Game changing transfer bonuses: The Bilt card ain’t just for renters anymore

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People often ask whether the Bilt card has a use case if you’re not a renter. A year ago, I’d have said “not really” for most people. But that has changed: last week, we added the card to my household and Greg is spending toward Bilt’s top elite tier. On this week’s Frequent Miler on the Air, we talk about what has changed and who should be giving this card more attention (as well as who shouldn’t).

Elsewhere on the blog this week, we discuss major Delta card changes, divergent viewpoints on Necker Island, whether I should upgrade to the Aviator Silver and an Andaz you might want to visit. Watch, listen, or read on for more from this week at Frequent Miler.

Frequent Miler on the Air Podcast

00:01:12 – Giant Mailbag (Bilt transfer bonuses are bogus)
00:04:18
– Card Talk (Big changes to Delta Credit cards…)
00:13:29 – Crazy Thing: (Dany says “I’ve had a Chase Ink $95 card for 10 years and this year they sent out a 10 year gift of coffee and some treats from a veteran owned company. Today I got the 1099 in the mail for it!”)
00:15:54 – Mattress Running the Numbers (IHG promo: Earn 40k bonus points every 4 nights at Iberostar properties)
00:18:48 – Award Talk (Award Discover Tools)
00:24:34
– Main Event (Game changing transfer bonuses)
00:24:34
– Old advice: the fee free Bilt card is GREAT for renters but with limited ways to earn points, it’s not great for points & miles hobbyists.
00:25:19
– New advice: Bilt is great for points & miles hobbyists too
00:33:04 – Bilt Card Overview 00:35:00 – Bilt elite status / transfer bonuses
00:39:15 – Is there a Bilt welcome bonus?
00:42:01 – Earn points primarily through card spend
00:46:20
– Sample strategy for Silver status
00:48:21
– Sample strategy for Gold status
00:50:46
– Strategy for Platinum status
00:56:23
– Who should consider this?
01:03:34
– Downsides & risks
1:05:47
– Question of the Week

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This week on the Frequent Miler blog…

How Nick built his own Bilt bonus

One of the biggest complaints about the Bilt card is the lack of a welcome bonus. When Bilt announced a one-day-only (February 1st only!) Rent Day promotion to get a 75-150% transfer bonus to Air Canada Aeroplan, I couldn’t sit on the sidelines. I referred my wife, she got the widely targeted offer for 5x for the first 5 days after receiving the card, and in the space of just 6 days she turned an $11K tax payment into 110,000 Air Canada Aeroplan points (and I turned the 2,500 points for referring her into 4,375 points when I transferred my Bilt points at a 75% bonus). When I wrote this post, I had totally forgotten about Aeroplan Family Sharing, so the real kicker is that we both took advantage of the transfer bonus and now our Aeroplan points are pooled for easy shared redemption.

Big changes to Delta Gold, Platinum, and Reserve cards

The Delta cards underwent huge changes on the first of the month. While annual fees increase, those changes manage to look largely positive (ya know, apart from the fact that the annual fee on the Reserve card has now increased by almost 50% over the past couple of years). I’m sure that a lot of people will be more excited about the companion certificates on the Platinum and Reserve cards since those will now be able to be used for travel to Hawaii (for newly issued certificates after 2/1). And the couponizing of the cards will probably work out for a lot of people. I still probably won’t get a Delta credit card myself, but I think the trade here is mostly decent for Delta fans.

Should Nick upgrade to the Aviator Silver card?

My wife and I have been American Airlines AAdvantage Aviator Red cardholders for all of about 4 months and both of us have been offered the opportunity to upgrade to the Aviator Silver. Given the Silver card’s big spend benefits and the fact that we’re both about halfway to a 5K Loyalty Point boost and a $99 Companion Certificate that’s good for two companions each, I wondered aloud whether it might be worth upgrading now — especially since it wouldn’t cost anything to upgrade until my anniversary date.

About that Necker Island piss-poor review…

Sir Richard Branson Chokes Greg
Richard Branson choked me (Greg) as a joking answer to the question of how he felt about people using points to book stays on Necker Island

Greg went to Necker Island. Some guy named Tom also went to Necker Island. The experience starts to diverge from there. In this post, Greg tells a tale of two mostly different experiences at Richard Branson’s private island in the Caribbean. As you’ll recall, Greg had a fabulous experience there a few years ago, but a poor review by another guest prompted Greg to compare where they agree, where they disagree, and where a difference of opinion may just be a difference of perspective.

Andaz Scottsdale: Bottom Line Review

Living room with pull-out sofa.

Tim recently stayed at the Andaz Scottsdale and reviews his experience in this post. I also traveled to Phoenix last year and considered this property but ultimately stayed at the Tempe Mission Palms. The Tempe Mission Palms was nice enough (especially for the 9K or 12K per night!), but the Andaz does look considerably nicer when you consider the entire property grounds. In my case, I wasn’t there for a relaxing getaway, so the Andaz didn’t seem like the vibe I wanted. I think that was probably the right answer for my situation after reading Tim’s review, but if I had cause to go back I’d probably try out the Andaz based on his experience there.

How to Match Wyndham Status To Caesars Rewards (reminder to match again)

a man wearing a hat and glasses

I’m including this post as a timely reminder for those with Wyndham Diamond status to match back to Caesars Diamond as the Caesars membership year ended on January 31st. If you’re a Wyndham Business Earner cardholder, this match should be business as usual. If you earned your Wyndham status by matching from Caesars Diamond last year, things are iffier. Either way, it takes at least a week (sometimes two) for status to update, so you want to match sooner rather than later. If your status doesn’t update, rather than submitting again (which I think just sends you to the back of the processing line), try sending an email to support (see this post for how to do that).


That’s it for this week at Frequent Miler, but don’t forget to keep an eye on this week’s last chance deals.

Want to learn more about miles and points? Subscribe to email updates or check out our podcast on your favorite podcast platform.
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Mitsu

A tip to the Korea family trip person: ANA has a pretty decent deal on Asiana to Seoul, except the taxes and fees are around $550 or so per person per round trip for economy. Still saves a lot on the trip especially if you’re going during a popular period. Another option is cobble together a trip via Tokyo – we are doing this on Delta of all things because they had a decent economy points rate.

Ryan

A lot of interesting and thoughtful comments on Bilt here. I’m glad I’m in the camp where it’s a no-brainer: I rent. Until recently, I’ve mostly just gotten points from rent and put my spending on other cards. I’ve been rethinking that lately with the transfer bonuses and have started shifting more (non-SUB) spending to my Bilt card. Including buying gift cards at restaurants that I am going to go to anyway. It’s a super easy way to get 6x when I go out to have a beer.

With respect to the 5 transactions a month hassle: I had one month where I hadn’t done 5 transactions and I received a notification (I can’t remember if it was a text, email, or a notification from the app) reminding me to use the card so I didn’t forfeit the points for the month. I thought that was super convenient. Since then, I’ve just put some small reoccurring monthly charges on that card, so I don’t even think about it (my cell phone bill is an easy one, since Bilt also has cell phone protection).

CAS

I don’t know if this has been mentioned but in regards to needing 5 transactions per month to receive Bilt points I have found this helpful. I complete all 5 transactions as early as possible on Rent Day. If I am short transactions I will do $1 Amazon gift loads. On most Rent Days my newly earned points POST to my Bilt account and I am able to use my same day earned points for a great transfer if I so desire.

CAS

The fast track to platinum includes the phrase :spend on Bilt Dining, Lyft rdieshare, Bilt Travel Portal AND MORE with any linked credit or debit card.
What is included in AND MORE?

Last edited 4 months ago by CAS
David Hanson

@CAS where do see this? “And more” doesn’t show at the fast track discussion at https://support.biltrewards.com/hc/en-us/articles/5536520671117-What-are-the-Bilt-Elite-Status-tiers .

Matt

I don’t get this at all. Sorry, I must be stupid. ??
With Chase or Amex or Cap1, I can earn 90k-200k points SUB + referral in 2 player mode, on $4-15k spend, EOS.
I can transfer those points *at any time* to *dozens of partners* whenever a deal comes up.
Or I can spend tens of thousands of dollars for years on Bilt and then hope there is a transfer bonus, and then only to one partner, and only on one day.
What am I missing? Yeah, *if* you have high status with Bilt (not getting other SUBs) and *if* want to fly Aeroplan in the future and *if* Aeroplan comes up as a Rent Day transfer bonus, then you can get an amazing deal. But that is a lot of “If”s in a game already fraught with “If”s
Love Frequent Miler. Our kid has Bilt. But I don’t get this Main Event at all.

Parts Unknown

It’s tough to get 5,000 words & SEO out of ‘my wife referred me for a CIP, I spent the $8k on taxes & we netted 148k UR’

Last edited 4 months ago by Parts Unknown
Matt

LOL!
(Just to be clear, I love FM / Greg & Nick. Tons of great content, very helpful. But this … wow, this one …)

LSP

In fairness, Greg and Nick mention at the 1:00 (1 hour) mark that applying your spend toward SUB is a better strategy (or at least that’s “probably true” as Greg says), but if you’ve run out of good SUBs and/or can generate spend beyond what you need for SUBs, these strategies on the Bilt card can be good. Maybe it’d be helpful to have the Who is this For? and Downsides and Risks sections earlier.
I’m with you – I love FM and don’t doubt their motives here. I just think the perception of the Bilt coverage implies “this is the best strategy for most readers” even when they don’t actually say that. Clearly every Podcast Main Event doesn’t have that same tone (MGM-Marriott partnership 2 weeks ago was appropriately uninspired), but for some of us at least the Bilt coverage (“Bilt IS all that” and now “Game changing…”) carries a head-scratching tone.

Dave Hanson

Matt and LSP do a nice job of summarizing the surprise some of us feel about the degree of enthusiasm for this program.

Moreover, I think it’s clear from their tone that they (a) are not calling out FM’s integrity here, and (b) don’t have an ax to grind against Bilt or its management.

Maybe it’d be helpful to have the Who is this For? and Downsides and Risks sections earlier.

I agree. Only folks who made it to minute 56 of this week’s podcast got to hear what was probably the most balanced, thoughtful take on the product from any influencer thus far.

I’m with you – I love FM and don’t doubt their motives here.

100%. They have earned the benefit of the doubt over years of coverage. As Nick writes below, they write about what genuinely excites them, rather than “talking their book”, like many competitors in this space clearly do.

I just think the perception of the Bilt coverage implies “this is the best strategy for most readers” even when they don’t actually say that. Clearly every Podcast Main Event doesn’t have that same tone (MGM-Marriott partnership 2 weeks ago was appropriately uninspired), but for some of us at least the Bilt coverage (“Bilt IS all that” and now “Game changing…”) carries a head-scratching tone.

Yes. Arguably, another example is naming a one-day Bilt transfer bonus as the “deal of the year”.

Mitsu

Listen to the end of their Bilt segment. The key point is that many people (including Nick and Greg) do BOTH everyday spend AND card signups. It’s not necessarily mutually exclusive. And if you can muster the spend needed to get to Platinum status as Greg can, that’s potentially 250,000 points which is not chump change. Given how huge the transfer bonuses have been, this becomes a situation where with the right partners it DOES make sense to transfer prospectively.

I consider myself a “moderate” points and miles player. I managed to accumulate enough Bilt points that, combined with the transfer bonuses to Flying Blue and Virgin Atlantic we put together a Premium Economy family trip on Air France and KLM to Paris and Italy with a business class flight from Paris to Italy, using an Air France promo fare. And of course I *also* sign up for cards, but I’m doing daily spend as well.

Arthur Leyenberger

Making 5 charges per month to allow points to be earned was an easy and painless task for me. I make 5 separate monthly charitable donations to the Bilt card.
I still have to monitor the card since the charges must occur within the statement period, not monthly. So maybe I’ll need one more occasionally.

Bob

I have read the entire discussion. Thank you everyone for thoughtful comments.

I think when evaluating Bilt, we should only consider what is included in their terms in conditions (actually, a pretty compact document). They talk about 1X on rent (up to 100K a year), 3X on dining and 2X on travel. They also talk about Lyft and making 5 transactions a month. Nowhere in T&C they talk about transfer bonuses or 5X for 5 days at signup. Nor they talk about Rent Day activities. There is some generic statement that “from time to time we may offer promotions, etc.”

Whatever is not in T&C, should not be considered when comparing Bilt to Amex BPP or Citi DC. What we end up with is an OK no fee card – 1X on everything (including rent), 2X on travel and 3X on dining. Yes, definitely valuable points from an innovative fintech startup, but hardly a “game changer”.

Ben

I’m not sure this is the right way to evaluate things. Plenty of businesses and programs offer things beyond just the T&Cs; the transfer bonuses and Rent Day broadly are key parts of their marketing, and should be factored in.

organic cattle feed

hi pls tell more

Lee

Let’s make this super simple and super low risk. Move spending to the first of the month and get 2X on whatever it is you earn. Forget about waiting for the 2.5X transfer rate to wherever. Then, on the second of the month, transfer all of the points you earned from the prior day to (for example) AA. You now have a 2X card for AA. No risks, no delays, just points. Where else is someone going to get 2X on unbonused spending? Is there a problem with that?

Lee

That is 2X on AA specifically

Mushu_Pork

I’ll admit that I’m a Bilt naysayer. However, FM has been quite compelling on it. Now I’m actually considering it.

My one thought is that the Bilt card might be the best AA non-category spend “business card”. (for Hyatt as well).

I could run some biz spend on the first of the month and have an easy 2x AA earn (although with other transfer bonuses, other programs might be considered better).

I’m not at the “end game” part of my card journey, but I am closely approaching it.

I’ve read Nick’s argument comparing it to a Double Cash or BBP, and I can see the reasoning in it.

I can also see the skepticism with new fintech cards that are often unsustainable. There are plenty that got hyped and fizzled, *cough* X1.

I think you really have to examine your card strategy, where you are in the “game”, 5/24, the currencies and points balances you already carry, etc., not to mention your booking skill level.

The earnings are arguably higher, but… uncertain. So the question is whether or not you have a 5/24 slot… as well as spend… to gamble a bit.

It really is intriguing, yet borderline compelling.

Dave Hanson

I’m not at the “end game” part of my card journey, but I am closely approaching it.

I’m not sure how to read this. Do you mean, you have almost all the pieces in place that you want for a long-term earning strategy, and don’t want to churn? Something else?

I think you really have to examine your card strategy, where you are in the “game”, 5/24, the currencies and points balances you already carry, etc., not to mention your booking skill level.

The earnings are arguably higher, but… uncertain. So the question is whether or not you have a 5/24 slot… as well as spend… to gamble a bit.

It really is intriguing, yet borderline compelling.

I actually agree with all of this. Well stated to boot. +1.

F T

I can’t believe FrequentMiler is giving more exposure to this fake-welcome bonus card.

You’d be doing a service to your readers and listeners if you told Bilt that you would publish no more articles about them until they make the 5x welcome bonus available to everyone who is approved for the card. Otherwise they’re stealing a 5/24 slot from that person with no bonus.

If Bilt doesn’t want to give the 5x bonus to someone, don’t approve them. Period.

Lee

Let’s say there’s no SUB. Fine. What about the potential 120k Rent Day bonuses per year? What about the 2.5x transfer rate? Would it be a disservice to the readers to not put that information in front of them? The game is more than SUBs. Just with the two features I mentioned above, I strategized and worked Bilt’s system and it paid off in spades. And, it wasn’t due to a ridiculous 50k SUB. Put on your big boy pants and thinking cap and figure it out. But, don’t leave pissing and moaning comments unless it’s a complaint about Delta’s new cards. 🙂

Dave Hanson

As of now, this comment scores a -3. But IMO FT’s point is valid. Why not either decline applicants who won’t get the 5x welcome bonus, or at least give them an opt out?

Amex is able to provide a popup telling you in advance that you won’t get their SUB. That empowers the applicant to make the best decision for them.

Why can’t Bilt do the same?

LarryInNYC

The difference (which, honestly, should be glaringly obvious) is that Amex is advertising the bonus and Bilt has never, anywhere, published a word about their offer. The 5x for 5 days offer was discovered by users and reported by the blogs.

Dave Hanson

You’re correct, LarryInNYC, that Amex advertised the SUB and Bilt did not. And you’re also correct that the blogs have widely reported this bonus (as Bilt’s marketing team knew they would).

-Bilt wins because they get more applicants then they would without this non-transparent, targeted bonus–and they don’t even have to pay out the bonus consistently.

-The blogs win because Bilt pays them more signup commissions.

-But the applicants who are led to expect they’ll get the bonus and do not, for no discernable reason? They lose.

You are right that because they weren’t promised the bonus, Bilt did not lie to those applicants. But I hope you’ll agree that that’s a low bar.

Bilt isn’t giving its potential cardholders the information they could easily provide to help them make an informed decision. I don’t blame FT and others for objecting to this.

Al C

150% transfer bonuses isn’t sustainable. It’s just a good marketing ploy to get a lot of people talking about their card. Of course, they could continue to burn through VC money for another year or two – I have no idea. So maybe enjoy it while you can.

Lee

And, Wells Fargo is a partner because . . . ?

Al C

Not sure what your point about WF being a partner is. They just raised $200M in VC funding based on a $3.1B valuation. So it’s no surprise that they’ve got money to spend to try to grab more market share. These flashy transfer bonuses aren’t sustainable. Once more people have the card and also have large point balances available to transfer, 150% transfer bonuses will be too costly. But if you want to plan your next two years of credit card spend based around it, be my guest.

LarryInNYC

Bilt is reported to be already profitable. The 150% transfer bonuses may not be sustainable but most of the cost use probably bring borne but the loyalty programs, not by Bilt.

Al C

Regardless of whether or not Bilt is already profitable, getting new $200M funding means they want to rapidly expand which means big, flashy promotions which aren’t going to last. I’d be impressed if they got the loyalty programs to pay substantially for the promos. But either way, as their customer base grows and as card holders build up larger point accounts, the cost to run +150% promos is going to increase exponentially. No company is going to be able to keep that up for long.

Dave Hanson

I would also be impressed if Bilt got loyalty programs to pay for the promotions. But I would not be shocked.

One of the reasons Mr. Kerr is worth his salary and then some, IMO, is that he’s tirelessly beating the bushes meeting with transfer partners. I’m betting he makes a good case to the second and third-tier foreign carriers that Bilt tends to partner with for transfer bonuses. Something like this:

This bonus I’m proposing you fund [or largely fund] is eye-popping enough in size to get you more attention so you can grow brand awareness in the US. Yet your financial exposure will be limited because the duration is only one day. Then you can evaluate the results for yourself. Once you’ve had time to do that, we can iterate, incorporate those results into our next promotion. Everyone wins.

Would you see this as a compelling pitch, Al C? I think for at least some potential partners, it would be.

I agree that these attention-grabbing bonuses don’t seem sustainable long-term for any given funder. But maybe Bilt can be the company a loyalty partner works with when it wants to use its own marketing dollars to focus on its own growth. That wouldn’t be a bad strategy.

Al C

Sure your pitch could work to get them to contribute something to the bonus. But that’s only because the airline’s exposure is currently small (because the total amount of outstanding Bilt points is very small relative to other older programs) and only goes to reinforce the bigger point that these massive transfer bonuses aren’t sustainable. Can you imagine what would happen if Amex had a one day 150% bonus transfer to any decent foreign carrier? Someone would be on the hook for a huge bill.

Dave Hanson

Can you imagine what would happen if Amex had a one day 150% bonus transfer to any decent foreign carrier? Someone would be on the hook for a huge bill.

I agree. This is partly because so many have massive Amex balances (unlike Bilt), and find it relatively easy to generate more.

But Bilt’s smaller size–and their desire for rapid growth, is also a factor. Both Bilt and these foreign carriers are more likely in a “growth/exposure above profit” phase, which makes for a potentially strong alignment of interests until that changes.

Tim Steinke

Out of curiosity, what do you think makes a card that offers no SUB but does 75-150% transfer bonuses less sustainable than cards that offer 100K+ SUBs and 15-30% transfer bonuses? To me, it just seems like a different marketing/acquisition/retention strategy.

Bilt Shills

Here’s Tim coming to Bilt’s defense yet again….

Kevin

I think the Bilt card makes sense if

You’re not working on a welcome bonus
You prefer this over Ink Cash 5x , Amex Gold 4x etc
You’re ok with speculative transfers to airline programs
You’re confident this start up credit card rewards company won’t devalue or shutdown prior to transferring your points

Johnny

Talking about the Bilt card always gets lots of comments.

AJ O'Hare

I finally broke down on this and got the card. My biggest issue is that it highlights my inefficiency of buying 5x VGC/MGC at staples. Most of what ill put on this BILT card will be stuff i SHOULDNT if im maximizing my CICs. But I am also not doing that….so….I guess its a win.

Lee

See my comment below. You’ll do fine.

David Hanson

Thanks Nick.

As one of the many readers who consider the Bilt program overhyped, I wasn’t looking forward to it being the Main Event on your podcast this week.

But having listened, you and Greg deserve credit for including the most balanced discussion of the program in the blogosphere thus far.

Specifically. starting at 56m, you explain that aside from renters, Bilt is really for a subset of readers who (a) get outsized value from foreign airline transfer partners, and (b) who are willing and able to track Bilt’s program carefully, won’t sweat its uncertainties, and can play by its unique rules.

FWIW, future featured discussions of Bilt might start with those sorts of qualfiers. Then–especially to those who aren’t longtime fans and don’t know you better–you don’t risk looking like yet another blog whose staff has seemingly drunk the Bilt Kool-Aid. 🙂

Lee

David, my wife and I are both Bilt cardholders since it came out. We’re not bloggers. We don’t market credit cards. We have no profit motivation in touting the card. We learned to maximize Bilt’s strengths and we’ve played the “long game.” And, we have *massively* profited. My support for the Bilt card comes not from Kool-Aid but from my personal experience. And, I scratch my head when I hear so much negativity expressed towards the card from a particular subset of hobbyists. (I’m not saying that you are in that group.) It might not be the card for everyone but it can be a tool in the toolbox for many.

Dave Hanson

Thanks for replying Lee,

I’d enjoy hearing more about your experience. How have you “*massively* profited”? Are you renters (or do you pay HOA or other fees to build your balance)?

I do think Bilt is a good pick for renters and for folks who are willing to learn to “maximize Bilt’s strengths”, as you aptly put it.

For me thus far, a non-renter, the combination of the chronic uncertainty surrounding the program (e.g. will I get a 5x SUB, how will the rent day bonuses continue, will heavy use get me shut down, et cetera), the opportunity cost of not putting spend elsewhere, and the lack of outsized benefit from foreign miles programs have kept me from spending a 5/24 slot on the card.

But I’m open to changing that opinion. 🙂

As for the negative many express, I can’t speak for others of course. But my sense is less that people think the program is terrible (it clearly is not), but that it commands a disproportionate share of attention from influencers.

Lee

Over the course of two+ years, we accumulated a substantial number of Bilt points. Those Bilt points turned into 2.5X Virgin and Air France points.

To get to a *substantial* number of Bilt points, we moved spending to the first of the month to each capture the 10k Rent Day bonus. 10k * two players * 12 months = 240k Bilt points * 2.5X transfer bonus = 600k Virgin or Air France points. As these are gravy points on top of the regular points on spending. Holy smokes!

Bilt Dining started out in New York and (in the beginning) a number of our favorite restaurants were on the list – 5X on top of 3X. On Rent Day, they were 11X. (Then, multiply by the 2.5X transfer bonus.) Holy smokes!

And, if we weren’t dining on the first of the month, we could buy a gift card from the restaurant on the first of the month and it would code correctly. I suppose one could shift other bonus category spending to the first via gift cards. One just needs to ensure that the gift card codes to the bonus category.

Rather than look at airfare, hotels, and rental cars as 2X, we looked at them at 2X * 2.5X transfer bonus = 5X. As compared to the CSR, which would have been 3X * 1.3X transfer bonus = 3.9X to Air France. But, if one timed an airfare purchase on Rent Day . . .

Rather than look at all-other-spending as 1X, we looked at it as 2.5X.

I’m not an MSer but . . . 1X on Rent Day becomes 2X, which becomes 5X upon transfer. Same as the CIC. But, each CIC is limited to $25k per year. Bilt tops out at $120k per year. A person would need 5 CICs to do the MSing that one Bilt card could do.

If one were not MSing, one could buy VGCs for non-bonus everyday spending. Buy them on Rent Day and get 2X . . . which becomes 5X after transfer. Better than the Citi Custom Cash, eh?

It just takes a little imagination.

Opportunity cost? As I noted in a prior comment, if someone’s entire spending is committed to SUBs, that’s the thing to do. Absolutely. But, any spending not committed to SUBs, Bilt has a gloriously profitable scheme . . . if you can use Bilt’s transfer partners . . . if you are patient . . . and if you acknowledge Nick’s thoughts about which transfer partners are likely or not likely to receive the 2.5X transfer rate.

Last edited 4 months ago by Lee
Dave Hanson

Thanks for your thoughtful reply, Lee. I appreciate seeing a concrete use case.

To get to a *substantial* number of Bilt points, we moved spending to the first of the month to each capture the 10k Rent Day bonus. 10k * two players * 12 months = 240k Bilt points 

Well done! You’re obviously optimizing the Bilt game here.

I’d only add that spending exactly $10k x 2 on the exact 12 days a year, while entirely doable, requires a fair bit of timing and coordination. I try to save that kind of mindspace for truly outsized rewards, like SUBs, retention bonuses, AU bonuses, and various outsized promotions. But folks who are better organized or who have more energy than me could probably handle both easily!

Sounds like you get great value from Bilt Dining also. Near me, the eateries on Bilt are more often 2x than 5x, meaning I’d do better with AA dining save on Rent day. No doubt this would be attractive to many.

No doubt, if you can use the miles that happened to be bonused on a rent day, Bilt offers real value.

If the do start to bonus mortgage payments, that might persuade me to join you.

Lee

One has to climb the mountain if one wants to enjoy the view.

Lee

Excellent.

Dave Hanson

Thanks for the typically thoughtful reply, Nick. A few reactions, first on where we agree:

-I specifically said you don’t look like you’ve “drunk the [Bilt] Kool Aid”, because of the important caveats you offer late in today’s podcast. So I’m not calling you out here.

-I absolutely agree with that innovators in the rewards space are to be cheered on, and that Bilt is a noteworthy innovator. In particular, I actually like that they aren’t signup bonus focused. I’d rather see them spend capital otherwise devoted to SUBs to make the long-term value proposition better. And arguably they are already doing this to some degree, e.g. folks like Lee in this thread.

-You’re right that the game has changed massively since the Starwood days of yore! (I had a Starwood Business Amex since 2001, now a Bonvoy business card).

-I also 100% agree that “There are a lot of things that aren’t for me that I can still understand.” Indeed, I granted that if you’re willing to play by Bilt’s rules and/or can use its outsized foreign airline transfer bonuses, it’s probably a good fit–and more so if you’re renting.

On to where I’d push back:

-Bilt isn’t comparable to a simple 2% card.

You compare Bilt to Citi Double Cash and Amex BBP. But those cards give you a solid (albeit not outsized) return without any thought at all. Thus I can in good conscience recommend them to the friends family who have no interest in tracking anything. By contrast, Bilt requires you to:

Charge 5 transactions a month. Or no soup for you, period.Focus your spend on “Rent Day” if you want outsized points.Cap your spend at $10K if you want a Rent day multiplier.Hope your are targeted for a sign-up multiplier. Maybe, maybe not…but every other issuer I’m aware of doesn’t leave you guessing on this like Bilt does. Hope for 1-day transfer bonuses for outsize transfer value.Redeem strategically. Simple statement credits are .55cpp, unlike Citi doublecash or amex points (redeemed to checking).Hope you aren’t overspending. Amex and Citi have well reasonably established rules for big spenders. They generally won’t shut you down if you don’t cycle your CL or engage in other odd behavior (e.g. paying by debit card or from 3d party checking accounts). From the datapoints I’ve seen, Bilt will.Hope the VC funding doesn’t run out. 🙂 Bilt is a startup, spending big marketing dollars to gain market share. I’m skeptical this will be sustainable. By contrast, big players have different and more mature business models. Of course nothing is certain: Citi and Amex could also devalue or neuter their DC or BBP products. But they’ve been around many years. Short of legislation curbing interchange fees, I’m not worried about that.-Bilt isn’t valueless; just over-hyped.

The blogosphere is very worked up about Bilt. I think this is pretty obvious, but please push back if you disagree.Other (better?) tools generate way less hype. Plenty of potential examples here. My favorite is the Wyndham Business Earner card, which I would argue is clear MVP of the travel hacking space (albeit not a one-card solution). But outside of a few reader-focused areas like FM, it’s barely mentioned. Why is that? I think it’s becauseBilt has better influenced the influencers! First, Bilt pays for referrals, whereas Barclays (the Wyndham Business Earner sponsor) generally does not. But beyond that, Bilt hired longtime miles-and-points influencer Richard Kerr to not only build out the product, but to be its hype man. And, well, Mr. Kerr seems good at that job. 🙂-Bilt’s influence on other issuers seems TBD.

I hope that Bilt’s innovations will spur other banks to innovate and improve their products. Maybe folks more informed than me have evidence that this is happening, or will likely happen if they continue on their present trajectory.

TLDR: Built is an interesting program with clear use cases. But many think its hype outstrips its value.

Going forward, I hope more coverage will offer the disclaimers and use cases you two did starting at 56m into today’s podcast.

Last edited 4 months ago by Dave Hanson
Brent

There are clear limitations. But like…c’mon. It is a no annual fee card that has similar (but slightly more restrictive) earning structure to the CSP. It has better transfer partners, and so far, better selective transfer bonuses. It has reasonably good travel protections. Bilt also gives away a few points a month with trivia games, and one day a month, you get double points on everything. It is the double points day that allows it to be gamed more than the CSP (and would make it attractive to people messing around with a drawer full of Chase Ink Cash cards). That’s the use case for everyone. Nobody said the CSP is a world beater card, but it is often touted as one of the best starter cards for regular people. In a lot of ways, especially with the no AF, the Bilt card will be better for those people (unless they spend a ton on transit, tolls, online grocery, or streaming services).

For people that are in bigger cities, the ability to collect some dining points and to collect points on rent/HOA/coop maintenance fees makes this much more attractive than the CSP. I know. I have both, and will most likely downgrade my CSP in July. It just doesn’t have much unique use with the Bilt card around. The 60k sub was nice, and I’ll get that again (hopefully) in 2027. Until then, I don’t need it. I’m not interested in pretending to have a business, and the rest of the Chase ecosystem opened up by the CSP is just not that interesting (quarterly categories are a hassle and 1.5x doesn’t cut it) for someone wanting to keep a stable set of cards in the wallet.

It is not the best card. But the loyalty program has created the most valuable transferable points currency (that much, I think, is inarguable). The trade off of the points currency value is that it is harder to collect those points. People are now finding ways to go out of their way to collect as many of these points as they can. Nick did a nice job demonstrating how it can be done. It won’t be for everyone, but I would make the argument that the Bilt card should be a supplemental card (or a dining card) for a lot of people.

But like…what do you want them to say? It has no AF. The only other contenders in that category are the Blue Business Plus (where you have to pretend to own a business), the Amex Everyday (a dud), the Venture One (1.25x) or the Citi Double Cash (with 3 transfer partners). Yeah, I guess the disclaimer should be: “for no AF, you can collect the most valuable transferable points on the market, but you know, it just can’t out earn a Hilton Surpass.” It would be similar to the complaints that Hyatt doesn’t put a 10x multiplier and a 125k sub on its $95 co-branded card. The whole thing is just silly.

Dave Hanson

The only other contenders in that category are the Blue Business Plus (where you have to pretend to own a business), the Amex Everyday (a dud), the Venture One (1.25x) or the Citi Double Cash (with 3 transfer partners). 

IMO the best no AF contender in the past year wasn’t any of these, but rather the Chase Freedom unlimited with the 2x first year bonus, which Tim covered for FM.

That’s what I had my biggest spending family member pick up as their daily driver. 6x dining, 6x drugstore, 10x travel portal, and 3x unbonused spend. And unlike Bilt, that bonus is entirely uncapped, and isn’t burdened with any of the other restrictions or uncertainties listed above.

Sadly, Chase pulled that offer last month. And yes, this 2x bonus only lasts one year.

OTOH, after that promo year ends, you can convert the card to one of many Chase products that might suit you best. Or, you can reallocate your CL to other chase personal products. Bilt can’t do these things. (And I’m far from certain that Bilt’s bonuses will last more than 12 months anyway.)

Nun

Brent- You probably shouldn’t mention rent/hoa in your argument since everyone agrees Bilt is a no brainer in that situation.

This week’s discussion is about the rest of us. I really wanted to be convinced by this podcast and still think it’s borderline worth the PITA. I’m not paying estimated taxes every month, or health insurance like Nick, and do better with sign up bonuses. There’s no way I’m timing my travel bookings to the 1st unless it’s something I already have and can cancel and reticket that day. I don’t feel like chasing status on a credit card but will consider that. If I’m not guaranteed the 5-day pseudo sign up bonus I’ll pass.

One big piece glossed over is that people with public exposure can earn mega referral bonuses for Bilt. In that situation I can see why it’s hyped monthly.

Last edited 4 months ago by Nun
Dave Hanson

Good points @Nun. +1 from me.

-Yes, Bilt is an easy call if you have significant rent or rent-substitute transactions, and you’re willing to make at least a minimal effort (e.g. 5 txns per month.

 I really wanted to be convinced by this podcast and still think it’s borderline worth the PITA. I’m not paying estimated taxes every month, or health insurance like Nick, and do better with sign up bonuses. There’s no way I’m timing my travel bookings to the 1st unless it’s something I already have and can cancel and reticket that day.

I agree on all of this. Bilt is interesting, and it might be fun to get on board that train. But the PITA factor holds me back in the absence of something more compelling to me like mortgage points.

If I’m not guaranteed the 5-day pseudo sign up bonus I’ll pass.

I’m glad you said that, and I hope yours and comments like it make its way back to Bilt’s marketing team. This illustrates how empowering customers by giving them reliable information can be good business.

One big piece glossed over is that people with public exposure can earn mega referral bonuses for Bilt. In that situation I can see why it’s hyped monthly.

Excellent point. I haven’t tracked that. How mega are these referral bonuses? Are they transparent, or also YMMV like the welcome bonus?

Nun

Dave- It seems like the terms changed since I checked but you could earn 1 million points.

https://www.biltrewards.com/editorial/post/share-bilt-get-rewarded

https://www.biltrewards.com/terms/refer-a-friend

Last edited 4 months ago by Nun
Dave Hanson

Thanks Nun. Interesting. Each referral isn’t high limit (Chase and Amex offer more), but a much higher max per referrer (50 referrals).

Seems consistent with Bilt’s apparent strategy of maximize growth / good press at the lowest possible cost per acquisition.

Seems smart to me.

Lee

David, out of a thousand ways to make a light bulb that didn’t work, Edison only needed to find one way that did work. You (a guy who doesn’t even have the Bilt Card) are telling everyone a thousand ways the Bilt Card won’t work. Well, I found my one way that does work. You are entrenched in your position and you’re trying to convince the wrong guy(s). And, if a knucklehead like me can make it work, a smart guy like can too.

Last edited 4 months ago by Lee
Dave Hanson

 You (a guy who doesn’t even have the Bilt Card) are telling everyone a thousand ways the Bilt Card won’t work….  Well, I found my one way that does work. 

No.

On the contrary, I’ve agreed that Bilt is an innovative product, with strong specific use cases (renters, people who use lots of foreign airline currencies, people who don’t need to spend beyond Bilt’s caps, et cetera). And I specifically congratulated you for optimizing it to the degree that you did.

I just think it’s overhyped. Judging by the constant pushback against Bilt in particular. I’m not alone in this thinking.

You are entrenched in your position 

No I’m not. I’ve considered getting the card, and may still, especially if they extend rent bonuses to mortgages.

In the meantime, I’d welcome pushback on my specific arguments.

Dave Hanson

Apologies for the badly garbled formatting in the above post, which appears to have happened when I fixed a typo. Now it won’t let me edit.

(If possible, I’d love to see the forum software settings adjusted so that we had a day or two to edit, rather than a few hours tops.)

Dave Hanson

Thanks for explaining Nick! Makes total sense. Hopefully a better solution will prevent itself eventually.

PhrongPhom

Now THAT is how to shut down the pom pom hypesters!! Can’t blame the hypesters for pumping, tho they do need a reality check to keep it real.

Lee

Frankly, there are far more topics that get far more attention than the Bilt Card. The negative comments to articles about the Bilt Card are curious. They are intense. As if they are trying to persuade the world not to get the card. It’s as if these commenters have an ax to grind. While they suggest the coverage of Bilt is suspect, as one who has significantly benefited from the card, I suggest that their intense comments are suspect.

Dave Hanson

The negative comments to articles about the Bilt Card are curious….I suggest that their intense comments are suspect.

But why, Lee? What possible motivation would I and so many others have for being Debbie Downers on Bilt?

I not only want them to succeed, but I want them to shake up the space.

Dave Hanson

Thanks Nick! That’s a very thoughtful (and thorough) reply.

A few thoughts in response:

FM’s position vs. the larger points/miles influencers’ position.

You note that you aren’t emotionally invested in these award programs, and I don’t doubt that. I also don’t think you guys do anything but “call them as you see them”, rather than “talking your book”. Indeed, that’s why I’ll spend an hour or more commenting here, rather than any number of other places in this ecosystem. You guys simply combine savvy commentary and integrity better than any other public-facing commenters I’ve seen in this space. Given that, I’m delighted by (and benefit from!) you guys writing about what you feel passionate about!

That said, you do seem to take observations about the larger blogging space personally, even when aren’t meant that way at all.

For example, I argued above that “Bilt is over-hyped”. But you replied as if I’d said, “FM keeps over-hyping Bilt.” The irony here is that my original comment in this thread specifically praised your and Greg’s caveats in your podcast today (starting at minute 56). That’s because you were doing the opposite of hyping. Rather, you offered a more nuanced use case for whom you thought should and shouldn’t be interested in the product. And I found myself nodding throughout that whole sub-segment, thinking, this is best take I’ve heard any bloggers make on this program.

Another example is the Wyndham Earner Business card issue. I wrote, “outside of a few reader-focused areas like FM, it’s barely mentioned.” That’s because your team have indeed covered it repeatedly, and well. But your reply reads like I’m accusing you of not covering it.

Perhaps you’re growing weary of all the pushback on Bilt?

Mr. Kerr

I don’t know him either. I do listen to him pretty regularly on Ed Pizza’s “Miles to Go” podcast. He strikes me as inarguably good at his job. First, as you noted, he has spearheaded the assembly of a list of partners that’s second to none, and in a relatively short period of time. Second, he clearly knows how influencers think–as well he might, because he was a full time influencer before taking the Bilt gig. Third, he’s clearly focused on building an engaging program–what you called “interesting” (I agree)–at at the most sustainable cost possible. (That said, I personally don’t care for how much of a role breakage, non-transparency, and unpredictability play in their game plan. But I do understand why they’re doing it.)

I have no doubt that Mr. Kerr is extremely responsive and straight-up with you guys, and that’s to his credit. It’s also worth noting that he has worked with and been friends with many prominent influencers in this space. And just like the most effective lobbyists in Congress are often former members themselves, I’m sure he’s very effective at generating maximum enthusiasm for what he has on offer.

One last remark on this. Kerr himself was recommending the 2X uncapped Chase FU offering on Miles to Go. He marveled at how Chase was able to make the math work on an offer so generous, and recommended the offer to his own associates. I appreciated his going public with this take, notwithstanding his loyalty to his employer.

Transferability vs. Simplicity

Bilt’s transferability is great. So are its uncertainty and complexity

Nick, I agree with you, Lee, Brent, and others that Bilt’s transfer targets are best in class. And specifically, their transfer bonuses are concentrated on currencies of foreign air carriers, who are looking for a bigger piece of the US market (as you’ve noted multiple times). So if international travel is your jam (it isn’t for me) Bilt probably warrants a look for that reason alone. (OTOH, we agree that if you’re looking mostly for cash it’s terrible).

But Bilt is also significantly more complicated and unpredictable than other cards, for reasons I explained above among others. You focus on the 5 purchases for month requirement in your reply. But for me, that’s the least onerous of Bilt’s hoops. For instance, I’m often most busy with work at the beginning / end of the month…when I would have to do find out what’s coming on rent day, do all my rent day purchases, and make all my redemptions. It’s harder to plan in advance than with other issuers, because who knows whether this month’s or next month’s 1-day promotion will be better. I’d also constantly be running up against that $10k monthly cap. With Chase/Amex and the rest, I don’t have to worry about any similar hoops, restrictions, or 24 hour windows.

I get that for many devoted gamers, these factors aren’t a big deal. And more power to them! For me, and especially for friends and family who aren’t comfortable in this space, they give me pause. If I have to deal with that much tracking, timing, complexity, and uncertainty, there’d better be an outsized payoff.

If they’d add mortgage payments to rent, that might do it for me. Especially if they started to weight reliability and predictability somewhat more, even if that meant they could “surprise and delight” less.

Overhyped vs. Being Excited

Nick, writing about what excites you is a absolutely a feature of FM, not a bug! It’s part of your authenticity. Indeed, I think your team’s enthusiasm is arguably the “secret sauce” in this community. Please don’t take anything I’ve written to suggest otherwise.

A question for you: based on everything you know and have heard so far, why do you think Bilt incites so much pushback? (Has any other program even come close?) Or to put it another way, what would I and so many other posters have to gain by branding Bilt as overhyped if we didn’t genuinely think it so?

Parting thoughts

To answer your question, I don’t have good data on how many people haven’t received a 5x bonus. My recollection is that it’s varied based on when applicants opened their card, but I’m not sure how much. (If that number is low, why not just make it a uniform benefit?)

Please let me know if I’ve missed anything specific you’d like me to comment on. And thanks again for taking the time to respond so thoughtfully. IMO, this kind of answer is one of the reasons you guys are without peer in this space.

Last edited 4 months ago by Dave Hanson
Mushu_Pork

Are you the Dave Hanson who hyped the Crypto.com card?

Dave Hanson

No. (And I’ve no idea who that is.)

Mushu_Pork

Well, his name is Dave Hanson, and he has a YouTube called “Hey there, Dave here”, in which he talks about finance, credit cards, crypto, etc.

So a person with your exact name who’s in the credit card YouTube space exists.

Dave Hanson

Thanks @Mushu_Pork. Is he any good?

Mushu_Pork

He’s a smart guy who I believe cashed out from a large tech firm.

The production quality on his videos is seriously professional grade. Like, other YouTubers should be taking notes on his lighting setups.

His credit card videos while entertaining, really only show the basic level of credit cards (creating “setups”).

He seems like an intelligent nice guy, but I stopped watching when he was into the crypto credit cards (which ironically got nerfed not long after).

AJ O'Hare

Nick,
I think its because its so different and unique – and people are skeptical that it can continue. And they hate things that appear to be in front of their faces more than they think the should be, irregardless of how good they may be (see also Taylor Swift and Stanley mugs).

This whole game we play is a game of opportunity cost. I’d rather pay my auto insurance with 5X Staples GCs on my CIC and get 5 flexible Chase URs than try to remember to charge it to my BILT card on the first of the month so i can redeem it at 150% transfer bonus to whatever partner BILT decides is worthy that month. I still get 5X, but lose the flexibility. But to do that, I have to actually GO to staples, get someone to dig the cards out of the storage room, run the risk of them being drained, try not to get robbed in the parking lot, and maintain all the cards to ensure im not the one creating the breakage that creates the reason they do this in the first place. And lets be honest, while I do all this…because im twisted and think its fun…im not nearly as efficient as I can be and leave many points on the table.

I did just pick up the card, as i noted above – and i love playing the game – so we’ll see how it goes. I just dropped my dry cleaning off so that i can be sure to pick it up during my 5X days (assuming i get the welcome offer). And ive made a list of over $7,000 of things to spend on once i get that offer. And now im “curating” a first of the month list to tackle every month. Thats hassle too,

So what i’ll probably do is let the BILT card become my everyday dining card. There isnt much better than 3X for dining with a 150% bonus. Worst case – its the same as my CFU card – and transfers to Hyatt at the same rate. And I’ll take my first of the month list – and try to whittle down with 5X on CIC. And what i cant do there (especially bills greater than $200) will be a big win getting at least 2X and maybe as much as 4.5X from my couch. Worst case – thats the same as my Venture X, and just slightly better than my CFU.

I also own rental properties – so ill have to decide if its worth using plastiq to make my mortgage payments (and whatever shutdown risk that may expose me to – i haven’t researched that yet)

But other than dining, it feels like a one day a month everywhere card. Which is (frankly) just odd. Unless your a wierdo (like many of us) who enjoy playing the game almost as much (or perhaps even more than) the rewards – the hassle is perceived as more than its worth. Combined with the attention this card has been getting – i think thats the backlash.

But its also a no-fee card…so the only “risk” is really a 5/24 slot. Its pretty easy to stop using the card if you stop getting value. Thats a lot easier than watching the superbowl and hoping to avoid Taylor Swift.

I hope I love it.

Last edited 4 months ago by AJ O'Hare
Dave Hanson

Unless your a wierdo (like many of us) who enjoy playing the game almost as much (or perhaps even more than) the rewards – the hassle is perceived as more than its worth. Combined with the attention this card has been getting – i think thats the backlash.

FWIW I think this is well (and succinctly!) stated.