easy spend requirement to meet if you charge your rent to the card. You can also earn as much as 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets, 3% at U.S. gas stations, and 1% on other purchases.
The short and sweet of this question is that landlords don’t usually accept credit cards for rent because it isn’t in their best financial or liability-related interests to do so. But credit cards are still an excellent way to make payments. Remember: you can often use a credit card to buy a money order or cashier’s check and then use that to pay your rent instead.
For consumers, charging your rent to a credit card, even if the property owner allows you to, isn’t a great idea. Between the fees and the interest, you will likely be charged, your rental payment can end up costing you much more than it would if you just wrote out a check.
If, on the other hand, you prefer the option simply to automate your rent payments and eliminate paper, you should consider automatic bank transfers. Your bank will often work with the property owner to set up automatic debits each month, and it’s often free and easy to set up.