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Permission to use image granted by Bilt Rewards.

Permission to use image granted by Bilt Rewards.
Photo: Bilt Rewards/Mastercard

While rent is easily the biggest monthly expense for millions of Americans, rent payments rarely earn rewards or improve credit scores, as most people are forced to pay by check. That’s where the new Bilt Rewards program steps in, offering the first credit card that can pay your rent without the usual third-party fees. But is it worth it? Here’s a look at the pros and cons.

How does Bilt Rewards work? 

Bilt Rewards is actually two things: a loyalty program app and a rewards credit card. If your rental property happens to be part of a “Bilt Rewards Alliance” of participating properties (over 2 million units) you can pay rent directly using the app—for no fee—and earn 250 points per month with each payment (each point is loosely valued at 2.11 cents per dollar spent, per The Points Guy).

The rewards card, when used through the app, can be used to pay your rent without incurring any service fees (usually 2-3%), even if your unit is not part of the network, as the company will send your landlord payment on your behalf—either as a check mailed via UPS, or through direct ACH bank transfer. This is great because most landlords don’t accept credit card payments due to to transaction costs, and if they do, those costs are ultimately passed on to the renter.

The card has no annual fee, and it offers reward point multipliers based on spending. In the first month, there’s a bit of a welcome offer: you can earn 3x points on rent up to 10,000 points, along with 2x points on all non-rent spending. Afterward, non-rent spending drops down to 1 point per dollar on the card. Per Nerdwallet, additional multipliers apply if you use the card to pay for rent, but those are actually based on non-rent spending targets. It works as follows:

Blue Status: Spend $250 in qualifying non-rent purchases within a month and you’ll earn 1 point per $2 on your next rent payment.

Silver Status: Spend $1,000 in qualifying non-rent purchases in a calendar month and you’ll earn 1 point per $1 on your next rent payment.

Gold Status: Spend $2,000 in qualifying non-rent purchases in a calendar month and you’ll earn 1.5 points per $1 on your next rent payment.

Platinum Status: Spend $3,500 in qualifying non-rent purchases in a calendar month and you’ll earn 2 points per $1 on your next rent payment.

The points can be redeemed for a variety of things, such as hotels, airfare, home decor, art and gym classes. Notably, you can also use your points to pay for rent, or as part of a down payment for a FHA or Fannie Mae mortgage. As the card is part of the Mastercard World Elite program, there are other perks, too, such as cell phone insurance, discounts on merchants like Lyft and DoorDash, and a 24/7 concierge service.

And since paying rent with a high-interest credit card can be a debt trap for many borrowers, the Bilt card can disable rent payments when users don’t have cash savings in a linked bank account. Borrowers who are considered higher risk will be required to use the feature.

Is the Bilt Rewards card worth it?

The card’s lower-tier 1x reward multipliers for non-rent spending are below average compared to other rewards cards, many of which offer a flat 2x rate. However, a bonus is paid out based on how much you spend on rent, too—allowing you to claim rewards on an expense that costs many renters thousands of dollars every month. Plus, by paying with a credit card, these payments will help you build up your credit score, compared to paying with a check.

Whether the combined rewards are worth it will vary based on your everyday expenses and rent costs. For example, in the lowest Blue tier you’d only get a few bucks in value on non-rent spending each month, but you’d also get about $30 back based on your rent payment. Not great—but comparable to the monthly return from other rewards cards. Of course, if you spend a lot on either rent or non-rent expenses each month, the rates become more favorable (whether you can qualify for the Platinum tier rates by spending $3,500 in non-rent expenses is another matter, however). Ultimately, you really have to do the math for yourself to know if this card is worth it for you.

That said, if you’re already using a third party app that charges you 2-3% to pay your rent, you should consider the program. And if you already live in a Bilt Rewards Alliance property, you should definitely join the rewards program if you want to pay with a credit card, avoid transaction fees, and claim some easy rewards points.

How do I get the card? 

Currently the Bilt card and rewards program is invite-only, but you can register for an invite here. If you are accepted, expect an invitation within the next few weeks.

    



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