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Millions of people in the U.S. spend roughly 30% of their income on rent. But since credit cards aren't always accepted as a method of paying rent — or you might be charged a processing fee for doing so — it's not easy to earn rewards on those monthly payments.
The new $0-annual-fee Bilt Mastercard and accompanying Bilt Rewards program aim to change that.
The rewards program is free for renters to join and allows users to earn points by paying rent through the Bilt app. But those renters who join the rewards program and are also approved for the new Bilt Mastercard will reap the biggest rewards.
To understand how the new credit card works, it helps to first understand the rewards program.
How the Bilt Rewards program works
Anyone can join the Bilt Rewards program.
Members who live in a rental property that’s part of the "Bilt Alliance" can pay their rent directly with the Bilt Rewards app, for no fee, and earn 250 points per month for doing so. The Bilt Alliance includes more than 2 million rental units across the U.S. managed by The Blackstone Group, The Related Cos., Equity Residential and more.
Even if your landlord isn't part of the Bilt Alliance, you can still pay your rent, fee-free, through the app, then Bilt can send your landlord a paper check for the rental amount via USPS on your behalf. But you won't earn rewards this way unless you also have the Bilt Mastercard.
How the Bilt Mastercard works
As noted, you don't have to have the Bilt Mastercard to earn rewards. But the card, issued by Evolve Bank, can super-charge your earnings.
To start, newcomers get a welcome bonus: Earn 3X points on your first month’s rent up to 10,000 points as a new Bilt Mastercard holder. Plus, earn 2X points on all non-rent spending for the first 30 days.
After your first month of card ownership, the amount you spend on the Bilt Mastercard on non-rent purchases will determine your tier status, and how many points you’ll earn. Your monthly rent isn't a factor in the status tiers.
Blue Status: Spend $250 in qualifying non-rent purchases in a calendar 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.
All non-rent purchases on the Bilt Mastercard earn 1 point per $1 spent.
Points can be redeemed in a variety of ways, from rent to a down payment on a future home financed through Bilt.
Bilt says the value of points used toward rent will vary by building and management company, and the value of points used toward down payments will be up to 1.5 cents each.
Travel is another redemption possibility, and with that option, you can transfer your points at a 1:1 ratio to multiple partners, including American Airlines, Air Canada, Emirates, Hyatt and more.
Other redemption options include eligible fitness expenses and even select home décor and art pieces. (Point values weren't immediately available for those options.)
Other benefits of the Bilt Mastercard
To ensure that renters aren’t extending themselves beyond their means by charging rent on the card, the Bilt Mastercard comes with a feature that allows it to function like a debit card. When BiltProtect is enabled, it will pull rent funds directly from your bank account rather than using your card’s credit line. You’ll still earn Bilt points on the payment.
Additionally, when you use the Bilt Mastercard to pay rent, those on-time payments will be reported to the credit bureaus. This could be a key benefit because while mortgage payments do end up on your credit history, rent payments traditionally don't — and thus they cannot help your credit scores. The Bilt Mastercard can help you build a credit history by paying rent.
The card also offers perks like cell phone insurance and travel protections.
Is this a good deal?
If you live in a Bilt Alliance property, joining the free Bilt Rewards program and earning points when you pay your rent is a no-brainer. But unless you also have the Bilt Mastercard, it will take a while to rack up enough points to redeem.
Redemptions in some cases start at 5,000 points. If you earned 250 points per rent payment, it would take 20 months of rent in order to accrue enough points for a minimum redemption.
As for the Bilt Mastercard, it could make sense for you, depending on how much you spend on rent and non-rent purchases, and how you plan to redeem your points.
The card certainly can earn you rewards on a recurring expense that may not otherwise qualify for points. But it does require that you spend a chunk of non-rent purchases on the card each month, at just 1X back on those expenses.
If you’re not a high spender, it's worth doing the math to see whether the Bilt Mastercard's tiered spending requirements will make sense for you. Otherwise, another rewards card — like, say, a card that earns a flat 2X back on all purchases — could be a more straightforward and valuable choice.