How Nick built his own Bilt bonus

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For a long time, I said that I saw the target market for whom the Bilt card made sense, but that it wasn’t for me. Then, Bilt started running insane transfer bonuses last year that seemed too good to be true. Then they opened 2024 with another of those bonuses. When they announced last week that the February 1st Rent Day would be a 75-150% transfer bonus to Air Canada Aeroplan, I couldn’t continue to sit on the sidelines. I love Aeroplan and the stars aligned so I could see an opportunity to build a Bilt bonus that I couldn’t refuse.

Making a move and taking a gamble

When the coming transfer bonus to Air Canada Aeroplan was announced, I felt like we had to make our move in our household. I referred my wife and she opened the Bilt card the day that the Aeroplan bonus was announced (last Friday, January 26th). I immediately picked up a referral bonus of 2,500 points when she was approved.

We had about $7K in tax payments that we needed to make for a family member (we pay to earn miles and they pay us back). Those payments were split over four payees. I use Plastiq for those types of payments because I still have a lot of fee-free dollars from the old days of their referral promotions, so it only costs me the $1.49 fee that Plastiq charges to pay by check.

I knew that Bilt would issue an immediate card number in the app and we had access to that number right away since my wife was instantly approved. Note that the instant card number does not get access to the full credit line, but it had access to enough credit for our immediate needs.

Bilt has no official welcome bonus, which has been the sticking point for a lot of people (and you certainly don’t need to convince me that big welcome bonuses are the fastest path to points & miles riches — look no farther than our Best Offers page for plenty of opportunities to snag welcome bonuses!). However, some (many?) people get targeted for an initial bonus of 5x everywhere for the first 5 days up to 50,000 bonus points (which works out to the 1 point you ordinarily get + 4 bonus points, so it’s essentially 5x on up to $12,500 in spend). People who get that offer usually report that they receive it via email after receiving and activating their physical card.

Now and then, I’ve heard a report or two of someone who started receiving 5x before receiving or before activating their physical card. I didn’t expect that would be the case from the moment of approval, but since we needed to make the tax payment that day anyway, I decided to gamble and hope that we magically got 5x. (Spoiler alert: We didn’t.)

I checked the Bilt app the next morning because I remember from Greg’s experience that Bilt points tend to post very quickly. My wife didn’t yet have any points from the tax payments, which surprised me a little bit. I checked again several times that day and the next day: still no points. Then I dug into her Bilt account on desktop and I found that the card spend had registered in her account, but without points — and that’s when I saw what I was missing: it said to be sure to make 5 transactions this billing cycle to earn points. Duh! I knew that you needed five transactions, but I hadn’t even thought about the fact that we’d only done four. We immediately went to Amazon and bought something small that we needed.

Sure enough, the next morning, the 7,000+ points posted to her Bilt account. I was of course slightly disappointed that she didn’t get the 5x, but not at all surprised since she hadn’t received any email offer for that yet.

The next step was sweating the card arrival. When the card shipped, the tracking information initially showed an expected delivery date of February 1st. That would be too late! Others who have been targeted for 5x for 5 days usually report getting the email about that deal the same day they received and activated the physical card, so I was hoping to receive the physical card by January 31st in the hopes that we’d be able to use the card and earn points that would post on the first of the month and then transfer those points to Aeroplan.

Getting targeted for Bilt’s build-your-own bonus and stacking it with a big transfer bonus

As fate would have it, a day later the tracking information updated with an expected delivery date of January 31st! Sure enough, the card arrived yesterday. Sometime after the tracking showed delivered but before we’d even gotten it from the mailbox and activated it, the email came in from Bilt with the offer to earn 5x for 5 days, starting 1/31!

I should repeat that this offer is not guaranteed — many people get targeted for this, but not everyone. There was some element of gambling on this offer. I was very happy to see it come in.

The further good news is that it’s tax time! Greg and I talked about the joy of paying taxes on the podcast over the weekend. I was happy for her to get targeted for 5x for 5 days and make a large tax payment. I don’t yet have all of our tax forms, so I’m not exactly sure how much we’ll owe in taxes, but I know that if we overpay, the IRS will send us a refund, so I’m not too worried about that.

I should note that for those targeted, the 5x for 5 days bonus offers the chance to earn up to 50,000 bonus points. That’s counted as 4 additional points per dollar on spend that would otherwise earn 1x (or 2 points per dollar on spend that would otherwise earn 3x, etc). In other words, if the spend is put entirely on unbonused purchases, it would take $12,500 in spend to max out the offer. Unfortunately, my wife’s credit line wasn’t quite enough to max out the $12.5K in spend on top of the $7K+ that we’d already put on the card.

Nonetheless, I figured that we could comfortably make an $11K payment and leave a little room for some other ordinary purchases. The hope was that we’d earn 5x on an $11K tax payment and since Bilt points post quickly, we were further hopeful that by making that payment on January 31st, we would be setting ourselves up to have those 55,000 points post on February 1st, just in time for the Bilt Rent Day transfer bonus to Air Canada Aeroplan.

Since the tax payment alone would put my wife north of $10,000 in spend on the card, I also expected that my wife would get Bilt Silver status. That would bump her up from earning a 75% transfer bonus to a 100% transfer bonus on Rent Day. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened — overnight last night, her status bumped up to Silver and 55,000 points posted to her account from that tax payment!

Let’s for a moment ignore the 7K points earned at 1x since we knew that was a gamble. The $11K tax payment yielded 55,000 Bilt points. My wife will certainly transfer those to Air Canada Aeroplan today and take advantage of the 100% transfer bonus with her newly-minted Bilt Silver status. After that 100% transfer bonus to Air Canada Aeroplan, she expects to end up with 110,000 Air Canada Aeroplan points, which sure feels like a respectable initial spend bonus that will have made it well worth picking up a Bilt card. I will furthermore transfer the 2,500 points I earned from referring my wife (along with all of my other Bilt points) during this Rent Day and that referral bonus will become 4,375 points after a 75% transfer bonus for my account.

Interestingly, the end result for my wife (110,000 miles on $11K spend once she transfers to Aeroplan thanks to this transfer bonus) isn’t far off from the welcome bonuses you can earn with some popular cards like the Amex Business Platinum card (currently 150K on $15K spend via targeted referral, which we keep on our Best Offers page so that you get the best offer, but the offer listed by most sites is 120K after $15K spend). I can think of another popular business card that offers 100K points after $15K spend. Capital One right now requires $20K spend for the initial 150K bonus on a couple of their business cards. Those are business cards rather than a consumer card and flexible transferable points like Amex Membership Rewards points or Capital One miles are worth more than points that are now locked into Aeroplan. I’m not arguing that the Bilt “bonus” I built is worth more or is better than those other card options — it isn’t. Rather, my point is that the end result here isn’t miles away (pun intended!) from what I would gladly accept with other cards.

And the full end result here if we include the points she initially earned at 1x that will become 2x with a 100% transfer bonus, she’ll end up today with a grand total of more than 124,000 Aeroplan points on about $18K spend. That’s certainly not an amazing bonus (one could hit 3 or 4 new card card welcome bonuses with that much spend), but it certainly doesn’t make me feel bad about picking up the Bilt card. There are plenty of ways I can imagine using those points to terrific value – see Best uses of Air Canada Aeroplan points (ways to maximize that 75%-150% Bilt transfer bonus).

Moving forward, we’ll probably use the Bilt card for estimated tax payments on Rent Day and dining on the 1st of the month since ordinary earnings in those categories would double on Rent Day. In fact, we might consider ditching our Gold cards for 3x dining on this card and use the Citi Premier for 3x grocery. The Bilt card is not a card we’ll use much at 1x outside the first of the month, but I could see seeking out other unbounded spend for the first of the month.

My enthusiasm is in part because after putting $18K in purchases on the card pretty quickly, my wife will be within easy striking distance of Gold status, which requires $25K in card spend in a calendar year. That Gold status level would have gotten us a 125% transfer bonus this Rent Day. I don’t know for sure that these big transfer bonuses will continue, but if they do, I’ll be pretty excited for my wife to pick up an even bigger bonus the next time around.

Am I concerned that the next transfer bonus will be even more awesome?

In short, no.

In the comments of my post last week about Best uses of Air Canada Aeroplan points, a reader asked me, “What if BILT comes with a similar AA bonus in future? Would you risk waiting for that or transfer now to AC?”. Here was my response:

A) Highly, highly, highly, highly, highly x infinity unlikely that we’ll ever see one of these huge transfer bonuses to the US based programs. You have to understand that the US-based programs have their own well-established US-based credit card programs with a captive audience to whom they can market them. I imagine they can more or less charge a transfer program what they want with no incentive to cut a deal since they’re going to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of miles (in AA’s case to Citi and Barclays). It is well-established that American Airlines earns more money selling miles to banks than they do from flying passengers (in fact, they lose money flying).

Foreign airlines are in an entirely different place: they desperately want to tap into the lucrative business of selling miles to banks, but they don’t have Americans captive on their planes all the time. Partnering up with transferable currencies gives them a chance to sell miles that they otherwise wouldn’t. And selling them cheaply enough that a currency can offer a transfer bonus makes sense to get that currency top of mind and get customers engaging with their program (so that hopefully they will transfer again in the future). I know that Aeroplan actually has a US-based credit card, but they obviously don’t have the native customer base for it that AA or United or Delta does.

It is just logical that foreign programs have more desire to get people engaged and therefore will be more motivated to cut the type of deal that makes something like this possible.

Bilt has made a lot of things that seem impossible happen, but I think there is a greater chance that I will win the lottery tonight than that we’ll ever see a 150% transfer bonus to AA, UA, or Hyatt (and I don’t even have a ticket for the lottery as of yet and didn’t have plans to buy one).

I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw one of these bonuses to Avianca LifeMiles or maybe to Avios and Bilt has continued to add partners, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see something like Hilton get added with a big bonus since they sell the points cheaply anyway, but I wouldn’t at all expect AA.

B) Nonetheless, no, I won’t be mad. I like AA miles, but the redemptions I can make with Aeroplan are more exciting to me. My real “fear” if we can call it that is missing a similar bonus to Turkish, though I don’t think that Turkish is as likely to put any effort into making themselves appealing, so while I wouldn’t be shocked if it happens, I don’t expect Turkish to have one of these 150% bonuses.

I stand by that answer. In fact, during our Ask Us Anything Live last night, I posed a question to Greg about this. I know that Greg shares my expectation that Bilt is almost surely never going to offer one of these huge bonuses to American Airlines, United Airlines, or Hyatt. So I asked him that if we accept that those three programs won’t get a huge transfer bonus, which partner would have to offer a 150% transfer bonus for him to regret speculatively transferring all of his points to Aeroplan with today’s bonus? He couldn’t name one. Neither could I. The Aeroplan bonus is that good in my opinion.

Don’t get me wrong, if Bilt offers up to a 150% bonus to Avianca LifeMiles or Turkish Miles & Smiles next month, I’ll be disappointed that we won’t have enough points to make a meaningful transfer. However, I’m not more excited about what I can do with points in those programs than I am with Aeroplan. At the very least, the points my wife earned could buy a round trip in business class from New York to Frankfurt or points west. More interestingly, we could do a multi-segment trip to Asia or Australia with a stopover on the way in Europe or the Middle East. I don’t imagine that even a 100% or 125% bonus to Turkish would make me feel regretful about having speculatively transferred today. A little disappointed? Perhaps. Regretful? No.

Bottom line

The Bilt Mastercard does not offer a public official welcome bonus, but when today’s huge Rent Day transfer bonus to Aeroplan (available 2/1/24 only) was announced, my wife and I decided to gamble and take a shot at building our own Bilt bonus thanks to a targeted offer we hoped to receive, the speed with which we expected Bilt points to post, and today’s big transfer bonus. At the end of the day, we’ll have turned around a valuable amount of earn on this card in just a few days of card membership. Moving forward, I’ll be happy for us to put some spend on the Bilt card because I don’t imagine that they are done surprising us.

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