Using your credit card points for vacation rentals


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

Personal finance writer
Rewards expert who writes the “Cashing In” reader Q&A column for

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
    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

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

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