The Bilt Mastercard, launched Tuesday, lets cardholders earn rewards points for paying the rent—without transaction fees. In order to qualify for the maximum number of rewards points, however, users will have to ascend a tiered rewards-earning scheme that requires significant spending on non-rent purchases each month.
The new card, issued by Evolve Bank and Trust, complements the Bilt Rewards program managed by Kairos and a consortium of real estate ownership firms. The program enables renters in the company’s real estate network (which includes about 2 million rental units across the country), to earn rewards through rent payments, lease signings, or tenant referrals. Bilt cardholders can redeem points for travel, merchandise, rent payments, and even for a down payment on the purchase of a home.
- Bilt Mastercard lets cardholders earn points for paying their rent with the card, with no additional fees.
- Cardholders can use their points toward travel, fitness classes, future rent payments, or a down payment on a home.
- Rent payments made with the card are reported to the credit bureaus, potentially boosting cardholders’ credit scores.
- In order to qualify for the top earnings rates on rent, cardholders have to spend $3,500 on non-rent purchases each month.
Here’s how it works: Each month, you pay your rent through the Bilt app. The service skips the common 2% or 3% fee charged by other payment services when renters pay the rent with a credit card, and it rewards cardholders with up to 2 rewards points per dollar spent on rent. So, a $1,200 monthly rent payment could earn 2,400 points—as long as other monthly spending requirements are met. (Cardholders earn 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.)
Landlords are not required to be part of the Bilt Rewards Alliance network, or accept credit card payments, for the service to work. You pay via the Bilt app and the service converts your payment into your landlord’s preferred payment method, such as a check or ACH transfer. Bilt Mastercard waives transaction fees for both renters and property owners.
“Being able to earn points on rental payments is a unique opportunity for consumers as it gives them a way to accrue rewards on what is most likely their biggest expenditure each month,” said Rob MacLean, CEO of Points, which facilitates the loyalty point transfers between Bilt and its travel partners. “While travel is recovering, we’d anticipate that rewards programs will continue to innovate ways for consumers to earn travel rewards on their regular financial commitments, like rent, and everyday spend.”
No Transaction Fees for Credit Card Rent Payments
Most landlords simply won’t accept credit card payments. Yet third-party services that facilitate credit card payments for rent (you pay them and they send a check to your landlord) aren’t new—but all of them charge fees. Those fees might even be worthwhile if you’re trying to meet a credit card’s spending requirement for a welcome bonus, for example.
The Bilt Mastercard is the first payment option that doesn’t charge a fee for the convenience, which would otherwise cut into rewards earning. With a typical cash-back rewards credit card, the transaction fee would cost you more than you’d earn in cash back.
Bilt Mastercard has an APR range of 14.99% to 29.99%. Interest expense could quickly add up if you don’t pay off those rent charges every month. To help you avoid that, the card offers a service called BiltProtect, which essentially converts the card into a debit card just for rent payments. In other words, instead of putting a huge purchase on your credit line every month (which can eat into your available credit, and mess with your credit utilization and credit score), Bilt will automatically withdraw the funds from a linked bank account that you select.
Bilt Mastercard reports rent payments to the credit bureaus. Rent isn’t typically reported this way and doesn’t usually factor into a credit score. Renters working on building their credit scores could see a boost with consistent, on-time payments made with the card.
Tiered Rewards-Earning System
There is a catch, however. You have to spend a certain amount on non-rent purchases in order to earn the 2 points per dollar bonus on rent. The more you spend on non-rent purchases, the more you earn on rent, based on Bilt’s tiered system. Here’s how it breaks down:
- Basic Bilt: Earn 250 points per month for each rent payment.
- Blue status: Spend $250 in non-rent purchases to earn 1 point per $2 spent on rent.
- Silver status: Spend $1,000 in non-rent purchases to earn 1 point per $1 of rent.
- Gold status: Spend $2,000 in non-rent purchases to earn 1.5 points per $1 of rent.
- Platinum status: Spend $3,500 in qualifying, non-rent purchases to earn 2 points per $1 of rent.
Points can be redeemed for travel, a down payment on a home, a future rent payment, or for merchandise in the Bilt Catalog. Cardholders can also redeem points for fitness classes at studios including SoulCycle, Rumble, and Y7 Studio.
The best use of points seems to be for travel, since you can transfer points 1:1 to a variety of travel partners including American Airlines, World of Hyatt, Air Canada Aeroplan, Emirates Skywards, Air France/KLM Flying Blue, Turkish Miles & Smiles, Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles, and Virgin Atlantic Flying Club. To give you an idea of how you can stretch the value, each point transferred to American Airlines (AAdvantage) would be worth 2.04 cents, while each point transferred to the World of Hyatt program is worth 1.88 cents, according to our calculations of the value of rewards points. For a down payment on a mortgage, Bilt values its points at 1 cent each. That means 500,000 points would be worth $5,000 when used for a down payment.
Earnings from rent are capped at 4,000 points per month. So, if you were at Blue status you'd earn 4,000 points on $8,000 of rent. If you were at Platinum status, you'd earn 4,000 points on $2,000 of rent. For a limited time, you can earn 3 points per dollar on your first rent payment, up to 10,000 points.
Cardholders also get additional ancillary benefits through Mastercard, including cellphone protection, purchase protection, Lyft and DoorDash credits, and more.
The Bilt Mastercard is currently available by invite only (specifically, to people who rent an apartment at a Bilt Rewards Alliance property and who meet credit requirements). Eventually, everyone will be able to apply; you can sign up online to join the waitlist.