Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.
TPG founder Brian Kelly is a Bilt advisor and investor.
In 2021, points program Bilt Rewards was launched as a way for renters to build credit and earn points on rent payments. It debuted a cobranded credit card shortly afterward.
The concept of paying rent with a credit card is not new; however, it typically involves fees of 2%-3%, which can eat up the value of any rewards you might attain in the process. However, Bilt Rewards doesn't charge fees on rent payments if you live in a participating property or if you pay with the Bilt Mastercard® — even if your landlord doesn't accept credit cards. Plus, you can earn transferable points on these payments and other purchases with the Bilt Mastercard, which is issued by Wells Fargo and has no annual fee (see rates and fees).
Here's a look at how you can earn and redeem Bilt Rewards, as well as considerations for whether using the Bilt Mastercard is worth it.
When you pay your rent with Bilt, you earn 1 point per dollar on rent regardless of your Bilt status tier (more on this later). For instance, if you have a $3,000 monthly rent payment, you’ll earn 3,000 points per month with no fees when paying through the program.
You can only earn 50,000 points on rent per year, but you’d have to spend more than $4,166.67 in monthly rent to reach this cap. Thus, it might not affect the majority of renters. Plus, there’s no cap on the number of points you can earn on everyday purchases when you swipe your Bilt Mastercard.
You don’t actually need the Bilt Mastercard if your landlord is part of the Bilt Rewards Alliance, which currently comprises over two million units from major real estate companies including some of the top real estate companies across the U.S., such as Brookfield Properties, Cushman & Wakefield, Starwood Capital Group and The Related Companies.
However, if your landlord is not an affiliate, then you’ll need the Bilt Mastercard to use the app to send a monthly rent check or a direct deposit through your landlord’s online portal, and you can earn points that way. I rent from a mom-and-pop landlord, so I use the card’s check-mailing feature, which arrives on time at my landlord’s address every month.
If you rent from a company in the Bilt Rewards Alliance, you can earn bonus points for other activities, such as signing a lease, resigning an existing lease and making consistent, on-time rent payments. Your landlord may even offer bonus Bilt Rewards points for maintenance issues or birthday bonuses, per the Bilt Rewards website.
Beyond just rent, the Bilt Mastercard awards 3 points per dollar on dining, 2 points per dollar on travel and 1 point per dollar on other purchases. This is in addition to earning 1 point per dollar on rent payments, subject to a limit of 50,000 points per year earned from rent payments. You can read the terms of the Bilt rewards and benefits here.
It's also possible to earn double points on the first day of the month through Bilt's "Rent Day" promotion. This applies to non-rent spending and is subject to a 10,000-point limit annually.
Related: Full review of the Bilt Mastercard
These earning categories sound simple enough on paper, but some stipulations exist.
First, you must use your Bilt Mastercard at least five times monthly to earn points on your purchases. If you don’t, the points you’ve accrued will be removed from your account at the end of your statement period. This is important to note, as points are credited to your account instantly when transactions post — not when your statement closes.
Next, travel is defined as airlines, hotels, motels, resorts, cruise lines and car rental agencies. This notably excludes ride-hailing services, taxis, public transit and other common travel expenses, so for frequent travelers and commuters, it might not replace your Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or another card that earns bonus points on a broader selection of travel expenses.
Related: The best credit cards for your commuting expenses
Of course, you don’t need to put all of your expenses on your Bilt Mastercard to keep your points. You might consider pairing it with a card that earns bonus miles on everyday purchases, like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. This card earns 2 miles per dollar on all purchases, so you can use the Bilt Mastercard for dining and fee-free rent payments and use the Venture Card for everything else.
It's also important to know that there's no sign-up bonus on the Bilt Mastercard. The value proposition for the Bilt Mastercard is earning points while avoiding fees on rent payments each year. Compare this to the value of points you might earn from sign-up bonuses on other cards then subtract the value of fees you pay in the process.
Earning 3 points per dollar with the Bilt Mastercard is lower than my American Express® Gold Card, which earns 4 points per dollar on dining at restaurants. However, I have been working to diversify my points portfolio, so I switch between using the Amex Gold for dining one month and the Bilt Mastercard the next.
Under the initial Bilt Rewards program, your status tier was determined by how many points you earned on rent. While that’s no longer the case, Bilt status tiers still exist and are based on how many points you earn in a given calendar year. Here are the various levels:
Related: Earn points on rent: Your complete guide to the Bilt Rewards program
Overall, the benefits of each status tier might feel pretty minor, depending on your real estate goals. Silver members and above can earn interest on points and bonus points on qualifying activities with participating properties, while you'll need Gold status to access the homeownership concierge service, walking you through the home-buying process from start to finish. Only Platinum members have access to a gift from the Bilt Collection, which includes home decorations and art.
The most intriguing perk is that all elites earn interest on their Bilt Rewards points. You’ll earn the FDIC-published national savings interest rate on your average daily points balance during the previous 30 days. For example, say you have 50,000 Bilt Rewards points and Silver status. As of writing, the published national savings interest rate is 0.24%, so you’d earn 120 bonus Bilt Rewards points per month as interest this month.
While interest rates on savings are higher now than in previous months, this still amounts to only $2.16 worth of points, based on TPG's latest valuations. However, this is a unique feature and one that helps you earn passive points income every month. Interest rates fluctuate over time, and you have compound interest on your side, which could equal a nice (albeit small) sum of points over the years.
Related: How to earn 'interest' on your rewards balance with Bilt
Once you have points in your account, you can transfer them to the following loyalty programs:
Some of these transfer partners are valuable and make earning with Bilt points very tempting. That said, some of these partners, like HawaiianMiles, aren’t valuable. Furthermore, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards points to many of these programs.
The standouts are American Airlines AAdvantage and World of Hyatt (a Chase transfer partner).
Bilt Rewards is the only permanent 1:1 points transfer partner for American AAdvantage— and this is a huge benefit, now that the temporary transfers from Citi ThankYou Rewards have ended.
The AAdvantage program has some excellent redemption opportunities. Think from 57,500 points for a one-way business class ticket from North America to Europe and from 60,000 points for a one-way ticket from North America to Japan in Japan Airlines business class. (Note that AAdvantage plans to revamp its award charts in 2023.)
Plus, AAdvantage frequently offers Web Special promo awards on American flights. You can use these to score super cheap awards — both domestic and international. For example, I found Chicago-O’Hare (ORD) to Ontario, California (ONT) for as few as 6,500 AAdvantage miles on many dates.
On the hotel side, you can leverage World of Hyatt for incredible value on luxurious hotel stays. Though the program has instituted peak and off-peak pricing, World of Hyatt has mostly stuck to a fixed award chart. This can provide fantastic pricing on luxurious hotel stays. For example, you can book an off-peak night at the Park Hyatt New York for 35,000 points per night; on the date I checked, the nightly rate was $760.
Of course, there are other great transfer partners here, too. Turkish Miles & Smiles provides excellent redemption values for United Airlines flights from the Continental U.S. to Hawaii — or domestic flights anywhere in the U.S. for that matter. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is a good choice for Delta One flights to Europe and ANA premium cabins when flying to Japan, while Emirates Skywards can get you a suite in Emirates’ famous first-class cabin. All of this is to say that the points you earn from paying your rent can take you far.
You also can redeem points in Bilt's travel portal. This involves a flat redemption rate of 1.25 cents per point, meaning 10,000 Bilt points are worth $125 in travel. That matches the redemption rate when using points from the Chase Sapphire Preferred on travel purchases through the Chase travel portal.
As noted in our full guide to Bilt Rewards, you also can redeem points for exercise classes, items from the Bilt Collection, discounts on rent and even put them toward a downpayment on a home. That said, these will typically provide less value than transferring to a travel partner, so it's best to steer clear of those redemption options.
If you’re a renter, I think it’s a no-brainer to use Bilt to pay your monthly rent if possible. Essentially, you can earn free points for a necessary expenditure each month.
If you live in a Bilt Rewards Alliance building, you only need to download the app to pay your rent via Bilt. If you don’t, you can pick up the Bilt Mastercard and make payments through its check-sending or ACH service. The card has no annual fee and doesn't levy any fees when paying rent. You’re only charged fees and interest if you carry a balance on your card, as you would be with other credit cards.
That’s what makes the Bilt Mastercard potentially useful for those of us living in expensive cities like New York City and San Francisco. Rent can make up a good portion of your monthly expenses in these regions, so getting a return on that spending can be a significant consideration. If you have roommates who don’t mind you putting the full rent on your card after they give you cash, you could earn even more points.
Of course, you do need to make at least five purchases per billing cycle with your Bilt Mastercard to earn points. That’s not an onerous requirement, though, since the card earns solid bonus points on dining purchases.
I opened the Bilt Mastercard earlier this year and, as discussed, have been putting some of my dining expenses on it each month to meet the transaction requirement. You might want to consider doing the same depending on your credit card portfolio.
But don’t just take my word for it. If you pay rent and are considering a Bilt Mastercard, look through Bilt’s selection of transfer partners and redemption options to see if it makes sense for you.
On the other hand, consider what you’re giving up when you pay with Bilt. For example, someone paying their rent through Plastiq using an airline cobranded credit card that earns bonus elite-qualifying metrics may want to skip Bilt if they don’t have another way to meet the spend threshold for their elite status of choice.
Likewise, if you’re under Chase’s 5/24 application threshold, but getting the Bilt Mastercard would put you over it, you might want to apply for a new Chase card first and then save the Bilt Mastercard for later.
As for me, being able to rack up Bilt Rewards on my rent means even more travel redemption options down the road, thanks to those transfer partners.
With the Bilt Mastercard’s earning structure and a top-notch set of transfer partners, Bilt Rewards can be an excellent way to earn points on your rent. Just be sure to use the card at least five times per month on other purchases or you’ll forfeit any points earned. For me, using Bilt to pay rent, earn points and not pay any fees absolutely makes sense.
Official application link: Bilt Mastercard®
Additional reporting by Ryan Smith.
For rates and fees of the Bilt Mastercard, click here.
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Should you use the Bilt Mastercard? Why it could be a game changer for renters – The Points Guy
Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information.