Since its launch in 2008, Airbnb has been a popular platform for booking a place to stay (and now experiences and more) when traveling. But with the coronavirus pandemic, it’s could become even more popular among those who don’t want to mingle with hundreds of other guests in a crowded hotel.
For loyalty program members who like to earn or redeem points on hotel nights, using Airbnb can be a bit of a shift. There are no co-branded credit cards that offer the opportunity to earn or redeem points with Airbnb. But an Airbnb stay still offers plenty of ways to spend the points and miles you already have or earn more.
How to redeem points and miles on Airbnb stays
If you already have a nice collection of points and miles accumulated, good news: You may be able to redeem them for Airbnb stays. Some rewards credit cards allow you to book Airbnb nights (which count as travel purchases) with your credit card points.
With the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card or Capital One VentureOne Rewards Credit Card, for example, you can book a stay on Airbnb and pay with your card, then redeem points for a statement credit, effectively erasing all or part of the cost from the bill after the charge posts to your account.
Similarly, though you aren’t able to book directly with Airbnb using Chase Ultimate Rewards®, you can use those points to purchase Airbnb gift cards. Head to the Airbnb app or website (or an airline booking platform — more on that below) to use the gift card to cover the cost of your stay with an Airbnb host.
Want to use airline miles to book? There aren’t a lot of options, as most airlines prefer to partner with hotels, but if you have United MileagePlus award miles, you can use the MileagePlus X app to buy an Airbnb gift card in any amount from $25 to $500 (including the exact amount of your booking) using a credit card or award miles. The e-gift card will be available to use immediately. If your plans change, the cancellation policy states that any refund due will go back on the e-gift card.
While using points on gift cards isn't often a great use of points in terms of value, it may be right for you compared with other options.
» Learn more: 3 ways to pay for Airbnb with credit card rewards
How to earn airline miles on Airbnb stays
If you’re looking to earn miles instead of spend them, there are multiple ways to do just that, starting with your favorite airline or frequent flyer program.
Several airlines offer miles for Airbnb bookings made through their dedicated platforms.
To earn miles, book directly through the booking platform of the airline you’d like to earn with, type in your frequent flyer number and book your Airbnb reservation.
How to earn credit card points for Airbnb stays
Prefer to focus on credit card points instead of airline miles? Start with a travel rewards card to earn points on every purchase. The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, for example, offers 2x points on all travel purchases, including Airbnb bookings.
To earn even more, look for cards that offer bonus spending categories like grocery stores or office supply stores. With some cards, these are permanent categories. The Ink Business Cash® Credit Card, for example, offers 5% or 5x points at office supply stores and the American Express® Gold Card offers 4x points at U.S. supermarkets year-round. Terms apply.
This means that if you purchase Airbnb gift cards at these types of retailers instead of charging your booking directly to a rewards card, you could earn more points. Other reward cards, like the Chase Freedom Flex℠, feature revolving bonus categories that change throughout the year and usually include grocery stores and other retailers.
If you time the purchase of an Airbnb gift card right and purchase it at the right retailer, you could earn up to 5x the rewards. Be sure to double-check the terms and conditions of the credit card to ensure that gift card purchases are allowed for bonus points.
And speaking of gift cards, you can occasionally double the number of points and miles you earn by purchasing an e-gift card on the United MileagePlus X app. You’ll earn 2x United MileagePlus miles for every dollar you spend on Airbnb gift cards on the app, plus, if you use a travel rewards card, you’ll earn points on it, too. Extra bonus? If you have a United co-branded credit card like the United℠ Explorer Card, you’ll automatically earn 25% more United miles on every in-app purchase. You can use the digital gift card right away.
The bottom line
If you’re opting for Airbnb stays instead of hotels for upcoming travel, know that there are still ways to pay for your nights using points and miles — and even more ways to earn them.
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 2021, 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