Rent Payments: Review of All Rental Software to Collect Rent Online

Rent collection used to be a time-consuming endeavor, but now that electronic rent payments are widespread, approximately 40 property management and payment apps are available to collect rent online. Which rent collection software or company is best? The answer depends on your market and the scale you’ve reached, and how you approach your business.

A hand reaches toward a laptop screen and out pops money. Licensed 123rf.

If only taking rent payments online were as easy as reaching for your monitor! There are lots of options to learn about. Licensed 123rf.

This article is not a review of property management software, although we do review the rent collection features of many property management platforms. That’s our first category. Additionally, we review apps and services designed primarily for rent payments and collecting rent online. That’s our second category. Finally, we also review generic payment platforms (like PayPal), so we can compare those to rental-specific software. We review all three categories here.

Note further that this is not a review of debt collection services. Although debt collection regulations may apply when attempting to collect arrears (past-due rent), we are focused on collecting rent from renters with whom you intend to have an ongoing relationship.

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Rent Collection Software or Services Should Match Your Business Size

Depending on how large a business you operate, your target rent collection software may be in one of the following groups:

  • Enterprise management software.
  • Management software.
  • Rent-specific software.
  • Generic payment software.

Each group has a different level of service or features. The order above is in order of target business size from large to small.

At the large end of the spectrum is “enterprise management software.” Anyone can use this, but likely there will be advanced features of interest only to large operators. Enterprise management software may have monthly minimums too expensive for small businesses. There may be a difficult setup process, as well.

At the small end of the spectrum is generic payment software. Anyone can use this, but since it was designed without real estate in mind, these payment apps may be too informal for established rental operators.

There are a variety of middle-of-the-road options. Rent-specific software will be custom tailored to excel at rent collection, but may not handle other common property management tasks like maintenance requests. Property management software may be a little jack-of-all-trades, offering maintenance requests and rent collection at some level.

A computer screen is behind a credit report showing a needle gage pointing to the "Good" section of a credit score range from bad to good. Licensed 123rf.

Rent payments can now improve a renter's credit score. Failure to pay as agreed with the landlord could negatively impact credit score, as well, on one service reviewed here. Licensed 123rf.

Rent Collection Software or Services Should Match Your Market

Rent collection software can be more or less robust to situations where a renter is short on cash:

  • Fragile rent collection methods leave it up to you to troubleshoot when a rent collection fails.
  • Middling rent collection methods have some features to help you through a failed payment.
  • Robust rent collection methods have lots of features to help both you and your renter keep rent debt as low as possible.

An example of fragile rent collection software is one that relies on a renter to log in and make a rent payment. This can work fine if your renter is organized and responsible. Another example of fragile software would be if the app tries an automatic debit once, but then leaves you to retry or chase the renter if payment fails.

Although we label it “fragile,” fragile software could work well for you depending on your market. Imagine your renter keeps a high bank balance. In this case, rent will never bounce. The only times you or your renter will think about your rent collection software or service may be when you first turn it on at lease start, and when you turn it off at lease end.

Middling rent collection software has some features that make it robust to renter hardship. The first, most obvious such feature is an automatic debit schedule. A second would be automatic retries, which are highly desirable feature. A third feature would be overdraft forgiveness. (Why charge an overdraft fee to you if you weren’t paid, or to your renter who has no money?) Other features could be to broker a payment plan or issue legal notice like “payment for use and occupancy only.”

Robust rent collection software and services will have procedures in place to address all these issues and more: chronic insufficient funds, communication breakdown, state and federal rental assistance, payment timing and amount, payment plans, and positive and negative credit reporting, to name a few. A robust rent collection service or software will be custom made for rental operators and managers.

Criteria We Used to Evaluate Rent Collection Software and Rent Collection Services

Given the above general classifications, the following attributes of rent collection software are considered desirable in all offerings:

  • Feature set.
  • Collection speed suited to your schedule.
  • Monetization transparency.
  • Price transparency.
  • Regulatory compliance.
  • Ability to operate where you own property.

Some of these are obvious. All are discussed below. Due to space constraints, we did not include each of these categories in our table. Double check everything about a rent payment service before starting.

Features

Some services are cheap with few features. Others are expensive but feature-rich. The best value for you will depend on the true costs and usefulness of the features to you.

A high value service will cater specifically to rental housing operators. There will be features specific to eviction prevention, renter relationship management or integration with property management software.

Collection speed

Bank transfers cannot clear faster than two business days. This rule has been set by the National Automated Clearinghouse Association (NACHA) to make sure banks have time to respond to debit and credit requests.

If a service claims to clear faster than two business days, make sure you understand what kind of network is being used. Some services use the credit card network, which clears before a transaction is issued. The credit card network is not the same as ACH, and typically charges 3% to 4%. Other services use a proprietary network following its own rules (e.g., Zelle; Zelle is not reviewed here because as of time of writing, the terms prohibit Zelle for business use).

If a service claims to take longer than two business days, then they may be making money on the delay or outsourcing their compliance. For example, a service may have an arrangement with their bank to receive interest on a daily basis. In this case, the service has a financial incentive to delay payment to you. Other times, a service may be outsourcing its anti-money laundering responsibility under U.S. law; in this case, the service must hold your funds until a third party says it’s safe to pay you. At least one service takes four business days for ACH for a third reason: they never upgraded their procedures when two-business day ACH became available in 2016.

Make sure you understand how long it will take to clear your funds.

Monetization transparency

It costs money to move money. If you pay a declared fee for a rent collection service, it’s a safe bet that your service charge is adequate to sustain the service. If, on the other hand, you don’t clearly pay anything (e.g., the service is “free”), it’s a safe bet that the service either is not sustainable, is earning interest by delaying your funds or is otherwise planning to sell or upsell your account or metadata. Make sure you understand the true costs and consider the price fair.

Price transparency

Price transparency means that you know what the service will cost and can predict how it will be used by your renters. Sometimes your costs are actually decided by the renter.

For example, many services allow the renter to choose whether to pay via a credit card, which has a high cost, or via bank transfer (ACH), which has a low cost. This choice is described as a “feature” or “convenience.” But giving renters this choice means you won’t know before you start using a service how much in dollar terms it will really cost.

Renters can often get points on their credit card, creating an incentive for them to select the credit card payment option without regard to whether it costs you more. In this case, ACH pricing on a “renter choice” service acts as a low anchor or distraction pricing. This means you may sign up expecting the low ACH cost, but over time you may find yourself paying the much higher credit card cost.

In our rankings, high pricing transparency is assigned only to certain services. The pricing page must clearly indicate all charges in one view. You as the manager or owner must be in control over which payment methods and costs are available to your renters.

Medium pricing transparency is assigned if the pricing page clearly indicates all charges in one view, but puts renters in control over which payment method to use. This means renters will decide whether you pay the low ACH cost or the high credit card cost. If you are okay with this, then “medium transparency” should be fine.

Low pricing transparency is assigned where the primary pricing page lists some charges, but additional charges are asterisked, disclosed on another page or hinted at in the terms and conditions (not disclosed). A service is automatically “low pricing transparency” if the “insufficient funds” scenario is not spelled out.

For example, many services will refer to “third-party banking fees.” A bank may charge you or your renter if there is a failed debit. The bank may also charge the rent payment service. Will the rent payment service absorb that cost, or will they pass it on to you? The service should disclose their procedure. If they are passing costs through, they should tell you what those charges will be. Look for terms like “insufficient funds fee,” “facilitator fee,” “reversal fee” and “chargeback.”

No pricing transparency (“None”) is assigned to services that require you to call for a custom quote. Under these circumstances, your eventual pricing could be very transparent, but it is not possible for us to tell you in this review. Your final pricing will be determined by the volume of business you offer, whether you have a personal connection to someone at the business, whether you negotiate or are successful in negotiating, and other factors that we cannot predict.

(We do not republish non-private information. If you know what a service charges, then we can update our table, but you must send us a link to the page where the charges are disclosed publicly.)

N/A pricing transparency is used only for the DIY options. These are catch-alls rather than specific services. You will need to talk to a “merchant gateway processor” and/or your local bank to see exactly which pricing they will offer.

Five plastic credit cards are fanned out across a smooth wooden table. The numbers on each card are hidden by the card on top of it. The top card is off the edge of the image. CC-BY Sean Macentee

Credit cards clear before a transaction takes place, but they are very expensive. You might pay $60 to collect $1,500 using the most expensive service reviewed here. CC-BY Sean MacEntee.

Be Careful with “Renter Pays”

Some services allow you to charge your transaction fee to the renter or to make the renter pay the service directly. There are two things to consider with this.

First, check the laws, your advertisements and your rental agreement. For instance, in Massachusetts, it is a violation of General Law Chapter 93A to offer to rent an apartment at one price, sign an agreement for that price and then as a side deal require a renter to pay rent online with an added convenience fee. If you intend to charge a renter for online rent payments, you must put that cost in your advertisement and again in your rental agreement.

Second, remember your microeconomics. When it comes to transaction costs, it doesn’t matter, economically speaking, whether you pay or your renter pays. Transaction costs paid by either party reduce the availability of net rental income and in the aggregate decrease your ability to collect rent.

Regulatory Compliance with Money Transfers

Federal law in the form of the “Bank Secrecy Act” (BSA) and anti-money laundering (AML) regulations requires all financial services firms to “know your customer” (KYC). This means it is not lawful for a rent collection service to collect rent anonymously and transfer it.

Unfortunately, enforcement is lacking. A tremendous amount of money moves without specific knowledge of sender or receiver identity. This leaves landlords using non-compliant services vulnerable to having their rent payments seized mid-transfer. This has happened in the past! Even if rent is not frozen or seized mid-transfer, you might build business process around a service that will eventually be shut down or fundamentally changed.

For example, in 2019 Venmo started requiring a government issued form of identification for some users. This was likely the result of a regulatory action, as the Bank Secrecy Act (1970) had been in effect for Venmo’s entire existence (seed funding 2010). An ID always should have been required to use Venmo. Landlords who wrote Venmo into their lease, and whose renters refused to provide an ID to Venmo, may have seen their rent stream suddenly turn off.

Remember that if you are going to use a DIY option, you must ensure compliance yourself. This could be more or less difficult depending on how you implement it. For instance, if you wish to take credit card payments on your own site, you should in no circumstance be writing down a renter credit card number on paper or storing it plain text on your computer. DIY options are only for sophisticated operators, typically with programming experience (see, for instance, Stripe).

Best practice is to use a rent payment service that declares full compliance with anti-money laundering procedures.

Ability to Operate by Jurisdiction

We have not reviewed whether the rent collection services below are appropriately registered, licensed, or reporting in your specific state, territory, or jurisdiction. Some states require “money transmitter” licenses or waivers depending on the software and use case. If using a rent payment service, you can assume they can lawfully operate in your state. If creating a DIY service, however, you need to ensure compliance before you transmit money into or out of each state.

If you intend to collect rent internationally, you can still use the U.S. ACH network: a service called Wise (formerly TransferWise) allows you to connect international accounts to U.S. ACH numbers. Otherwise, PayPal is the most well-known service with international reach.

Review of Rent Collection Software

We have read the websites of, spoken with or tested the rent collection services in the table below. Please note that this data is updated as of the date shown above, but individual pieces of data may become out of date. If you see an error, please email us at hello@masslandlords.net.

How to use the table below

Click columns to sort or type in the search box to filter rows containing that text.

  • Se/So: Service or software name
  • Rec: One of our shortlist recommendations, see below the table.
  • Class: For what was the software designed?
    • Ent: Enterprise management software (large teams, large portfolios).
    • Mgmt: Management software.
    • Rent: Payment software designed primarily for rents.
    • Pay: Payment software designed for all purposes.
  • Feat: How robust are the rent payment features?
    • Fragile: Few features to correct for insufficient funds.
    • Mid: One or more feature to correct for insufficient funds, plus does not charge for insufficient funds.
    • Robust: More than one feature to correct for insufficient funds and no NSF charge.
  • Days: How many business days does it take to clear funds and for you to find out?
  • Region: Where does the service operate?
    • S.
    • T: U.S. Territories including Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, U.S. Virgin Islands and Northern Mariana Islands
    • I: Internationally or at least some additional countries beyond the U.S.
  • Credit: Does this service report for credit?
    • N: No.
    • O: If a renter opts in, then they are reported for good credit only.
    • Y: Yes, a renter may be reported for good or bad credit.
  • Online: Can you sign up online today?
  • Cost 3: What would it cost to start as a new customer and collect the rent for three apartments for one year, where you have three NSF events in that year?
    • You may experience a higher or lower NSF rate than this scenario, where we assume 8%. This percent reflects an average landlord putting only the most difficult three tenants on automatic rent payments.
    • The cost includes all published startup fees, monthly maintenance fees, NSF fees, transaction fees, speed-up fees, cancelation fees or other fees if applicable.
    • This cost does not include free trials.
    • No cost is shown if you must call for a quote, or if we have reason to believe there are hidden fees, especially NSF fees.
    • If you cannot turn off credit card payments, the cost assumes the renter wants to get points on their credit card and will choose this option to pay rent.
  • Cost 20: Same as cost 3, except 20 units and nine NSF events.
    • We assume half the NSF rate as Cost 3 to reflect an average landlord putting all tenants on automatic rent payments.

 

NameRecClassFeatDaysRegionCreditOnlineCost 3Cost 20
eRentPayment StandardCmgmtmid4USO$228.00$576.00
eRentPayment PlusCmgmtmid4USO$180.00$936.00
RentlermgmtfragileN$540.00$1,620.00
RentHelperArentrobust2US, TY$293.76$1,958.40
ZRentBrentfragile4USN$837.00$2,940.00
ClearNowrentmid3USO$1,223.40$3,839.40
Venmopaymid3US, TN$1977.84$9,357.60
Paypalpaymid6US, T, IN$1,432.58$9,550.56
Yardi BreezeentfragileUS, T$3,324.00$12,060.00
Azibomgmtrobust3USN$2,363.90$12,459.36
(DIY ACH)payfragile2US, T
(DIY Credit Card)payfragile0US, T
apartments.com by costar (formerly cozy)mgmtfragile5N
baselanemgmt
Buildium Essentialmgmtfragile2US, TN
Buildium Growthmgmtfragile2US, TN
Cincmgmt
ClickPayrent
Domus (formerly RentPaidOnline)rent
FrontstepsentfragileUS, T
Infor | Amsientfragile
InnagomgmtfragileN
MRISoftwareentfragile
PayClixpay
PayYourRentmgmt5USO
Qira (formerly rentigo, hellorented)mgmtN
RAMSrentmgmtfragileUSN
Realpageentfragile
Rent Cafémgmtfragile
Rentecmgmtmid3USN
Rentec w/ cashmgmtmid3USN
RentmerchantrentfragileN
RentPayment from MRIrentfragileUSN
rentredimgmtfragile5USO
RentTrackrent
Simplify'em Pay Rentmgmt
Simplycomputer FHAentmidUS
SparkRentalmgmt
Telluspay
Turbotenantmgmt
Zego (formerly paylease)mgmtrobust
zillow rental managermgmt

Rent Collection Software Recommendations

A. RentHelper

At a flat 0.6% of amounts collected with no other fees whatsoever, RentHelper ranks first in terms of pricing simplicity. RentHelper is tied for first in terms of speed, being one of only two services with a two-business-day processing time (Buildium is the other). Unusually, RentHelper uses a combination of automation and live customer service to text back and forth with renters about everything payment related, especially payment plans.

RentHelper’s primary drawback is the lack of an input dashboard. Almost everything about the service is controlled by emailing the support team, as if you were emailing a manager on your team. At time of writing, you must email instructions about rent raises and lease terminations.

MassLandlords receives an affiliate commission from RentHelper, which was created as a direct MassLandlords spin-off custom designed to stand out. Although MassLandlords operates only in Massachusetts, RentHelper now works in all U.S. states and territories. RentHelper is based in North Grafton, Mass. Members get a free trial, which will reduce Cost 3 below the stated figure.

B. ZRent

For rock-bottom prices, no one beats ZRent: if you have a bank account within the ZRent network, and your renters do as well, your transactions will be free. (Cost 3 in our table assumes you transact outside the ZRent network.) ZRent is a simple payment solution with some property management flavor. ZRent has the advantage of being local to Massachusetts and matched by ZDeposit for security deposits, not reviewed here.

ZRent’s primary drawback is the bank-forward nature. This service is owned and operated by a network of banks that can earn interest on money in transit. Also, they will try to sell you services like mortgages. Free transactions in-network are nice, but when you factor in the per-unit fee for bank accounts outside the ZRent network, the cost may become uncompetitive for what it offers.

MassLandlords has no affiliation with ZRent. ZRent is based in Burlington, Mass.

C. eRentPayment

eRentPayment is a long-running service with a down-to-earth vibe. They fully disclose where they are, how they make money and how they comply with the law (for instance, a government-issued ID is required, among other documentation). The eRentPayment feature set includes management features like maintenance requests, which is a real benefit.

The rent collection features remain a little underdeveloped for some markets, especially Massachusetts. The primary downside for rent payments is the four-business-day window. It seems that eRentPayment is still using next-day ACH, which could have been upgraded when the ACH network started same-day processing in 2016.

MassLandlords has no affiliation with eRentPayment. eRentPayment is based in Fort Collins, Colo., and Spokane, Wash.

Closed Companies and Services

You may remember the following companies, which have closed or merged into another:

  • Okupied (closed)
  • Rentific (closed)
  • TrueRent (acquired by Rentec)

Did we miss your rent collection software or service of choice?

Email info@masslandlords.net so we can review it.

If you offer a rent collection service or software, make sure you read our criteria above before submitting a service to review. We want your service to compare favorably before we look at it! We do not publish prices where any possible cost remains undisclosed.

Related Pages

How to Collect Rent on Time

How to Raise the Rent in Massachusetts: How a Landlord Should Decide Whether and How Much

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