How Do People Pay Rent?

20 Pages Posted: 8 Sep 2016

See all articles by David Hao Zhang

David Hao Zhang

Harvard University; Harvard University, Harvard Business School, Students

Date Written: June, 2016


Using data from the 2014 Boston Fed Bill Payment Experiment and the 2014 Survey of Consumer Payment Choice (SCPC), we investigate how households pay their rent. We find that the dominant methods for paying rent are cash (22 percent), check (42 percent), and money order (16 percent). Electronic methods are still rarely used, at 8 percent for bank account number payment and 7 percent for online banking bill payment, and less than 2 percent for debit and credit cards. Compared with other large bill payments of more than $200, rental payments are much more likely to be made with paper-based methods than with electronic methods and are much less likely to be automatic, despite the recent attempts by start-ups to make it easier for landlords to accept electronic payments. Check and electronic methods are more frequently used for higher-valued transactions and by those with higher income and education.

Keywords: payment instrument choice, rent, rental payment

JEL Classification: D10, D19

Suggested Citation

Zhang, David Hao, How Do People Pay Rent? (June, 2016). Research Data Reports Paper No. 16-2, Available at SSRN:

David Hao Zhang (Contact Author)

Harvard University ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

Harvard University, Harvard Business School, Students ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

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