The Smart Math Behind The Bilt Mastercard Value Proposition

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I earn affiliate credit if you sign up for the Bilt Rewards Mastercard using links in this story.

A good friend of mine who’s very smart when it comes to points and miles reached out to me earlier this week to ask, “So, talk to me about the Bilt card.  Why is it so amazing?  On the surface, I can’t get excited.”

Now, this is someone I’ve known for quite some time.  If he didn’t get it, how many other folks failed to see the value in the Bilt Mastercard?  I figured it made sense to break it down for readers along the lines of how I explained it to my friend.  To better understand the value prop, we need to draw some comparisons to other cards in the market.  For this example, let’s use the Chase Sapphire Preferred.  The Chase Sapphire Preferred offers the following bonus categories:

  • 3 points per dollar on dining.
  • 2 points per dollar on travel (they also offer 5X points to book travel through their portal, which is a non-starter for me and many travel nerds).
  • 1 point per dollar on everything else.

Now, what does the Bilt Mastercard offer for these same categories?  Let’s take a look:

  • 3 points per dollar on dining.
  • 2 points per dollar on travel.
  • 1 point per dollar on everything else.

Looks pretty familiar, right?   The Chase Sapphire Preferred card comes with a $95 annual fee while the Bilt Mastercard has no annual fee.  The Chase Sapphire Preferred card also generally comes with a valuable sign-up bonus whereas Bilt doesn’t, which is where many hardcore points and miles folks lose their minds.

There’s no question that the Chase Sapphire Preferred sign-up bonus is valuable.  It currently sits at 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points, well worth the $95 annual fee.  But, let’s get back to what I told my friend the value prop was for Bilt.

I see the Bilt card earning, on average, more than double what the Chase Sapphire Preferred earns if you use it correctly.  Let’s break that down:

  • On the first of the month, Bilt doubles all the earnings rates (with the exceptions of charges on rent), up to a maximum of 10,000 bonus points per month.
  • Bilt also has made a habit of offering incredibly lucrative transfer bonuses on the first of the month, as high as 150%.  Depending on your elite status level with Bilt, you should expect these to be anywhere between 75% and 150%.

If we split the difference and assume that, on average, you’ll be able to enjoy a 100% transfer bonus when you redeem your points, you’ve effectively doubled your earning rate on all of these categories.  Let’s say you spend $2,000 per month on your Bilt Mastercard, with a breakdown something like this:

  • $300 on travel
  • $200 on dining
  • $1,500 on everything else

If you knew you were going to be able to snag a 100% transfer bonus, that makes the math look something like this:

  • An extra 900 points on travel ($300 x 3 points).
  • An extra 400 points on dining.
  • An extra 1,500 points on everything else.

That’s 2,800 extra points per month before you figure in any bonuses for spending on rent day, bonus points on Lyft rides or Bilt Dining.  That’s over 30,000 extra points earned with Bilt over the Chase Sapphire Preferred, or about half of that sign-up bonus you received from Chase.  If you were able to achieve Bilt Platinum status and score a 150% transfer bonus, that would be 50,000 extra points.  Shift a bit of that spending to Rent Day (hint: load your Starbucks account) and you’ll probably earn the equivalent of that Sapphire Preferred bonus in the first year.

I purposely chose what I consider to be a pretty modest spending estimate.  It shouldn’t be hard to see the value if you spend more on the Bilt Mastercard.

Now, there’s arguments against my strategy.  Maybe you don’t like the monthly transfer bonus partner.  Or, maybe Bilt does away with it (though they’ve been pretty clear that they’re profitable even with this sort of offering).  Chase does offer occasional transfer bonuses but they are limited to only a few partners and generally only 20 or 30%.  Bilt doesn’t have a 5X category for booking through their travel portal, though they do have other bonuses you can take advantage of.

The Final Two Pennies

At the end of the day, this is essentially what I told my friend.  Smart folks will earn bonus points on Rent Day and strategize to redeem points during lucrative transfer bonuses.  Folks who can earn elite status with Bilt can use that to increase earnings and, in many cases so far, the transfer ratio.  Sign-up bonuses are great, but even with the lack of a sign-up bonus the Bilt Mastercard can outperform other credit cards if you learn how to use the program effectively.

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  1. The main drawback that prevents me from opening up a Bilt card is Wells Fargo. The risk of them screwing with your info is too high given that they’ve done it to customers multiple times now. Some things aren’t worth the risk.

  2. I’ll grant that this is a very good card if you’re playing it simple, but when I already have 5x dining + 3x travel + 2x general spend, it looks pretty worthless to me. Random one-day-only transfer bonuses to programs I have no current plans of using (even massive bonuses) also count for zero in my book.

    1. Air France/KLM, Virgin, Emirates with a 100-150% transfer bonus covers a pretty good chunk of airlines. Understand if that doesn’t fit your needs. More transfer bonuses are coming.

  3. For renters or anyone who can refer a lot of people, it’s almost a no brainer. Otherwise you might want to mention that anyone with CSP/R in your example also has a no-fee 1.5x freedom or 2x other card, then recalculate. You mentioned Lyft, but it earns 10x with chase.

    To me one reason to get the Bilt card is the travel insurance, for those who don’t get it on another card.

    1. You can double-dip on your 10X Lyft earnings with Chase and the Bilt Rewards program even if you don’t have the Bilt Mastercard, IIRC.

      There are a million different scenarios for credit cards that fit a million different people. Maybe Bilt doesn’t work for you personally, but it works for many more folks than you indicate.

  4. AMEX blue business plus earns 2 points every day on unbonused spend. Amex personal gold earns 4x on dining and groceries. I don’t rent or drink Starbucks, but I do spend a lot on dining out and at Whole Foods. Now, tell me how in the world this bilt thing makes sense. Oh and yes, I got signup bonuses for both cards…

  5. I’ve been a happy Bilt customer ever since using a Miles2Go invitation code to join early in October 2021. It’s become my daily driver and I love earning such valuable AND flexible points.

    I’ll empty my points balance if we ever get a transfer bonus to World of Hyatt

  6. Without a signup bonus, lack of some of the travel protections that the CSP gives, gimmicky rent-day/one day transfer bonuses, this card is non-starter for most people in this hobby. It seems that the only people who continue to push is are people getting affiliate income/credits and referral bonuses. The key to fungible credit card points is flexibility, and one day transfer bonuses that encourage speculative transfers kills that flexibility. I understand the cards audience – youngish people who spend way too much money on rent and dining.

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