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Should you use the Bilt Mastercard? Why it could be a game changer for renters

Feb. 28, 2022
13 min read
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Editor’s note: TPG founder Brian Kelly is a Bilt advisor and investor.


Last summer, Bilt Rewards launched as a way for renters to build credit and earn points on rent payments, and the program debuted a cobranded credit card, the Bilt Mastercard, shortly afterward.

As a renter in New York City myself, the Bilt Mastercard has become my own go-to option for rent payments and a few other types of purchases.

Bilt members earn transferable points — dubbed Bilt Rewards — whenever they pay their rent either via the app to an affiliated landlord. Or, if their landlord is not part of the Bilt Rewards Alliance, they can sign up for the Bilt Mastercard and then use the app to mail a rent check each month and earn points that way.

Rent payments made through Bilt are fee-free, which is a rarity when using a credit card to pay rent. Bilt Rewards points can be transferred to several airline and hotel partners, used toward a downpayment on a home, or redeemed for gym memberships and home decor, among other options.

The Bilt Mastercard earns 1 point per dollar on rent (on up to $50,000 per year). Other purchases earn between 1-3 points per dollar based on the spending category. There are two bonus categories, in particular, that convinced me to open the Bilt Mastercard.

Since doing so, I've used it to pay my monthly as well as for some other specific rent and have earned thousands of points in the process. Here's my experience with the card, and why others might want to consider it.

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How many points you’ll earn with Bilt

(Photo by ah_fotobox Andreas*H/Getty Images)

As discussed, 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.

Bilt caps the number of points you can earn on rent every year at 50,000, but you'd have to spend more than $4,166.67 in monthly rent will rent to reach this cap, so this 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 2 million units from major real estate companies including some of the top real estate companies across the U.S., such as Cushman & Wakefield, Starwood Capital Group, and The Related Companies.

However, if your landlord is not an affiliate, then you'll need the Bilt Mastercard in order to use the app to send a monthly rent check out or send a direct deposit through your landlord's online portal and earn points that way. I personally rent from a mom-and-pop landlord, so I use the card's check-mailing feature, and it arrives on time at my landlord's address every month.

If you do rent from a company in the Bilt Rewards Alliance, you can also earn bonus points for 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.

Earning points on everyday purchases with the Bilt Mastercard

Beyond just rent, the Bilt Mastercard earns points according to the following formula:

  • Dining: 3 points per dollar
  • Travel: 2 points per dollar
  • Other purchases: 1 point per dollar

These earning categories sound simple enough on paper, but there are some stipulations.

First, you must use your card at least five times per month to earn points on your purchases. If you don't do this, 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 as transactions post, not when your statement closes.

Next, travel is defined as reservations booked directly with an airline, hotel, car rental or cruise company. 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.

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 the Venture Card for everything else.

While there's no sign-up bonus, you do earn 2 points per dollar during your first 30 days of card membership. I maximized this by charging quarterly tax payments, utilities and other expenses to the card during my first month. I could have put it on another 2 points per dollar card, but I like being able to transfer to American Airlines AAdvantage and World of Hyatt, two of Bilt's travel transfer partners.

Likewise, I often use the card for dining expenses to earn 3 points per dollar. Sure, this is lower than my American Express® Gold Card, which earns 4 points per dollar on dining. But lately, I have been working to diversify my points portfolio. I often switch between using the Amex Gold for dining one month and the Bilt Mastercard the next.

Bilt status tiers

Under the initial Bilt Rewards program, your status tier determined 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 rungs:

  • Blue: Anyone enrolled who earns under 25,000 points in a calendar year.
  • Silver: Earn at least 25,000 points per calendar year.
  • Gold: Earn at least 50,000 points per calendar year.
  • Platinum: Earn at least 100,000 points per calendar year.

Overall, the benefits of each status tier might feel pretty minor, depending on your real estate goals. You can earn bonus points on new leases and renewals when renting from a Bilt partner. Gold and Platinum elites can use Bilt's homeownership concierge service and Platinum members get a free gift from the Bilt Collection of items, such as artwork and home decor.

The most intriguing perk, however, 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 for each 30-day period.

For example, say you have 50,000 Bilt Rewards points and Silver status for one month. As of writing, the published national savings interest rate is 0.6%, so you'd earn 25 bonus Bilt Rewards points per month as interest, assuming your balance remains stable month.

Interest rates are low right now, but it's a unique feature and one that helps you earn passive points income on a monthly basis. Interest rates fluctuate over time, and you have compound interest on your side, so this could equal a nice (albeit small) sum of points over the years.

Related: 5 ways to pay your rent or mortgage with a credit card

Redeeming Bilt Rewards points

(Photo by EQRoy/Shutterstock)

Once you have these points in your account, you can transfer them to the following loyalty programs:

These are valuable transfer partners and make earning with Bilt points very tempting. That said, some of these partners, like HawaiianMiles, aren’t super 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), given how limited other transfer options to these two programs are.

Bilt Rewards is the only proprietary credit card transferable points program that transfers to American AAdvantage — and this is a huge benefit. The program has kept award charts around (for now), yielding some excellent redemption opportunities. Think 57,500 points for a one-way business class ticket from North America to Europe and 60,000 points for a one-way ticket from North America to Japan in Japan Airlines business class.

(Screenshot courtesy of aa.com)

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.

(Screenshot courtesy of aa.com)

On the hotel side, you can leverage World of Hyatt for incredible value on luxurious hotel stays. The program has mostly stuck to a fixed award chart and, despite adding peak and off-peak pricing, still offers solid pricing on luxurious hotel stays. For example, you can book an off-peak night at the Park Hyatt New York for 25,000 points per night; on the date I checked, the nightly rate was close to $800. (Note that this property is moving up to Category 8 later in March, so prices will increase.)

(Screenshot courtesy of hyatt.com)

Of course, there are other great transfer partners here, too. Turkish Miles&Smiles provides excellent redemption values for United flights from the Mainland U.S. to Hawaii. Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is a good choice for Delta One flights to Europe and 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.

As noted in our full guide to Bilt Rewards, you can also 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 you'll generally want to steer clear of those redemption options.

Related: 5 ways to pay your rent or mortgage with a credit card

Does using Bilt Rewards make sense?

(Photo by Guido Mieth/Getty Images)

If you're a renter, I think it's a no-brainer to use Bilt to pay your monthly rent if possible. It's essentially free points for expenditures you have to make each month anyway.

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 your payments through its check-sending service. What's more, the card has no annual fee and there's no fee to pay your landlord. You're only charged fees and interest if you carry a balance on your card, like 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 that don't mind you putting the full rent on your card, 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 has solid bonus points earning on dining purchases.

I opened the card recently 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 tier 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.

Related: The best credit cards of 2021

Bottom line

With the Bilt Mastercard's new earning structure and 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 — otherwise, you'll forfeit any points earned.

Featured image by BILT
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards

2 - 10X points
10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
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Intro offer

75,000 bonus miles
Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

Annual Fee

$395

Recommended Credit

740-850
Excellent
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
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  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023