By understanding the best credit cards and loyalty programs for earning and redeeming rewards at vacation rentals, you can save money the next time you want to take a vacation.
So far, 2020 has largely been a year of staying at home, and just about everyone is now looking for a safe way to take a needed vacation. Vacation rental properties can be one of the safer options, as they offer kitchens and dining spaces, and many feature in-room laundry facilities and even private entrances.
While reserving a vacation rental can cost as much or more than a hotel, there are several ways you can redeem your credit card rewards for free stays. And if you don’t yet have the points to redeem for a free night stay, you should at least earn the most valuable rewards possible when you use your credit card to pay for your visit.
See related: Planning a socially-distanced summer vacation
The best ways to redeem credit card points for vacation rental stays
All of the major credit card rewards programs allow you to use your points to book lodging, but they vary in the number of vacation rental options available and the value of your points when redeemed for these options.
Booking vacation rental stays by rewards currency
Citi ThankYou points
Citi offers you 1 cent in value for each point redeemed toward travel reservations that you book through Citi’s travel agent.
See related: Earning and using Citi ThankYou points
Unfortunately, it offers few vacation rental options. And when you do find a vacation rental property, you might think twice about redeeming your points for just 1 cent in value. Points are often worth more when you’re able to transfer them to airline miles, with one of Citi’s many travel partners.
American Express Membership RewardsLike the Citi ThankYou rewards program, the American Express Membership Rewards program offers you up to 1 cent per point redeemed for travel booked through American Express Travel.
But again, there are few – if any – vacation rental properties offered through Amex Travel. And as with the Citi program, Amex gives you the option to transfer points to airline miles, which often offer much more than 1 cent in value per point redeemed.
Another option is to transfer your points to the Marriott Bonvoy program, which offers Homes & Villas by Marriott International, Marriott’s vacation rental brand. But since the transfers occur at a 1:1 ratio, and Marriott only offers 0.6 cents per point toward the price of their properties, this is an especially poor way to redeem your Membership Rewards points.
Chase Ultimate Rewards
Chase offers two ways that you can redeem your points for vacation rentals.
First, you can currently redeem points toward Airbnb gift cards, at a rate of 1 cent per point. This works well if you have a Chase Freedom®* or Chase Freedom Unlimited®* card, which never offers you more than 1 cent per point toward other options such as travel reservations, gift cards or cash back. But then again, you could also redeem your points for cash back and then earn points when you purchase a stay at a vacation rental property.
See related: How to earn and use Ultimate Rewards points
If you have a Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card or Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card*, then your points are worth 1.25 cents toward travel booked through Chase’s Ultimate Rewards Travel center. Thankfully, it offers a reasonably large selection of vacation rental properties. And if you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, then your points are worth 1.5 cents each toward this option, which is quite attractive.
Finally, you could transfer your points to the World of Hyatt, which technically offers awards at its Residence Club properties. This could offer wonderful value for your points, but in practice, it’s extremely rare to find the awards available for points.
Capital One miles
The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card* offers double miles on all purchases, and these miles are worth 1 cent each toward virtually any travel purchase, including vacation rentals.
This is a very good option, but you might sometimes do better when you transfer your miles to airlines. Another option is to transfer your Capital One miles to points with the Wyndham Rewards program, which can be done at a 2:1.5 rate (1,000 Capital One miles equals 750 Wyndham points). This option will sometimes cost fewer miles than booking directly, so you have to do the math yourself each time before you transfer.
See related: Capital One transfer partners
Wyndham flies a bit under the radar, even though it’s the world’s largest hotel chain when measured by the number of properties. Also, Wyndham Vacation Rentals is the world’s largest vacation ownership and exchange company, and you can book award nights at its properties using Wyndham Rewards points.
Wyndham Rewards allows you to redeem your points for vacation rental properties at rates of 15,000 or 30,000 points per bedroom, per night. Since both studios and one-bedroom units are considered to have one bedroom for the purpose of redeeming rewards, you should always select the one-bedroom option. Just note that the availability of these properties is subject to capacity controls set by the individual owners. For example, don’t expect to be able to redeem your points for a free night stay at a slope-side condo during the heart of ski season.
In addition to transferring Capital One miles to Wyndham Rewards points, you can earn points from the Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature card. It offers 5 points per dollar spent on Wyndham purchases, in addition to the 10 points per dollar you earn when you stay at any Wyndham Rewards hotel or vacation club resort.
Best credit cards for purchasing vacation rental stays
When you’re paying for a stay at a vacation rental property, you’ll want to earn as many points as possible from your purchase. Here are some of the best cards for these purchases, and the number of points you’ll receive per dollar spent. All of these cards count vacation rentals as travel purchases:
|Card||Rewards rate||Annual fee||Why this is card is a good choice|
|Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card*||$95||Bank of America Preferred Rewards customers could earn up to 3.5X points on travel.|
|Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card||2 miles per dollar on every purchase, every day||$95||Miles can be used to book any vacation rental via the Purchase Eraser or transferred to Wyndham Rewards.|
|Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card||$95||Earn 2 points per dollar on travel and redeem rewards for vacation rentals offered through Ultimate Rewards.|
|Chase Sapphire Reserve®||$550||Earn 3 points per dollar on travel and redeem rewards for vacation rentals offered through Ultimate Rewards.|
|Wyndham Rewards Visa Signature card||$75||Earn 15 points per dollar total when you use your card to purchase a stay at a Wyndham property, including vacation rentals.|
Other tips for booking vacation rentals on points
Once you know the best reward programs for redeeming points or miles for vacation rentals – and for earning rewards when you purchase stays – you’ll be almost set to maximize your rewards on your next vacation. But here are a few additional pro tips.
- Buy gift cards. There are many stores that sell gift cards for vacation rental companies such as Airbnb, VRBO or HomeAway. If you’re able to earn a large bonus for purchases where these may be sold, such as grocery stores or office supply stores, then you could potentially earn a high rate of rewards from your purchase.
- Consider statement credits. If you can cash out your rewards as statement credits and get the same or greater value than redeeming them for award nights, then you should. Even if the value of the award night is the same as the statement credit, you’ll still come out ahead when you earn bonus points or miles for your vacation rental stay.
- Focus on high-value rewards. Many credit card reward programs offer ways to redeem your points and miles for vacation rentals, but at poor or mediocre levels. If you have a limited amount of rewards, save them for the best value redemptions. Often, you find these when transferring your rewards to frequent flyer miles.
Vacation rentals are now more attractive than ever, and it can make sense to shift your travel rewards strategy to focus on this option. By understanding the best credit cards and loyalty programs for earning and redeeming rewards at vacation rentals, you can save money the next time you want to take a vacation.
*The information for the Chase Freedom, Chase Freedom Unlimited, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, Capital One Venture card and Bank of America Premium Rewards card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.