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5 Reasons Why I Opened The Bilt Card As My First Travel Credit Card – Forbes Advisor


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I’ve long built my credit card strategy around the notion that cash is king—preferring cash-back rewards over transferable points or airline miles. As someone who typically flies once a year, and probably rents a car even less frequently, opting for cash back seemed the obvious choice.

That changed this autumn when I opened a Bilt World Elite Mastercard®. Read on, and I’ll explain why I think the Bilt Card is perfect for folks who are just getting into the travel rewards game.

1. No Annual Fee

This was a big factor for me. I am not yet invested enough in travel hacking that I’m willing to pay for a credit card with an annual fee, even if I could in theory recoup the cost through rewards and benefits. For example, a popular mid-tier travel card is the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card. It has many similarities to the Bilt Card, such as an array of popular transfer partners and elevated rewards on dining. But, it charges a $95 annual fee.

There are no-annual-fee options for travel rewards, such as the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card. But that card’s base earning rate of 1.25 miles per dollar spent strikes me as a little subpar.

By contrast, the Bilt Card charges a $0 annual fee and earns at the following rates: 1 point per dollar on rent payments with no fees (on up to 50,000 points each calendar year), 2 points per dollar on travel (when booked through the Bilt Travel Portal or directly with an airline, hotel, car rental or cruise company), 3 points per dollar on dining and 1 points per dollar on all other purchases.

Just know that to earn rewards, you must make at least five transactions per statement period.

In short, the Bilt World Elite Mastercard® offers a combination of no-cost-to-carry plus attractive rewards, making it a logical choice for someone entering the travel rewards scene.

2. Primary Rental Car Insurance

This perk was what made the Bilt Card catch my eye in the first place. It’s fairly common for credit cards to offer auto rental collision damage waiver coverage as a benefit—when you decline the insurance offered by the rental company—but it’s often secondary coverage. That means the card’s insurance will kick in only after any coverage offered by your personal car insurance.

There are cards that offer primary rental car coverage, meaning it kicks in right away rather than after your personal insurance. However, these cards typically charge an annual fee, like the previously mentioned Chase Sapphire Preferred and its big sibling the Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

The Bilt Card stands out from the crowd by offering primary rental car insurance (except for New York state residents as per the laws of that state), at no annual fee. I rarely rent a car, but when I do, having this protection offers me peace of mind.

3. Points on Rent

It’s the classic Millennial story, right? You don’t like spending money on rent, but the housing market is so crazy you aren’t yet ready to buy. At least with the Bilt Mastercard, you can feel better about paying rent knowing you’ll earn credit card rewards each time you do.

The Bilt Card earns 1 point per dollar on rent payments with no fees (on up to 50,000 points each calendar year), 2 points per dollar on travel (when booked through the Bilt Travel Portal or directly with an airline, hotel, car rental or cruise company), 3 points per dollar on dining and 1 points per dollar on all other purchases.

But won’t you be charged a fee for paying rent by credit card? In most cases, yes, but Bilt offers ways to circumvent that convenience charge that most places will tack on for paying with a card. However, if your property is part of the Bilt Alliance, you won’t be charged a fee for using your card. If it’s not part of the Bilt Alliance, Bilt can send your landlord a paper check or provide an account number and routing number so you can pay rent through your apartment’s online portal like you would with a checking account and bypass any credit card surcharge fees.

4. Dining Earns High Rewards

I am, unabashedly, a foodie. Dining at restaurants and getting takeout make up a substantial part of my budget. Luckily, the Bilt Card earns 3 points per dollar spent on dining, rivaling some of the top credit cards on the market for restaurant spending.

To take advantage of these earnings, I’ve even asked friends if I can cover the check and have them send me their share of the bill through Venmo. There’s no shame in the points game!

Plus, Bilt offers a promotion called Rent Day on the first of each month. During this promotion, non-rent purchases earn double the usual rate, meaning dining will earn 6 points per dollar spent that day.

5. Travel Partners I Can Easily Use

If you’re new to the award travel space, it can feel like the barrier to entry is high. You’ll need to sign up for airline and hotel loyalty programs and learn about how airline alliances and partnerships work. For example, a colleague was recently telling me about the potential for great deals on United Airline flights if you book via the Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles program.

But, if you’ll allow me a Lynyrd Skynyrd reference, I’m a simple man. My wife and I travel to Europe approximately once a year to see family, and we often fly United when we do—so I’m willing to sign up for the United MileagePlus program. I’m less inclined to spend time signing up for additional loyalty programs and searching for partner space on United flights.

Luckily, Bilt keeps things simple with a fantastic lineup of high-value travel partners:

  • Aer Lingus AerClub
  • Air Canada Aeroplan
  • Air France/KLM Flying Blue
  • American Airlines AAdvantage
  • British Airways Executive Club
  • Cathay Pacific Asia Miles
  • Emirates Skywards
  • Hawaiian Airlines HawaiianMiles
  • Iberia Plus
  • IHG One Rewards
  • Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles
  • United Airlines MileagePlus
  • Virgin Points
  • World of Hyatt

I like knowing that I can transfer my points directly to airlines I already fly with, such as United and American. On top of that, Bilt points transfer to all the above partners at a rate of 1:1.


Featured Partner Offers For Travel Rewards Credit Cards

Bottom Line

The Bilt Card won’t be a fit for everyone. If you’re a more frequent traveler, you might want a card that offers a free checked bag or airport lounge access, which this one does not.

However, if you’re like me and you’re travel card-curious, the Bilt Card is the perfect chance to enter that scene without paying an annual fee, and get primary rental car coverage to boot.

It doesn’t come with a welcome bonus, which may put some people off—though some customers have reported elevated earnings after opening the card. For example, when I opened my account, I earned 5 points per dollar on all non-rent spending for the first five days.

Last, but certainly not least, you probably won’t find a credit card elsewhere with a rewards program designed for renters. If rent is a big portion of your budget, why not earn points on it?