Is Vrbo Legit?

Yes, Vrbo is a legitimate online vacation rental site. And unlike its bigger competitor, Vrbo offers a loyalty program.
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Written by Anya Kartashova
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Fact Checked
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Co-written by Sally French
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Nerdy takeaways
  • Vrbo is a legitimate vacation rental service.

  • It lets you rent homes from owners — Vrbo doesn't own the homes itself.

  • Vrbo is a competitor to Airbnb.

Depending on your travel style, group size and destination, you may decide to book a vacation rental property instead of a hotel. More often than not, this will provide you with a kitchen, more shared space than in a hotel, and possibly a lower price.

Vrbo (pronounced VER-bo) is an online marketplace featuring vacation homes available for short-term rental. If you’re wondering whether Vrbo is safe to use to book a vacation home, the answer is yes.

Vrbo has more than 2 million rentals and reviews and participates in a group loyalty program called One Key (it includes rewards for loyalty to other travel brands Hotels.com and Expedia). If you’re wondering whether Vrbo is safe to use to book a vacation home, the answer is yes.

Here’s what you should know about the website and how to find the best deals on Vrbo.

How Vrbo works

Is Vrbo legitimate? That depends on what you mean by "legitimate." Vrbo is an established company with a website that connects homeowners with travelers looking for vacation lodging. Vrbo offers houses, condos, cabins and cottages for family vacations anywhere in the world. But Vrbo has its pitfalls.

Properties aren’t always as described. Some aren’t as clean as a brand-name hotel, and others are in a shabbier shape than their pictures indicate. Check-in can be inconsistent — and thus complicated. Some hosts become unresponsive if issues arrive — and some hosts might cancel your reservation entirely at the last minute with few repercussions (even though you get hit with a penalty if you cancel on them last-minute). Fees are aplenty.

However, that doesn’t mean Vrbo is terrible. In fact, for many travelers, Vrbo can be great. This is especially true for those who want an entire home rather than an individual room, those visiting areas where hotels are nonexistent, or those seeking a unique vacation experience.

To book on Vrbo, type your desired destination into the Vrbo search tool, select your travel dates, indicate the number of guests, and tap "search."

Once options are displayed on your screen, you can filter results by factors such as:

  • Price.

  • Reviews.

  • Location.

  • Access to nearby activities.

  • Instant confirmation.

🤓Nerdy Tip

Filtering with the “instant confirmation” booking option removes the delay in securing your rental.

Sift through the available properties and pick one that fits your preferences. Fill out guest information, book and pay.

Is Vrbo a safe site?

Vrbo is a reliable vacation rental site; however, wise travelers often do their own research to improve the odds that they’ll have an enjoyable stay in someone else’s home. Read reviews and the details of the cancellation policy.

Pay attention to the amenities mentioned in the listing. Make note if there are any additional fees, such as taxes, cleaning and service fees.

You will need to click on “price details” to see the full breakout of the fees.

In the example booking, the initial price of $971 doesn’t include $150 of taxes, which are shown when you click the “price details” link for a total price of $1,121.

If you’re unsure whether a particular property will suit you, feel free to contact the host and ask additional questions about the accommodation.

Take note of how quickly you receive a response and whether your questions have been answered.

When it comes time to settle the bill for the vacation home, always send a secure payment through Vrbo and avoid sending a direct electronic payment or personal check. This way you’re protected against fraud or scams.

What if the Vrbo owner cancels your reservation?

If you’re a traveler seeking to cancel a Vrbo reservation, you’re at the mercy of that property’s cancellation policy. Policies vary by owner, but they’re not always the most generous (especially compared to hotels, which often don’t require payment until check-in). Vrbo cancellations often only entail a partial refund.

What happens if the host cancels on you? It’s not uncommon. Perhaps the host has a vacation home they post on Vrbo when they aren’t using it, but they decide at the last minute they want to head out there for a mini getaway. If they do, you can get the boot, even if you’re locked into a reservation. This could leave you scrambling to find last-minute lodging. Vrbo will offer you a refund, but you'll still have to find somewhere else to stay.

Vrbo hosts aren't usually fined or banned if they choose to cancel the renter's reservation. Vrbo does say that host cancellations "can affect your ranking metrics," so it seems Vrbo is trying to discourage cancellations, though they don't go as far as imposing a financial penalty. That said, Vrbo spells out that hosts "are prohibited from canceling a material number of accepted bookings." So a host may get banned from the platform for doing this frequently. 

Ways to get a good deal on Vrbo

Although Vrbo doesn’t publish coupon codes and you can’t get a traditional discount like you would with an online travel agency or a travel search aggregator, consider the following ideas for scoring a deal on your vacation rental.

1. Book recently-added properties

It might sound scary to reserve a vacation home with no reviews. You don’t know what to expect from the accommodation, the area or the property manager. However, you can get a 20% discount off your nightly rate by booking a stay with a new Vrbo listing.

This newcomer discount is offered during the property’s first 90 days on the website, and you can be one of the guests helping a host establish a star rating. Everyone has to start out somewhere, and you might as well get a good deal from a newly listed property.

2. Travel off-peak

If you’re not afraid of less-than-ideal weather, travel to a destination during either shoulder season or off-season. Depending on your destination, you might score a 25% to 30% discount on travel during shoulder season and a 70% to 75% discount on travel during off-season vs. peak season. Likewise, avoid traveling during popular vacation times or holidays because your nightly rate may skyrocket.

3. Book early

If vacation time is non-negotiable and you are, indeed, traveling in peak season, search for a rental home early, especially if you're visiting a trendy destination. Searching early will mean more listings on the site that haven’t been nabbed yet, and you'll be more likely to find a place in your budget.

4. Contact the host and ask for a discount

Whether you’re looking to book a last-minute rental or a long-term stay, some travelers have successfully scored a deal by contacting the property manager through the platform and politely asking whether they’d come down on price. Unless the host can risk having a vacant unit, they might be willing to offer a stay discount or a free night, or to waive a cleaning fee.

This may not work, but it can’t hurt to try. For a higher chance of success, tell the homeowner a little about yourself and be cordial.

And if you manage to negotiate a discount, you should still handle payments through Vrbo to protect your finances. Payments made outside of Vrbo’s checkout form or site aren’t eligible for Vrbo’s Book with Confidence Guarantee, which provides a number of consumer protections, including the ability to get a refund if something goes wrong.

5. Redeem travel statement credits for Vrbo rentals

Some credit cards offer travel statement credits, and those that can often cover certain Vrbo stays. In fact, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® offers a $300 annual statement credit that can be used to offset Vrbo purchases.

Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

NerdWallet Rating
5.0
Annual fee

$550

6. Sign up for One Key Rewards

If you’re planning on booking with Vrbo, you’ll want to enroll in One Key, the site’s loyalty program. One Key is a unified program for Vrbo, Expedia and Hotels.com, so the loyalty perks can be earned and redeemed across all three programs.

As you move up the tiers in status, your savings and benefits increase with higher discounts.

You will earn 2% OneKeyCash for each $1 you spend on vacation rentals with Vrbo, and each night booked will help you on your way towards reaching elite status. For example, a five-night stay will already put you into Silver status, which comes with its own set of perks.

🤓Nerdy Tip

The 2% OneKeyCash is earned on the room cost only and doesn’t include host fees, service fees or taxes.

Returning to our earlier example. Say the total cost of a reservation is $1,121. Because of the 2% back only on room cost rule, you'll only earn 2% $573 — the cost of four nights before taxes, host and service fees. That amounts to $11.46 in OneKeyCash.

Considering that the other fees are nearly half of the total trip cost, the $11.46 actually represents a paltry 1.02% return total on your booking. While that’s disappointing, not all bookings have the same fees, so the percentage you earn may be closer to 2%.

7. Check cash-back shopping portals

There are a few ways to earn additional cash back for your Vrbo bookings if you know where to look. For instance:

  • Alaska Mileage Plan members can earn 1 Alaska mile per dollar by shopping through the portal.

  • Check Cashback Monitor for more deals, such as $15 back via Rakuten or 2.6% back via Hoopla Doopla.

So, is Vrbo legit?

Vrbo is a legitimate vacation rental website. If you're considering booking through Vrbo, make sure to read reviews so you know what to expect, and pay through the website to be protected by Vrbo's guarantee, which provides a number of protections.


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Cashback

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See more cards for Airbnb
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