3 months after launch, the company that lets you earn points on rent is reinventing itself

Sep 21, 2021

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Editor’s note: This story has been updated with Bilt’s latest reward changes as of Sept. 21, 2021. 

For millions in the U.S., rent is hands down the biggest monthly recurring expense.

The median monthly residential rent in the U.S. is $1,097, according to the latest U.S. Census survey data. And there are certainly plenty of locales in the U.S. where the average monthly rent is much higher than that.

Unfortunately, rent is an expense that doesn’t traditionally allow consumers to earn rewards without incurring substantial surcharges or jumping through a lot of inconvenient hoops.

In June, though, Bilt, a New York City-based startup, launched the first-ever rewards program along with a credit card that lets you earn points on rent without any transaction fees or charges. After an initial round of feedback, Bilt is simplifying the program and adding bonus spending categories along with a new travel transfer partner.

Here’s everything that you need to know.

(Editor’s note: TPG founder Brian Kelly is a Bilt advisor and investor.)

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Why rent is the next rewards frontier

Bilt is the brainchild of Ankur Jain, an entrepreneur who has experience disrupting the traditional rental industry.

In 2017, he co-founded Rhino, a company that offers an alternative to security deposits. To date, Rhino has secured $95 million in funding and is valued at more than $500 million.

But Bilt was conceived with an entirely different intention: To make renting more rewarding. Jain — as CEO and founder — and his team thought the best way to do that was to create an all-new rewards program.

Related: How Plastiq can help you earn rewards on rent — but it comes at a cost

Bilt has ambitions to reshape renting and home buying. (Photo courtesy of Bilt)

When a rewards program and credit card go together

The result is Bilt Rewards, a full-fledged loyalty program that co-exists with a credit card, the Bilt Mastercard. To earn points, members must first enroll in Bilt Rewards.

(Photo courtesy of Bilt)

The program has also launched the cobranded Bilt Mastercard, allowing renters to pay rent with no fees at any apartment or rental unit. What’s more, the card charges no annual fee and extends various World Elite Mastercard benefits, such as cell phone protection and trip interruption, cancellation and delay insurance.

But a loyalty program is only as good as what the points are actually worth when it’s time to redeem. Thankfully, Bilt’s rewards are impressive from the get-go, too (more on this later).

How to earn points

You don’t necessarily have to have the Bilt Mastercard to sign up for a Bilt Rewards account and begin earning points on rent. You can simply sign up through the website. When you do, you’ll earn a minimum of 250 points per month — regardless of how much your rent costs — by paying rent through the Bilt app. The catch for this is that your landlord has to be in the Bilt Rewards Alliance of partner properties to earn points without you having the cobranded credit card.

This option obviously won’t be for all renters. But Bilt is working with some of the top real estate companies across the U.S., such as Cushman & Wakefield, Starwood Capital Group, and The Related Companies, so certain renters have additional ways to earn points.

The information for the Bilt Mastercard has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Bilt currently has 2 million rental units nationwide in its network of partners. (Photo by ah_fotobox Andreas*H/Getty Images)

In total, more than 2 million rental units are part of Bilt Rewards Alliance. Another benefit of living in a building that is a member of the Bilt Rewards Alliance are periodic incentive points, which can be earned doing things such as signing a new lease or referring a friend.

If your landlord is not a member of the Bilt Rewards Alliance, you can get the Bilt Mastercard and then use the app to mail your landlord a rent check each month and earn points that way. Here are the details on that.

Related: Paying rent and mortgages with a credit card

Accelerating earnings with the credit card

The Bilt Mastercard has no annual fee and is an all-metal black card. While looks aren’t everything, it was certainly the heftiest no-annual-fee card I’ve ever felt.

The card’s latest changes

On the earnings front, after launching in June with a somewhat complex rewards structure, Bilt is simplifying things for cardholders. As of today, the card will earn points at the following rates:

  • 1x on rent payments with no fees (on up to $50,000 in rent payments every year)
  • 2x points on travel (when booked directly with an airline, hotel, car rental or cruise company)
  • 3x points on dining
  • All other purchases earn 1x

Cardholders need to make five transactions per statement period to earn points. While there’s no sign-up bonus with a bundle of points tied to hitting a certain spending requirement, new cardholders can earn 2x on all purchases (travel and dining will continue to earn 2x and 3x, respectively) for the first 30 days.

Bilt seems to have changed its strategy from focusing on being a credit card for rent to being a travel and dining rewards card that also earns on rent. This will likely mean more mass-market appeal.

In addition to the ability to earn rewards on rent, these travel and dining bonus earning rates are very competitive for a no-annual-fee card. Add in the 1x rent earnings without any fees, and this becomes an even more interesting value proposition compared to some of the top cash-back and travel rewards cards.

As mentioned above, carrying the Bilt Mastercard also unlocks the ability to earn points on rent for folks who don’t live in Bilt Rewards Alliance partner properties by having the app mail their non-alliance landlord a check, the amount of which is charged to their credit card account.

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