A new partnership between loyalty program provider Bilt Rewards and Mastercard means people can more easily report their rent payments to a credit bureau — and get rewarded for it — by using the Bilt Mastercard.
“Housing is the single largest expense for most Americans, and rent is one of the only expenses that you couldn’t earn points on without fees,” Bilt Rewards CEO and Founder Ankur Jain said in a statement.
The Bilt Mastercard was created so “renters shouldn’t have to pay rent with a check,” Jain maintains. Under the new program, which includes a mobile app, consumers can start paying landlords or lenders with a credit card, regardless of whether the landlord accepts credit cards or not. If they don’t, people can pay their rent using the Bilt Rewards app and a check will be issued to cover the payment.
“Bilt Rewards and Mastercard share a similar ethos in putting the consumer at the center and offering innovative, relevant experiences and benefits that meet and exceed their growing needs and expectations,” said Sherri Haymond, Executive Vice President of Digital Partnerships at Mastercard.
There are also no annual fees and no transaction fees for either the property owner or the cardholder.
A key feature of the program, which is still in beta, is the ability to earn 2x points based on rent payments. The Bilt Mastercard comes with an assortment of rewards. The points earned can be used at a 1:1 transfer rate at over 100 different airlines and hotels, or even for classes at gyms like SoulCycle, maximizing the rewards catalog Bilt has created since it was established in 2019. Consumers can also spend their points on limited-edition collections of home décor products that Bilt offers.
Breaking the Mold:
Beyond being redeemed for typical rewards, rent points can be used as credits for future rent payments or pooled for a down payment on a house.
Consumers don’t necessarily have to pay for rent using their credit card if they’re worried about maxing out their credit line. As part of the new offering, Mastercard and Bilt designed BiltProtect — a service which allows consumers to pull funds from their linked bank account through Mastercard subsidiaries Transactis and Finicity.
A Credit Score Bump Without Cost
In addition to the rewards and the ability to pay property owners via a credit card, the companies are promoting the credit-building opportunities of the Bilt Mastercard. This included helping consumers understand that rent payments are not generally reported to the three major credit bureaus.
TransUnion followed 12,000 renters for a year and reported their findings in a 2017 study. It found consumer credit scores rose on average by 16 points in the first six months alone.
Andrew Davidson, Senior Vice President and Chief Insights Officer at Mintel, raved about the new program in a LinkedIn post, asking “Why hasn’t anyone done this sooner on a co-brand product?”
Granted, there are several contenders offering alternatives for people to report their rent payments to the credit bureau trifecta. But, they often come with a price.
Some of the providers include Rent Reporters, Rental Karma, LevelCredit, Rock the Score, Esusu Rent and CreditMyRent. However, all of these have monthly or annual fees which range from $8.95 a month to $50 a year. In addition, Rent Reporters, Rental Karma and Rock your Score charge a one-time enrollment fee.
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A Bigger Stage
Bilt is part of an entrepreneurial company, Kairos, with a big stomach for disruption. Kairos describes itself as a portfolio of brands to “make life simpler and more affordable.”
Kairos also operates three other startups: Alloy, Little Spoon and Rhino. The latter lends to consumers for such upfront costs as security deposits. Little Spoon helps new parents get access to healthy food and natural remedies while Alloy (still in a beta phase) is designed for women going through menopause to learn about healthcare options and other necessary resources.
Bilt and Mastercard’s new product is currently only open by invitation. Consumers who are renting from within the Bilt Rewards Alliance network of top real estate owners across the country — representing more than two million rental units — will be the first to get access as the rewards company rolls out the product. Neither company has yet mentioned when it will be made fully available.