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How did the Bilt Rewards program change home renting into a rewarding experience?

An interview with David Canty, Head of Loyalty & Partnerships at Bilt Rewards

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David Canty
Head of Loyalty & Partnerships at Bilt Rewards
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  • About Bilt Rewards
    The Bilt Alliance is a collection of 2M+ rental homes across the country that lets you earn points by paying rent. Renting is now rewarding. Bilt Rewards customer loyalty program allows you to use your points to travel, pay rent, workout, and even creates  a path to homeownership. Earn points on rent at any apartment when you have the Bilt Mastercard with no fees.
  • About David Canty
    David is an award winning marketing executive, specializing in customer loyalty programs, CRM and partnership strategy with extensive experience in the airline and hospitality sector. Currently he works as a Head of Loyalty & Partnerships at Bilt Rewards.

How has your career as a loyalty expert evolved over time?

I joined ITT Sheraton in Boston when they were looking to bring their customer loyalty program (Sheraton Club International) in-house. Shortly after that was accomplished, ITT Sheraton was acquired by a REIT (Starwood) who had also just purchased the Westin brand. This was the beginning of Starwood Hotels & Resorts as a company.

The CEO of Starwood, Barry Sternlicht, essentially commissioned us to create the best hotel program the world has ever seen, and the result was Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG). In total, I spent 11 years there, and it was a tremendous experience.

I was given the opportunity to join AutoZone, the nation's largest auto parts store, and work on a program from scratch which ultimately became the most successful loyalty program in the industry. Missing travel, JetBlue invited me back to New York to see if we could create a new program for them. I recommended challenging the whole industry by creating an airline customer reward program based on revenue. As a result, JetBlue was the first major airline to do so with TrueBlue, and ultimately we have seen all the majors follow that path.

JetBlue TrueBlue Rewards Program dashboard for its loyalty members.
JetBlue TrueBlue Rewards Program dashboard for its loyalty members.

The eight years I spent at JetBlue allowed me to focus on a truly customer-centric proposition, we created a customer panel of 15,000 members and I would bounce ideas and get feedback on what appealed and what didn’t. It was an amazing experience to have a direct line of communication with them that truly shaped the program.

I then joined IHG Hotels & Resorts and led their global customer rewards programs for 4 years, working on propositions that would resonate with multiple customer segments and regions across the world.

I met with Ankur Jain (CEO of Bilt) at his New York office in March of 2020. He was explaining to me an idea that he and a couple of colleagues had to create a program that would allow you to earn rewards points on rent. We spent considerable time discussing lots of different ideas and it was incredibly exciting. Ankur has an infectious passion for solving problems and we quickly began work on designing Bilt Rewards.

What is your current job at Bilt Rewards?

I am responsible for leading a small team in building out the entire loyalty ecosystem, the customer value proposition, and building a network of partnerships and redemption opportunities that make sense and engage a younger demographic.

I think the most important and exciting part of my job is getting the younger generation excited about a loyalty proposition that is truly relevant. Rent is, in most cases, your largest monthly expense, so creating a program that is relevant and offers value is truly rewarding.

How does the Bilt Rewards program work?

The program is for anyone who rents (and with the Bilt Mastercard credit card, even for anyone who doesn't!), and it is completely free. There are no fees for paying rent and earning loyalty points. The co-brand Bilt Mastercard also has no annual fee.

BILT Rewards loyal customers can order a dedicated Bilt Mastercard.
BILT Rewards loyal customers can order a dedicated Bilt Mastercard.

Renters living in Bilt Alliance properties can sign up and pay their rent through the Bilt Rewards program app. Each member can earn at least 250 Bilt Points per rent payment, or as a Bilt Mastercard holder, you will earn:

  • 1x point for every $1 on rent
  • 2x points for every $1 on travel
  • 3x points for every $1 on dining
  • 1x point for every $1 on all other everyday spend transactions
An example of the BILT Rewards loyalty scheme that is based on earning points
An example of the BILT Rewards loyalty scheme that is based on earning points

For renters living outside the Bilt Alliance properties, you can also earn points on rent if you have the Bilt Mastercard, by making your rent payment through the Bilt Rewards app.

BILT Mastercard rewards app.
BILT Mastercard rewards app.

What’s the strategy behind the Bilt Rewards program?

It starts with identifying the problem you want to solve. We recognized that young people were being priced out of homeownership and using most of their monthly income on rent with nothing to show for it.

So firstly, we wanted to address their largest expense and create a program that rewards on-time rent payments. We also wanted to see if we could create a path to homeownership. Bilt Points can now be used for a down payment on a home. We even worked with the US Government to become the first program to allow you to use a loyalty currency for a mortgage.

We have also partnered with the 3 largest credit bureaus, so we can report rent payments and allow our members to improve their credit scores. This can save them thousands of dollars when it comes to getting a mortgage.

What are the current results of the Bilt Rewards program?

It’s really too early for us to share any results, but we have seen an incredible amount of interest and excitement from both the rental community and the property owners. We have just opened up the program to the broader public this March through our partnership with Wells Fargo and we have been delighted with the response so far.

What are the upcoming plans for the Bilt Rewards program?

We have so much more we want to accomplish. We will continue to grow our partnership network and we will also be looking to add more benefits to the program. We have also been creating a lot of content and editorial on all things relevant to our customer base. We are building a brand that is bringing you life hacks on housing, travel, lifestyle.

We are completely committed to the customer journey and being a trusted resource in your everyday life. I like to think we are remaining true to our mission of building a path to homeownership for the younger generation and making rent rewarding is the first step in the journey.