Updates: 25 September 2020 – I have made it clear that this is an Australian article and amended some wording, and updated the calculations to hopefully make it clearer. Given I am no longer in Australia, I no longer use this service. With the imposition of caps on Credit Card interchange fees, there has been a significant reduction in the awarding of loyalty points, which will clearly have an impact on the value you can derive from such a service.
RentalRewards – Paying for Rent via Credit Card
RentalRewards is a company that allows you to pay for your rent on Credit Card with a catch – they charge you surcharges, fees, and membership fees.
Is it worth it? If you’ve got the right card, yes. The right card (for me) just so happens to be the American Express Explorer, so yes it is absolutely worth it for me!
In the post below, I have broken down the points you’d expect to earn at $500/week and I also share tips to maximise points and minimise fees. Read on for more detail!
RentalRewards – Paying for Rent via Credit Card
In line with the whole “put all your expenditure on a Credit Card“, being able to put your rental expenses on a Credit Card would be absolutely incredible… and it’s actually possible.
There aren’t many real estate agents that accept Credit Card payments for rent, and that’s where RentalRewards come in. I’ve been using their service for over a year.
RentalRewards acts as a middleman between you and your real estate agent, accepting rental payments with Credit Cards on your behalf and forwarding these funds to your real estate agent. They’re also affiliated with Qantas (RentalRewards/Qantas).
They apparently also have some sort of rewards club/section (according to this word document), but I have never seen any other mention of it.
Firstly, some pre-requisites and tips.
- You must be renting from a registered real estate agent. Use this link to find out if your real estate agent is registered.
- This means it can’t be a “cash only” situation where you’re paying for a room from a mate
- It is highly recommended you have a high points earning/rebates Credit Card (such as the AMEX Explorer) for this
- This allows you to not only earn points on your rental payments, but also maximise interest free days
Their charges are not clearly set out anywhere on their website. The closest I could find was in this word document, and even then, it does not spell it out quite as clearly as below. This is from an official email I received from RentalRewards.
- Amex 1.10% + $2 for payment below $500
- Amex 1.10% + $12 for payment below $3000
Amex 1.76% for payment above $3000
Visa/MasterCard 1.10% + $2 for payment below $3000
Visa/MasterCard 1.76% for payment above $3000
Bank – One-time setup fee of $1.51
BPAY – $1
Quarterly Membership Fee – $15 – charged on the first day of December/March/June/September. Pro-rata for the quarter at the end of your joining month.
- Failed Payment Fee – $15
The list of fees above actually don’t quite conclusively highlight what the optimal way to structure these payments is.. but I’ll help you with that. It’s just a game of maths.
Example – AMEX Explorer Credit Card, Weekly Rent: $500/wk
Let’s say I have an American Explorer Credit Card and my weekly rent is $500.
If I pay $500 exactly through RentalRewards every week, I’ll be paying $500 + 1.1% surcharge + $12. This is because the wording is “below $500″, so as soon as the amount is $500 or higher, I get put in the next bracket.
How can we get around this?
The fee is consistent for any payment you make ranging from $500-$2999.99.
My recommendation: Pay $2999.99, cop the 1.1% surcharge and pay the $12 payment fee.
You’ll effectively be paying for 6 weeks of rent in advance ($500 * 6) instead of paying it week by week, but this allows you to optimise the fees you’re charged.
There’s generally no reason a real estate agent or landlord would refuse to accept rental payments so far in advance. In addition, I would imgaine most real estate agents have systems in place that automatically calculate how much the rent you’ve paid actually “buys” you. If they do not have such a system in place, this recommendation probably won’t work well, as this would likely result in confusion and/or significant manual calculations required.
Total cost? $3044.99. Broken down into:
- The $2999.99 rental payment
- A 1.1% surcharge on $2999.99 ($33)
- A flat $12 fee
Paying $3000 (or more) will cost you $3052.80 – an extra $7.80 for paying an additional $0.01 – hardly worth it!
Don’t forget the $15/quarter fee (or $60/yr)
Total points earned? 6090 AMEX Explorer Points = equivalent to 3045 points in the majority of the Frequent Flyer programs.
Let’s annualise this:
- $500/wk rent or $26000/yr
- A rental payment of $3000 (2999.99 to be exact, as above) will “cost” you $45 in transaction fees
- 8.666 lots of $3000 rental payments will cover your yearly rent, which would net you
- Membership Fee $15/qtr, or $60 annually
- Transaction Fee: $45 (transaction surcharge) * 8.6666 (number of $3000 payments to cover your annual rent) = $390 – this is the total annual cost of your in transaction fees
- Annual Fees (Membership + Transaction Fees): $390 (transaction fees) + $60 (annual membership fee) = $450 per membership year
Given that $1 = 2 Membership Rewards points, you’re earning 52000 points ($26000) on your rental payment, and 900 points ($450) in fees. You would have paid the $26000 in pure cash otherwise, so you’re effectively paying $450 in fees for 52900 points.
Is it worth it..? I’ll let you do the maths. I haven’t factored in:
- Cashflow benefits (interest free days – money can sit in your account for longer to either earn you interest, or offset a mortgage)
- 1000 Qantas Frequent Flyer points for your first payment and ongoing per membership year. It is mentioned here, here, and here
- Missed payments/late fees/other charges
Keep in mind:
- There’s no real reason to use a bank account to pay for your rent. There is no bank account that earns you any points of any significance to be worth even a $1.51 one-time set up fee
- There is supposedly 250 Qantas points to be earned for the first time you sign up and pay with a bank account and 250 Qantas points for each subsequent year. I guess 250 Qantas points for $1.51 is not bad – it’s just not a substantial amount.
- The BPay option may be useful, but I haven’t figured out how to use it. If it’s actually $1/payment, there might actually be value in it,
- BPay is not available for American Express cards
- For you as a customer to truly benefit from using this service, you absolutely need to be using the right card. If it weren’t for the American Express Explorer, I would not use RentalRewards to pay for my rent as the fees would not be worth it.
Paying for your rent on Credit Card. Who would’ve thought?!
To be completely honest, their fees aren’t cheap. They’re a business after all; but if you’ve got a card that gives you such a strong earn rate per dollar spent, then it might just be worth it!