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 through 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 $450 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
- 3X points on travel immediately after earning $300 travel credit, 3X points at restaurants and 1X points per $1 spent on everything else
- $450 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.
- 10X miles on bookings with Hotels.com through January 2020 and 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
- $95 (waived first year) annual fee (after the 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 30,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 3 months (worth $300 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
Maximizing 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.
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.