As you’ve probably noticed from browsing Mindahome, most of the time there is no money exchanged between the sitter and homeowner. Rather, the sitter is offering their service for free, in exchange for a free place to stay. It’s a win-win for both parties.
But there is the odd occasion when money might be exchanged. Why? Here are a few possible reasons…
For paying the house sitter:
- There are lots of chores involved. There might be a special pet who requires frequent attention, farm animals that need to be cared for, or some other task which is above and beyond the usual.
- The home is in an undesirable location. Have a house at the beach? Finding a sitter will be no problem! But if the house is in the middle of nowhere, there may be fewer people willing to sit it… but sometimes cash can grease the wheels.
For paying the homeowner:
- There are services to pay for. Depending upon the arrangement, the owner might expect money for utility and phone usage (especially if the arrangement will be long term).
- A security deposit/bond is desired. Under some circumstances, an owner may feel compelled to ask for an upfront deposit from the sitter. Some reasons for this include: pre-payment of services (mentioned above), re-assurance the sitter will indeed show up and not cancel, or a bond which is held for security and refunded when the assignment commences.
Whatever the case may be, if money is being exchanged, what’s the best way to do it? There’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all answer, so let’s look at the pros and cons for both cash and credit cards.
- There’s a paper trail. The nice thing about credit cards is that there’s always going to be record of the transaction. So if a dispute ever arises, there always will be documentation of the money being exchanged.
- Payment can be made at any time. Thanks to PayPal and similar services, a credit card payment can be made before, during, or after the assignment.
- Ability to earn cash back and miles. With cash back credit cards you have the ability of earning money on your purchases. Same deal with airline and other rewards cards.
- Fraud protection. Laws vary by country but regardless of where you live, there will be laws protecting you in the event a credit card transaction ends up being a scam (but how much protection they actually offer is another story).
- High transaction costs. In the US, PayPal typically charges $0.30 plus 2.9% of the transaction amount (other countries may vary). This can really add up with larger amounts of money.
- Charge backs could happen. If someone gives you cash, it’s safely yours (assuming they don’t mug you after the fact). However with credit cards, the person who sent the money might be able to file a dispute and have the transaction reversed weeks or months later.
- There are no extra costs involved. Neither the giver nor the recipient has to pay any fees when cash changes hands.
- Reversing the transaction is not possible. After the money is exchanged, neither party has to worry about the other taking back the money without permission (i.e. credit card chargeback).
- Anyone can give and receive cash. Not everyone has a PayPal or Skrill/Moneybookers account, but just about everyone has a hand to take dollars bills and a wallet to put them in!
- There’s no paper trail. This is the biggest strength for credit cards and the biggest weakness for cash.
- Cash must be exchanged in-person. The house sitter and homeowner won’t be able to make the swap until they have a chance to meet in-person.
- No fraud protection or recourse. When it comes to cash, it’s basically a “he said, she said” scenario in the event a dispute ever arises.
Is the best solution a blend of both?
In the rare event money has to change hands, you may consider doing a mix of cash AND credit. For example, paying a small upfront amount via PayPal as a token of good faith and then once you meet in person, the rest can be paid in cash.
Either way, it’s best to go beyond verbal documentation. If doing it through email, make sure the emails spell out what the money is for and the terms surrounding it. If done with cash in-person, signing an agreement (even something as simple as a handwritten note) is better than having no tangible proof.
About the author:
In addition to writing credit card reviews for consumers on an almost daily basis, you will find Mike providing other personal finance advice on his site CreditCardForum.