For many people, rent is the single most costly monthly expense. And most have no chance at earning any rewards for that spending.
The Bilt Rewards Mastercard is out to change that. This credit card, which is currently available via invititation only, has a program built around rewarding renters for paying their landlords.
Money expert Clark Howard is excited about the prospect of earning money back through this program.
“When I first heard about it I figured this has to be a rip-off that I’m just missing,” Clark said. “Or this is another fintech that is going to spend its investors’ money accidently helping people out — but not themselves. This is crazy!”
And when he says “crazy” he means it in a good way for consumers.
Team Clark has researched the Bilt credit card program to help you determine whether it may be a good fit for you. We’ll also give you more of Clark’s thoughts on this new product.
Table of Contents
- What Is the Bilt Rewards Mastercard?
- How Does the Bilt Rewards Program Work?
- Bilt Rewards Mastercard: Specs and Perks
- Why Clark Howard Likes the Concept of the Bilt Rewards Program
- Pros and Cons of the Bilt Rewards Mastercard
What Is the Bilt Rewards Mastercard?
The Bilt Rewards Mastercard is a no-annual-fee credit card that offers a rewards program to incentivize renters to pay their monthly rent with the card. And there’s no processing fee for your rent payment.
This card is relatively new to the market and, at the time I researched this story, was available by invitation only. Didn’t get one? No worries: You can sign up for the waiting list here.
You’ll be subject to a credit check and evaluation for this card the same way you would for any other credit card.
How Does the Bilt Rewards Program Work?
But applying for the Bilt Rewards Mastercard opens up more ways to earn rewards points.
How You Earn Rewards
You use this credit card to earn rewards just like any other Mastercard in your wallet. This applies to both rent and non-rent purchases.
But the amount of points you earn each month direct correlates to the Bilt “status” you achieve based on how much you charge on the card each month outside of your rent payment. The Bilt Status levels include Basic, Blue, Silver, Gold and Platinum.
The more charge volume that you have for non-rent purchases, the higher the rewards will be for your rent payments.
Here’s a breakdown of the status tiers:
You’ll earn 1x points on non-rent purchases while working toward new tiers. If you reach $3,500 or more per month in non-rent spending with the card, you can earn up to 2 points per dollar spent on rent (up to 4,000 points per month).
Your status level changes monthly based on your spending habits with the card. Bilt’s website says that once you achieve a certain status, it is “valid for the rest of the month in which you earn it and the entire following month.”
How You Can Reedem Your Rewards
Bilt doesn’t just give you rewards for your rent. It also gives you a pretty robust variety of ways to cash in those rewards points.
Clark likes that Bilt lets you use your rewards points to make a future rent payment or even to save for a down payment on a home.
Here’s a sample from Bilt’s website of how that might work:
If you’re not looking to purchase a home, there are still other ways to cash in.
Bilt has a travel rewards program that allows you to book travel directly through its app or to make a 1-for-1 points conversion to some popular travel brands including:
- American Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- British Airways
- Hyatt hotels
Through the Bilt app, you can also redeem the points for things like gym memberships, art and home decor.
Bilt Rewards Mastercard: Specs and Perks
Let’s take a look at the fine print to examine some of the card’s perks and drawbacks:
- No Fees for Paying Rent With a Credit Card: Landlords may allow you to pay your rent with traditional credit cards, but they’re probably charging you an exorbitant fee to make it happen. This card is built to avoid those fees.
- Cell Phone Protection: This card offers up to $1,000 in coverage if your cell phone is damaged or stolen. It joins a small list of credit cards that actually insure your phone if you pay your monthly wireless bill with that credit card.
- New Cardholder Bonus: Earn 3x points on rent in the first 30 days (up to 10,000 points).
- Digital Wallet Compatible: You can add this card to your Android Pay or Apple Pay wallets for contactless, on-the-go payments with your wireless device.
- Purchase Protection Benefits: You can qualify for up to $1,000 in reimbursement if a purchase made with your card is lost or damaged within 90 days of purchase.
Here’s a quick look at some of the fees you may encounter with the Bilt Rewards card:
- Annual Fee: None
- Balance Transfer Fee: Not applicable
- Cash Advance Fee: Either $10 or 5% of the total transaction
- Foreign Transaction Fee: None
- Late Payment Fee: Up to $40
Why Clark Howard Likes the Concept of the Bilt Rewards Program
On a recent episode of The Clark Howard Podcast, Clark discussed the Bilt Rewards program:
Clark says he likes that not only does Bilt reward you for paying your rent, but you can also use the card to process your rent payment as a credit card transaction without paying a fee.
“They bill you for your rent as a credit card transaction, and then they send a check or electronic transfer to your landlord at no cost to you,” Clark says.
Clark’s one major warning about this card, which he strongly emphasized while talking about this on his podcast, is that you could find yourself in serious financial trouble if you used this card as a means to borrow money to pay rent.
Running a balance with this card could subject you to high interest rates, and you could find yourself struggling to catch up once you get behind. In practice, that’s not much different from visiting a predatory payday lender to pay what is likely your biggest monthly expense.
To make the most of this card’s rewards, you should be prepared to pay the bill in full each month. If you can’t do that, Team Clark recommends that you not apply for this card.
Clark’s main takeaway on Bilt is this: It sounds like a great deal for the consumer, but he’s not sure why the fintech behind this credit card sees this as a viable business model.
“I don’t know how they’re going to make this work. It’s a great deal for you, but it seems like a goofy business model to me,” Clark says. “I would take the opportunity if you’re a renter.”
Bilt Rewards Alliance Properties May Already Provide Rewards Perks
Though this is a review of the Bilt Rewards credit card, we also want to note that select renters can earn Bilt Rewards points without the credit card.
To be eligible for this, your landlord’s property must be a part of the Bilt Rewards Alliance.
This is a network of property management companies that use the Bilt system for rent payments. That includes companies such as Windsor Communities, Starwood Capital Group and AvalonBay Communities, just to name a few.
If you rent from one of these companies, you may already be eligible to earn Bilt Rewards points. To be sure, you’ll want to check to see if it is a part of this alliance.
According to the fine print on the credit card offer, renters who are already Bilt Rewards Alliance members may have an inside track to getting an invite to use the branded credit card.
However, it’s important to note that you don’t have to be a member of the Alliance program to apply for the credit card. In fact, gaining access to this credit card is a great way to get into the rewards program if you’re renting from a landlord who doesn’t participate.
Bilt Rewards Mastercard: Pros and Cons
Are you considering applying for the Bilt Rewards Mastercard? Here are some pros and cons to consider.
|Earn credit card rewards for paying your rent||The credit card application process is invitation-only as of this writing.|
|Bilt will convert credit card payments to check or bank transfer to avoid landlord processing fees.||You could potentially run up a high-interest debt if you don’t pay your balance in full each month.|
|You can use rewards to save money for future rent or a down payment on a home.||Reward rates on non-rent purchases are nothing special, but you have to rack them up to boost your rent rewards.|
Final Thoughts: If you’re a renter who is very disciplined with your credit card use, you may be able to see some real gains from the rewards offered by this card.
Rent is often the largest line item in a personal budget, so being able to get some cash back simply for making that transaction every month is a huge win.
But be careful. That large transaction also means it’s extra important that this credit card bill is paid in full each month to avoid accruing high-interest debt.
Do you have the Bilt Rewards Mastercard? We’d love to hear about your experiences with it in the comments below!
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