Launched in the US towards the end of June, the Bilt Mastercard seems to be something of a game changer. While it can be used like any other credit card to cover everyday costs as needed, the major draw on this card is that it allows users to earn rewards on their rental payments, as they pay no transaction fees or annual fees.
How does that compare to paying rent with a credit card here in Australia? Firstly, there are no credit cards in Australia dedicated to the purpose of paying rent. Secondly, if you do want to pay rent with your credit card, you will likely pay a fee to a third-party payment processor for the privilege. On top of that fee, you will also pay an annual fee on your credit card.
If the main reason you want to pay rent with your credit card is to earn rewards, you will have to work out whether the points you earn on those payments are worth more than the amount you pay out in fees. With the right card and the right payment processor, it could work in your favour. And, you may enjoy other benefits along the way, such as building credit.
In this post, we’re going to look at the various third-party payment processors you can use to pay rent with your credit card, to then dig deeper into the pros and cons of choosing this option. From there, we’ll get into how you can make the most of the arrangement, including how to avoid certain pitfalls, such as falling into debt and ruining your credit.
Before we jump into how you can use your credit card to cover your rent here in Australia, let’s take a quick look at how the new Bilt Mastercard works. While it may not be available to us here, it can act as a useful comparison so we can see what we’re not getting as Aussie cardholders and rent payers.
First up, most US renters are in the same position as Aussie renters. If they want to pay rent with their credit card, they typically pay a service fee between 1-3%. This not only means paying with card results in them being out of pocket, it also significantly reduces the value of any rewards they receive as a result of paying rent with their card.
Using the Bilt Mastercard, on the other hand, cardholders will be able to cover their rent – and any other costs – without paying transaction fees or annual fees. On its site, Bilt says its Mastercard is “the first card to waive transaction fees for both the cardholder and the property owner, in addition to offering cardholders rewards points at no cost”.
In terms of rewards earning, cardholders earn points according to their status within the Bilt Rewards program. Rent payments offer two times the points earn of everyday spending.
And points redemptions? Cardholders have the option of transferring points to more than 100 airline and hotel programs at a ratio of 1:1, or to redeem points for fitness classes or art and home décor items through the Bilt Collection. Perhaps most appealing of all, cardholders can redeem points for rent credits, or put them towards a deposit on their home when they choose to buy.
Another benefit touted by Bilt is that its Mastercard allows cardholders to build their credit with every rent payment. As the company states, rent payments are not typically reported to credit reporting agencies, but with Bilt Mastercard – and its automatic credit reporting – cardholders can benefit from their on-time rent payments, building their credit score to make it easier to apply for a home loan later on down the line.
Last on the list of pretty cool things the Bilt Mastercard has to offer is the fact that Bilt requires all cardholders to pay off their rent bill each month before charging another month’s rent to the card. This prevents them from diving deeper into debt. Bilt notes that cardholders have the option to draw rent payments from a linked bank account instead, to still earn points on the transaction.
The way in which Aussies can pay rent using their credit card has been put under the microscope over the past few weeks, after Scott Pape – better know as the Barefoot Investor – put third-party payment processor Rental Rewards to task.
With more than 2,000 ‘agent clients’ across Australia, Rental Rewards provides a payment processing service that allows renters to pay rent with their credit cards and pick up rewards.
As you might expect, this service comes with a fee, which is what Pape wanted to bring to the attention of his followers. In his post on the subject, he cited evidence from a reader saying she had paid $78 a year in fees, but pointed out that some credit card options work out to be an extra $312 a year.
Rental Rewards hit back at Pape’s claims, describing “certain statements” in Pape’s column as “incorrect, misleading and deceptive”, and threatening to sue both Pape and News Corp.
But, while the idea of paying for a service doesn’t have to be an issue – as long as cardholders are aware of what they’re paying – what may cause problems is the fact that some rental agents seem to not be providing renters with an alternative way to pay that doesn’t involve coughing up fees.
Under Fair Trading rules, rental agents are supposed to provide reasonable no-fee alternatives to their fee-based payment options, such as Rental Rewards. However, there are those who claim that there are some rental agents who are stretching what could be termed ‘reasonable’, by providing alternatives that are simply not practical.
“We’ve had examples where people are given the option of paying cash at the realtor, but the property is on the coast and the agency is in Sydney,” Leo Patterson-Ross, the chief executive officer of the Tenants Union of New South Wales, told the Guardian.
Other so-called reasonable alternatives could include paying by money order, which would require the renter to go to the post office a week in advance of every rent payment, to then pay a fee for the money order to be processed.
|TIP: In case you were wondering about your rights as a renter, here’s what the ACCC had to say on the matter: |
If a real estate agency or third-party processor “represents to consumers that they must pay a specified rent amount, but fails to adequately disclose that payment processing fees will be charged in addition to this rent amount, this may be misleading or deceptive conduct in breach of the Australian consumer law”.
“Further, if a real estate agency or third party payment processor represents to consumers that they will be charged a payment processing fee, when part of this fee represents commission paid to the third party processor, this may also be misleading or deceptive.”
Okay, back to payment processors. In Australia, using a third-party payment processor is the main way you are going to be able to use your credit card to cover your rent. Yes, they charge fees. But, are those fees worth it?
Offered by Citibank, Citi PayAll provides a way for Citi credit cardholders to pay rent and other bills. To use the service, you simply access the Citi PayAll portal through the Citi app, enter the recipient’s BSB and account number, and set up the transaction either as a one-off or recurring payment.
In terms of points earning, Citi credit cards earning Citi Rewards Points can earn 1 point per $1, while cards earning on the Citibank Qantas Rewards or Emirates Skywards Rewards programs can earn 0.5 points per $1.
From 1 April 2021 to 31 October 2021, Citibank has reduced its PayAll fee to 0%. Outside of this offer, the standard fee on all PayAll transactions is 2%.
Let’s say you pay $400 a week in rent. Paying rent via PayAll (with its standard 2% fee), you would pay out $20,800 in rent, plus a fee of $416. This would give you 20,800 Citi Rewards Points or 10,400 Qantas Points. So, what does that equate to in dollar terms when you redeem your points?
In the Qantas Store, you could pick up a Kambrook 2 Slice Stainless Steel Toaster for 10,260 Qantas Points, with a RRP of $59.95.
Alternatively, assuming borders were open, you could fly Sydney to Melbourne one-way in Economy for 8,000 Qantas Points plus $36.60 in fees. To cover the cost of this flight in cash, you’d pay around $109 for a mid-week flight in August.
Created by Macquarie Bank, DEFT allows users to make one-off and recurring payments using their credit card, as long as the recipient is registered as a DEFT biller.
Some things worth noting include:
Let’s say you have a Qantas Premier Platinum Credit Card, which allows you to earn 1 Qantas Point per $1, capped at $10,000 per statement period. Your $20,800 yearly rental costs would provide you with 20,800 Qantas Points, at a cost of $312.
Flying Qantas Economy mid-week in August, you could fly Melbourne to Christchurch for 18,000 Qantas Points plus $156 in fees. Paying cash only, this flight would cost $347.
Alternatively, you could redeem 20,860 Qantas Points in the Qantas Store on a Breville The Original 74 Jaffle Maker, RRP $119.95.
The previously mentioned Rental Rewards is a payment processor with a specific focus on rental payments. Using Rental Rewards, you can pay any real estate agent in Australia, making either a one-off or recurring payment.
In terms of cost, this varies depending on how your account is set up, which card you choose to pay with, and whether the payment is one-off or recurring.
Looking at direct debit fees, the set-up fee is $1.51, the fee for using Visa or Mastercard is 1.45% of the transaction value, and the fee for using American Express or Diners Club is 2.65% of the transaction value.
For members, there is a set-up fee of $1.51 and an ongoing monthly membership fee of $5. Card payment convenience fees come in at 1.1% of the transaction value, on top of a $2 card transaction fee. Premium and corporate card fees have a $10 per transaction fee over $499.99.
Card payments over $2,999.99 attract a lower fee of 1.76%.
Using your NAB Qantas Rewards Signature Credit Card, you earn 1 Qantas Point per $1 on your $20,800 yearly rental costs. This equates to 20,800 Qantas Points.Let’s say you pay rent weekly. You are a member, so you pay $2 each week on each transaction, plus 1.1% of the transaction. This is an extra $6.40 per week, or $332.80 per year. You also pay $5 per month as a member, at a cost of $60 per year. Overall, that’s $392.80 in fees.
While easyshare is marketed as a service that allows renters in a house-share to more easily manage rent and other bills, it can also be used by renters simply as a way to pay rent using a credit card.
There are no membership fees to use easyshare, but you will pay a service fee on your payment, based on the type of card or payment method you use to pay.
For credit card or debit card payments, there is also a one-off charge of $0.01 to verify the card. Other potential costs include a $35 chargeback fee if you request a chargeback, and a $15 account reactivation fee if easyshare deactivates your account for any reason.
RentPay describes itself as “a secure, portable payments and planning app, just for renters”. As such, it lets you set up recurring payments to cover your rent, ensuring your payments are made on time, with minimal effort on your part.
In terms of costs, you will pay a $3 initial set-up fee to cover your ID verification, then a $2 ongoing monthly fee. Using RentPay, you can by direct debit at no additional cost, via BPAY at a cost of $1 per transaction, or by credit card, paying 1.25% using Mastercard or Visa, or 2.5% using American Express.
Using your ANZ Frequent Flyer Black Credit Card, your $20,800 annual spend on rent would give you 20,800 Qantas Points. On this spend, you would pay out $260 in service fees to use your card, plus $27 in monthly and set-up fees. Overall, this comes to $287.
What fees would you pay using an American Express card within each of these examples?
Time now to look at reasons why you may choose to cover your rental payments with a credit card.
☑ You can earn rewards.
If you don’t own your own home, then you have to pay rent. You might as well get something back on all that money you’re throwing at your landlord, right? With a rewards card, you can earn points back on your rental costs, which you can then redeem for rewards you really love. Like a holiday.
☑ You can hit the spend target on a bonus points offer.
Instead of using your card to buy stuff you don’t need, you can cover your rent with your card, allowing you to meet the minimum spend criteria on your bonus points offer quicker and easier.
☑ You can build your credit.
By paying rent with your credit card, you could build your credit. Using your card regularly – and paying off your balance on time each month – should see your credit score improving over time. It’s worth noting that some third-party processors offer a credit building service, where you pay a fee to have your rental payments reported to the credit reporting agencies.
And now, some reasons why paying with card may not be such a good idea.
☒ You are paying out fees.
As you can see from the above examples, you will pay fees to pay rent using your credit card. It’s up to you to work out whether the dollar value you get from the points you earn on your rent is higher or lower than the amount you are paying in fees to process the transaction. Be sure to take into account annual fees on your credit card as well.
☒ You’ll reduce your available credit limit.
If your credit limit is relatively low, you may not have much left to play with once you have put your rent on your card. Unless you can increase your credit limit, your only other options would be to spend less on your card (limiting your points earn), or to pay off your rent payments after they’ve been processed.
☒ You’ll pay through the nose in interest.
If you don’t pay off your balance at the end of the month, you will have to pay interest on the carried over balance. Not only is this expensive and unnecessary, it will further reduce the value of the rewards you earn. And, if you let that debt stack up month after month, you run the risk of getting in over your head.
☒ You could destroy your credit score.
If you fail to make your card repayments on time, that will be reported to the credit reporting agencies. Late and missed payments are recorded on your credit report, bringing down your credit score to make it harder to get approved when you apply for more credit in future.
If you’re set on paying rent with a credit card, there are ways to make it work.
Founder of Creditcard.com.au. Roland has extensive knowledge about credit cards in Australia. Known as a credit card expert, he has been featured on tv and in various publications. Some popular offers on our site right now include the ANZ Low Rate. This special offer has no annual fee first year, a low purchase rate and long 0% balance transfer. Have a look also at the huge 0% for 30 months balance transfer from Citi with no balance transfer fees.
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