Should you pay your rent with this new credit card? We crunch the numbers
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Last month, Bilt Rewards launched as a way for renters to build credit and earn points on rent payments. Bilt cardmembers earn transferable points — dubbed Bilt Rewards — whenever they pay their rent with the Bilt card. Rent payments are fee-free, which is an industry-first for renters. Points can be transferred to travel partners, used toward a downpayment on a home or redeemed for gym memberships.
The information for the Bilt card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
Editor’s note: TPG founder Brian Kelly is a Bilt advisor and investor.
But how many points you earn on your rent depends on how much you spend elsewhere. You can earn up to 2 points per dollar on your rent payments, but only if you spend $3,500 in non-rent purchases every calendar month. Lower spend thresholds will earn fewer points on rent.
For example, spending $250 per month on the card means you earn just 0.5 points per dollar on your rent payment. All non-rent payments earn 1 point per dollar on the Bilt card.
This then begs the question — is it worth spending on a Bilt card when you’re possibly limiting your point earnings on other purchases?
For example, my American Express® Gold Card earns 4 points per dollar at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1 point per dollar) and restaurants, 3 points per dollar on flights booked with the airline or through Amex Travel and 1 point per dollar on other purchases.
Earning only 1 point per dollar on these purchases just to earn points on my $1,400 monthly rent probably doesn’t make sense in my case. However, the $250 per year Amex Gold Card (see rates and fees) is already in my wallet one way or the other, so your math may vary based on your situation.
In this article, I’ll compare the value you earn using the Bilt card with other rewards credit cards. I’ll start with an overview of Bilt’s status tiers and then compare it against various rewards credit cards. I also developed a Bilt calculator you can use to see if Bilt makes sense for your wallet.
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How many points you’ll earn on your rent with Bilt
As discussed in the intro, you have to put a set number of non-rent expenses on your Bilt card every month to earn points on your rent.
The more you spend, the higher tier status you earn. Higher tiers earn more points per dollar spent on their Bilt rent payments, but all non-rent purchases still earn just 1 point per dollar spent. Those without Tier status earn 250 points per month on their rent payment.
Here’s a look at the Bilt’s status tiers:
|Bilt Tier||Monthly non-rent spend requirement||Points per dollar earned on rent|
|Member||$0||250 points total|
It’s also worth noting that you’re limited to earning 4,000 Bilt points per month on rent payments. This can be a serious damper for those living in expensive cities like New York and San Francisco.
Once you have these points in your account, you can transfer them to these loyalty programs:
- American Airlines AAdvantage
- Air Canada Aeroplan
- Emirates Skywards
- Air France/KLM Flying Blue
- Turkish Miles & Smiles
- Virgin Atlantic Flying Club
- Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
- World of Hyatt
These are valuable transfer partners and make earning with Bilt very tempting. That said, some of these partners, like HawaiianMiles, aren’t super valuable. Further, you can transfer American Express Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards points to many of these programs.
Does it make sense to use the Bilt card on everyday expenses?
How much value will you get from putting your everyday spending on a Bilt card? And how many points will you miss out on by not putting these expenses on a card that earns bonus points? Good questions.
To find this, I turned to The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The bureau publishes a mid-year Consumer Expenditures Report that shows how the average American household spends money every month. I looked through its most recent report and picked expenses that can generally be charged to a credit card.
Then, I totaled the average amount an American household spends in these categories every year and found what percentage each category makes of the total number:
- Food at home: 30%
- Food away from home: 25%
- Fuel: 15%
- Public and other transportation: 5%
- Personal care products and services: 5%
- Entertainment: 20%
In practice, these percentages vary greatly based on your personal spending habits. Regardless, it gives us a baseline to compare the Bilt card to others on the market. Here are a couple of examples.
Say you spend a total of $2,000 across all of these non-rent categories per month and pay the average American rent of $1,062. You’d earn a total of 3,062 points per month on your Bilt card. Alternatively, you’d earn 5,300 points on an Amex Gold since it earns 4 points per dollar on dining at restaurants and groceries at U.S. supermarkets (up to $25,000 in purchases; then 1x).
If you maximize the program and spend $3,500 each month across these categories and pay $2,000 in rent, you’d earn 7,500 points with the Bilt card. At the same time, you’d still come out ahead with the Amex Gold and earning 9,275 points. This is in large part because you’re spending a combined $1,925 on dining and groceries.
Of course, you don’t have to put all of your expenses on a Bilt card. Instead, you may opt to charge only your non-bonused spend on your Bilt card and the rest on another credit card. If this totals $1,000 per month, you could still earn 1 point per dollar on your rent and maximize earning elsewhere. This is how I plan to use my Bilt card once I have it.
Everyone’s situation is different, so I created an Excel spreadsheet that you can use to see how many points you’d earn with Bilt every month. The spreadsheet also compares Bilt earnings with popular transferable points cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Citi Premier® Card. There’s also a spot for 2% cashback cards like Citi® Double Cash Card (1% when you buy and 1% as you pay).
To use the spreadsheet, make a copy of the spreadsheet in Google Sheets. Then, input how much you pay in rent and how much you spend in popular spending categories each month in column B. Then, you’ll see your points breakdown across a handful of different cards.
Related: The best credit cards of 2021
The moral of the story is that Bilt isn’t for everyone. It all depends on how much you spend on rent and everyday expenses. Further, it depends greatly on your average spending patterns and which card you charge purchases to. But as a general rule, if you have low rent but spend a lot on dining, groceries and travel, you’re probably better off with a card that earns bonus points on those purchases.
Again, I plan to reach Silver-tier status in the Bilt Rewards program and charge just enough non-bonused spend to my future Bilt card to earn 1 point per dollar on my rent every month. This will help me earn some “free” points while still maximizing dining, grocery and other bonus categories.
But if you only want one credit card in your wallet, use my Bilt calculator to see if the card is right for you.
For rates and fees of the Amex Gold card, click here.
Feature image courtesy of Bilt
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