Using online rent payment is one of the best things a landlord or property manager can do. As explained in a MySmartMove blog post, online rent payment can decrease late payments, save you and your tenants time, and prevent mail fraud.
Are all online rent payment services the same? The short answer is “no”.
Landords and tenants today have a ton of choice when it comes to collecting and paying rent online. The selection of online rent payment options is vast and can range from a very simple money transfer app to full service property management software. Some services are free while others have a sizeable monthly fee. Each option comes with varying bells and whistles. Considerations such as cost, simplicity, and support play a role in determining the best solution for landlords and their tenants.
We’ll take a look at the best options and point out how online rent payment services are not all the same. Let’s get started . . . .
Summary of the Best Online Rent Payment Services
|Service||Pros and Cons|
|ClearNow||+ Focused online rent payment service|
+ In business since 2000 with an “A+” BBB rating
+ $14.95/mo for one tenant. $2/mo each additional tenant. Rent payments received in 3 business days.
+ Email and phone customer support
+ Tenants can build credit history for paying rent
+ Enroll at www.ClearNow.com
|Cozy||+ Focused online rent payment service|
+ Website transitioning to Apartments.com in mid-2021. At some later point, Cozy.co website will cease.
+ $2.99/mo for each tenant processed for 3 business day processing
+ Email only customer support
+ Tenant rent payments no longer reported to Experian credit bureau
+ Enroll at cozy.co
|RentPayment||+ Focused online rent payment service|
+ Company sold in 2020. Now a subsidiary of MRI Software.
+ Pricing depends on volume. Need to speak to sales. Targets larger apartment complex with pricing tool.
+ Chat and ticket support
+ Enroll at www.rentpayment.com
|PayPal||+ General money transfer service|
+ Both tenant and landlord have to have PayPal accounts.
+ Same day transfer times
+ Pricing is similar to credit card fees (about 3% of the amount transferred)
+ Enroll at paypal.com
|Zelle||+ General money transfer service|
+ Same day transfer times
+ Tenant and landlord have to have bank accounts on the Zelle network.
+ Tenants can make partial payments.
+ Pricing is free for users with Zelle accounts. Zelle may limit total amounts that can be transferred.
+ Enroll through a bank that is part of the Zelle network.
|Buildium||+ Full service property management software – more features than just online rent payment|
+ Pricing starts at $50/mo. There is an additional $99 one-time fee for online rent payment and a $1/payment fee.
+ Knowledge base support and telephone number for sales
+ Does not allow tenants to build credit history
+ Enroll at www.buildium.com
|Rentec Direct||+ Full service property management software – more features than just online rent payment|
+ Pricing starts at $35/mo
+ Telephone customer support
+ Does not allow tenants to build credit history
+ Enroll at www.rentecdirect.com
A Detailed Look at the Best Online Rent Payment Services
ClearNow: ClearNow is a focused online rent payment service. Serving landlords and tenants since 2000, ClearNow will directly deposit funds three banking days after the tenant’s debit day. For a monthly debit, ClearNow starts at $14.95/month. This fee includes the debit of one tenant. Additional tenants are $2/month.
Unique among all online rent payment services, ClearNow has an owner proceeds feature where property management companies can directly deposit tenant funds to the property owner’s bank account for just an additional $2/tenant.
Beyond online rent payment, ClearNow provides landlords with various reports including a Schedule E Helper report for tax time. With ClearNow, landlords can record income and expenses, screen tenants, and esign leases. In 2011, ClearNow was the first online rent payment service to allow tenants to report payments to Experian. So tenants can build a credit history with their ClearNow rent payments. Unlike other services like Cozy or RentPayment.com, ClearNow provides telephone and email support, so you can talk with a person if you wish.
Cozy (soon Apartments.com): Online rent payments from checking accounts are free with Cozy, but landlords have to wait 5 business days to receive funds. Landlords can pay $2.99 per tenant per month to reduce the wait to 3 business days. Cozy offers other services like marketing rentals and maintenance requests. Unfortunately, Cozy has stopped rent reporting to Experian, so tenants using Cozy for online rent payments will not receive the benefit of building a credit history. And if you need any help, Cozy has a help center with articles (more like Q&A), or you can contact Cozy by email. Cozy does not offer any telephone assistance.
RentPayment: Similar to ClearNow and Cozy, RentPayment focuses primarily on streamlining rent collection. While they specifically address serving the largest property management companies, RentPayment is available to landlords, too. For 1 to 250 tenants, RentPayment charges $4.95/ACH transaction, 0.95% for debit cards, and 2.95% for credit cards. If you have more than 250 units, you’ll have to request a quote.
Like Cozy, RentPayment has been undergoing ownership changes. RentPayment.com was sold in 2020 and is now a subsidiary of MRI Software. RentPayment’s customer support page emphasizes chat and support tickets for customer service.
PayPal: PayPal is a widely used online payment service, most famous initially as a payment method for successful Ebay auctions.
PayPal has an option called PayPal Invoicing where recurring payments can be processed. PayPal does, however, charge for this service – close to 3% of the amount processed. On a $2,000/mo rent, a landlord may pay almost $60 to receive one rent via PayPal. PayPal transfers can occur quickly – though PayPal does sometimes hold onto funds a little longer before a business can move it out of their PayPal account and to their bank account.
Zelle: Technically considered a money transfer app, Zelle enables tenants to transfer rent payment directly to the landlord’s bank account. Zelle requires both landlord and tenant to have a bank account that is part of the Zelle network. Generally speaking, money transfers occur within minutes, and generally Zelle does not charge sender or receiver (some Zelle banks do charge small businesses).
While fast and free, some landlords may not prefer Zelle as a method of rent payment. Tenants initiate the payment and may not pay rent in full thus making it difficult to recoup the full amount due or even evict if necessary. Some states prevent eviction if partial payments are made.
Additionally, depending on your bank, Zelle may limit transfers to $1,000/day or $5,000/mo.
Buildium: Considered full service property management software, Buildium provides landlords with a spectrum of tools to manage rentals, including record keeping, maintenance requests, and online rent payments.
Unlike Zelle, Buildium is not free. Buildium offers three packages with the lowest package starting at $50/month. All packages have an online rent payment feature. After an initial one-time $99 application fee for online payments, landlords are charged $1.00 per transaction to receive funds for the lowest priced package. Transactions to receive funds are waived for the more expensive packages which start at $160/month and $460/month, respectively.
Rentec Direct: Similar to Buildium, Rentec Direct is full service property management software that includes online rent payments. Starting at $35/month, Rentec Direct offers two products depending on if you are a property owner or a property management company. The monthly cost is based on the number of units managed. Both products include online rent payments for no additional cost.
In addition to online rent payments, Rentec Direct enables landlords to screen tenants, manage maintenance requests, and synchronize financial data with QuickBooks.
If you are a landlord with a few properties, Buildium and Rentec Direct may be overkill because of their higher fees. In addition to cost, Buildium and Rentec Direct do not furnish rent payment data to credit bureaus to help tenants build a credit history. Credit reporting is a bonus for tenants paying rent online.
Landlords who question the value of full service property management software may lean towards a service with a focus on online rent payment, like ClearNow, Cozy, or RentPayment.com.
There is a lot of choice for online rent payments, and each choice has its pros and cons for landlords and tenants. For someone new to online rent payments, some important things to consider beyond price and customer support options are (a) how long will it take to get my funds, (b) how long has this company been in business and what are their reviews, and (c) how do my tenants benefit from this service.