Manifesto Episode 28: Bilt Rewards with Richard Kerr

Today’s Podcast comes to you from Gideon The Freequent Flyer who has a companion piece to this podcast on his site.

Hello and welcome to The Manifesto with Gideon the Free-quent Flyer on the Milenomics Podcast Network. I am Gideon the Free-quent Flyer and I’m joined today by the Director of Travel Rewards at Bilt Rewards, Richard Kerr. Richard, welcome to the Manifesto.

[0:30] Plugs

Social: @KerrPoints everywhere

Bilt Rewards: https://www.biltrewards.com/

[2:35] Background

  • What was your path into the rewards industry? Did you start as a travel hacker, as a writer, or on the business side? What was your biggest score/favorite play, on the earnings or redemption side? What do you like most these days in terms of rewards programs?

[8:25] Bilt Rewards – overview

  • 3 legged stool: partner rewards, landlords, credit card
  • Loyalty programs: 1:1 transfer to American Airlines AAdvantage, Air Canada’s Aeroplan, Emirates Skywards, FlyingBlue, Turkish Miles & Smiles, Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, HawaiianMiles, World of Hyatt, IHG Rewards
  • Credit card: white label MasterCard issued by Evolve Bank & Trust, earns 2x on rent payments, 1x everywhere else
  • Landlords: “Bilt Rewards Alliance,” 24 large residential real estate holding companies, plus option to mail check to any landlord.

[12:10] Bilt Rewards – news

  • Annual cap of 50k rent points instead of monthly 4k cap
  • 0-1-2-3
  • $0 annual fee
  • 1x on rent (up to 50k annually)
  • 1x on everyday spend
  • 2x on travel
  • 3x on dining
  • Uncapped earning on all non-rent spend
  • IHG added 9/21

[18:07] Bilt Rewards – partner rewards

  • My understanding was that loyalty programs had pretty exclusive relationships, i.e. Chase will bail out United by buying a billion United miles, American Express will buy a billion Delta miles, Citi and Barclay a billion American miles, then they dribble them out to customers. As a young company, how do you come in and make them an offer that even gets their attention?
  • How much do you pay for points? During promotions you can buy Hyatt points for 1.8 cents, maybe a little less using a shopping portal, is that the right order of magnitude for what Bilt is paying? Do you pay more for the first member of an alliance to set a ceiling, or have alliance members bid each other down to participate?
  • What do you think your highest value transfer partner is? Hyatt seems the most obvious but do you have a favorite redemption buried in the other award charts?
    • AA: business travel to Europe, South America, web specials
    • Emirates: JFK-Milan, 50k roundtrip in business
    • Hawaiian: west coast to Hawaii / upgrade from economy to first for 25k
    • Aeroplan: stopovers
    • Flying Blue: 11.5k domestic Delta (21+ days out)
    • Turkish: 33,800 business class to Istanbul, 7,500/15,000 to Hawaii on United 
    • Virgin: Delta/ANA/upgrading paid Virgin tickets
    • Hyatt: great value everywhere
    • IHG: Holiday Inn Express
  • Do you have any favorite non-travel redemptions, anything Bilt got a killer deal on that you can pass on to members?
    • Bilt Rewards App
    • Champagne Sabre

[32:21] Bilt Rewards – landlords

  • What was the process like of selling large landlords on accepting Bilt payments? Did they see the advantages immediately, were they skeptical, did some landlords refuse outright? Some large landlords already take credit cards or use other payment services, how did you convince them it was worth signing on to another.
  • What’s the end-to-end process of paying rent with Bilt. Are all credit cards keyed to a calendar month statement cycle? What day is the rent payment charged and what day is it delivered?
  • “Fee Protect” to avoid swipe fees at front desk.
  • “Bilt protect” debits rent from checking account instead of charging to credit card
  • I assume Bilt Rewards Alliance members get paid electronically, if you have to mail a check or a payment is misapplied, what kind of guarantee do you offer it will arrive in time/you’ll pay late fees?
  • Is the check option a kind of “prospect acquisition,” bringing landlords to your attention that you can bring into the Bilt Rewards Alliance?
  • Do members of the Bilt Rewards Alliance get paid the full value of rent payments or is that also an opportunity to earn a few percent of each payment, so a landlord might get $975 on a $1k rent payment?

[41:52] Bilt Rewards – credit card

  • There are lots of white label credit card issuers (Sutton Bank, Synchrony), what kind of factors go into selecting an issuer? Payment speed, revenue sharing, credit standards?
  • “Cardworks” is servicer for the card
  • Does risk sharing factor into Bilt’s business model? Credit card companies don’t like cutting checks because cash and payments to 3rd parties are impossible to claw back. What happens if a Bilt user disputes a charge?
  • How do you weigh those factors when deciding what renters/landlords to admit? Is there a risk of “digital red-lining” where only residents or landlords in rich neighborhoods get access to Bilt, or “digital loan-sharking” where you’re admitting only people you expect to make only minimum payments and rack up interest charges and late on their Bilt credit cards?

[47:00] 50 digital access codes

Thanks again to my guest Richard Kerr, you’ve been listening to The Manifesto with Gideon, the Free-quent Flyer, on the Milenomics Podcast Network. Goodbye, and good luck.

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About the author

- Written by Sam Simon. All ideas are my own, but I encourage you to see my point of view and I promise I'll try to do the same. Connect with me on Twitter @Milenomics.

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