Can You Pay For a Car Lease With a Credit Card?

Paying a car lease with a credit card

By Eric Rosenberg, MBA

If you took home a car financed with a lease, you might want to know: can you pay a car lease with a credit card? In many cases, you can easily pay your lease with a credit card.

However, just because you can pay a lease agreement with a credit card doesn’t make it a great idea for everyone.

Keep reading to learn how to pay a lease with a credit card and important pros and cons to consider before making your monthly payment with your card.

Why you might want to pay for a car lease with a credit card

Depending on the kind of car you have and whether you got it used or new, you may have paid anywhere from a couple of thousand dollars for a cheap used car up to tens of thousands for a brand new one.

Because most of us can’t afford to pay for a car in cash, auto loans and leases are popular methods to finance a vehicle purchase, according to Consumer Reports.

If you are short on cash, you may want to use a credit card to make your monthly lease payment. Some lenders are happy to take a payment with a card, though others would require you to use an outside service.

This may be a good idea on a very short-term basis, but generally should be avoided if you can.

The other reason to pay with a card is to earn cash back or travel rewards. This makes sense if the rewards you earn are worth more than any transaction costs and interest payments.

If you want to use a credit card to pay your lease for rewards, it’s important to do the math to make sure you’ll come out ahead before making that first payment.

How to pay a car lease with a credit card

There are a few ways to pay a lease with a credit card. Here are some of the most common:

1 - Pay your lease company directly

If your lease company will take a credit card payment directly, it’s the easiest way to use a credit card to pay. Some lease companies charge a big fee for credit card payments, so ensure you are not paying extra if you pay them with a card.

2 - Use a third-party service

There are third-party services like Plastiq that will charge your credit card and send a check for the lease payment. Again, however, there are likely going to be fees that drive up your costs.

3 - Use credit card convenience checks

Your credit card may give you checks that allow you to make payments from your credit card account. These usually come with cash advance fees and could even come with a higher interest rate, so check your credit card agreement before paying this way.

Tips for paying for a car lease with a credit card

To pay your car lease with a credit card, most people will want to work to keep costs as low as possible and avoid hurting your credit score.

Tip 1: keep costs low

To keep costs low, talk to your lease company, third party payment processor, or credit card company to make sure you won’t pay any extra fees if you pay your lease with your card.

After all, the biggest reason you picked car financing was to make the car more affordable. Adding on more fees and costs just drains your bank account without giving you any added benefits.

Tip 2: Pay attention to your credit score

For your credit score, it’s important to keep your credit card balances as low as possible. Because car payments can make up a big chunk of your credit card limit, do your best to pay off your card in full as quickly as possible to preserve your credit.

Paying off your card in full by the due date will also help you avoid credit card interest. If you carry a balance from month to month, it could drag down your credit score while increasing your monthly expenses.

Like any other purchase with a credit card, it’s best only to spend what you can afford to pay off in full by the next monthly due date.

When should you avoid paying for a car lease with a credit card?

If you expect any added fees, interest, or other costs related to making a car lease payment with a credit card, you may want to avoid it. After all, any extra payment-related costs essentially increase the cost of your lease.

When using a credit card to earn points, you may be willing to pay a small fee. Just make sure the rewards are worth more than the costs or you’ll come out behind.

Most important, as far as your credit is concerned, is that you only use a credit card when you can afford to pay it off in full the next month. If you can’t and you carry a credit card balance each month, you may want to stick with a bank account where you won’t go into additional debt to make car payments.

What can happen if you do not pay your car lease?

A car lease is an agreement to make regularly scheduled payments and follow any other rules in your lease to keep your car. If you don’t make your payments, the leasing company may add repossess your vehicle.

Many leases show up on a credit report just like an auto loan or any other type of loan. Missed payments can quickly lower your credit score. If you miss so many that your vehicle is repossessed, the default will keep on hurting your credit for seven years in most cases.

If you can use a credit card to avoid late payments, it could be worth it, even with extra interest costs. Just make sure you’re only going to need the credit card temporarily. Carrying lease payments on your credit card for several months or longer would likely be very expensive.

If you are making lease payments with your card on a regular basis to earn rewards, be sure to update your information with the leasing company if your card number changes so you don’t miss a payment without realizing it.

What credit cards are best to use for a car lease?

The best credit cards to use for a car lease are either rewards credit cards or credit cards with a long 0% APR introductory period.

You should never take on a lease you can’t afford to pay every month, so using a rewards credit card to pay for your lease can earn you cash back or travel rewards with no added costs. The key to making this work is paying off your card in full every month by the due date.

Using a 0% APR offer could give you some time effectively payment-free with no added costs. Just be sure you can pay off the entire balance before the end of the 0% period when interest kicks in.

Pros and cons of paying for a car lease with a credit card

As you can see, making lease payments with a credit card has some benefits and some drawbacks. Here are some major pros and cons of making car lease payments with a credit card to consider:

Pros

  • Make on-time payments when you are short on cash
  • Earn credit card rewards
  • Better control of monthly cash flow
  • Build credit with a recurring payment on your credit card (as long as you pay at least the minimum amount on your card’s billing statement each month too)

Cons

  • Added credit card processing fees
  • Might need a third-party service to process
  • Can hurt credit score by running up your credit utilization
  • Can lead to additional interest costs

Be careful making car payments with a credit card

Now you know that you can use a credit card to make your car lease payment, but it isn’t always a good idea. If you are able to keep costs low, it can make sense to use a credit card to make your lease payment in some rare situations.

But for most people, it’s best to avoid using a credit card for your car payments.

Learn more about getting an auto loan and leasing a car with these resources

About the author

Eric Rosenberg is a former bank manager and corporate finance worker with a Bachelor’s degree and MBA in finance. His work is featured at Business Insider, Credit Karma, The Balance, Investopedia, and many other websites and publications.

Written on September 29, 2020

Self is a venture-backed startup that helps people build credit and savings.
Comments? Questions? Send us a note at hello@self.inc.

Disclaimer: Self is not providing financial advice. The content presented does not reflect the view of the Issuing Banks and is presented for general education and informational purposes only. Please consult with a qualified professional for financial advice.

Ready to join Self?