Edited by: Nick Ellis
& Juan Ruiz
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It’s almost been 3 years since I made my big move to Manhattan. While that may not grant me official New Yorker status just yet, I’ve come to the point where I consider this buzzing metropolis my home.
That said, I carry nearly a dozen credit cards in my wallet that help maximize my lifestyle, whether I’m traveling somewhere new or dining at one of the many fantastic restaurants in my neighborhood.
But let’s say I wanted to make my life simple with just 3 cards and ditch the others for good. In that case, I’d pick the Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card, the American Express® Gold Card, and The Platinum Card® from American Express — here’s why.
Before we dive in, I’ll give some context on my current travel and lifestyle habits.
I’ve lived in various apartments in several neighborhoods in Manhattan since I first moved here in 2020, and rent is easily my largest recurring experience. At every single apartment I’ve lived in, I’ve experienced notorious rent increases — most recently by more than 30%!
As a freelance editor and content contributor, I also spend a large chunk of my time traveling. Fortunately, many of the New York City airports have experienced a “glow-up” while I’ve lived here. LaGuardia is now my favorite airport to fly out of — it’s the closest airport by distance and offers a great range of lounge options. But even Newark‘s new Terminal A has become a great place to fly from.
When I’m not traveling, I like going on runs on the West Side Highway or exploring new fitness classes on ClassPass, dining at new restaurants every week, and seeing new Broadway shows or concerts. None of those activities (except running) are free, and I spend the vast majority of my budget on rent, food, and groceries. Based on my current lifestyle habits, these 3 cards help me outsize my rewards potential and fuel my future trips.
Never before has there been a credit card built specifically with renters in mind. Enter the Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card, designed specifically to help renters earn rewards on their rent payments with no fees.
Of course, aside from rewards on rent, there are many other solid benefits that the card offers that add extra value to cardholders. In this guide, we provide a complete breakdown of everything the Bilt card has to offer to help you decide whether the card makes sense for you.
You can’t talk about New York without bringing up everyone’s favorite subject matter: rent.
Unsurprisingly, New York City tops the charts as the most expensive U.S. rental market. In December 2022, the median rent for a 1-bedroom home was $3,738, according to CNBC.
In the name of transparency, I pay around $2,000 per month for rent — and that’s with 1 roommate! Perhaps the only silver lining of paying an exorbitant amount of rent is that I can earn points for my most expensive recurring expense with my Bilt card.
Issued by Wells Fargo, the Bilt card is an innovative product that allows you to earn points on rent without fees (including a $0 annual fee!). Therefore, as long as you don’t miss a payment on the card — which you should be doing anyway if you have a credit card — you won’t pay fees and will earn points on rent. Here’s the ongoing rewards rate:
From rent alone, I earn 24,000 points every year. We estimate that Bilt points are worth 1.8 cents apiece, so I’m bringing home a respectable $432 worth of points from rent annually.
Hot Tip: The Bilt Rewards Alliance is made up of more than 2 million participating rental homes where you can seamlessly pay your rent through the Bilt app. Even if your apartment isn’t part of this network (mine isn’t), Bilt generates a checking and savings account number on the app that you can use to pay rent to your landlord, and it’ll charge your card the amount. It’s that easy.
The only “catch” is that you have to use this card 5x monthly (of any amount) to reap the full points on rent. But between my $2.75 subway fare or a $7 latte, hitting this monthly requirement is effortless.
Plus, on the first of every month, I look forward to Bilt Rent Day where cardholders can earn double points on all purchases (except rent). That means 6x points at restaurants, 4x points on travel, and 2x points on non-bonus purchases. For me, that’s when I like to strategically line up the monthly payment date for my hefty medical or utility bills to earn double points.
Simply put, it’s easy to amass a pile of Bilt points, which are quickly becoming my favorite loyalty currency. With 12 airline and 2 hotel transfer partners that transfer at a 1:1 ratio, my favorites are American Airlines AAdvantage and World of Hyatt.
Most recently, I transferred my Bilt points to Hyatt to book the stunning Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch for 23,000 points per night. With nightly rates at over $600 per night, I scored an excellent 2.6 per point value with my Bilt points.
This is the best card for food lovers who dine out at restaurants (worldwide), order take-out and want big rewards at U.S. supermarkets!
The American Express® Gold Card is a game-changer.
With this card, you can earn 4x Membership Rewards points at restaurants and you’ll also earn 4x Membership Rewards points at U.S. supermarkets on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1x.
There isn’t another card on the market that offers a 1-2 punch like this. Of course, there are several other benefits of the Gold Card as well, including extra monthly dining rewards and more.
If it’s not rent, it’s everything related to food that puts a dent in my spending. In fact, I use my Amex Gold card exclusively for dining and groceries, as it earns:
The 4x point multiplier is incredibly powerful and arguably one of the best earning rates for both dining and groceries. I do enjoy cooking at home most days, but I equally like exploring new restaurants and allocate a significant portion of my budget for dining.
While this number fluctuates per month (depending if I’m in New York or traveling), let’s say that I spend around $1,000 per month on these 2 bonus categories. That’s 48,000 Membership Rewards points that I’m taking home every year, worth $1,056 according to our valuations.
These rewards earned cover the $250 annual fee (rates & fees) for me. Other ways I maximize this card is by taking advantage of monthly statement credits of up to $240 that you can enroll for on your Amex account:
The first credit is incredibly easy to use, and I look forward to my Uber Cash getting automatically loaded every month. Inevitably, I’ll take an Uber ride (or multiple) throughout the month, so the $10 discount adds up to $120 in automatic savings every year.
Admittedly, the second credit is harder to use and may not be as intuitive — it’s almost like it was built for New Yorkers to use. I happen to live a 5-minute walk from a Shake Shack, where I’ll treat myself to a single Shackburger and fries once a month, or I’ll use Grubhub pickup to grab lunch and avoid unnecessary delivery fees.
The Amex Membership Rewards program boasts 20 airline and hotel transfer partners, including Delta Air Lines, my preferred domestic carrier. However, the international programs are where you’ll find incredible value for your points — I just booked an Iberia business class flight for 50,000 points between Madrid (MAD) and New York (JFK) this summer by transferring points to Iberia Plus.
The Amex Platinum reigns supreme for luxury travel, offering the best airport lounge access plus generous statement credits, and complimentary elite status.
When it comes to cards that offer top-notch benefits, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better card out there than The Platinum Card® from American Express.
Make no mistake — the Amex Platinum card is a premium card with a premium price tag. With amazing benefits like best-in-class airport lounge access, hotel elite status, and tremendous value in annual statement credits, it can easily prove to be one of the most lucrative cards in your wallet year after year.
The final card I’d pick is a bit of a luxury.
However, the Amex Platinum card comes with an extensive number of statement credits that the issuer claims to amount to more than $1,400 yearly. While that’s true, there are many credits I wouldn’t necessarily use at all if I didn’t hold the card.
With that said, here are the statement credits that I know I would already use personally that help me justify the $695 annual fee:
Those 4 statement credits amount to $840 per year, and that’s before I consider the other statement credits that are merely nice-to-haves at this point:
Of course, I don’t maximize every single credit. For instance, I don’t go to Equinox gyms, although there are plenty of locations in New York. If you are a member, you’ll get up to $300 in Equinox credit toward your gym membership every year.
There’s also a useful credit of up to $100 for Global Entry or up to $85 for TSA PreCheck application fees every 5 years. I already have Global Entry, but you can use this credit to pay for a family member or friend’s application — trust me, they’ll thank you later!
Hot Tip: All Amex cards get access to incredible Amex Offers, which display 100 great discounts at a time for dining, entertainment, and more. Some of these offers can be quite lucrative, like a $150 statement credit when you spend $600 more on Delta Air Lines.
But we haven’t even discussed my 2 favorite benefits on the Amex Platinum yet: access to the Global Lounge Collection and the terrific earning rate on flights and hotels.
I am constantly traveling, primarily as I can easily access 3 major airports at any point. At New York’s LaGuardia (LGA) and John F. Kennedy (JFK), I can visit the Amex Centurion Lounge to grab a bite (and avoid overpaying for a lousy airport meal), charge up my devices, and even take a shower before my flight. Even better, the Newark (EWR) Centurion Lounge is slated to open sometime this year.
When flying domestically, I mostly fly with Delta, so the ability to access Delta Sky Clubs on a same-day ticket is helpful, too. That said, I much prefer the gorgeous new Sky Club in LaGuardia’s Terminal C nowadays. You can also enroll in a Priority Pass membership, which grants you access to 1,400+ partner lounges worldwide.
The last point I’ll make is the fantastic earning rate on the card. You can earn 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or Amex Travel (up to the first $500,000 spent per calendar year; then 1x points) and 5x points on prepaid hotels booked through Amex Travel, as well as 1x points on all other purchases. That 5x multiplier is industry-leading when it comes to earning points on flights and hotels. Combined with the points I earn from my Amex Gold card, I earn a giant balance of Membership Rewards points every year.
While I’m still working to achieve the spending minimum for the 150,000-point welcome offer, there’s a world of possibilities when those points arrive in my Membership Rewards balance. Right now, I’m eyeing another business class flight on Singapore Airlines to Southeast Asia.
When it comes to my favorite rewards cards, it boils down to 2 factors: How can I maximize my everyday spending, and how can I elevate my travel experience? Surely, if I lived in another part of the country (or the world), I may have a different approach, but these 3 cards have been valuable additions to my lifestyle in New York City.
The information regarding the Bilt World Elite Mastercard® Credit Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
LaGuardia Airport is the closest by distance, located just 9 miles away from Midtown Manhattan. Although further away, John F. Kennedy International Airport (~18 miles) and even Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey (~16 miles) are still accessible to New York City — even with public transit.
Most landlords may charge an additional fee to use a credit card to pay for rent, or worse, may not accept credit cards at all. However, the no-annual-fee Bilt card is the perfect solution to earning points on rent (fee free!), as well as offering a great variety of everyday bonus categories.
It’s clear that the Amex Platinum card is geared toward city dwellers, as it offers a variety of credits for Uber, luxury hotels, and even Saks Fifth Avenue. For frequent travelers, the Amex Platinum card is well worth it as you can enter the Amex Centurion Lounges at New York-LGA and New York-JFK — and a third location is underway at Newark Airport!
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UP's Bonus Valuation
This bonus value is an estimated valuation calculated by UP after analyzing redemption options, transfer partners, award availability and how much UP would pay to buy these points.