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

17:10  21 september  2021
17:10  21 september  2021 Source:   thepointsguy.com

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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.

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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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In This Post

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.

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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

a man and a woman standing in front of a building: Bilt has ambitions to reshape renting and home buying. (Photo courtesy of Bilt) © The Points Guy Bilt has ambitions to reshape renting and home buying. (Photo courtesy of Bilt)

When a rewards program and credit card go together


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a man talking on a cell phone: Orman told CNBC that the biggest mistake she sees young investors make is buying stock in a company because it’s cool or trendy. With this strategy, “maybe you’ll hit it right, maybe you’ll hit it wrong,” she said. Orman suggested investing a set amount each month into an index fund or ETF instead of picking individual stocks.

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.

graphical user interface, application: (Photo courtesy of Bilt) © The Points Guy (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.

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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.

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a large brick building: Bilt currently has 2 million rental units nationwide in its network of partners. (Photo by ah_fotobox Andreas*H/Getty Images) © The Points Guy 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.

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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.

The Bilt Mastercard also comes with the World Elite Mastercard designation, which includes benefits such as cellphone insurance and merchant discounts with brands like Lyft and DoorDash. It’s not the only no-annual-fee World Elite Mastercard, but it’s one of only a handful of them.

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How to redeem points

The Bilt team has veterans in real estate, lifestyle, and yes, loyalty and travel.

The company’s Head of Loyalty, Dave Canty, created the TrueBlue program for JetBlue in 2009. And Bilt’s Director of Travel Rewards is Richard Kerr, a former editor and points expert at TPG.

So it shouldn’t come as a major surprise that one of the most impressive elements of the entire Bilt program is actually the loyalty program.

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Transfer partners for travel

Bilt Rewards points can be transferred at a 1:1 ratio to nine airline and hotel partners. They include:

  • 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
  • IHG Rewards Club (latest partner as of Sept. 21, 2021)
graphical user interface, application: (Photo courtesy of Bilt) © The Points Guy (Photo courtesy of Bilt)

All transfer times are instant, except for American which may take up to 24 hours.

Another especially exciting element of Bilt’s partnership portfolio is the World of Hyatt program.

“We connected a lot with the Bilt team to learn who their target audience was and thinking about how to make it a win-win,” explained Hyatt’s vice president of partnerships, Ari Levin. “[Partnering with Bilt]…was a pretty easy decision for us. We can’t wait to showcase our great properties to Bilt’s millennial audience. We’re thrilled and excited for this partnership.”

Future mortgage or rent credit

And while there are some impressive travel transfer partners in the line-up, one of the most unique ways to redeem points is toward a down payment on a future home purchase.

In fact, Bilt claims it is the first company in the U.S. to allow this type of redemption. Bilt’s Jain, told TPG that the team worked for almost two years with the Federal Housing Association with the intended goal of “making housing more affordable for the next generation of homebuyers.” Bilt points redeemed toward a down payment are valued at up to 1.5 cents apiece.

If your landlord is part of the Bilt Rewards Alliance, you can also redeem points toward rent credit, although that redemption rate will vary based on the real estate partner.

Fitness classes

Another redemption option is to cash in rewards for high-end workout classes, starting at 3,500 Bilt points.

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Fitness partners at launch include SoulCycle, Rumble and Y7. Based on the going rates for those classes, this comes out to approximately a 1 cent per point redemption rate.

graphical user interface: (Photo courtesy of Bilt) © The Points Guy (Photo courtesy of Bilt)

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The Bilt Collection

Bilt is branding itself as an all-encompassing platform with ways to redeem points on travel, housing, fitness, and lifestyle. Though details are still scant, the Bilt Collection is a curated assortment of artwork, home decor, tech, and lifestyle products that you will be able to redeem points for.

Earning status

a close up of a computer: (Photo courtesy of Bilt) © The Points Guy (Photo courtesy of Bilt)

In order to entice Bilt members to engage with the program (and spend on the credit card), Bilt also offers select perks after earning a number of points per calendar year. Here are the four tiers of the program.

  • Blue – anyone enrolled in Bilt Rewards with under 25,000 points
  • Silver – 25,000 points earned
  • Gold – 50,000 points earned
  • Platinum – 100,000 points earned

Interest on points balance

Bilt says that earning interest on a points balance is the first-of-its-kind offering. Each month, a Bilt member will earn interest based on the FDIC national savings rate on their average daily points balance for each 30-day period.

Applicable for: Silver, Gold, Platinum status

Homeownership concierge service

Bilt Rewards members who choose to redeem points towards a home down payment will receive a dedicated concierge for walking through the home buying process.

Applicable for: Gold and Platinum status

Bonus points on new leases, renewals

Bilt members with select status levels will get up to 50% extra points for signing a new lease or lease renewal.

Applicable for: Silver (10%), Gold (25%), Platinum (50%) status

Similar to many travel loyalty programs, status earned between January 1 and June 30 each year will expire on January 31 of the following year. Status earned between July 1 and December 31 will remain active the rest of the year in which it was earned and the entire following year.

What are Bilt points worth?

a bedroom with a bed and a mirror: Hyatt Regency JFK Suite (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy) © The Points Guy Hyatt Regency JFK Suite (Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

To know if this is all worth it for you, you’ll have to have some sense of what a Bilt point is worth.

While TPG hasn’t yet done a formal valuation of Bilt points, we do have some easy reference points we can use based on the value of American Airlines miles and World of Hyatt points, both 1:1 Bilt Rewards transfer partners.

TPG currently values American Airlines miles at 1.4 cents per mile and World of Hyatt points at 1.7 cents per point. For very simple math, let’s average those two amounts and use a conservative 1.55 cents per point as an example of what these points could be worth to some renters. This comes in just over what Bilt says you could get if you use Bilt points towards a down payment. That said, the number of flexible transfer partners does make this a potentially powerful currency worth even more.

Each renter will have to do the math for themselves based on their own redemption intentions. Plus, certain landlords might offer bonuses that make the program even more appealing.

Bottom line

It’s rare to see an entirely new loyalty program launch, let alone one that is predicated on rent-related rewards. But Bilt seems to have accomplished just that, and added impressive features like bonus earning categories, interest on points balances and a strong selection of travel transfer partners.

At TPG, we are big fans of programs that allow flexibility and transferability of points to different, high-value programs and Bilt Rewards looks like it will provide just that. Folks who want to earn fee-free rewards on rent payments and are willing to add a new credit card to their wallet, might find this to be an interesting proposition.

For its part, the company says it is “laser-focused” on getting Bilt Rewards and the Bilt Rewards Mastercard to as many of the 109 million renters in the U.S. as possible. But it’s clear from Bilt’s ads and redemption options just whom they’re going after first: Millennials.

Featured image courtesy of Bilt.

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

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