How Bilt Rewards and Points are changing the way Millennials and Gen Zs travel
The first-ever loyalty program designed to provide consumers with a way to earn loyalty points simply by paying their rent, Bilt Rewards, launched earlier this year. One of the ways members have to use their Bilt Points is to exchange them for travel rewards. Bilt Points can be exchanged at a 1:1 value with some of the world’s largest airline and hotel loyalty programs enabled by Points Exchange product.Offering renters the ability to earn reward points on rental payments for the potential use of booking future travel has given their membership base, whose average age is 31 years old, a fast track towards their travel goals. With the ability to earn points against what is often their biggest monthly expenditure, an increasing number of Millennial and Gen Z loyalty program members are benefitting from a loyalty currency purchasing power similar to that of a frequent flyer.
We chatted to Ankur Jain, CEO, Bilt Rewards and our own CEO, Rob MacLean, about how our travel exchange partnership within this innovative new rewards program is targeting a new type of program member and what this means for the loyalty sector overall.
Q: Bilt Rewards is a first-ever program that gives renters the option to accrue loyalty points on rental payments. Why do you think that a program like this hasn’t existed before?
Ankur: Rent is typically the single largest expense for most people in their lifetimes, and up until now it’s been one of the few things you couldn’t earn loyalty points on. When you think about it, there are very few brands within the housing market. Even if you’re the largest homeowner in the country, it’s hard to have a network large enough that people could stay in for their lifetime. A key factor of even making this possible was being able to bring all these major housing companies together. With Bilt, we’ve created a program and a rewards alliance that’s of value to both the property owners and the renters.
Q: Points is most well known for its partnerships within the travel industry, what prompted this move into the housing sector?
Rob: We are always looking to collaborate with innovative partners where our expertise can add value. In the case of Bilt, our established network of partners gave us the opportunity to provide a wide range of travel reward options right from the start. Currently, Bilt Rewards members benefit from 1:1 exchange privileges with nine of the world’s most popular travel loyalty programs. Plus as these member benefits have been implemented via our Exchange product, it’s easy to scale and add more programs over time.
Ankur: You have done a phenomenal job of building integrations with the industry across the board, so it makes it really seamless to have one technology and one platform we can use across partners as opposed to having to build something custom for every single partner. As we expand, especially internationally, it just makes it that much easier to give value to our customers.
Q: A key focus for Bilt Rewards is to help members buy a home through accumulating points, which can be put towards a down payment, why was it important to add a travel element to the program?
Ankur: Homeownership is an aspirational thing that many of us can work towards, but for many renters, it’s still far away in the future. With Bilt, there are also options for more instant reward gratification. For example, you can pay your rent for a few months and have enough points to fly from New York to Hawaii. That becomes a real game-changer. With Bilt, we have a growing number of Millennials and Gen Zs with the kind of loyalty purchasing power you’d typically see from an older business traveller.
Q: So essentially given the rate at which Bilt rewards members can earn points they can almost treat the program as a savings program, using some points towards shorter-term goals such as travel and putting others towards homeownership?
Ankur: Yes, and on that note, you may have seen that we’ve recently updated our elite status program and introduced the ability for silver tier members and above to actually earn interest on their points. So whatever amount of points you have in your account each month you’ll now earn interest at the federal savings rate; whatever that might be.
Q: Since the onset of the pandemic, a growing number of travel loyalty programs have broadened their offerings to include opportunities for members to earn on non-travel expenditures such as retail purchases and dining. Do you think that this will continue to be popular when travel returns to pre-pandemic levels?
Rob: While having the opportunity to book travel will undoubtedly remain the key driver within these programs, it’s likely brands will continue to present their members with options to earn and redeem points/miles outside of travel-related transactions. We’ve recently facilitated a number of new partnerships that do just that. For example, earlier this year Frontier Airlines became the third U.S. carrier to take advantage of the partnership we have with Home Chef that is enabled via our platform. We’ve also facilitated an agreement with Hilton and Lyft where members can both earn and redeem their Hilton Honors points on Lyft rides. The pandemic has changed how we travel and in turn, accrue points/miles. Having more connections to members throughout the customer lifecycle is now of increasing value as travel continues to recover.
Ankur: Yes, loyalty currency was the original cryptocurrency. People want to be able to earn and burn in all different parts of their life. In order to be a true loyalty currency for this generation, you can’t just be limited to one category.
Q: Creating a loyalty program around rental payments is an industry first. What other trends do you anticipate we may see in the loyalty industry over the next year?
Rob: The pandemic has obviously changed travel behavior and also forced loyalty programs to re-evaluate their program structures, which have in the past been geared towards the avid business traveller. Millennial and Gen Z consumers are actually leading the way right now when it comes to travel confidence,1 and I see travel loyalty programs evolving to be more meaningful to this segment, thereby broadening their traditional targets. Subscription-based products, for example, resonate well with this group and is a way loyalty programs can make their rewards and benefits more attainable.
Ankur: Some of life’s biggest expenses remain among the most overlooked categories when it comes to loyalty programs, despite their contribution to GDP overall. We’ve started with housing but there are lots of other areas where you have large payments going out that you’re not getting anything for today such as auto loans and student loans. We’d expect to see more innovation in this area.
Points is the exclusive travel exchange provider for Bilt, whose members can convert their Bilt points at a value of 1:1 in real-time into the loyalty currency of a number of the world’s leading airline and hospitality programs; a benefit which is powered by Points Exchange.