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These days, budget travelers don’t need to choose between scraping together enough points and miles for a brand-name hotel room or paying cash for a lower-cost option. Many banks now offer an appealing alternative that’s somewhere in the middle: You can redeem credit card rewards for Airbnb stays, often because of how payment networks code these purchases.
The home-sharing platform offers plenty of affordable lodging options — for example, you can choose to rent a private room in a house, or an apartment — which makes it easy to stretch rewards further. And landing a rental with a kitchen could also save plenty on dining out.
Here’s how you can cover that next Airbnb stay with credit card points.
How to pay for Airbnb with points
1. Cash in flexible travel rewards points
Take the Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card, or any of the cards in Capital One’s lineup of Venture cards (including the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, the Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card), for example. These cards allow you to redeem points or miles for credit that can be applied to a broad range of travel purchases made on your card, including Airbnb purchases. That’s because payment networks classify spending at Airbnb in the same way as hotel purchases, confirms Airbnb.
Certain other home-share company purchases are classified as spending on real estate agents, which, unlike hotel spending, typically aren’t considered travel purchases. (Airbnb notes that previously, Airbnb spending was sometimes classified under travel agency purchases, but that’s no longer the case.)
Ian Thomas of Birmingham, Alabama, says he used the miles accrued on his Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® to pay for a one-night Airbnb stay while traveling near Wanaka, New Zealand. He and his wife, Sarah, stayed in a house overlooking Lake Hawea.
With Airbnb, “you get to pick and choose what you want your experience to be like,” says Thomas, co-founder of the travel and lifestyle blog Simply Well Spent. One obstacle: On his card, miles cover travel purchases that cost more than $100, and his inexpensive Airbnb stays don’t always clear that bar. But because one night at the lakefront house cost $119, he was able to use his rewards to cover that stay.
2. Redeem rewards for Airbnb gift cards or cash back
Points and miles aren’t the only way to pay for Airbnb. You can also use cash-back rewards — say, the ones you earned on cards like the Citi Double Cash® Card or the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express — to cover these expenses (or any other expenses, for that matter).
Another option: See if your issuer offers Airbnb gift cards as a redemption option. At the time of this writing, for example, Chase featured Airbnb gift cards in its Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal. In the past, other issuers have also made these cards available. Keep in mind that Airbnb gift cards come with some restrictions. While they can be used to cover new reservations, they can’t be used for stays lasting longer than 28 days, changes to existing reservations or second payments (if you’re paying for a stay in two installments), according to Airbnb’s website.
Just be aware that redeeming rewards for cash back or gift cards (as opposed to booking travel) is sometimes a ho-hum redemption on some cards, especially certain travel cards. If you’re getting less than 1 cent per point or mile, try a different tactic.
But if you have expiring points and don’t have travel plans anytime soon, it can make sense to spend them on gift cards for future Airbnb stays — especially since Airbnb gift card balances do not expire.
3. Take advantage of travel statement credits
Carry a fancy credit card? Your annual travel credit might make your next Airbnb stay more affordable.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Such is the case for cardholders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, a travel card that carries an annual fee of $550.
The card comes with a travel statement credit of $300 that renews each account anniversary year. The benefit is applied automatically, and a broad range of travel expenses are eligible, including Airbnb, the issuer confirms.
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
Similarly, the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card — which carries a $400 annual fee — comes with a $325 annual travel credit that can be used for Airbnb stays, as long as the purchases are classified as hotel purchases, U.S. Bank confirms.
This credit is automatically applied to eligible purchases.
It also comes with a sign-up bonus: Earn an enrollment bonus of 50,000 points worth $750 on travel. Just spend $4,500 in the first 90 days of account opening.
If you happen to have unused credit when you book using one of these cards, this perk might just cover your whole stay.
» Learn more: The best Airbnb credit cards
Make your own 'Airbnb credit card'
Though no official co-branded Airbnb credit card is on the market, booking your stays with certain travel rewards cards can help lessen the financial sting (let's be honest, those cleaning fees are a bummer).
In short: Spending on the cards recommended above can be a smart money move for Airbnb loyalists.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2023, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card