Is the Bilt card worth it? Who should consider it? Is it the ultimate starter rewards card? (On Nick’s mind)


Bilt Rewards and the Bilt Mastercard have made a big splash over the past year. A lot of reason for the buzz is because we just haven’t seen a comparable brand new transferable rewards program sprout up with the success and transfer partners that Bilt has brandished (consider that Barclays Arrival Premier card that lasted all of six months despite the backing of an established rewards program / bank and Bilt’s success comes into perspective). But is the card actually worth getting? Who should get it? Is it worth a 5/24 slot even though it doesn’t have a welcome bonus? Is it the ultimate rewards starter card? Plenty of readers have asked questions like these and I had similar discussions with many points and miles minds last night at a Bilt event in New York City.

a group of people in a building
Greg and I were at the Bilt / Wells Fargo event in New York City last night, where we got to chat about Bilt Rewards with a number of other top miles-and-points minds about the Bilt card and offer some feedback to Bilt’s team.

Who does the Bilt card make sense for?

First and foremost, the Bilt card makes sense for anyone who pays rent and doesn’t currently earn rewards doing it. Rent is expensive and not getting rewarded for paying it is certainly a problem that Bilt makes a good play to fix.

There are lots of ways to earn rewards for paying rent, and if I were a renter I would probably be pursuing an avenue that earns more points, but Bilt certainly has simplicity going for it. Earning points without thinking too hard or putting in much effort probably appeals to a lot of people more than putting in a little extra effort to earn outsized rewards.

According to the Internet, national average or median rents land in the $1100-$1300 range per month (it varies a bit based on which source you reference). However, the 10 most expensive markets, which are some of the most populated in the United States, have median rent prices in the $2,000 to $3,000 range.

If we presume that the average Bilt user has a monthly rent of $2,000 per month, they could potentially earn 24,000 points per year by paying rent with the Bilt card (provided they also meet the 5 transactions per month required to earn points). While not nearly as many points as one can earn with fee-free Visa Gift Card sales at Staples and while points from that rent spend won’t hold a handle to the types of outsized things you can do with a single bonus maximized, it isn’t a trivial number of points for most people. For folks who otherwise wouldn’t earn better than 3x on dining, the total win of having the Bilt card increases.

I think the market for Bilt is those folks who rent and don’t otherwise earn points doing so. It also makes sense for those who are highly annual fee averse and want a single points program. More than anything, I think it is potentially a great starter card — though more on which card I think is the “best” starter card in a moment.

Is the lack of a welcome bonus a dealbreaker?

The Bilt Mastercard doesn’t feature a welcome bonus. Most card issuers feature a large intro bonus to attract customers. Those of us who enjoy collecting those big bonuses, moving from one card to another to pick up new bonuses, may see the Bilt card’s lack of a bonus as an absolute non-starter.

On the one hand, I really wish Bilt would offer a welcome bonus. An up-front bonus of 40K-80K points would obviously go a long way in incentivizing people to check the program out. However, Bilt doesn’t appear to find that up-front bonus to be necessary to attract customers. Truthfully, they are probably right.

While many of us in the rewards enthusiast community consider the ramifications of “using a 5/24 slot”, the vast vast vast vast majority of Americans won’t come anywhere near that limit (for those unfamiliar, “5/24” refers to the fact that Chase will not approve you for a new card if you have opened 5 or more new cards (with any issuer) in the past 24 months. Chase has many highly-desirable cards with excellent welcome bonuses, so many people who enjoy earning big welcome bonuses prioritize Chase card applications over others). In fact, while I know many readers who are over 5/24, the fact that many readers still get approved for Chase cards tells me that a large segment of our readership isn’t over 5/24. The bottom line is that I don’t think the vast majority of Bilt’s target market has the Chase 5/24 rule on their minds.

That said, whether it is “worth a 5/24 slot” comes down to how much you value Chase 5/24 slots. I have previously argued against overvaluing those slots and my feelings on that haven’t changed. If you miss out on any opportunity because you are holding out for a Chase card, you should carefully consider which Chase card you want and what bonus you value more highly.

In the case of Bilt Rewards, if skipping out on the Bilt Rewards card means that you will not earn rewards on rent for the next two years (so you can get or stay under 5/24), I think you need to consider the value you’re giving up in order to keep an opportunity open for a Chase card. If your rent is $2,000 per month, you’re potentially missing out on 48,000 easy points over two years. That’s fewer points than many better rewards card bonuses, but it’s more points than you can generally earn as a welcome bonus on a consumer card with no annual fee and certainly more than you’d typically earn on a consumer card that transfers to partners without any annual fee. Bilt clearly views points earned on rent as the bonus under the assumption that most people weren’t earning rewards for rent anyway.

Bilt’s $0 annual fee is certainly part of the value proposition that Bilt’s team feels strongly about. Personally, I’m not convinced that the average consumer cares a great deal between a $0 annual fee and a $95-$100 annual fee (particularly if they feel like they are getting $100 or more in value for the card each year), though Bilt is one of the few options on the market to earn fully transferable points with no annual fee.

Is the Bilt Mastercard the new ultimate starter card?

I read a comment somewhere recently (I’m not sure where) that said that with these additions, the Bilt Mastercard is no longer a “rent” card only but rather it is as good a travel and dining card as any on the market since the Bilt Rewards program has improved. That seemed like a bold statement, yet on the other hand I could certainly see the appeal. Is Bilt the best starter rewards card? It might be, but I’m not yet fully convinced.

a black sign with white text on it

The shifting “best” starter card

For many years, the Chase Sapphire Preferred was widely considered the best starter travel rewards credit card. That was due to a combination of being reasonably rewarding with 2x on travel and dining and, more importantly, Chase’s slate of useful transfer partners. Over time, other cards with flashier bonus categories hit the market, but the Sapphire Preferred maintained a strong welcome bonus and the ability to transfer to Chase’s airline and hotel partners.

Those willing to carry a credit card combo could obviously do better than the Sapphire Preferred on its own. Amex’s Blue Business Plus is an intriguing alternative given its 2x earnings everywhere (on up to $50K in purchases per year, then 1x). The problem with the Blue Business Plus is that it’s an Amex, so it isn’t everywhere in the sense that there are still some businesses that just don’t accept Amex. A one-card wallet that consists of just an Amex card could leave you high and dry. On the other hand, it is a solid part of a multi-card strategy.

The Citi Premier also makes a decent case for a single card wallet. With 3x grocery, restaurants, gas, and a lot of travel categories, the Premier offers solid return on spend. The problem here is that Citi has a much more limited (or at least limited-use) set of transfer partners than Chase or Bilt or anybody else.

Capital One wouldn’t have been a contender for years, but when they launched the ability to transfer to airline partners and later increased the transfer ratio to partner programs to 1:1 in almost all cases, we were drawn in. Greg went so far as to rank the Venture as the “best credit card” for someone looking for a single all-in-one solution. That said, if Greg were to do the same analysis again in modern times, his answer might be ever so slightly different. The Venture X is arguably even better. The Venture X on its own makes for a formidable travel card for anyone who can stomach fronting the annual fee since the card’s annual rebates are arguably worth more than the fee.

Still, given that Capital One can be so hard on approvals and that there are relatively few Capital One cards with which to fill out a wallet, it is hard to consider Capital One atop the leaderboard for starter cards.

The cards mentioned above that could be excellent introductions to the world of miles and points almost all carry an annual fee (except the Blue Business Plus, which probably isn’t a “starter” card for anyone since it is an Amex and a business card). Bilt has no annual fee, which is a strong point of consideration for those new to credit card rewards.

Strength of transfer partners

Bilt Rewards has grown an impressive set of transfer partners. That’s not to say that they have the most transfer partners. In fact, they have a shortish list of partners, but they have clearly focused on quality over quantity.

I don’t think that Citi can reasonably compete with Bilt’s set of partners. And I love Amex Membership Rewards points, but since Amex isn’t as widely accepted I don’t think they provide a strong argument for being a “starter” or “only” credit card.

Given the enhancements to the Bilt Rewards program, I think the Bilt Mastercard’s real competition comes down to Chase and Capital One.

Bilt Rewards transfer partners versus Chase partners

Comparing the Bilt Rewards program against the Chase Ultimate Rewards feels natural. The Chase Sapphire Preferred has long been considered the “it” card for getting started in travel rewards. Does Bilt change that? Let’s look at transfer partners.

Shared transfer partners between Bilt Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards

  • Aeroplan
  • Emirates
  • Flying Blue
  • IHG
  • Virgin Altantic
  • Hyatt
  • United

Partners with Chase but not Bilt Rewards:

  • Marriott
  • Avios (British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus)
  • JetBlue
  • Singapore
  • Southwest

Partners with Bilt but not Chase:

  • American
  • Asia Miles
  • Turkish
  • Hawaiian

Interestingly, the partners they share are often considered to be Chase’s best partners, including Hyatt and United. Indeed, the ability to earn rewards for paying your rent that can be transferred to American Airlines, United Mileage Plus, and World of Hyatt is pretty intriguing. The ability to then also earn 2x travel or 3x dining with the companion Bilt Mastercard is even more interesting.

Of the five programs Chase has that Bilt doesn’t, two them (JetBlue and Southwest) peg the value of miles against paid fares and there is thus virtually no way to get outsized value from their programs. Frankly, I’m surprised Bilt doesn’t have JetBlue as a partner and if I could go back to January and add a 2022 prediction it would be Bilt adding JetBlue. Southwest is a program I love, but I’ve never transferred points there from Chase. Obviously if you transfer to one of these programs frequently, Chase Ultimate Rewards would make a lot more sense for you. On the other hand, I don’t think JetBlue or Southwest are huge value-adds for Chase Ultimate Rewards.

On the whole, three of the five Chase-but-not-Bilt partner programs already partner with multiple point transfer currencies (Avios, JetBlue, Singapore), so I can’t imagine they have been unavailable to Bilt but rather deliberately left out (or perhaps planned for the future?). In my opinion, the most useful of the Chase partners Bilt is missing is Avios. Given that Avios programs partner with Chase, Amex, Citi (via Qatar) and Capital One, I have to imagine that Bilt has the capacity to add an Avios transfer and I hope they do.

However, Bilt’s partnerships with American Airlines AAdvantage and Cathay Pacific help balance out against missing Avios given that American Airlines AAdvantage and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles are two terrific programs for booking long-haul oneworld flights. Of course, the strengths of Avios tend to be short-haul redemptions (via British Airways Avios) and off-peak Iberia flights to Madrid (via Iberia). American and Cathay don’t replace those sweet spots, though if I had to choose I would take more generally useful long-haul sweet spots. (Of course, I’d rather not choose, so I hope Bilt intends to add Avios at some point!).

At the same time, if Turkish ever shapes up and makes their program easier to handle (I mean that in a multi-faceted way), they have the ultimate domestic sweet spot with Turkish Miles & Smiles (7.5K each way in domestic economy / 12.5K each way in domestic business class). I’d take that over British Airways short-haul redemptions if I had to choose (and if I could actually book easily via Turkish / rebook when things change).

I’m not sure that Hawaiian adds anything notably useful for Bilt. Frankly, I’m surprised they’ve bothered with that partnership apart from the fact that it sounds nice in marketing material. It’s not that HawaiianMiles have zero use, but they add very little overall.

On the net, given that you don’t need to give up either United or Hyatt with Bilt and you do get to give up the Sapphire Preferred’s $95 annual fee, I would be tempted to call the Bilt Mastercard the ultimate travel rewards starter card by comparison.

But yet that’s probably only true if you rent. More on that in a minute.

Bilt Rewards transfer partners versus Capital One

I think the argument between Bilt and Capital One becomes even more interesting.

That’s because Bilt and Capital One share a handful of broadly useful partners:

Partners with both Bilt and Capital One

  • Aeroplan
  • Air France
  • Asia Miles
  • Emirates
  • Turkish
  • Virgin Atlantic

I don’t strongly value IHG as a transfer partner, so Bilt’s main advantages are the addition of American Airlines, United, and Hyatt. Those are huge.

On the other hand, Capital One has quite a few programs that Bilt Rewards is missing, including:

  • AeroMexico
  • Avianca LifeMiles
  • Avios
  • Etihad Guest
  • EVA
  • Finnair
  • Qantas
  • Singapore
  • TAP Air Portugal
  • Wyndham
  • Choice Privileges
  • Accor hotels

There are quite a few useful gems in that list of Capital One partners that Bilt lacks. My favorites would be Avianca LifeMiles, Avios, and Wyndham (for Vacasa rentals), though there is plenty of value to be had in other partners in that list also (whether AeroMexico expanded availability on Delta, Choice Privileges sweet spots like Preferred Hotels, and more).

Furthermore, whether you prefer the Capital One Venture card with its $95 annual fee or you feel like the Venture X is a better deal despite its $395 annual fee, you’ll earn 2x everywhere with either card. That certainly sounds better than accepting 1x on many purchases.

Why I still think the Sapphire Preferred is the ultimate starter card

Signs above point to me liking Bilt over the Chase Sapphire Preferred. To some extent, that’s true. But the key reason I can’t quite hand it to Bilt yet is because 1x “everywhere else” is so undesirable.

In my mind, the advantage of the Chase Sapphire Preferred card as the ultimate starter credit card is that you have a lot of room to grow. If it is your only card, you’ll be limited to a poor 1x return on a lot of spend, but that problem doesn’t need to persist since you can add no-fee partners like the Chase Freedom Unlimited (1.5x everywhere) and the Chase Freedom (rotating 5x categories). You can also add Tim’s favorite card for 5x at office supply stores. You can easily fill out the wallet with 2 or 3 cards that ensure you’ll never need to accept just 1x again.

The Capital One Venture cards may be even more rewarding from a net standpoint given 2x earnings everywhere. The long-term challenge with Capital One is that they don’t have as strong a slate of companion cards, though the Savor card for 4x dining (or SavorOne for 3x) could be an excellent companion choice that would make Capital One a very strong choice.

The argument for Bilt is that you’re going to get suboptimal 1x return on some spend, but you’re also going to earn 1x on a major expense that you likely weren’t previously using as a points-generator. Most people starting a rewards credit card journey likely are renting, so that isn’t a bad argument. If you pay $00 per month in rent and you wouldn’t have earned points on that spend without the Bilt card, you could look at those 24,000 additional points per year as the consolation prize for only earning 1x on some spend. If you would otherwise spend less than $24,000 per year on 1x categories, the Bilt card could be a net win by comparison.

Still, many people will not rent forever and the long-term value proposition for Bilt as a main card deteriorates without rent spend.

That said, I think the Bilt card may be the best dining card if you’re going to carry one card to bonus dining. Maybe. While you’ll only earn 3 points per dollar (versus 4 points per dollar with the Amex Gold card for instance), the additional partnerships you gain in American Airlines, Turkish Miles and Smiles, and World of Hyatt certainly might make up for that extra point difference — particularly considering the Gold card’s $250 annual fee. Of course, Amex has its own sweet spot secret weapon in ANA Mileage Club, so the trade doesn’t come without cost, but I could imagine the attraction of a no annual fee card that provides your choice of 3x dining with your choice of American, United, Hyatt, Turkish, Aeroplan, or other partners. More to come on that in a future post.

Bottom line

The Bilt Rewards card has become a heck of a lot stronger recently thanks to new additions to the Bilt Rewards program. Indeed, it is hard to argue that there is a better card on the market for dining, and since renters likely aren’t otherwise earning any points for rent, the Bilt card can be a net win by comparison if you wouldn’t have otherwise earned points on rent. Still, I think the Bilt card works best for the renting market. It might not be a bad dining card for those looking for a no-annual-fee card that earns highly valuable transferable points, but it still probably isn’t the ultimate rewards starter card given the lack of room for growth beyond the card’s current bonus categories. That said, one thing I have learned is that I shouldn’t be surprised to be surprised by Bilt. I certainly do wonder what they have coming next.

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Epic review!
Just a few questions:

1. Is is true that Amex gold defines ‘restaurant’ differently than BILT (where no points are issued) and charges a $250 annual fee?

2. Does BILT offer higher hotel status for any of its partners (game changer)?

3. With respect to redemption, mathematically, which card offers the highest point value return?

Fyi, I read max BILT, rent is $2,500/m for points. Read the fine print.


So I was denied for the Bilt card by Wells Fargo for too many recent accounts. I’m at 4/24, does anyone know what wells fargo credit card rules are?

Li Yang

Does office rent earn points just like residential rent?

[…] (Update 4/3/22: One additional update I hadn’t been aware of: the Bilt card now offers primary rental car insurance coverage. Hat tip to Nick from FM) […]


Has anyone tried paying condo or co-op fees with Bilt? Do those get treated as “rent”?


If paying $2000 in rent then you get 24,000 points. Hmmm, let me put that same spend on my Hyatt card and get one free night, and have points building towards the next free night. I just do not see the logic on wasting a 5/24 slot and only earning rather low points. I will pass.


“Is the lack of a welcome bonus a dealbreaker?”
100% yes


Without a signup bonus I don’t see how it can even be a contender. Bonuses are 60-80k minimum these days and have been well over 100k on premium cards. That means over a year and a half of rent on the Bilt to get to that amount. Over 2 years if you’re talking 100k bonuses.

Is the Bilt currency worth a lot considering the transfer partners? Maybe yes.

Any questions about the card and getting it, hard no.

Biggie F

I have to agree. The fact that Bilt has the rare ability to transfer to AA, for example, is perhaps blinding folks to how little there would (will) be to transfer. If you have an interest in AA miles — I do — it’s worth spending more time on the weird ecology of Barclays and Citi AA cards. The former have very low spends, and seem to still be churnable (within reason).

This is without mentioning all the AA points that are coming “on the side” with the Loyalty Points “game” you are doing so well. These points are more-or-less taken for granted in those expositions, and yet they are the same currency and points, the access to which, Bilt is being praised so highly.

Maybe a more real-world dive into how best to get AA points, which might put such things as Bilt, Barclays, Citi, Simply Miles, and AAdvantage Shopping into perspective.

Biggie F

Points taken. I’m looking at this too much from a different vantage point … and one that would never fit with this card.

We do have a couple of progeny paying rent in big cities — I’m guessing 80% of their annual spend is rent + restaurants — and I can see where the rental points are essentially free money (as per your reply to John above), where in some sense the transfer partner issue is only anecdotic. In spite of my bad influence, I’m doubting that they are close to 5/24, so, yeah, I may push it on them. Of course, none of them listened last year when I was telling them to grab the no-fee-first-year Barclays card for the 60 or 70K AA miles.


The general rule to questions in article titles: the answer is no.


Good analysis. Take a look at the statement in the beginning, “ Is it the ultimate rewards starter card?”. Sounds a bit confusing using the words ultimate and rewards back to back. Trying to save you a post roast…


I want to thank you guys for being a bit more realistic about this card than many in the points-and-miles space. (I was also happy to hear Greg mention that it’s hard to earn Bilt points on the podcast a couple weeks ago.)

I have the Bilt card because I rent in an expensive city where my rent is enough to have me almost hitting the 50k annual limit. But my dining spend is better off earning 4x on my Amex Gold card, and my travel spend is better off earning 3x on my CSR. I haven’t even really bothered to look at redemptions too much, because it’s going to take me a year before I even have 50k points (compared to, say, the nearly 300k I’ve earned with Amex over the last year). It’s nice that they have good transfer partners, but that doesn’t do me any good if I don’t have enough points for a good award.

In my mind, this card is just a nice little side bonus where I can essentially get one good redemption a year for stuff that I was already doing. (And I’m one of the “lucky” ones with a high rent bill.) So it’s been crazy for me to see so many bloggers treat it like it’s some sort of Holy Grail.


In each case (dining and travel) you’re getting an extra point by using Amex or Chase cards, as appropriate. But you’re also paying several hundred dollars in fees (depending on how many of the Amex coupons you’re able to clip). I’m not 100% sure I wouldn’t have arguably-more-valuable Bilt points and the fee money back over the 10k or so extra points a year.


I get the point, but those other cards have additional benefits that already offset much/all of the annual fee for me. On the Amex Gold I can make use of the monthly UberEats/Grubhub credits and it gives me 4x grocery, so it would probably be worth it to keep even ignoring the dining. Arguably, I could be looking at downgrading my CSR to a CSP, but at the moment it’s the card I use for Priority Pass, and I value the primary car rental coverage and have gotten value from the trip delay coverage.

If I was still in my early 20s with a tighter budget and less disposable income (and therefore less monthly credit card spend), I could definitely see the Bilt card making sense as a primary card for most spend. And I can see it making sense for a renter who just wants a single card. But for most of us in the credit card game, I would think it just doesn’t seem to have quite enough to be worth putting any spend on outside of rent payments. And I really question it’s usefulness for anyone who doesn’t rent.


This is great to know. Thanks for the analysis. Also worth noting is that the Bilt card offers cell phone protection, trip cancellation/interruption protection, and trip delay protection. All in a no annual fee card. You’d typically have to pay an annual fee for cards with these protections (CSP/CSR). Freedom Flex and Unlimited have trip cancellation/interruption, but they have a foreign transaction fee, so they’re not ideal for travel outside the U.S. Let’s hope these benefits stick around for a while.

Big Chungus

Initially this card wasn’t particularly exciting to me, but with the death of PPK and the fact that I live in NYC and pay NYC market rent, this becomes a lot more intriguing. And I’ll take any way to get more points that are transferable to AA and Hyatt until the inevitable AA devaluation of partner awards.


Yeah, PPK going away is truly great for Bilt.

Justin Manduke

Which agencies does a card application hit for hard pulls?


This card would have been a home run for me several years ago (before CSR and the trifecta was a thing).


First off: you deserve huge kudos for writing this article. Bilt is the “home team” of rewards programs, staffed by people with experience in both sides of the hobby, and clearly designed (on the redemptions side, anyway) to appeal to knowledgeable points travelers. Even as someone unlikely to get the card I want them to succeed and I suspect the same is true of you guys given that colleagues and friends of yours are probably directly involved.

So to write such a scrupulously fair article which doesn’t come to the conclusion that everyone should rush out and sign up speaks volumes about your approach to writing in this “space”.

So, thank you.

I had a chance to chat with the head of loyalty (who designed the program) at another blog’s Meetup in New York this past weekend and told him that he had the best program in the industry and that I would probably never have a Bilt card. That’s because they are far too smart and focused to engage in the “race to the bottom” and that’s kind of where I (we) live. Does that make me a bottom feeder? So be it. But what Bilt offers is a solid value proposition in a world where others offer insane value (Amex! Can I get me some points!). As long as those spigots keep flowing I’ll be drinking from those hoses. If they run dry then I might switch to Bilt.

While I agree with you that the card at present makes sense for renters and starters-out, I think it also might make sense at the other end as well:. People with very high organic spend (such as the FMI poster who wondered where to spend $2-4 million a year if grocery spend). If that were me I might consider earning 3mm Bilt points knowing they have the partners I want rather than than 4.5mm points spread across different programs where I have to worry about having enough points in each program. (I dunno, though. I mean, 1.5mm points!)

Richard K

Thanks for the comment, I’ve passed it on to Dave. – Richard, Bilt Rewards.


Wow, you wrote a reply longer than my original comment!!!

A couple of thoughts:

I don’t particularly agree that someone with such high organic spending is better off with this card than a cash back card offering 2%

Fair enough. Personally, I don’t really think about cash back. As a reasonably paid hourly biller, at a 2% margin my best play is simply to work 47 extra minutes a week (or whatever 2% of 40 hours is). So I’m only thinking about miles and points cards. Still, if my choice were 3mm points transferable to United, AA and Hyatt vs $30K, the former would buy me a lot more travel (although either might buy me a year’s worth of travel).

 One of the things I like most is that I don’t think they are done. 

This is actually an interesting aspect of the Wells Fargo announcement because it clarifies that Bilt sees themselves as a rewards program and not a credit card per se. I wonder if they’re thinking of some kind of shopping portal? It would be really nice to see that done “correctly” (meaning, well-structured deals and guaranteed posting of miles earned through legitimate purchases) and, in some cases, I think the merchants are willing to “fund” a valuable level of points so that there would be the hope of accruing enough points in the program to redeem for valuable travel.

I will say that, at that weekend meetup I mentioned, David Canty said publicly that more announcements are forthcoming in the next few months.