This Rewards App Could Put You on the Path to Homeownership. Is It Worth the Hype?

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  • The Bilt Rewards program lets you earn rewards points on rental payments. If you have a Bilt Mastercard®, you can earn rewards on almost any rental payments. Otherwise, you'll need to rent from a property in the Bilt Rewards Alliance.
  • You can redeem Bilt Rewards toward a down payment on a property at a rate of $0.015 per point.
  • You can earn a maximum of 50,000 points per year on rental payments. This means your potential down payment earnings are capped at $750 a year.

Neat program? Sure. Magic down payment machine? Not so much.

For many rewards obsessives, earning points on your rent is the ultimate win. After all, it's a giant expense you pay every month -- why not try to earn a little something back for it?

Unfortunately, it's hard to earn credit card rewards on your rent. Even if your landlord allows credit card payments -- which isn't a guarantee -- chances are good they'll charge you an extra fee for them, and that fee can easily swallow any value from your rewards.

That's where Bilt comes in. If you have a Bilt Mastercard®, you can pay rent and earn rewards without the extra fees. (Plus you earn bonus rewards on dining and travel, too.)

But what if you don't have -- or want -- a Bilt Mastercard®? You could still earn big rewards on your rent. The catch? You need to live in a property that is a part of the Bilt Rewards Alliance.

Bilt Rewards Alliance

The Bilt Rewards Alliance is a collection of more than 2 million properties owned and/or operated by participating property management companies. When you rent from an "in-network" property, you're automatically eligible to join Bilt's rewards program.

Once you join, you can choose to pay your rent through your apartment's usual resident portal, or you can download the Bilt Rewards app and pay your rent through the app. For participating properties, paying through the app is the same as using the portal; your payment is recorded right away.

To find out if your property is part of the Bilt Rewards Alliance, you can simply ask your property manager or front office staff. Alternatively, you can email Bilt support at: [email protected].

Turning rewards into a down payment

Once you've earned your rewards, what can you do with them? The answer: a lot.

If you're familiar with credit card points, then you already have some idea of how your Bilt Rewards can be spent. For example, much like the rewards from your travel credit cards, you can transfer Bilt Rewards to partner airline and hotel partners. You'll get a 1:1 transfer rate for many popular providers, including American Airlines and Hyatt.

Or maybe you prefer to shop with your points. You can redeem them toward merchandise in The Bilt Collection, a "curated catalogue of art, decor, and apparel." If that doesn't do the trick, perhaps you want to redeem your rewards toward fitness classes? That's an option, too.

Of all the potential redemptions, however, this might be the most interesting: You can redeem your Bilt Rewards toward housing. This includes putting your points toward your next month's rental payment. Or, even more intriguing, you can use them for a down payment on a property of your very own.

If you do choose to go with the down payment route, be prepared to jump through some hoops. Specifically, you'll need to have your proof of purchase -- aka, your sales contract -- and email it to [email protected]. Be sure to include how many points you want to use when you send your email.

Slow but steady down payment progress

While the down payment option is interesting, will it actually help you buy a house? The answer depends a lot on your situation.

When redeemed toward a down payment, Bilt Rewards points are worth a flat $0.015 per point. You can earn up to 50,000 points per year on rental payments. So if you max out your points from paying rent, that's $750 a year in potential down payment funds.

The average house price in the U.S. is upwards of $400,000. Assuming you don't live in a high cost-of-living area, you might be able to pick up a decent house for $200,000. Even at that lower amount, you'll need a down payment of at least $40,000 to hit that expert-recommended 20% mark.

If you only have your Bilt Rewards from rent every year, it'll take you more than 50 years to save up a $40,000 down payment. 

That being said, paying rent isn't the only way you can earn rewards. If you want to go all-in on the Bilt Rewards game, you could get the Bilt Mastercard®. This would allow you to earn additional rewards points on your card purchases, including bonus points on travel and dining. And there's no cap on the points you can earn.

Either way, even if you don't wind up with a full down payment, any little bit extra you can put toward your mortgage or down payment is helpful. Bilt isn't a magic "buy me a house" button, but it can certainly help you bolster your down payment savings without a lot of extra effort. 

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