New Free Rewards Program Gives You Credit Score Boost, Transferable Points For Paying Rent

Bilt Rewards a new program that everyone who rents where they live should join. You get free points for paying rent. They have a no annual free credit card that gives you points (double points, even) for rent payments. And this program’s points transfer to airline miles and hotel points as well. That’s just the start. If you rent there’s literally no reason not to join.

Two of the people behind this effort should be pretty familiar to many of you. Dave Canty is ex-Starwood and used to run JetBlue’s and IHG’s loyalty programs. And this is where Richard Kerr, one of the most popular writers formerly of The Points Guy, is now. It’s also brought to you by Ankur Jain, a former Vice President of Product at Tinder. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether Bilt Rewards or Tinder is more valuable in your life.

Bilt Rewards Gives You Points No Matter Where You Live

At a minimum join and you’ll earn points paying rent to your existing landlord. But the program launches with a number of large rental company partners, and Dave Canty tells me they have over 80% of the high rise residential properties in major areas inside their network, from “luxury end properties down to more upper midscale.” He says there are 2 million apartment units in the program at launch.

Apartments in their network will be offering points for signing and renewing leases, referring tenants, and as service compensation, and even signing up for the program. A landlord might decide to incentivize on-time payment of rent a certain number of months in a row, for instance awarding 1000 points to good tenants.

They have points transfers and offer 100 Bilt Points for every transfer partner account you link to your Bilt Rewards account. So add just American AAdvantage and Hyatt, for instance, and that’s 200 free points.

If where you live isn’t part of the network you can earn 250 points per month linking your bank account and paying rent through the app, and points linking their transfer partners. If you get their credit card, though, you can earn up to 4000 points per month paying rent.

As Canty put it to me, “The program allows renters to earn, and for the landlord to incent.” He views the program as a competitive advantage for landlords, and for other partners they bring in. They are building a lifestyle loyalty program anchored to the major expense consumers have, with plans to offer points in related spaces like home decor and even later in the consumer lifecycle deals on mortgages.

Bilt Rewards Helps Raise Your Credit Score

Bilt helps renters build credit, since normally on-time rent payments don’t get reported to credit agencies. However Bilt will report on-time payments. And, Canty tells me, they will report only on-time payments, not late payments. (Canty caveated that of course a given landlord might report late payments.)

This is initially for rental properties in the network but they expect to build it out more broadly than that since they’ll have a window into what people are paying through the app (and earning 250 points per month for) outside the network of partner properties. They believe over the course of a year this might improve a member’s credit score by 50-100 points.

bilt rewards helps credit score

Bilt Credit Card Lets You Earn Points For Rent Payments

They’re offering new Bilt Mastercard cardholders 3X points on their first month’s rent up to a maximum of 10,000 points, and 2 points per dollar on all non-rent spend for the first 30 days (uncapped).

Since the clock starts ticking on earning double points, a digital card will be available immediately on approval in the Bilt Rewards app (physical card to follow “2-4 business days after approval”). The card is issued by Evolve Bank and serviced by CardWorks.

bilt rewards mastercard

Outside of the first 30 day period the Bilt Mastercard earns 1 point per dollar on all spend, except for rent where your earning is based on how much non-rent spend you put on the card in the month:

  • $0 – $249 non-rent spend: No points for rent spend
  • $250 – $999 non-rent spend: 1 point per $2 spent on rent
  • $1000 – $1999 non-rent spend: 1 point per dollar on rent
  • $2000 – $3499 non-rent spend: 1.5 points per dollar on rent
  • $3500+ non-rent spend: 2 points per dollar on rent

This would be a perfect way to ensure plenty of non-rent spend, and capture increasing amounts of spend from people with higher rents (and therefore a likelihood to spend more across the board), except that there’s a 4000 points per month cap in how much you can earn from rent payments. So while you may be able to earn 2 points per dollar on rent, you’d then only earn on your first $2000 a month in rent payments. (The cap is $10,000 in the first month for new cardmembers as anacquisition offer.)

Canty thinks “you’d be crazy not to have the card” because of the ability to earn points on rent and even earn up to two points per dollar “and the fact that it’s a [no annual fee] Mastercard World Elite card is important.”

Indeed it comes with Mastercard’s cell phone insurance (when you pay your monthly bill with the card); Purchase Assurance covering accidental damage of purchases for 90 days; discounts with Lyft, Doordash and Shoprunner; Mastercard Luxury Hotel & Resorts amenities; and World Elite Concierge.

Residents at some properties that are part of the Bilt Rewards Alliance at launch will receive emails today soliciting them to join the program and apply for the card. Everyone else has to ‘join the waitlist’ at Biltrewards.com to be notified when you’re able to join the program and apply for the card.

Transfer Points To Airline/Hotel Programs, Or Redeem Them For A Mortgage Down Payment

In addition to redeeming points for things like home decor, rent credit, and fitness classes, Bilt Rewards points can be transferred to several frequent flyer programs at a 1:1 ratio, with a minimum transfer of 5000 points.

  • Airlines: American AAdvantage, Air Canada Aeroplan, Emirates Skywards, Air France KLM Flying Blue, Turkish Miles & Smiles, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles

  • Hotels: Hyatt

This is a brilliant collection of points partners.

  • Hyatt is the only hotel chain where a 1:1 transfer of points represents value. They’re only a Chase transfer partner today.
  • No transferable points program with a credit card has American AAdvantage as a partner. Citibank could have had it if they were willing to pay enough for it in the last contract negotiation, but they passed.
  • Aeroplan is a great partner, while Turkish Miles & Smiles offers incredible value. It offers 48 hour award holds so you can lock in an award prior to transferring points. Cancel and redposit fee is just $25. First class to the Caribbean or Hawaii is just 12,500 miles one-way on United. Europe is just 45,000 miles in business class, and India 52,500 miles (plus fuel surcharges).
  • Air France rounds out having partners in all of the three global alliances, and at the risk of damning with faint praise probably has the best SkyTeam program.
  • While Virgin Atlantic miles are often less valuable than other currencies they have incredible sweet spots. Emirates gets you access to first class awards which they’ve been taking away from partners.

This is a very thoughtfully chosen list of transfer partners, even if HawaiianMiles isn’t a very good program, it does have the name ‘Hawaii’ which can be a strong motivator.

It’s interesting that Bilt Rewards has a credit card earning transferable points to AAdvantage and Hyatt without seeming to violate the exclusivity provisions of their co-brand issues. Canty put it thusly: “Let’s be clear – the is first a foremost a Loyalty program” rather than a credit card transferable points program.

How Should You Think About Using The Bilt Mastercard

For those who rent, and who are going to have only one card, this is a pretty good one to consider since for most people rent is their biggest expense.

That’s not how I suggest approaching things, of course. I think this is a good card for paying rent, and you should think about how much other money you want to spend on the card to maximize your return on rent.

  • It takes $1750 in rent to break even against a 2x card with transferrable points. And points-earning from rent is capped at 4000 points per month. So that’s $2000 per month in rent at 2x. That’s a very narrow window of $3500 per month in non-rent spend and between $1750 and $2000 a month in rent.

  • I actually think, then, for most people who are maximizing their rewards it makes sense to spend less on the card and accept a lower rent reward – especially if you have a high rent payment and your landlord doesn’t already accept credit cards for free.

The right amount of spend to put on this card depends on how big a rent payment you have. For instance,

  • Spend $250 per month to qualify for 0.5x-earning on rent, and you’ll earn off of rent up to $4000 a month. That’s highly leveraged since you’re giving up just 250 points (compared to a 2x card) for your non-bonused spend and gain up to 4000 points a month paying rent.

  • Spent $1001 per month to qualify for 1.5-earning on rent, and you’ll earn off rent up to $2667 a month. You’re giving up 1001 points (compared to a 2x card) for your non-bonused spend and gain up to 4000 points a month paying rent.

If you’re paying $4000 a month in rent, not at all uncommon in places like New York and San Francisco, get the card and put $250 a month on it.

Homeownership As Part Of The Rewards Lifecycle

Canty says that Bilt can “see spend history and behavior, credit score, and understand and deliver specific offers that allow you to get to home ownership.”

Bilt sees itself as part of the journey from renting to owning, and markets that they can help with homeownership. That could potentially go beyond merely using points towards a down payment – which it’s promised will have a “minimum value” of a penny a point, and could “increase significantly based on other elements.”

For now we have to imagine what circumstances members could leverage their points for greater value but it presumably involves using preferred partners like realtors and lenders (from whom Bilt will generate revenue).

My guess is that the sweet spot will be transferring Bilt points out to other programs, not saving them for a mortgage, and that it’ll be possible to get as good or better a deal on mortgages and realtors (including via lower fees or rebates) outside of the program. I’ll be watching, and hope to be proven wrong.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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. I think you have your tiers wrong in your example. You say “Spend $251 per month to qualify for 1x-earning on rent”, but $251 just gives you 0.5x earning on rent. You have to spend $1000 to get 1x on rent.

  2. I don’t understand your enthusiasm for this card. You need $1,000. of outside spend before you get one point per dollar of rent. My son has been paying his rent with a credit card for years and getting that without any outside spend.

  3. Do these folks actually know the rental markets? All major communities (Avalon, Equity Residential) charge steep fees (~3%) for paying with a credit card. Seems like this card doesn’t make sense for many renters.

  4. OK, paying rent with a CCC is easy…except for the ridiculous fee the owner/landlord charges which negates much of the value.
    Is this fee eaten or waived?

  5. Agree with @sco — Gary’s numbers are off.

    I will say, I’m not sure their model is sustainable, because just running some basic numbers, it seems like if you live in an expensive rental market, it’s not hard to get at least 3X transferable points per non-rent dollar actually “charged” to the card, which seems like a really good return — and you can easily do better than that depending on how close your spending is to their actual tiers. Moreover, Gary’s right that you can get a lot of points at the lower levels — in my case, there’s zero incentive to go beyond gold or put much more than $1,000 in non-rent spend on the card.

    I live in midtown Manhattan and pay $3,850 a month in rent for my one-bedroom, direct billed to my checking account (so no rewards now). My best option to maximize overall value would be spending $1,000 in non-rent spending — I’d get a return of 4.85X transferable points per non-rent dollar spent, the sum of 1000 points on non-rent spend plus the 1X gold bonus on rent for another 3,850 points, for a total of 4,850 points on $1,000 in non-rent spending. In practice obviously I won’t be exactly at their tiers, but it looks to me like if I’m *anywhere* between $250 and $2,083 in non-rent spend in a given month, I’d earn *at least* 2.93 points per non-rent dollar. (In my case, I would actually earn the most “per non-rent dollar” by just spending $250 — I could earn 8.7 points per non-rent dollar spent there. But in total points terms, it’s worth it to spend a bit above $1,000 on non-rent stuff, so I get the rental bonus points of 3,850 instead of 1,925. At the margin, spending enough to get to gold is rewarded above 2X per non-rent dollar, so above my opportunity cost, but spending to get up to platinum is rewarded below my opportunity cost so no reason to go there.)

    In any case, without much effort, it’s a lot better than 2X points on a typical nonbonsued card. Basically for $1,000 a month in otherwise unbonused spend, I’d earn 58,200 transferable points a year — about enough for, say, two free nights at Hyatt’s top-tier properties charging 30,000 points per night. I have a stay at Big Sur coming up for July 4 weekend, booked on points that otherwise would have cost about $4,000 in actual cash. Or I could get enough points for two nights with a little more than $12,000 in otherwise nonbonsued spend on this card in a year plus letting them be the ones to write a check to my landlord. Not a bad deal at all! 🙂

    I’m not sure how long this will last before they change the structure. The caps do give them some protection and maybe they’re betting that most of their target audience will have lower rent payments than I do. But seemingly, this card would appeal the most to people like me with rental spending around the $4k mark. If they get too many customers like me, they’re in trouble with this structure. But I guess most people revolve on credit cards, so maybe they figure they’ll be fine regardless.

  6. @Jack @Geoff, there is no fee for paying rent with the card. You would not give the landlord your credit card number or pay through their website. The credit card company just mails a check to your landord (so it’s not actually processed through MasterCard) and charges it to your credit card statement. Basically what they are doing is offering a credit card with a rent bill payment service attached to it.

    @ Theresa — If your landlord allows you to pay rent with a credit card *for no fee*, that’s a better deal and this card is not for you. But for most people, the only option to pay rent with a credit card involves a fee of at least 2.85% (that’s what Plastiq charges), which is roughly equal to, or even more than, what the rewards are worth. I don’t see enough value in the rewards to pay the Plastiq fee so I just pay cash to my landlord and earn no rewards at all on rent right now. With this card, if I spent $250 in stuff *other* than rent on their card, I’d get 1,925 bonus points per month on automatic monthly rental payments, or if I spent $1,000, I’d get 3,850 bonus points per month on rent (based on my monthly rent of $3,850). Because of the bonus points on rent where I otherwise would get zero points, I’m really getting a pretty *huge* return on the $250 or $1,000 in “actual” spend (say clothing purchases or monthly recurring subscriptions) that I would charge to the card.

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