RBN’s points deal may be too good to pass up for some buyers and sellers. Here’s what to know — and how to get in on it.

What do you give as a closing gift? A knife set? A gift card? One of those pencil drawings of the house itself? What if you could gift a trip to Europe or a week at a luxury spa? A million American Express points could make that possible.

As an American Express card holder for the past 20 years — “Member since 03 “— when my wife saw a post on a Facebook group about getting American Express points when you buy a house, I was intrigued. We’re always looking for ways to get more points for the dollars that we spend, whether it’s using Rakuten or just tracking the additional point bonuses on American Express. 

If you like keeping up with the points potential of your credit card accounts, you may be familiar with The Points Guy. He recently outlined the way the American Express points deal for real estate transactions works for the cardholder on his blog. Check out his article: How to earn bonus American Express points when buying or selling your house.

I wanted to dig in and find out how this works from the agent’s perspective, so here’s everything you need to know about the Amex deal and what it takes to be able to provide this hook-up to your clients.

Who: The RBN referral network

RBN (which stands for Real Buyer Network) is a real estate platform and referral brokerage that maintains a network of buyer and listing agents who pay a referral fee when clients complete a transaction with them. It has been around since 2016 and started out as a way to bypass agents altogether — that is, until they realized that clients didn’t want that. Here’s how RBN put it on their website:

To our surprise, and despite consumers doing more of their initial research online, 89% of buyers still purchased their home through a real estate agent. (NAR)

We were intrigued. Despite the onslaught of technology and disruption, the real estate industry seems to be withstanding efforts to replace the agent with an algorithm. While brokerages are pivoting to embrace this technology and agents are adjusting their role in the home buying process, the pressure for change seems to be polarizing — brokerages are feeling compelled to either improve their level of service or discount their commissions.

Once they realized they weren’t going to replace agents, they decided to, as they put it, “embrace strategic partnerships” with agents instead.

What: The rules of engagement

According to RBN, they “integrated” with American Express as their loyalty provider in 2019. Clients aren’t putting their real estate transaction on an American Express card; they’re simply earning points on the transaction — one point for each dollar of the final purchase price.

There is no limit to the number of points that can be earned. Luxury homebuyers could theoretically be set for life with the travel rewards they could earn on this deal. 

American Express cardholders who are eligible for membership rewards are eligible to earn points through RBN. Those with only a corporate card are not eligible—the cardholder has to qualify individually.

If a client does not have an American Express card at the beginning of the transaction, RBN will bank their points until after the transaction closes, at which time they can apply for an Amex account.

According to RBN, if a client has an existing agent, they are not eligible for RBN’s program. Here’s how they put it:

RBN respects existing written agreements with real estate agents. If you have executed a written agreement with an agent, you will not be eligible to earn rewards.

According to The Points Guy, RBN started out in 52 markets and has now grown to more than 330. If there is no existing RBN agent in a market, clients can invite an existing agent to learn more about the program and apply to become an affiliate.

How: Becoming part of the RBN network

Here’s the bad news: RBN is invitation-only, and in most cases, you have to be invited by an existing RBN agent. Alternatively, you can go to the RBN website and put in your name for consideration, at which point, if RBN decides to work with you, they will evaluate “sales volume, service area, years licensed and transaction history” before conducting additional personal interviews.

In their agent FAQ, it says that RBN members cannot advertise the reward points, so it seems that you wouldn’t be able to use this for lead gen. You work with the clients who find you through their RBN account, then pay RBN a referral fee on the transaction.

If a client asks you about the program, just be aware that they won’t be able to work with you unless you are an approved RBN agent. It’s up to the client to decide whether they are more interested in you and your service or points. 

It’s probably worth your time to check out RBN’s website and find out if someone in your professional network is one of their agents. You may want to look to your referral partners from other markets, since local agents may be unwilling to provide an invitation to their own competition.

If you’re an RBN agent, let us know what you think of the program. How do they treat you? Are there too many hoops to jump through? How frequently do you get referrals from RBN?

As for me, I’m still waiting for American Express to invite me to be a Black Card holder. In the meantime, maybe RBN (or one of their agents) will invite me to their referral network.