Airbnb has grown a lot since first launching back in 2008, and it’s easy to see why. A 2016 study conducted by Busbud comparing hotel prices and Airbnb listings across 22 major global cities found that Airbnb was less expensive over half the time — sometimes by as much as $100.
With affordable stays for all kinds of travelers — and more rooms than the six largest global hotel groups in the world combined (which amounts to over six million) — in nearly 100,000 cities around the world, it’s no wonder more and more people are choosing to travel via Airbnb rather than booking pricey hotels.
But travelers aren’t the only ones to notice this growing trend. Some travel rewards credit cards have started classifying Airbnb purchases as “travel” expenses, grouping them in the same category as hotel stays. This is great news for the savvy traveler, since it allows you to earn rewards every time you book an Airbnb using your travel card — and use these points later to fund further adventures.
The best credit cards for booking Airbnb
Here are five of the best travel rewards cards to consider if you’re looking to get the most out of your Airbnb purchases.
Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve is a shiny metal card with all sorts of benefits for the frequent Airbnb traveler, including a great sign-up bonus and 3X the points on travel and dining purchases. Just be sure you’re willing to front the $550 annual fee to access the perks.
- Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months (worth $750 in travel)
- $300 annual travel credit (that can be used towards Airbnb)
- Earn 3X the points on travel expenses like Airbnb
- 10X points on Lyft rides, 3X points on travel (excluding $300 travel credit), 3X points at restaurants, and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else
- $550 annual fee
- Credit needed: Excellent
Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a good card for frequent travelers, as it allows you to earn points toward travel on all of your purchases (as in, every single one). Venture miles are flexible in how they can be redeemed, meaning you can use them on any airline or hotel — or even with Airbnb.
- 2X miles on every purchase, every day, not just your travel-related ones
- Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months
- Flexible redemption on Venture miles
- Annual fee of $95 (waived first year)
Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card
Although it offers a slightly-smaller welcome offer, the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card is a good free option, allowing you to earn 3X the points on qualifying travel purchases, including things like gas, flights, ridesharing, and Airbnb. The flexible points system also allows you to redeem points in a variety of ways, even giving you the option to pool points with other Wells Fargo cardholders.
- Earn 20,000 points when you spend $1,000 within the first 3 months (worth $200 in cash value)
- Earn 3X points on eligible dining, transportation, travel, and streaming service purchases; and 1X points on other purchases
- $0 annual fee
- Earn unlimited points that don’t expire
- Amex isn’t as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard
Discover it Miles
The Discover it Miles is a great way to quickly earn miles on all of your purchases and then double them with Discover’s first-year match program. You can redeem these miles later for travel purchases or as cash.
- 1.5X miles per dollar on all purchases
- Redeem your miles in any amount
- $0 annual fee
- Discover isn’t as widely accepted as Visa and Mastercard
Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card
The Bank of America Premium Rewards Credit Card offers a generous welcome bonus of 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days. It also helps travelers rack up points faster by offering points for every dollar you spend on travel and dining.
- Earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days
- Earn 2X points on travel and dining, and 1.5X points on all other purchases
- Flexible redemption program, including special travel credit for qualifying purchases
- $95 annual fee
- Only certain customers will have access to Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program, which allows you to earn 25% to 75% more points
How to use your travel rewards to pay for your next Airbnb
After you’ve earned enough travel rewards to start cashing in, you might be wondering how to go about using them to fund your next vacation — and the Airbnb at which you’ll be staying, of course. How you’re able to use points in relation to Airbnb really depends on the type of card you have.
- If you have a travel credit card with flexible points and miles, like the Wells Fargo Propel American Express Card, you should be able to redeem these points toward any qualifying purchase.
- If you have a cashback card, like the Discover it Miles card, then you can use your rewards to “erase” your purchase (aka, refund it).
- Some rewards programs, like Chase Ultimate Rewards, periodically have deals that offer Airbnb gift cards in their online portals that can be purchased in exchange for points.
- Other cards, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, have an annual travel credit than can be redeemed on qualifying purchases — like your next Airbnb stay.
And, although you missed the boat (don’t worry, so did I) on the former Amex and Airbnb partnership that allowed customers to book directly on Airbnb using AmEx Membership Rewards, there are still ways to use these points toward your next Airbnb purchase. According to American Express, as long as your card is enrolled in the Amex membership rewards program and you have enough points at the time of purchase, you should be able to use those points toward qualifying purchases like Airbnb. Keep in mind that if you don’t have enough points for the entire cost of your purchase, the transaction will automatically appear on your card as it normally would.
However you choose to use your points toward Airbnb adventures, read the fine print of your card’s travel rewards program to make sure you’re getting the best deal. To use the former Amex-Airbnb partnership as an example, cashing in points for Airbnb gift cards was actually a better deal (coming in at a value of one cent per point) than using your points directly on the Airbnb platform (which had a value of 0.7 cents per point). Even though this might not sound like a lot, it meant you would have saved 30% of your points on the same dollar-value purchase.
How to stack rewards, gift cards, and portals when booking Airbnb
While Airbnb is already a great deal — especially when you get ample credit card points for booking — a few simple tricks can make your rewards for booking a vacation rental even sweeter. Check out these tips to maximize the financial benefits of staying at an Airbnb on your next vacation.
Buy Airbnb gift cards
To get the most bang for your buck, you may not want to pay for your Airbnb directly with a credit card. Instead, you can opt to buy Airbnb gift cards using a rewards card, then use the gift card to book your vacation.
What’s great about Airbnb gift cards, is that you can buy them from a variety of places and then you load them onto your account. Then, you can go through a shopping portal to actually book your Airbnb. This gives you multiple opportunities to stack and earn rewards.
Here are some ideas on what you could do to stack rewards when booking Airbnb:
- Use your Chase Ink Business Cash Credit Card to buy Airbnb gift cards at an office supply store: This will net you 5% cash back or that same multiplier in Ultimate Rewards points. Meaning, $500 in Airbnb gift cards could get you 2,500 Ultimate Rewards points.
- Shop for Airbnb gift cards through the United Airlines Mileage PlusX App: You'll earn 2X United Miles for each dollar you spend on Airbnb gift cards purchased through this app. And you can get a 25% bonus if you have a United credit card linked to your app account — even if you use a different credit card to pay for the gift card. That means you could use a card that provides bonus points for travel purchases, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card. Since the Sapphire Reserve gives you 3X Ultimate Rewards per dollar spent on travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and at restaurants, buying $500 in Airbnb gift cards on the Mileage PlusX app would net you both 1,000 United Miles and 1,500 Ultimate Rewards Points.
- Buy other discounted online gift cards: eBay and other websites such as Gift Card Granny allow you to purchase Airbnb gift cards at less than face value. Use a rewards card that offers a bonus for everyday spending, such as the Citi Double Cash Card — with this card you can up to 2% cash back on all purchases: 1% as you buy and 1% as you pay — and you could get a bargain on your Airbnb while also earning generous credit card rewards to make the deal even better.
- Shop through Rakuten: Rakuten provides cash back if you shop through its portal and buy items from any of more than 2,500 participating merchants. Rakuten's cashback offers include up to 2% back when buying on eBay. This means if you click through to eBay from Rakuten to buy your discounted Airbnb gift cards, you'll also be able to get cash back from Rakuten in addition to any credit card rewards you get when paying for your purchase.
Book Airbnb through a shopping portal
Shopping portals are set up to give you points or miles if you initiate your transaction with a merchant by clicking through the shopping portal first. Just like Rakuten is a cashback shopping portal, there are travel sites that will reward you for your shopping with travel rewards. So after you load your gift card into your Airbnb account, you can start at a portal to do your booking to stack your points.
Delta, Qantas, and British Airways are among the different airlines that enable you to earn points in their frequent flyer programs if you shop through their portals. These points are in addition to whatever you already earned by buying your gift card. For example, Delta rewards you with 1 Delta SkyMile for every dollar you spend on Airbnb. So if you book through Delta and spend your $500 gift card, you'd earn 500 Delta SkyMiles on the same purchase.
So, you could buy that Airbnb gift card through the United MileagePlus App with your Chase Sapphire Reserve and then book your stay through the Delta shopping portal and you’d end up with 1,000 United Miles, 1,500 Chase Ultimate Rewards, and 500 Delta SkyMiles. While it may take you a little longer to book your Airbnb this way, you can see that it could definitely be worth the effort.
Does Airbnb count as travel for credit cards?
Many Mastercards and Visa cards will code Airbnb purchases as travel, so you can earn rewards points on your Airbnb bookings. For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card has a flexible definition of what qualifies for travel rewards points, which means you’ll get 3X points per dollar spent on Airbnb purchases.
Some American Express cards, on the other hand, have stricter definitions of what counts as travel. The Platinum Card from American Express only earns you 5X miles on pre-paid hotel purchases booked through the Amex travel portal, which means Airbnb bookings will only earn 1 point per dollar. The American Express Green Card, however, does code Airbnb as travel, according to some reports.
Can I pay for Airbnb with points? Can you use miles with Airbnb?
There are a few ways you can use points to pay for Airbnb bookings. You can get cash back from your credit card and use it towards Airbnb, use your points to purchase Airbnb gift cards, or apply a travel credit towards your Airbnb booking. The Chase Sapphire Reserve card comes with a $300 annual travel credit that can be used towards Airbnb bookings, for example.
Can I use Chase Ultimate Rewards for Airbnb?
You won’t be able to book Airbnb stays through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, which means the points you earn on a Chase premium travel rewards card won’t stretch further when used towards Airbnb bookings.
However, you can use your Chase Sapphire Reserve annual travel credit towards Airbnb bookings. You can also redeem your points for cash back and put the money towards your Airbnb booking.
Which credit card is best for Airbnb?
When choosing the right card to use for your Airbnb bookings, it’s important to consider how many points per dollar you can earn on your Airbnb purchases. You’ll also want to consider how easy it is to redeem your rewards for Airbnb bookings. A card with flexible redemption options will probably be your best bet.
Does Airbnb charge a credit card fee?
The fee for credit card processing is built in to the Airbnb service fee. This fee can vary based on a number of factors, but is typically less than 13% of the booking subtotal.
Is there an Airbnb credit card?
There is currently no Airbnb co-branded credit card available. However, there are several cards that can be used to earn rewards on Airbnb bookings, along with other travel purchases. Options include the Chase Sapphire Preferred card and the Discover it Miles card.
Always read the fine print to get the most out of your rewards
When shopping around for the best card for your travel needs, just be sure to do your research. Credit card deals and partnerships are all subject to change, and you’ll want to understand the terms of your agreement before signing on.
Keep in mind, too, that other home-sharing options might be classified differently than Airbnb. Vrbo and HomeAway are two examples of this, as are real estate rentals. These may or may not be classified as travel on your credit card, and you’ll avoid a lot of headaches by understanding in advance how your purchases are classified with your particular card.