How Can I Pay For My Apartment?

Moving into a new apartment can bring up many questions about the different ways you can actually make your payment.  In the digital age, payment can be made through a variety of different methods to make it easy to make your monthly payment.   

Payment Methods

The three primary ways to pay your monthly rent are by Cash, by Check, or Direct Deposit.  Let’s go through the benefits and drawbacks of each method, and which one is right for you. 


The oldest method of payment.  You would think that this tried and true method of payment would be readily accepted by landlords and managers and perfect for almost any situation. 

However, as times have changed, cash is becoming less and less preferred as the payment of choice.  

To accept cash, managers or landlords must be physically present to receive the cash, write a receipt for themselves and a duplicate for the tenant, store the receipt, and then make sure that the cash is deposited in the bank. 

That’s a lot of work for BOTH tenant and manager!   

Some people don’t have a bank account for various reasons, whether creditors are pestering them, they are new to the country, or they choose not to use an official financial institution for personal reasons, so they choose to pay in cash.  

While this previously used to be the primary method of exchanging funds between the tenant and owner, paying in cash now potentially brings up some red flags and warning signs. 

First of these red flags is the hesitancy to use a financial institution.  Oftentimes this means that the tenant has an uncertain or unstable income and may soon be unable to pay for the monthly rent.  Another red flag is identification.

In some cases, if the tenant is not disclosing citizenship or other governmental and legal issues, this could be grounds to just up and leave someday and leave the owner holding the bag, along with all your expenses.   

To avoid raising these red flags with your landlord instead, take your cash to a Walgreen’s and put the cash on a Green Dot Card.  Putting your cash on the card allows you to use it just like a credit or debit card in most situations.

Then, you can use your apartment’s electronic method of payment with the card, essentially turning your cash payment into an electronic payment in just a few seconds. 

While paying in cash may be convenient for you for whatever reason, it may raise some crucial warnings with the owner. 


While checks are rapidly being used less and less, they still can have a beneficial purpose to both you and your landlord.   

Writing a check gives you and your landlord several advantages.  First, you both have a record of the transaction, as well as at the bank.   Your landlord says you didn’t pay this month’s rent? Easy, you can simply go look in your checkbook for the receipt.  Still, says you didn’t pay? Simply call the bank and ask if that check has been cashed.   

Writing a check clears up most discrepancies when making a payment.  Banks will permanently keep an electronic record of all the checks from your account that clear through them. 

Your landlord will also appreciate this method as they can receive the check in the mail from you, instead of a pile of cash, and they can easily deposit it into their bank account, perhaps even directly from their phone.  

Also, many banks these days have the capability and are able to, send a check to anyone from your account, and mail it to them, for FREE.  That’s right, in many online banking service’s sites, you can pay bills, and have them mailed out for free.

On top of that, you can set up recurring payments that go out on the same day every month.  Simply sign in to your online banking account, set up the reoccurring payment, and you no longer have to worry about if your landlord receives your check and when each month. 

The final method of payment is…

Direct Deposit

By FAR, this the most preferred method of payment from landowners.  They have the security that you have a preferred financial institution you use, that the probability is high they will be paid each month, and it is easily tracked and recorded.  

For the tenant’s benefit, this is also the easiest method to make payments.  There is a permanent record of your payment at both your bank and the apartment’s own management software, so you never have to worry about if you have made a payment or not.  

Not enough money in your bank account at the time of payment?  No problem, you will simply receive a notice and can work it out on your end.  

In the digital age, this is the most convenient and easy way to make your monthly payment. 

Some tenants prefer not to set up automatic payments to their landlord, but as discussed in the CASH section, this is going to make the owner question whether you have the resources to pay the rent for the entire period of the lease.   

All owners know that rental costs can be difficult at times, and most are fairly lenient on the actual payment as long as good communication is involved between both the tenant and landlord. 

If you have a choice, choose the Direct Deposit and let your landlord know about any payment problems rather than just keeping him in the dark. 

Discounts on Rent Amounts

One of the benefits of Direct Deposit is that you can potentially negotiate a lower monthly rate with your landlord.  With Direct Deposit, your landlord’s certainty goes way up regarding consistent payments for your apartment.  

Ask the manager if they would be willing to give a 5% discount if you are willing to do Direct Deposit.  If they say “Yes” then you have just saved yourself 5% on something you were going to be paying for anyway.  If they say “No”, then you aren’t out anything and still have a convenient method of taking care of your rent.  

Either way, it doesn’t hurt to ask, and shows the manager that you are price conscious when renting, and willing to make things easier on their end if they are willing to give a discount. 

Keep Your Receipts 

This is an absolutely CRUCIAL part of the payment.  No matter what method you pay, you need to be able to retrieve your receipts at any time.  

If you think that your manager is wrong when he says you didn’t pay a month’s rent, you absolutely MUST have your receipt.  This is especially important if you are paying cash.

With cash, the ONLY way to prove that the manager or landlord received your payment is whether or not you were given and KEPT the receipt at the time you paid.  

It doesn’t matter if the payment was 9 months ago or yesterday, you need to be able to prove that you did, in fact, pay.  One of the biggest conflicts that can arise between tenant and landlord is regarding payment; who paid, how much, to whom, and when.  The receipt is YOUR proof of payment.  

Regardless of whether you think that your landlord is a nice, ethical person or an absolute jerk, if push comes to shove, the landlord has documentation in the form of your signed lease that this is the amount that you owe them.  

If you don’t have the receipt from the manager or from the bank, any court is most likely going to side with the landlord in situations like these.   

The moral to the story is: KEEP YOUR RECEIPTS 

Make it simple and easy to record your receipts right when you have them by using a service like SmartReceipts it turns your phone into a receipt scanner. Smart Receipts tracks receipt data and allows you to make reports that can be shared with your email accounts.

So many discrepancies have quickly been cleared up by simply having the receipt for payment.  Managers can make mistakes just like anyone else, and because you are renting from someone else, this is a very simple way to avoid potential problems.  

As we move forward into the digital age, landlords are more and more preferring to accept digital forms of payment over cash and check.  Tenants can receive potential benefits though by offering Direct Deposit to the landlord in exchange for a slightly lower monthly payment. 

And whether or not you decide to use Cash, Check, or Direct Deposit, the thing to remember is…. Keep your Receipts

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John Boettcher

Co-Founder of Apartment School and a previous renter turned owner of many multi-family properties across the United States, with many years of experience in all aspects of the apartment, real estate, and investing world.

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