The national median rent has increased by 13.8 percent in 2021 as of Aug. 31, according to Apartment List, an online marketplace for U.S. apartment listings.
Even as rent remains the largest monthly expense for most people, rarely have those on-time payments helped renters improve their credit scores or qualify for a mortgage. And, unlike other recurring bills (utility payments, for instance), rent generally isn’t payable by credit card, which means renters also miss out on the chance to earn rewards for this type of spending.
But the times, they are a-changin’.
For starters, government-sponsored enterprise Fannie Mae announced in August that its lending partners will begin incorporating positive rental histories into the underwriting process, while the recently launched Bilt Rewards Mastercard® lets cardholders earn points that they can redeem for travel, merchandise, rent—and even a down payment on a future home.
Whether you’re planning to apply for a mortgage in the near future or just starting to think about becoming a homeowner someday, keep reading to learn more about how the Bilt Mastercard can help you achieve your long-term financial goals.
What is the Bilt Mastercard?
The New York City-based startup Bilt introduced the Bilt Rewards loyalty program and Bilt Mastercard in June with a twofold goal: first, to give young people a way to earn rewards on their rent payments, and second, to help them on the path toward homeownership.
The standalone Bilt Rewards program, which is free to join, rewards eligible U.S. renters with a flat 250 points for every rent payment they make through the Bilt app (available on iOS and Android). Landlords in the Bilt Rewards Alliance, a network of more than 2 million apartments across the U.S., may offer other opportunities to accelerate your earnings, such as bonus rewards for referrals and lease renewals.
The associated Bilt Rewards Mastercard, meanwhile, allows renters to earn up to 2 points per dollar on their monthly rent payment, depending on their Bilt status, as well as 1 point per dollar spent on non-rent purchases. Holding the card isn’t a prerequisite for Bilt Rewards members who reside in an in-network building, but out-of-network renters will have to pay their rent with the Bilt Mastercard to earn points on those transactions.
The company has begun to open up membership in the loyalty program to residents of Bilt Rewards Alliance properties and will continue to do so throughout the next few months. (Those tenants will also be among the first to receive an invite to apply for the Bilt Mastercard.) Other interested renters can join the waitlist to be notified when program enrollment and card applications become available to everyone else.
How does the Bilt card work?
Once you apply and get approved for Bilt’s no-annual-fee rewards credit card, here’s what you need to know about its rewards scheme, redemption options and other features.
While not a traditional welcome offer, new Bilt cardholders earn 3X points on their first rent payment (up to 10,000). And, unlike other credit card sign-up bonuses, you won’t have to spend any extra money to get that elevated rate—all you have to do is pay your rent as usual. You’ll also snag 2 points per dollar spent on all other purchases in your first 30 days.
The Bilt Rewards Mastercard’s earnings rate is based on the individual cardholder’s Bilt status, which depends on how much they spend on purchases besides rent:
|Bilt status||Qualifying monthly non-rent spend||Points earned on rent|
|Bilt Basic||N/A||250 points per monthly rent payment|
|Blue||$250+||1 point per $2|
|Silver||$1,000+||1 point per $1|
|Gold||$2,000+||1.5 points per $1|
|Platinum||$3,500+||2 points per $1|
Unfortunately, this is probably where the Bilt card falls short for most people, as you’ll have to make a minimum of $3,500 in non-rent purchases every month to qualify for its highest rewards rate. That type of spending could prove more lucrative with a card like the Wells Fargo Active Cash℠ Card, which offers 2 percent cash back on all purchases, compared with Bilt’s 1 point per $1 spent everywhere Mastercard is accepted.
What’s more, earnings on rent payments are capped at 4,000 points per month. While those 48,000 points per year could be worth up to $720 when applied toward a down payment on a home, we think it’s safe to say that most cardholders will find it difficult to reach the max.
The Bilt card offers an impressive array of redemption choices via the Bilt app, most notably the ability to transfer points at a 1:1 ratio to one of several travel partners, the list of which includes the American Airlines AAdvantage and World of Hyatt loyalty programs.
You can also use your rewards for SoulCycle, Rumble Boxing and Y7 Studio classes and memberships; future rent payments; a down payment on a house; and merchandise from the Bilt Collection, such as home decor and art.
Other perks and benefits
Because Bilt reports your rent payments to the credit bureaus, you can use the card to build your credit history and boost your credit score by demonstrating responsible financial behaviors, like keeping your credit utilization ratio low and always paying your balance in full. You’ll also receive standard Mastercard World Elite benefits, including:
- $5 off your first two DoorDash orders each month (offer expires Sept. 30, 2022), plus three free months of DashPass
- $5 in Lyft credits when you take three rides within a calendar month and pay for them with the Bilt Mastercard
- Free ShopRunner membership
- 24/7 World Elite Concierge service
- Identity theft and zero fraud liability protection
- Up to $1,000 in annual cell phone coverage
Of course, such perks and benefits are valuable only if you take advantage of them.
What else you need to know
The Bilt Mastercard stands out among the (admittedly limited) options for paying rent with a credit card by waiving transaction fees for both renters and landlords. For instance, Plastiq, a third-party payments platform that helps you pay your rent and other recurring bills with a credit card—even if the recipient doesn’t accept plastic—charges a 2.85 percent fee for each card payment you make. If your rent is $1,124 (the average rent for a U.S. apartment in February 2021), you’re looking at an extra $32.03 in monthly fees. That’s no chump change.
If you’re worried about using too much of your available credit or going into debt on rent, the Bilt card’s optional BiltProtect feature allows it to withdraw your rent payment directly from a linked bank account, effectively turning it into a debit card while still allowing you to earn points.
Finally, the physical Bilt Mastercard is an all-black metal card—which, let’s face it, is still pretty darn cool.
Is it worth it to pay your rent with Bilt?
Well, it depends. Its lack of fees means you really have nothing to lose by paying your rent with the Bilt Mastercard. But because it offers a paltry 1 point for every other dollar you spend, you also have little to gain by using it on anything besides rent, especially if you already have (or can qualify for) a credit card that provides better ongoing rewards on everyday spending.
And, if you’re an out-of-network renter, applying for the card in the first place means you’re incurring a hard credit pull (and taking a hit to your credit score, albeit temporarily) in exchange for a meager 250 points in monthly rewards.
That said, this card may be a good fit if you’re new to credit cards—or perhaps renting your first apartment—and want to start working toward a future home purchase. It’s unlikely the Bilt Rewards card will be your primary means of achieving that particular goal, but every little bit helps.