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One of the most important factors in making the most of your everyday spending is choosing the best travel rewards credit card for every purchase. This isn’t always an easy task, as some cards earn valuable transferable points, others give bonus points for certain categories of purchases and still others provide added incentives for reaching specific spending thresholds. Today I want to focus on a specific type of merchant and highlight the best credit cards to use for Airbnb stays.
If you’re not familiar with Airbnb, the site offers an alternative method of finding lodging when you’re traveling. In many cases, it’ll provide you with privately owned rooms, apartments or houses that are available to travelers to rent, and I’ve often found that they wind up being cheaper than booking traditional hotel rooms, especially when you’re traveling with others and reserving multi-bedroom accommodations. While Airbnb has hinted at launching a loyalty program, for now the best way to make the most of these types of purchases is by using the right credit card.
Before getting into these cards, it’s important to note that the list that follows includes the best options for both earning and redeeming points at Airbnb locations. There are several cards that offer bonus points when you pay for your reservations with these providers, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve. By earning 3x points, you’ll be getting a return of 6.3% on these purchases based on TPG’s most recent valuations. However, you may not have the Sapphire Reserve in your wallet, especially if you’re still subject to Chase’s unfortunate 5/24 rule. In addition, this option doesn’t allow you to then redeem your points or miles for these purchases. Today’s analysis will highlight cards that let you do both.
In addition, these cards are all great options for Airbnb but may also work on other home-sharing sites like HomeAway and VRBO. However, most reports indicate that these purchases are categorized differently, generally as some type of real estate rental and not travel. That said, we’ve also heard of readers having HomeAway code as travel with the Chase Sapphire Reserve both for earning points and activating the annual $300 travel credit. Just keep in mind you may not have the same earning rates and redemption options as you would with Airbnb.
So which cards make great options for Airbnb? Here’s my list (in no particular order):
The first candidate for these purchases is the Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card, which launched in 2017. This card has several appealing characteristics, including a lucrative sign-up bonus, solid earning rates and an array of added perks that make it a powerful addition to your wallet. If you swipe this card for your next Airbnb stay, you’ll earn 2 points per dollar spent (as a travel purchase). You can then redeem those points at a rate of 1 cent apiece for statement credits or cash back to offset the cost of the stay. Simple and easy, giving you a return of 2%, though note that redemptions start at a minimum of 2,500 points (or $25).
Where this card really stands out, however, is for members of Bank of America’s Preferred Rewards program. If you’re not familiar, the tiered structure of this program is based on the cumulative balances of your accounts with the bank. The higher the tier, the more lucrative the rewards:
|Spend Categories||Regular Cardholder||Tier 1 – Gold
($20,000 – $50,000)
|Tier 2 – Platinum
($50,000 – $100,00)
|Tier 3 – Platinum Honors
|Travel/Dining Earnings||2x points||2.625x points||3x points||3.5x points|
|Other Earnings||1.5x points||1.875x points||2.25x points||2.625x points|
As you can see, cardholders who have over $100,000 with Bank of America will earn 3.5 points per dollar spent on Airbnb and Homeaway purchases, boosting your return to 3.5%.
In addition to the earning and redeeming aspect of the card, you’ll also be covered with trip cancellation/interruption insurance if things go haywire. If you need to cancel your trip for a covered reason, you’re covered for up to $5,000 per person for the unused portions of prepaid non-refundable travel expenses. Since many Airbnb properties are prepaid, using the Premium Rewards Card ensures that you won’t be left footing the bill for accommodations that you can’t actually use.
Keep in mind too that this doesn’t even factor in other key benefits on the card:
- Sign-up bonus: New cardholders will earn 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days of account opening, giving you an added $500 worth of points to use toward Airbnb purchases
- Added perks: These include a $100 airline incidental credit, a Global Entry fee credit every 4 years and lost luggage reimbursement.
All of this for an annual fee of just $95.
Another great option for these purchases is the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card. While this card has received a lot of coverage for its partnership with Hotels.com that launched in early 2018, it can be lucrative when it comes to Airbnb stays. Like the BofA Premium card, this comes down to its simplicity. Every purchase on the card will earn you 2 miles per dollar spent, and these points can then be redeemed for a statement credit against eligible travel purchases, including these two travel sites. As a result, you’re getting a consistent return of 2% on all purchases.
The process for redeeming your Capital One Venture miles is very straightforward, though there are a few quirks of which you should be aware:
- You can only redeem miles to cover travel purchases made with the card in the last 90 days.
- You can redeem miles for the full amount of the charge or edit the number of miles you use to cover just part of the charge.
- There’s no minimum redemption amount if you erase the entire charge; if you’re redeeming for a partial credit, you must use at least 2,500 miles (or $25).
If you’re a new cardholder, you can also earn a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening, giving you an additional $500 worth of miles to cover Airbnb purchases. Even though the card carries a $95 annual fee, it’s waived for year one, giving you a full year to try out the perks.
A third option for these bookings is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard. The general premise is the same as outlined with the two cards above. Like the Venture Card, the Arrival Plus awards 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases, including with travel providers like Airbnb. These miles can then be redeemed at a rate of 1 cent apiece to cover travel purchases through a statement credit. However, whenever you redeem miles in this fashion, you’ll actually get a 5% mileage refund after finalizing the redemption, raising the rate of return on your Airbnb purchases to 2.11%.
Even though this process is relatively straightforward, there are a couple of important restrictions to keep in mind:
- Minimum redemptions start at 10,000 miles (or $100).
- You can only redeem miles for travel purchases within the last 120 days.
In addition, the Arrival Plus gives you solid trip cancellation/interruption coverage, paying out up to $5,000 per person per year and covering events like jury duty and an uninhabitable dwelling. This provides valuable protection when unexpected issues arise and you aren’t able to honor your Airbnb reservations.
The Arrival Plus is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 70,000 miles after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days, a haul that will get you $700 worth of stays. The card comes with a $89 annual fee (waived the first year).
Airbnb is a great option for arranging lodging for trips, as the site represents a nice alternative to traditional hotels (and can even be a better option, as I discovered on my 2015 trip to Colmar, France). In addition to the actual amenities of the property you book, there are also some solid credit card options that allow you to earn and redeem your hard-earned points or miles through this service. While the Chase Sapphire Reserve may offer the best numerical rate of return, the others I identify above provide a solid value proposition, so I hope this analysis has helped you zero in on the card that makes the most sense for you!
Featured photo by Aaron Huber.
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SIGN-UP BONUS: 50,000 Miles
TPG'S BONUS VALUATION: $700
CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 10X miles on stays booked and paid for through Hotels.com/Venture + 2x miles on everything else. Miles are now transferrable to over a dozen airline partners
- Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
- Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels, through January 2020; learn more at hotels.com/venture
- Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
- Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
- Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates. Plus transfer your miles to over 12 leading travel loyalty programs
- Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
- No foreign transaction fees
- $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that