98% of people won’t notice, but there’s been quite a back and forth in the points and miles community about Bilt, the new credit card that soft-launched last year. It really boosted its profile when the company partnered with Wells Fargo in late March to open up applications to all who want to apply.
Basically, the two sides say this:
- Bilt is a great card, especially for those starting out their professional lives paying rent in big cities or those of any age who pay rent as a large monthly expense. It has amazing transfer partners like American, United and Hyatt.
- Bilt is a terrible card because the bonus categories are bettered by Chase and Amex cards, and it offers no signup bonus. It also has no cash-out option and you must understand how to leverage airline and hotel transfers to use the points effectively.
Some of the people in the first group also have been involved in developing and improving the Bilt card as well as attending several media events in the run up to the launch. Some of the people in the second group think that this involvement is clouding the judgment of the people in the first group and they should be more transparent.
The answer, as with most things, is somewhere in the middle. I personally pay rent for my daughter’s grad school apartment and get reimbursed for most of it through my 529 as part of the college’s “cost of attendance” allowed amount for room and board. Bilt gives me a good opportunity to earn points on this rent (and likely future rent when my younger daughter does something similar in a couple of years). Is this going to make or break my points and miles earning over the next few years? Absolutely not. Is it going to add a nice stash that I can transfer to American Airlines to make up the difference for some sweet partner redemptions? Maybe. If I hadn’t already signed up for all the Chase cards I currently want, I might think twice about signing up for Bilt right now. But, if I had a $4k per month rent bill, I would probably do it anyway. There are other ways to pay rent via credit card, but they require jumping through a lot of hoops that most people (including me who is actually into all this stuff) don’t have the time or interest to investigate.
The underlying thing about Bilt that seems to be missing in a lot of these discussions is the fact that the structure is made to stop people from “gaming” the card. This means that heavy spenders can’t really take advantage of the card to earn a ton of points, or at least they won’t waste their time when there are many other better cards for this. First, there is no real signup bonus. I am earning 2x on non-bonused spend for the first 30 days after signup, but that’s not really a selling point of the card long-term. Second, the card has limited bonus categories (2x travel and 3x restaurants) that limit the big spenders from really gaming it with the grocery or office supply categories. This is probably because one of the people in charge of developing the Bilt Rewards program is a well-known points and miles gamer himself.
One of the interesting aspects about Bilt that has been glossed over by all the bloggers is that you can pay rent via a payment portal even if your landlord is not in the Bilt Alliance (the network of landlords on their own portal). I was easily able to generate a bank account number and routing number to pay my daughter’s landlord directly and avoid the USPS uncertainty of Bilt sending a check.
Bilt may or may not be for you. It likely will not be if you’re not a renter. I think the current back and forth in the points and miles community is more about who has access to media events and who doesn’t (or who chooses not to attend). The pros and cons of the card are there for all to see and you should make an informed decision based on your own situation.
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If you enjoyed this post (or have questions), let me know in the comments or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are thinking about opening a new credit card, please use one of my links.