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Wells Fargo, Mastercard Back Bilt, Which Turns Rent Into Points

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(Bloomberg) -- Bilt Rewards, which offers a loyalty program and credit card that converts rent into reward points, raised $60 million from investors including Mastercard Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co., giving the startup a $350 million valuation.

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Landlords including SL Green Realty Corp., Blackstone Inc., AvalonBay Communities Inc., Equity Residential, Starwood Capital Group, Related Cos. and Moinian Group also participated in the funding round, as did mortgage-software platform Blend Labs Inc. and real estate brokerage Douglas Elliman, Bilt Chief Executive Officer Ankur Jain said in an interview.

“With this round, we’ll focus on scaling Bilt’s loyalty program to the rest of the 43 million rental households in the country so they can earn something back on their largest expense every single month,” Jain said.

Already, the New York-based startup is working on signing up renters from the more than 2 million units within its network, which includes properties managed by Cushman & Wakefield as well as others owned by Rudin Management Co., LeFrak, Camden Property Trust, AMLI Residential, LivCor and Trammell Crow Residential. Renters can accumulate points without obtaining Bilt’s credit card and can earn bonus points for new leases and lease renewals.

Bilt is pursuing a market opportunity in the U.S. that includes roughly 109 million renters paying an estimated $500 billion in rent annually, Jain said.

“Depending on how quickly things scale, we may be in a position where we don’t need to raise further capital,” he said.

In addition to traditional airline and hotel redemption options, Bilt members can exchange points for rent credits or a down payment as they transition from being renters into homeowners.

“We want to help customers achieve their dreams and, for so many, that includes homeownership,” Ray Fischer, Wells Fargo’s head of cards and merchant services, said in an emailed statement. “Helping people save for a down payment by doing something as simple as paying their rent is a compelling value proposition for consumers, and we’re excited to play a part in that happening.”

Bilt plans to pay interest on points balances in the form of additional points, which Jain says is a first-of-its-kind feature.

“Bilt is unique in that it is a true win-win platform for both renters and property managers,” SL Green President Andrew Mathias said in an emailed statement. Bilt’s program is available at SL Green buildings including 7 Dey, a property in Manhattan’s Financial District.

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