FAQ: What Is a Travel Nurse Housing Stipend? (With Salaries)

Ingrid Monteiro

Updated September 29, 2022

Published September 2, 2021

Ingrid Monteiro is a health care writer with a passion for advising on careers related to the health care industry. In her 15 years of experience in academia and in the health care industry, she has worked with some of the best researchers in top universities in the world and in Fortune 500 pharmaceutical companies.

A career as a travel nurse can be rewarding and may offer professionals a high salary and several compensation benefits. One benefit travel nurses often receive as part of their compensation package is a housing stipend, which they can use to pay for lodging while on assignment at a location away from their place of residence. Understanding the components of travel nurse housing stipends can help you decide whether this is a career you want to pursue. 

In this article, we answer some frequently asked questions about travel nurse housing stipends, including what they consist of, and provide a list of some of the highest-paying cities for travel nurses. 

What is a travel nurse housing stipend?

A travel nurse housing stipend, or housing reimbursement, is the amount of money employers offer nurses for their cost of housing and living while working on remote assignments. This compensation helps travel nurses afford temporary housing while away from their normal residences.

Stipends may also include funding for a nurse's travel to the assignment area and the food they require while living there. Nurses who want upgrades, such as additional rooms or appliances, from the services their housing stipend covers may be able to pay for them individually.

The General Service Administration (GSA), which aims to ensure the basic functioning of government agencies, determines the maximum amount for travel nurse housing stipends, which agencies use as a comparison when establishing their stipends. The GSA bases these maximum amounts on location and short-term stays, which usually are more expensive than assignments of travel nurses.

Often, these stipends aren't taxable, meaning an employee doesn't have to report them on their taxes. These reimbursements are one benefit travel nurses receive in their compensation package, and their agencies may list it as part of a blended salary model.

Related: 41 Travel Nurse Interview Questions (With Sample Answers)

How does a travel nurse housing stipend differ from a per diem?

Although a travel nurse housing stipend and a per diem both are compensation packages for professionals working on temporary health care assignments, they vary in the frequency with which employers provide them.

Travel nurses sign contracts for a specific period, during which they work full time. Per diem, or per day, compensation packages often cover food, lodging and other living expenses, while a stipend mostly is for lodging. 

A per diem compensation system is the maximum daily amount an employee can seek in reimbursement for expenses they accrue while traveling on assignment. Travel nursing contracts often pay more than per diem or permanent nursing positions and can be a supplemental source of income with paid housing, bonuses and stipends.

A stipend is a fixed sum employers pay nurses as a normal salary, often either weekly or biweekly. Many travel nurses receive stipends because their assignments typically last longer than a few days, and agencies often quote their housing reimbursements as a monthly figure. 

Related: Your Guide to International Travel Nursing (Duties, Salary and How To Become One)

What are some benefits of a travel nurse housing stipend?

A travel nurse housing stipend benefits professionals because it helps them find housing and fulfill rent payments. This can save them time and other resources when beginning an assignment in a new location.

Travel nurses often have complete discretion over where and how they want to live. They have the flexibility to choose accommodations with or without amenities, depending on their preferences. People unfamiliar with the area their employers have assigned them to may benefit from having someone else manage their living arrangements. 

This compensation package also makes it easy to manage problems with lodging that may occur because an employer can correct any issues or help nurses relocate, and in these agreements, nurses often can decide when to move.

The GSA rates are the maximum amounts they can claim for reimbursement without furnishing receipts. The housing stipend can also cover their hotel stay expenses. If the house rent is cheaper than the stipend, nurses often can pocket the difference and obtain some extra cash.  

Related: What Are the Pros and Cons of Travel Nursing? (Plus Tips)

How much can you receive from a travel nurse housing stipend?

The amount of money you can expect to receive from your travel nurse housing stipend often depends on your employer. The bill rate is the hourly rate the hospital agrees to pay the agency for an hour of your work.

For instance, some agencies may pay a lower stipend but higher taxable wages to nurses. The amount also varies based on the location of your assignment. Typically, the GSA determines maximum stipends based on the average cost of living in a particular area.

Another factor that may impact your stipend amount is the season in which you move to a location. For instance, many people may travel to the South in the winter because of its pleasant temperatures during that time of the year, which increases the average rent during this time.

Nursing stipends in these regions during the winter therefore might be higher to accommodate that increase in rent. To earn more, consider working in a less popular area or learning an in-demand specialty to make you more marketable. You also may find a roommate or live with family or friends.

Related: What You Need To Know About Becoming a Travel Nurse

What are the requirements to earn a travel nurse housing stipend?

To earn a travel nurse housing stipend, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) often requires you to maintain the status of a temporary employee, meaning they work on an assignment for a limited period. It's also important to have a tax home from which you file your taxes to prove you're traveling for your job.

For instance, someone whose primary residence and work is in Chicago but travels to Denver for a temporary travel nursing assignment may receive a stipend that covers their travel to and housing expenses in Denver.

Related: How To Become a Travel Nurse in 7 Steps (Salary Info and Tips)

Is accepting a housing stipend more cost-effective than finding your own place?

Travel nurses often can choose between accepting agency-based housing or finding housing, which can help them earn extra money in certain instances. For example, if your stipend is $2,000 and you find an apartment that costs $1,500 a month, you can save $500 by choosing the cheaper option. If you opt to receive a housing stipend, you're responsible for finding and paying for your housing needs. Another consideration is the potential for your assignment to get canceled. 

If this occurs, your agency may absorb the stipend funds, but if you find your own lodging, you may continue to pay rent and complete a contract with the apartment you chose. If you signed a housing contract yourself for a long period, you're responsible for it because your name is on the lease. Month-to-month apartment leases also may include an early cancellation clause. Other flexible and reasonably priced options include vacation rental services, shared rentals and sublets.

Related: Salary vs. Total Compensation: What's the Difference?

What are the highest-paying cities for travel nurses?

A travel nurse's salary and stipend can vary depending on their location, employer and other factors, such as their living arrangement. If you choose a furnished apartment, for example, it can cost you more than an unfurnished one. The time of the year also influences the cost of living in many cities. According to Indeed data, a travel nurse earns an average salary of $133,852 per year.

Here's a list of some of the highest-paying cities for travel nurses:

  • Omaha, Nebraska: $129,389 per year

  • Orlando, Florida: $135,274 per year

  • Denver, Colorado: $139,595 per year

  • San Diego, California: $142,278 per year

  • Los Angeles, California: $143,996 per year

  • Cincinnati, Ohio: $145,384 per year

  • Phoenix, Arizona: $152,555 per year

For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the link(s) provided.

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