A rewards program for your rent payments? Meet Bilt

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Kairos, the startup studio led by Ankur Jain, is launching a new brand today called Bilt Rewards. Bilt is a rewards program that lets renters earn each time they make a rent payment.

The company is funded by Kairos, which is the studio that is also responsible for brands like Rhino, Alloy, and Little Spoon.

Bilt has two main pieces, a rewards platform and a credit card, powered by Mastercard.

On the rewards side, Bilt has partnered with estate owners and property managers including the Blackstone Group, The Related Companies and Equity Residential. Folks who rent with these entities can now earn rewards each time they pay their rent, with the opportunity to earn even more rewards for things like lease renewals or lease signing bonuses.

The co-branded Bilt Mastercard credit card allows renters at those properties, or any other renter, to pay their rent with the credit card. As a renter myself, and as one that is still forced to pay by check via snail mail, this is a welcome offering.

Folks who use the Bilt Mastercard will earn 2x points on rent payments and one point per dollar spent on the card elsewhere.

These points, whether earned through spending on the card or by paying rent at Bilt-partnered properties, can be used toward travel with airlines and hotels, as well as other perks like group fitness classes. But perhaps the most significant option for spending points is to use them toward a mortgage payment.

Bilt worked with regulators, as well as Fannie Mae and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to gain approval for using rewards points toward a mortgage. So not only can people use their rewards points toward their down payment on a home, but folks using the Bilt Mastercard can also build their credit score and earn rewards at the same time, bringing down the rates on their mortgage.

On the revenue side, Bilt takes a cut of the transaction fee alongside Mastercard for purchases made through the Bilt credit card. The startup also generates revenue by charging property managers for the points they distribute to their tenants.

"Three years ago, if you asked us if we could bring together an alliance of property owners to work together under one unified rewards program, it would have been hard to imagine," said Jain. "If you think about getting payment networks to collaborate on a credit card or fees on rent, most people would have said that's not possible. Getting regulatory approval from the U.S. government was a huge hurdle we had to overcome. Building out every airline and hotel partnership was huge. That's why it's taken three years. This has been the hardest project we've worked on."

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