The pandemic has changed so much about the way Americans and others around the world travel, including an unprecedented reduction in work-related trips. A December 2020 study from IdeaWorks even shows that business travel may stay depressed indefinitely, with a loss to airlines in the 19 percent to 36 percent range overall. Further, intracompany meetings, which make up 20 percent of business air trips, could decrease as much as 60 percent.
And, what about hotel stays? Obviously, fewer air trips for business travelers could easily result in fewer hotel stays and a declining focus on hotel loyalty. And with an extended focus on social distancing, the hotel industry, which caters to large crowds, is primed to struggle anyway.
With all this in mind, you may be wondering how you can earn rewards for Airbnb and VRBO stays. Doing so could make it easier for you to book more pandemic-friendly options, as well as larger properties that can work better for families.
How to earn points and miles on vacation rentals
Earning points and miles on vacation rentals requires you to sign up for a rewards credit card. However, there may be situations where you can earn rewards in a related program you belong to regardless of how you pay for your vacation rental booking.
Rumors of an Airbnb loyalty program abound, but Airbnb loyalists haven’t seen anything come together so far. Either way, earning rewards for Airbnb stays is easy with the right credit card, and you can even “double-dip” on your rewards.
For example, both Delta and British Airways have portals that let you earn miles when you book with Airbnb. The Delta Airbnb portal lets you rack up 1 mile for each dollar you spend on Airbnbs worldwide, and the British Airways Airbnb portal lets you earn 2 Avios for each dollar you spend (unless you’re brand-new to the Airbnb program). In that case, you can earn 6 Avios per dollar spent on your first booking.
Many Airbnb enthusiasts also strategically buy gift cards in order to boost rewards on Airbnb stays. This can make sense if you have a credit card that earns bonus rewards at grocery stores and drugstores where Airbnb gift cards can be found or if you buy gift cards through the United MileagePlus X app. Either option can let you earn more points on your Airbnb stay than you would if you booked it directly and paid with a rewards card.
With VRBO.com, you can book private homes, luxurious villas, condominiums and more, and you have a few different ways to earn more points. For starters, you’ll want to make sure you pay with a rewards credit card and maybe even a travel credit card that offers bonus points on travel bookings. Just keep in mind that, based on many reports, VRBO bookings do not always code as travel on your credit card statement. In some cases, your purchase may code as “property management” or “real estate” instead, in which case it wouldn’t qualify for bonus points if your card offers them.
You may also be able to earn some extra cash back if you click through a portal like Cashback Monitor or TopCashback before you make your VRBO booking. Both offer 3 percent in cash back at the time of this writing, although their promotions are always subject to change.
Redeeming credit card points for vacation rental stays
When it comes to redeeming rewards for vacation rental stays, the strategies to consider and the value of your points can vary widely. The best way to move forward will depend on the type of rewards you have taken the time to earn, and they can vary even more depending on the exact rewards credit card you have.
For example, if you have the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, your points are worth 1.25 cents each when you book vacation rentals through Chase Ultimate Rewards. Yet, points accrued with the Chase Sapphire Reserve® are worth 1.5 cents each when used to book vacation rentals through the same process. You could also use either of these cards to make vacation rental bookings directly with VRBO.com or Airbnb then redeem your points for statement credits at a rate of one cent each.
Another solid travel credit card for Airbnb and VRBO bookings is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. This card lets you earn a flat 2X miles for each dollar you spend, and you can redeem them for any travel you want at a rate of one cent per mile. This means you can use this card to pay for your Airbnb or VRBO booking directly, then use your miles to erase all or part of the charge.
Also, note that Wyndham Rewards stands out among other hotel loyalty programs due to its many vacation rental options. In fact, you can use points in this program to book Wyndham vacation rental properties, private homes or even vacation cottages on Cottages.com.
Best credit cards for earning rewards on Airbnb and VRBO stays
While an Airbnb rewards credit card is only a pipe dream for now, there are plenty of rewards credit cards that can help you rack up points when you book a vacation rental. Here are Bankrate’s top credit cards for earning rewards on Airbnb and VRBO stays, as well as your other travel expenses.
Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card: Best for flat-rate rewards
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 60,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $600 in travel
- Unlimited 2X miles for each dollar you spend
- Receive up to $100 in credits toward Global Entry or TSA Precheck membership
- $95 annual fee
The Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is a great option if you want to earn flat-rate rewards on vacation rental bookings and everything else you buy. For a $95 annual fee, this Capital One credit card earns you a flat 2X miles on every purchase you make, and you can even redeem your rewards to cover Airbnb or VRBO stays at a rate of one cent per mile. If you decide not to use your rewards for more vacation rental bookings, you can use them to cover any travel purchases made with your card in the last 90 days, transfer them to airline or hotel partners or use them to cover purchases made on Amazon.com or PayPal.com.
Note that Wyndham Rewards is one of Capital One’s transfer partners. This means you can transfer your points and use your rewards to book Wyndham vacation rentals or cottages, as well.
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card: Best for flexibility
- Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That’s $750 when you redeem for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
- Enjoy new benefits such as a $50 annual Ultimate Rewards Hotel Credit, 5X points on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3X points on dining and 2X points on all other travel purchases, plus more.
- $95 annual fee
If you want to earn generous rewards on vacation rental stays, but you also want some flexibility in your rewards program, the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card could be a good fit. This card lets you earn 2X points on Airbnb and VRBO stays as well as all on other general travel-related purchases, and you can also earn a generous welcome bonus. Note that you can redeem your rewards for vacation rentals through Chase Ultimate Rewards, but you can also transfer points to Chase airline and hotel partners. Other redemption options include gift cards, merchandise, cash back and statement credits. A $95 annual fee applies.
Chase Sapphire Reserve®: Best for luxury travel perks
- Earn 50,000 points after spending $4,000 on purchases within your first three months
- Earn 5X total points on air travel and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
- Major benefits include a $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership, up to $120 back on your Peloton membership, $60 in statement credits for DoorDash in 2021 ($0 delivery fee and reduced service fees on orders over $12 for a minimum of one year on qualifying food purchases with DashPass, DoorDash’s subscription service.*Same page link to Offer Details Activate by December 31, 2021)
- $550 annual fee
If you want to earn rewards on Airbnb stays but also want access to luxury travel benefits, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® could be the way to go. You’ll have to pay a $550 annual fee, but you’ll get benefits like a Priority Pass Select airport lounge membership (valued at $429), an up to $300 annual travel credit, up to $120 for membership with Peloton, up to $60 in statement credits to use for DoorDash, a free DashPass membership (activation required) and more.
Citi® Double Cash Card: Best for earning cash back
- Earn 2 percent cash back on all your purchases — 1 percent when you make a purchase and another 1 percent when you pay it off
- No annual fee
- Rewards can be used for statement credits, a check or a credit to a linked account once you have a cash rewards balance of $25 or more
The Citi® Double Cash Card is an excellent choice if you prefer to earn cash back when you book Airbnb and VRBO stays. This card lets you earn a total of 2 percent back on everything you buy — 1 percent when you make a purchase and another 1 percent when you pay it off. There’s no annual fee, and you can even redeem your rewards to cover vacation rental stays once you have at least $25 in rewards racked up in your account. This card can also be good for balance transfers since you get an introductory 0 percent APR on balance transfers for 18 months, followed by a variable APR of 13.99 percent to 23.99 percent.
Additional options for booking Airbnb and VRBO stays (and other vacation rentals) with credit card rewards
There are many different ways to book a vacation rental for leisure or business travel, just as there are many ways to use rewards to cover the cost. The following strategies might help you get more bang for your buck the next time to use credit card rewards for vacation rental stays:
- Buy gift cards with premium rewards credit cards. Grocery stores can be an excellent place to pick up gift cards for Airbnb or even VRBO, and the same is true for drugstores. If you use a credit card that offers more points on these purchases, you can boost your rewards haul compared to if you had booked the rental with your credit card directly. As an example, the Chase Freedom Unlimited® offers 1.5X points on regular purchases and 3X points on dining at restaurants and drugstore purchases. Meanwhile, the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express lets you earn 6 percent back on up to $6,000 spent at U.S. supermarkets each year (then 1 percent back).
- Book through the Chase portal. While the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal lets you book vacation rentals with points, you can also book with a mix of points and cash or cash only. Fortunately, both Chase Freedom cards (the Chase Freedom Unlimited® and the Chase Freedom Flex℠) offer 5 percent back on travel bookings made through Chase Ultimate Rewards.
- Consider hotel programs with vacation rental options. Also, be sure to look at hotel programs that offer vacation rental options, including Wyndham Rewards. You could even look at Marriott Rewards, which offers bookable units with kitchens and living areas with some of their brands, including Residence Inn.
- Redeem for statement credits. Remember that, in some cases, it makes sense to redeem your rewards for statement credits. This option makes it possible to use cash back rewards for Airbnb or VRBO rentals or to use rewards to cover any other purchases made to your card.
The bottom line
Vacation rentals can be more convenient for large families and those who want to cook or have more space while on vacation. However, you shouldn’t just pay with any credit card. Do some research to find the best credit cards with Airbnb rewards or VRBO potential based on your needs and spending style, and you’ll be on your way to more free travel in no time.