Rules & Methods for Paying Your Au Pair

by cv harquail on January 14, 2015

Paying your Au Pair her or his weekly stipend, on time and at the right amount, is critically important for sustaining a good au pair-host parent relationship.

Your Au Pair is working hard at a real job, and s/he is earning that stipend. Plus, s/he probably has a lot of plans for using this money during their adventure.

hello-kitty-blossoms-check-seriesHost Parents should should follow these 5 rules for paying their Au Pair’s stipends: 

    1. Pay your Au Pair on a weekly basis. Not monthly, not ahead of time, not late.
    2. Have a regular day to pay your Au Pair.  Make it easier for her or him to keep to a budget and not feel anxious about money.
    3. Have some form of receipt — either a note on a calendar, a memo in a bank statement, or an actual receipt. You NEVER want to have a disagreement over whether or not your au pair has been paid.
    4. Round up to the nearest $5, but don’t go over that.
      (I know folks disagree.  More on the issue of ’rounding up’ in the next post. Don’t hijack this thread!)
    5. Acknowledge your Au Pair’s hard work and say thank you when you give him/her the stipend.

Make paying the stipend easy for you, and do it in a way that reinforces your au pair-host parent relationship.  

Because life is messy, and paying our au pairs requires us to acknowledge the ’employer’ part of our host parent role, it’s not always easy to pay your au pair regularly, enthusiastically, and without any awkwardness.

I personally found it uncomfortable to hand cash to my au pairs when it was time to give them their stipends. I went to all sorts of trouble doing things like having extra cash hidden in a drawer so I always had enough, to paying them early so I wouldn’t be late, to leaving cash with a note on the kitchen counter as I ran off to work because I was embarrassed, all to avoid the feeling that our relationship was ultimately about the job, and not also the caring.

Everybody has a way that they manage their family finances.

We’ve always used cash for daily and weekly family finances, even though handing people cash makes me feel like an ATM.  Now that I have teens who get allowances, need lunch money, have to buy friends’ birthday presents, and whatnot, I find myself doing what I call the ‘suburban mom dip’, where my hand goes from my wallet to my child’s paw over and over.

Just this week we got the girls their own debit cards for their monthly allowances, so no more worries about whether I have a stack of $5’s in my sock drawer. Still, I’m a little concerned about how they’ll manage their budgets without the actual cash to remind them what they are spending.

 Each method for paying your au pair has its benefits and drawbacks:

paying your au pair, au pair stipend

1.  Cash

+ Easy to use, requires no electronic ‘set up’ or bank account
– HP has to have enough of it, in the right amount, at the right time, does not come with its own receipt

2. Check

+ Checks are easy for HP, offer everyone a record that the stipend has been paid
– Checks are harder to cash (often requiring a bank account), sometimes get lost

3. Debit Card

+ Easy to transfer, offers a record, manageable with apps
– Goes straight to spending thus making it harder for your au pair to save


4. Electronic Transfer

+ Easy to automate, offers a record, goes into a bank account that can be managed by the Au Pair, manageable with apps
– Requires a bank account, must be exchanged into cash or payment mode

Note: I don’t think that Bitcoin is approved by the State Dept. as a medium for paying Au Pair stipends.

Whether you use envelopes stuffed with $5 bills or smartphone apps that slice and dice who gets what, your system should work for both you and your au pair.

Some au pairs want to be able to save their money in a bank account, or even transfer money back home electronically, so they may have a preference for hard cash or for e-cash. There may also be some concerns about bank fees, ATM access, and so on that you’ll need to consider.

The technologies of paying may vary, but one thing stay constant:

Paying the stipend on time and in full is the Host Parents’ responsibility.


What experiences have you had in your efforts to find an easy, reliable payment mechanism AND support your au pair-host parent relationship?


Taking a Computer Lunch January 14, 2015 at 1:39 pm

I’d say that the only time we pay an AP early if she is using her vacation time during the next scheduled pay day (we pay in cash). We want to make sure she has full access to the money she has earned, so we usually pay her before she leaves. (DH has also been known to walk around with a wad of cash in his wallet, forgetting to give it to the AP -who is always, always, always, too polite to ask.)

Old China Hand January 14, 2015 at 1:51 pm

Before we opened an account that allows for scheduled direct deposit payments, we paid early if I was going to be out of town. I often forgot and ap forgot to remind me, so it was pretty bad with just paying checks. I am excited about our new bank account and new ap arriving tomorrow night.

WarmStateMomma January 14, 2015 at 5:43 pm

Best of luck with your new AP!

hOstCDmom January 14, 2015 at 1:52 pm

We pay by direct deposit, and only direct deposit, and don’t give the AP a choice in this. She must have a bank account. She is an adult, her pay goes into her bank account and from that point on it is her responsibility to manage it/withdraw it (or not), save it (or not), use a debit card (or not). We will not pay in cash, and would not accommodate a request to do so. We want the clear electronic record of all the payments for both our taxes and in case of any dispute with the Au Pair.

HRHM January 14, 2015 at 3:06 pm

Us too, with the exception of the first week when she may not have her account up and running yet. And we don’t round since it’s pretty arbitrary to do so if your not paying cash.

We also use bank transfers for gas money and other reimbursements as needed. Our APs have always used our same bank which makes this super easy.

Host Mom in the City January 14, 2015 at 3:30 pm

We also use bank-to-bank transfers, which have been incredibly easy to set up (our au pairs always have different banks) and for me, there is no down side. We never have to discuss it, or make sure we have cash, or remember it, or do that weird cash hand-off. There is always a record. Every single Thursday, the money goes into her account. I also like that I can transfer additional money if needed (like if she pays for a course and I have to give her the $500).

I have heard about a few au pairs whose host parents forget to pay them or they have to ask the parent every week or whatever – that just seems so odd to me.

old au pair mom January 14, 2015 at 3:39 pm

rounded up, cash, extra money for weeks that are extra difficult, we call it combat pay, and gas money and always a huge and heartfelt thank you from me, DH and whichever kids are around. Always Friday night and always pay before vacations, with a little vacation bonus thrown in for some extra fun. I know some HPs have issues with others paying more, but there is no rule against it and you can’t take it with you when your dead, so spread it around to those who you care about, and who care about your kids the most!

AlwaysHopeful HM January 14, 2015 at 3:39 pm

I pay by cash the first week, then by check until I can get the direct deposit and autopay set up. I am a set-it-and-forget-it addict. I hate manual pay, because I can never remember (same for my bills! All auto pay). APs were put in the position of reminding me, which is terrible, I know. With checks, AP could deposit through a mobile app, so not such a big deal for them, just a pain for me. I was able to manually pay electronically, but was never able to get autopay established with previous au pairs. With the current one, I switched banks, and now autopay works. Phew! It was just as well for the last au pair that I couldn’t figure it out, because he often asked for a couple days’ advance, which I didn’t mind.

Au Pair in France January 14, 2015 at 3:53 pm

Unless you’re extremely organised, please don’t use cash. it feels very awkward to have to ask my host parents for money every week, and then remind them a couple of days later when they have forgotten to go to the bank – I get that they’re busy, but I would have been fine to be told at the beginning of the year that I needed to set up a bank account if they couldn’t have cash each week

Nicole January 14, 2015 at 4:24 pm

Can you set up a bank account and just ask them to write you a check each week?

WarmStateMomma January 14, 2015 at 7:32 pm

We pay with cash the first few weeks until the AP has a social security number and bank account. I hate the cash payments because it’s so difficult for us to remember to pick up cash so often (we rarely use cash ourselves) and it feels like we are failing the AP on a major obligation (paying her on time) – even though we expect the AP to give us her best effort.

HD and I have to play Paper-Rock-Scissors to decide who gets stuck handing over the cash because it just feels so awkward.

Host Mom X January 15, 2015 at 2:04 pm

Yup, hate those first few weeks with the cash payments. Always happy when the bank account transfer process gets set up. We give cash only if we want to give an extra $50 or $100 before the AP goes on a trip – as a “thank you for the hard work, take your friends out to dinner! Go shopping!” – or to pay AP back if she has replenished the milk or bought the kids frozen yogurt or something. Or on the rare occasions when we are unexpectedly late, causing the AP to go over ten hours in the day or the 45 hours. But I agree it is awkward to hand money to someone who works in your home.

Multitasking Host Mom January 14, 2015 at 5:46 pm

We write checks and pay the AP every Friday. Our last au pair did ask us to do a direct deposit type thing but I could never figure out how to do it from our credit union to her bank. We do pay cash the first few weeks since most banks around us seem to want a social security number before the AP can open an account. (Otherwise if the APs do it before they get there SS card they have to fill out a lot more paperwork and go through more of a hassle.) They have all been able to get student checking accounts which seem to have less fees than some other options.
I actually like to take advantage of the moment when I hand them their check every week. I use that short moment to check in with them to make sure all is well and there is nothing that they need to talk about. I can also take a second to acknowledge what a good job they are doing or mention something that they need to be aware of. Normally, when I get home from work, there is a rush to get dinner on the table then we might be off to some other activity, so I like that there is at least five minutes each week when I hand over that check, that both the AP and I can give each other some undivided attention.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 14, 2015 at 10:15 pm

I’m not trying to sound snarky here, so I apologize in advance if it sounds that way. But, if you pay your AP by check on Friday, what chance does she have of having access to that money before Monday or Tuesday?

The reason I ask, is that AP #1 was BFF with an AP who worked for an orthodox Jewish family (money isn’t supposed to pass through their hands during Shabbat. They would write the check after Havdalah on Saturday night, which meant that their AP had zero access to money until Tuesday.

Yes, you could argue that she should have planned ahead. This particular AP was supporting siblings back home, and wired 50% of her check (this was back when regular APs made under $140 a week!) back home. By Friday night she was scraping by. And yes, you could argue it didn’t really matter when she got paid under those circumstances – she was never going to have enough money. I always felt like they were covering for a shortage of cash by writing a check on a Saturday night rather than a Thursday night.

If your AP asked for direct deposit, maybe it was because she wanted access to cash for the weekend.

hOstCDmom January 15, 2015 at 12:02 pm

TACL – I’m curious why you think this delay matters? In many jobs where someone is paid by cheque, they must cash/deposit the cheque and wait for it to clear to have the funds? (This is simply a drawback of the US commercial paper (cheque) system, in contrast to bank to bank transfers or direct deposit. Also, the delay is consistent, so after the first cycle the funds would be landing in the AP account every 7 days, assuming the AP got the cheque on the same day each week and deposited on the same day each week).

Do you think using cheques is inherently unfair? Or did you mean that if one pays by cheque it should be on a Monday to Thursday, instead of a Friday to Sunday, such that the AP didn’t encounter a weekend banking delay?

Taking a Computer Lunch January 15, 2015 at 10:25 pm

No, I have nothing against writing checks. And MHM actually gives an excellent and reasoned account for why she picks that particular day of the week. Having been aware of one HF who paid by check on Saturday night when the AP had no hope of access to the funds, I am sensitive about giving the women who work for us full access to their money. For a thrifty AP, it doesn’t matter which day of the week they get paid, but not all APs are willing to speak up.

Multitasking Host Mom January 15, 2015 at 5:35 pm

No snarkiness felt TACL.:) Thanks for pointing this out…the delay in funds never occurred to me! For the record the last AP just didn’t want to have to go the five blocks to her bank to deposit the check, so that is why she wanted the more convenient method of the direct deposit. The current one doesn’t mind since her bank is near the coffee shop where she goes to study, for her college class, a few days a week anyway. I actually just picked Friday because that works for me. It is the one evening when the kids don’t have activities, I can delay dinner a few minutes, and actually spend some time taking to the AP without the kids running around us and needing our attention. I do see these weekly check-ins as a good way to keep communication going between myself and our AP, and to avoid any issues from festering. It is almost a true employee/employer type conversation…as oppose to the normal friendlier talks that we have all week…so it made since to me to include the business part of paying the AP in this time frame. I will ask the AP if the delay in funds makes a difference (although I doubt it does with this one since she is saving up for a big trip during her travel month) and make adjustments if needed.

Anna January 16, 2015 at 8:14 am

I paid to my au pair by cash on Friday evening (also an orthodox Jewish family, just gave her a check before the start of Sabbath) and she deposited with her phone app (taking a pic of the check), it was available in her bank immediately. So lets not do assumptions about availability of money when paying by check.
Also, there is no rule about when the payday is. As long as it is weekly and consistent, anything goes. My husband gets paid on the first of every month at his job, so should he complain if he is running out of money by the end of the month????

LivingINParadise May 12, 2015 at 1:48 pm

I’m not sure if it varies by the bank, but I know with mine there are still the same banking rules that apply when depositing by mobile app. There is a 10pm cut off time and the funds are not available for immediate use. They are still on hold for 24 hrs.

Repeataupair January 15, 2015 at 12:14 am

I pay myself to the demand of my HM. I have her debit card all week so I use it for groceries, dry cleaner, activities, gas, craft supplies, friends birthday presents, housekeeper salary (I hate that, it is so awkward for me to pay her, plus I have to remember getting the cash, I always forget), my salary, whatever we might need that week,etc.

So usually I just go to my bank, get my money and deposit if right away on my account.

Emerald City HM January 15, 2015 at 2:34 am

We use direct deposit. A social security number actually isn’t required to set up an account (it’s a pain in the rear but totally possible).

I actually would not recommend a debit card as many of those charge fees to the user to check balance or withdrawal money from an ATM. It’s actually quite a controversial practice for minimum wage jobs.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 15, 2015 at 12:33 pm

Our AP has a free account – but only if she uses the ATM. The minute she walks into the bank and talks to a teller, they charge her a fee! APs should definitely ask around when selecting a bank to get the best account possible.

hOstCDmom January 15, 2015 at 12:42 pm

APs/HFs should definitely ask/pay attention to the terms — in our case it is the opposite, the AP pays a fee if she uses an ATM that is not “her bank’s ATM” (But her bank&ATM is 200ft from our front door, and one of the ubiquitous banks in our region of the US, as well as nationally, so it would be rare that she couldn’t find an ATM at which there are no fees with a little advance planning/using an APP to do so) — but has no fees if she uses the teller for anything!

American Host Mom in Europe January 15, 2015 at 5:26 am

Not in the US, so some differences. But I have set up a bank account at our bank for every one of my APs (unless they already had a European bank account they wanted to use), and do this usually as soon as they arrive (I start the process before they get here). We do an automatic bank transfer on a monthly basis on the last business day of the month. When they first arrive, I’ll pay cash if the account isn’t set up yet, and I always ask in the first few days if they need some cash at the beginning, and then will give a bit of an advance. However, we generally require that our APs pay for their own flight to get here, and then we reimburse them once they’ve arrived, so they get cash from that right away.

Is it a US rule to pay them weekly? I’m a bit surprised that seems to be the norm, but maybe US employers generally pay more often? Where I live, ALL employers pay monthly, so it is the norm. I had one au pair ask to be paid cash weekly, so she could save it in envelopes by week… I told her she was an adult, and we were happy to help her with a savings plan (and provide her envelopes) but that her inability to budget wasn’t going to become my inconvenience (oddly, she was my absolute oldest AP, 27 when she arrived!).

BearCo Mom January 15, 2015 at 9:52 am

I’m not sure if you technically ARE REQUIRED to pay with separate weekly payments, but I think if you were going to pay lump sum monthly, you’d have to do it in advance — I don’t think the spirit of the program would be to let the au pair wait a full month for their pay.

Re: US employers, in my experience people are paid either weekly or twice a month (15th & last day of the month). I have not known anyone in the US who has been paid on a monthly basis , although I know that is very common in Europe.

Multitasking Host Mom January 15, 2015 at 12:50 pm

Our first AP wanted to be paid ever two or three weeks instead of ever week because she was burning through money and she thought that if she didn’t actually have her salary sitting in her bank she wouldn’t be able to spend it. We were fine with that but I ran it by our LCC just to make sure that this was ok. (Didn’t want it to look like we were not paying the AP) We were told that it was defined as a weekly stipend by the state department and so we had to pay weekly.

Taking a Computer Lunch January 15, 2015 at 12:36 pm

Per State Department regulations, it is a weekly stipend, to be paid for 51 weeks (no pay for orientation and training). While some APs might accept bi-monthly pay, if the relationship sours, it would be one of the things about which they complain to the LCC. In the U.S. pay varies – bi-monthly is typical, but some employers pay monthly.

American Host Mom in Europe January 16, 2015 at 4:46 am

Interesting, and explains the difference.
I just double-checked the immigration pages in my country – it clearly specifies a “a monthly pretax salary of at least …”, reinforcing my idea of paying monthly.

I had no idea there were jobs in the US that paid weekly! Even as a teenager (long, long ago!), I recall bi-weekly paydays.

HRHM January 15, 2015 at 1:31 pm

I don’t know that I’ve ever encountered an American employer that paid less often than twice per month.

In the military, we are paid on the 1st and 15th, regardless of what days they fall on or how long the month is (28 days vs 31)

In my civilian job, I get paid every two weeks, it usually gets deposited by midweek of the week following the close of the pay period (ends on friday).

In most the blue collar jobs I’ve worked prior to this (fast food, mall jobs, secretary, etc) I was paid weekly.
I think paying weekly for lower paying jobs is just more manageable for being able to live. There’s just not enough cushion when you only make <200 per week.

exaupair January 15, 2015 at 8:08 pm

bit of OT but that’s interesting how uncommon is being paid monthly in the US :)
I don’t know a lot of people who are paid more often than once a month, apart from few doing some elementary jobs.

Returning HM January 16, 2015 at 7:15 am

I get paid once a month by my university, at the end of the month worked. Often, they go into the next month if the 30th or 31st falls on a weekend. I honestly hate it. Last year I was visiting professor at another university, and I loved being paid twice a month. I know the total amount was the same, but I always felt like I had more money available to me.

That said, of course we pay our ap weekly. This is a clear requirement by the State Dept.

MGHostMom January 25, 2015 at 3:00 pm

Yep. Many universities in the US pay monthly. It sucks.

Most other US employers pay every other week or twice monthly.

Anon January 15, 2015 at 11:27 am

We are on AP3 (who will go into rematch within the next 24 hours. Sigh. But that’s a whole ‘nother post). We did bank-to-bank transfers with AP1 and AP2 and that was great. This time there has been something wacky with the banking information and we keep having it go haywire, so we resorted to checks. I HATE this. I never remember to pay the same time each week and AP3 doesn’t prompt me (not that she should ever have to do this), so sometimes it’s Saturday morning or Sunday night before I realize, “Oh my god, I haven’t paid AP this week yet.” Ugh.

It’s not intentional but obviously I could never legally treat my staff at the office like this (not that I could; thankfully we have a finance department that would never entrust me with such things). AP deserves equal treatment.

When AP4 arrives (again, sigh) … we will insist on going back to bank acct transfer.

JuJu January 15, 2015 at 6:45 pm

I get paid once a month! We just started using
Square Cash to pay our Aupair. It’s great. It is a app that links your ATM card and bank account to your cell phone number and it’s free!!

Mimi January 16, 2015 at 12:28 pm

We pay weekly on a day the AP picks. This is currently Fridays. We start with cash (hence the rounding up) until they have a ss# and bank account and then we do weekly transfers. I get paid biweeekly and HD gets paid 1st and 15th.

Peachtree Mom January 17, 2015 at 6:01 pm

We use sure pay transfers with Well Fargo. I have the reminder on my phone to do the transfer between 9pm Wed and 8:59 pm Thursday for it to hit her account MOnday morning. I am never sure how much cash they arrive with so I prepay for the week when they arrive so I guess I am always a week ahead. The transfer pops up as an email message to her so she knows I transferred the money. It is tricky with Monday holidays b/c then the transfer is delayed until Tuesday morning but she is OK with that. I print a copy of the transaction and keep it in a binder and Interexchange has a great log that we both initial off on that the stipend was paid. The first stipend of the month I add her monthly gas allowance and annotate in the transfer comment section. So far has worked well. Thank goodness for phone reminders.

Adam Thomas January 20, 2015 at 6:56 pm

We use PayPal. Our AP has an account and we have an account. Works great. I often document the dates the payment is for. And it is free.

Highly recommended.

Shelly January 29, 2015 at 10:08 pm

We use paypal as well it’s easy, direct and free. I wouldn’t even know where to begin needing to remember to get cash.

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