We recently asked our Instagram followers how their landlords want rent payments made, and 45% of people responded saying that their landlord wants it via check. The Federal Reserve conducted a huge study about how people spend money and found that only 3% of the population says they prefer checks over other methods of payment - and you probably won’t be surprised to hear that the people who said they like checks were mostly over the age of 65.
Obviously it’s much more convenient to pay your rent electronically. If you live in a large apartment building, your management company may have a website that allows you to make payments with a bank account or debit card. For the rest of us, what are the other options? Whether you’re sending rent to a roommate or straight to your landlord, does paying rent with a quick, user-friendly payment app have any risks? Hint: Yes. It’s risky.
Before we break it down, it’s important to mention: NEVER send money through a payment app to secure an apartment that you aren’t sure is legit. Sending money to someone you don’t know using any of these apps tis basically the same thing as announcing on the internet that you would like to be scammed and defrauded.
Venmo is the wildly popular, PayPal owned, “instant” money transfer app of millennial dreams. The company has had it’s fair share of problems with scammers. The biggest issue with paying rent by Venmo? The app’s website specifically recommends that you don’t, meaning they won’t cover you if anything goes wrong. Their User Agreement says that to use Venmo for business payments, you have to apply to receive a special authorization on your account.
Unlike other payment apps, Venmo offers zero buyer or seller protection. The transfer of funds on Venmo only seems to happen instantly. When you send or receive a payment through Venmo, you have actually scheduled the money to change hands the next business day. Scammers know this, and they take advantage of it - often and in large amounts. If you think you’ve found a great person to sublet your room and they send you the security deposit through Venmo, they could potentially cancel the payment after you hand over the keys - leaving you with a squatter and no money.
Harmless payments can also be flagged and delayed for seeming innocuous reasons, which is bound to leave your landlord upset if he’s waiting for rent money. Venmo has a list of terms that will get your payment flagged - mentioning ‘ISIS’ or even paying someone with a Middle Eastern name has gotten accounts frozen in the past.
If a transfer isn’t flagged, it can take one to two business days to hit the recipient’s account. For an extra $0.25, some users can withdraw the money immediately to a connected debit card.
PayPal is one of the internet’s oldest payment services, and your landlord is more likely to be familiar with it than Venmo. There is the option to pay for “goods and services,” for a fee of about 3% that provides PayPal’s purchase protection. Unfortunately, the first thing on the list of items not covered by PayPal’s purchase protection is real estate. If you make a rent payment through PayPal and there’s a problem, filing a dispute with PayPal will not be much help and you could end up losing your money.
Withdrawals can take anywhere from three to five business days, which means you don’t have a lot of wiggle room on the day you send your rent payment if you want your landlord to get it on time.
Cash App, owned by credit card processing service Square, is a newer payment transfer app (promoted heavily by rapper Lil B on Twitter). The app’s site specifically touts it as a good tool to use for paying rent to your landlord, but like PayPal, it’s recommended that the payment be marked as a “business payment,” incurring a fee of 2.75%. If your rent is $1000 a month, you’d need to send $1027.50 to make sure your landlord gets all his money.
One problem with using Cash App is that most payments are completed instantly and can’t be cancelled. If the person you’re sending money to uses the app already, the app automatically accepts the money into their account and you can’t cancel the payment. The website recommends you send a request to get the money back, and it’s totally up to the recipient whether they will return it or not. The site recommends you contact the Cash App support team if you think you’ve been a victim of fraud, but what exactly they’ll do to fix it isn’t made clear.
Most withdrawals from Cash App take one to three business days, but users can withdraw immediately for a fee of 1.5% the amount being withdrawn.
Paying rent electronically through a payment app may seem simple and easy, but the risks associated aren’t worth the perceived convenience. In most cases mentioned above, to protect your purchase, you have to pay extra. In some cases, purchase protection isn’t even offered.
What are the alternatives?
There are low risk electronic payment systems out there that are much more reliable. Any rent payment made through Caretaker to someone you haven’t met yet is covered by our Listing Guarantee, which means we promise that you’ll never lose money to a scammer if you pay for an apartment on our site
Some landlords are stuck in the prehistoric age and will never agree to accept rent via electronic deposit, instead preferring a check. In those cases, we’ll send a check for you. It’s easy - you connect your bank account or a debit or credit card, tell us how much your rent is and your landlord’s address, and we’ll the check on time every month.
By the way
Caretaker exists purely to solve problems like these. Use it to get out of your lease quick, or find a new place for as short or as long as you'd like. And if you've made it this far, reward yourself by checking out some memes.