Using your credit card points for vacation rentals

Deals aren't as good as hotels, but they're available

Tony Mecia
Personal finance writer
Rewards expert who writes the "Cashing In" reader Q&A column for CreditCards.com

Using your credit card points for vacation rentals

When you’re taking a trip, credit card rewards can help you with hotel rooms. There are plenty of hotel chains with their own hotel credit cards, and you can often score a free hotel room.

But what if you don’t want a hotel? Increasingly, travelers are turning to vacation rental companies like Airbnb and VRBO to find places to stay. They typically have advantages that you won’t find in most hotel rooms, such as kitchens where you can make meals instead of going out to eat.

If you have a larger family or are traveling with a group, you might appreciate having multiple bedrooms and bathrooms that you can’t find in a traditional hotel (unless you are willing to drop a fortune on a high-end suite). And vacation rentals are often cheaper than hotels, too.

Those are some of the reasons why vacation rental companies have been growing like gangbusters. Since its founding in 2009, Airbnb has doubled its number of bookings every year until 2017, when it grew by “only” 63 percent, to 130 million guests.

You might think that if you want to plan a trip using points that includes a vacation rental that you’re out of luck. But you’re not. You do have options. You have more options with chain hotels, but there are possibilities of using points with vacation rentals, too. Here’s how:

  • Buy Airbnb gift cards.
    If you have Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which come with a variety of Chase cards, you can go online and apply your points toward the purchase of an Airbnb gift card. Gifts cards cost 1 cent per point (or 100 points per $1), so a $100 Airbnb gift card is 10,000 points.

    Using points this way gives you less of a value than using them to book travel, and it is the same value as redeeming the points for cash. But it could come in handy if you have a lot of points and are set on renting through Airbnb.

  • Pay Airbnb directly with American Express points.
    American Express and Airbnb have an arrangement in which you are able to use your American Express Membership Rewards points to pay Airbnb at the time of booking on Airbnb’s website. You log in to your Airbnb account and enter your American Express account information, then at booking you have the option to pay with points, at a rate of 0.7 cents per point (or roughly 142.9 points per $1).

    That means every $100 stay costs about 14,290 points. That’s an even worse deal than Airbnb gift cards via Chase, but again, if you have a lot of points and that’s how you like to spend them, it could work.

  • Use points from a travel card.
    Some travel cards allow you to use your points on any travel expense. When your credit card statement arrives, you can usually go online and select travel expenditures to which to apply the points, which wipes it from your bill.

    Cards in this category include the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card and the Barclaycard Arrival World Mastercard. According to accounts on internet chat boards, Airbnb counts as a travel expense, but VRBO and HomeAway might not.

  • Use a card with a travel credit.
    Some cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, come with a $300 annual travel credit that is automatically applied when you charge a travel expense on the card.

As you can see, the options aren’t great. But if you have your heart set on a vacation rental, there are ways to use points to make it happen.

 See related: Rewards scarce from vacation rentals companies, Don't let a rental scam spoil your vacation



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Updated: 05-23-2018