Bilt Rewards Becomes One Of Fastest Companies Ever To Hit Unicorn Status

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Bilt Rewards, the loyalty program which lets you earn points for paying rent and which offers probably the single best no annual fee rewards card in the market (the Bilt Mastercard), announced a growth round of $150 million in new funding at a $1.5 billion post-money valuation. Their round was led by Left Lane Capital and included Smash Capital, Wells Fargo, Greystar, Invitation Homes, Camber Creek, Fifth Wall, and Prosus Ventures.

These things can be somewhat challenging to date, but it appears to me that Bilt Rewards is faster from launch to unicorn status than Square, Instacart or Twitter were. And they raised it in this incredibly difficult fundraising environment – a huge vote of confidence from investors.

And there’s two reasons this strikes me as important.

  1. Obviously they now have a lot of new capital to invest in the product.

  2. When considering which transfer currency is best (among programs including those belonging to Chase, American Express, Citibank and Capital One).

    Bilt’s points are among the most valuable. Their transfer partners include some of the biggest and most important programs, like American AAdvantage and United MileagePlus, the best hotel transfer program in Hyatt, and niche value programs like Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles. The primary caution, that kept me from saying their points are the most valuable currency, has been uncertainty.

This comes on top of a $60 million raise at a $350 million valuation last September, a mere three months after launch. This $150 million in new funding gives Bilt Rewards staying power and should give members a lot of confidence:

  • Bilt hadn’t yet proven its staying power, which is to say it was new. That’s not a knock in itself, but we’ve watched Chase spend billions of dollars to defend its currency. Bilt was still a startup. They’re offering tremendous value, but could they keep doing this? A $150 million raise at sends a strong signal.

  • They hadn’t shown they could retain their top of market partnerships. All currencies lose partners. American Express and Chase both have. But, again, Bilt is new.

The no annual fee Bilt Mastercard is the only credit card to earn points paying rent at no cost (up to $100,000 per year) and earns double points on travel and triple points on dining. (You must make 5 transactions on the card in a month to earn points for that month.)

Each Bilt point can be spent at 1.25 cents apiece towards travel through their portal or transferred 1:1 into:

  • Star Alliance: Air Canada Aeroplan, Turkish Miles & Smiles, United Airlines MileagePlus
  • oneworld: American AAdvantage, Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, British Airways Executive Club, Iberia Plus
  • SkyTeam: Air France KLM Flying Blue
  • Non-alliance: Emirates Skywards, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles, Aer Lingus Aer Club
  • Hotels: Hyatt, IHG Rewards

The card seems like an absolute no-brainer if you rent where you live, and a competitive card with many of the better rewards products (and arguably the single best no annual fee card) even if you don’t. While there’s no initial bonus offer, someone renting in a high-priced market for four years could earn up to 200,000 points that no other card would let them earn – far more than the initial bonus offer on nearly any other product.

That the program is now worth over a billion dollars means they have the kind of staying power that may require me to lift my valuation of their points even further. Hopefully we’ll be able to see them thread whatever needle allowed them to secure both American and United as transfer partners, while working successfully with Aeroplan, Hyatt, and others.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Nate, when Bilt started, it used an “industrial” bank to provide the underlying credit facility to cardholders. A few months back, it switched providers to Wells Fargo. I would imagine that those whose credit is underwritten by the original provider will ultimately be transitioned to Wells.

  2. Bilt’s reward model is essentially the same as the Chase Sapphire Preferred. If the economics of the reward structure work for Chase, they ought to work for Bilt. In spite of this, some commenters have opined that Bilt will ultimately fail. I disagree. I think Bilt is a survivor.

    However, I question the viability of other TechFi card offerings. Whether due to economics or operational execution. What’s going on with Curve? What’s going on with X1? What’s going on with any of these other cards? After a frenzy of reporting a while back, we don’t hear a peep about these other cards.

  3. How is Bilt able to provide rewards on rent payments (when it doesn’t earn any processing and the other usual credit card transaction fees)? Presumably, there’s float (which is more valuable now with interest rates rising), but I don’t understand how they actually make money on the base product. Is it a matter of building up a massive customer base first?

  4. Hi Gary. You wrote on September 26: “The Bilt Mastercard, the no annual fee card that lets you earn points paying rent at no cost (up to $50,000 per year) and earns double points on travel and triple points on dining, now earns even more one day a month. Dubbed “Bilt Rent Day,” on the first of every month Bilt is offering:

    Double points on all non-rent spend, up to 10,000 extra points

    And that double points isn’t just ‘an extra point’ they even double the accelerator categories, so it’s 6x on dining, 4x on travel, and 2x on all other purchases except rent”

    Did Bilt pull this promotion after only one month? It doesn’t appear on their website that I can find, and it is not in their Terms and Conditions. You didn’t mention it here either. Should your readers still rely on your September 26 article (four weeks ago)?

  5. @Jerry. Thanks–still trying to figure out whether to get the card, and whether this is a limited time promotion (like Chase offering 5x points for three months on gas and groceries) or a card feature (like Freedom Unlimited offering at least 1.5x points always). Gary’s article made it sound like it was a new card feature, but it sounds more like a promotion–otherwise, it would be highlighted on the web site and in the terms and conditions.

  6. @Lee – Chase Sapphire Preferred makes money. Bilt doesn’t have an annual fee, but presumably has a revenue stream attached to buildings. Chase has a deal to lease Visa’s network, Bilt probably has a good deal from Mastercard but I don’t know the details. Some pretty savvy investors, who have more data for due diligence than we do, are certifying their economics in a really tough funding environment. That’s why I flagged this news.

  7. @Nate nate – Wells Fargo (now) issues Bilt cards, and is an investor in the company. I have an original pre-Wells card and I’m hoping they do transition eventually…

  8. Should be enough to finally offer a sign up bonus.
    We’ve seen plenty of investor $$$$ burnt in the payment space. This should give them another year. After that, valuation will drop. We all know how CC companies really make money. And my best guess is that they aren’t attracting a lucrative audience. But hey, it’s great to add to your resume and have FUN!

  9. As a landlord, this would only work if the renter pays the CC transaction fees. Does this negate the incentive for the renter?

  10. @Paul P – Bilt will charge your card and mail a check to the landlord (or ACH) there are no transaction fees to be paid by you or by the landlord

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