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 credit card issuers now offer an appealing alternative that’s somewhere in the middle: You can redeem rewards for Airbnb stays, often thanks to how payment networks classify 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 rewards.
1. Cash in flexible points and miles
Co-branded hotel credit cards generally limit you to redeeming points within a certain hotel chain. But some general travel cards offer more flexibility.
Take the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus® World Elite Mastercard® or the Bank of America® Travel 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, you can only use miles to 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 – 18 month BT offer 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.
Redeeming rewards for cash back or gift cards can be less rewarding on some cards, especially certain travel cards. If you’re getting less than 1 cent per point or mile, try a different tack.
3. Take advantage of travel statement credits
Carry a fancy credit card? Your annual travel credit might make your next Airbnb stay more affordable.
Such is the case for cardholders of the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, a travel card that carries an annual fee of $450. It comes with a travel statement credit of $300 that renews each account anniversary year, and is automatically applied to a broad range of travel expenses, including, yes, Airbnb stays, the issuer confirms.
Similarly, the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve 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.
If you happen to have unused credit when you book using one of these cards, this perk might just cover your whole stay.