Maximizing points and miles on vacation rentals with Airbnb and Vrbo

Jul 27, 2020

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As much as TPG loves hotel points and elite status benefits, sometimes staying in a hotel isn’t the best option. You may be staying somewhere for an extended period of time and the room rates are simply too expensive. Or maybe your destination doesn’t have any chains with which you have points (or any hotels at all!) -– the list goes on. In fact, many families have opted to book home rentals since the pandemic. Not only do you have more privacy, but it’s one of the few vacation options left.

Therefore, renting a home or apartment through a service like Airbnb or Vrbo is ideal. But just because you’re not staying at a hotel, that doesn’t mean you have to give up the opportunity to earn points.

My latest vacation rental was in Outer Banks, North Carolina.

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Airbnb is a service that launched in Aug. 2008, connecting travelers with folks who want to rent out their properties. Now, the company has over five million properties in 191 countries.

What sets Airbnb apart is a secure payment platform, guarantees and insurance to protect both parties. Every listing has $1 million in damage protection and $1 million in liability insurance. Landlords and renters can also rate each other and leave comments.

In addition to rentals, Airbnb Experiences allow you to explore a destination with local hosts. Activities include guided tours, cooking classes and more. Airbnb paused its experiences at the start of the pandemic but has been starting to reopen them in a number of countries.

In response to COVID-19, Airbnb has even launched Online Experiences. This offering provides virtual activities with olympians and paralympians, cocktail-making and cooking classes and more – all from the comfort of your own home.

Earning points and miles with Airbnb

Airbnb lets you use your credit card to pay for your lodging, so there are many opportunities to rack up points. Your best bet is to use a travel rewards credit card that earns bonus points. You can earn as many as 3 points per dollar spent on travel.

If you’re a Delta Air Lines or British Airways frequent flyer, don’t forget to book through their respective portals. You’ll receive 1 Delta SkyMile or 2 British Airways Avios per dollar spent. With the Delta portal, you won’t earn SkyMiles on taxes and fees. In my personal experience, I’ve still received SkyMiles on cleaning fees, but not on the service fees and occupancy taxes and fees.

For example, this six-night beach house rental costs $1,576.18. By booking through the British Airways portal and using a Chase Sapphire Reserve, I’ll earn about 3,152 British Airways Avios (worth about $47) and 4,700 Ultimate Rewards points (worth about $94). In total, I get a solid 9% return on points and miles.

Further reading:


Vrbo was launched in 1995 and stands for Vacation Rental By Owner. It was acquired by HomeAway in 2006, and in 2015, the Expedia Group bought Homeaway. But this year, HomeAway and Vrbo merged and rebranded into what is now known as the single site, Vrbo.

Unlike Airbnb, Vrbo does not have single room offerings. From vacation homes to resorts to houseboats, there are over two million listings to choose from. Vrbo also offers $1 million in liability insurance for owners and property managers.

On Vrbo, you can pay with credit cards including American Express, Mastercard and Visa. Historically, you couldn’t earn bonus points on Vrbo, as it didn’t code as a travel merchant. Over the past couple of years, travelers have had mixed experiences with Vrbo coding as travel or professional services.  It seems to vary based on if you’re booking with an individual owner or a property management company.

Earning rewards with Vrbo

Cashback Monitor helps you browse opportunities to earn rewards on various shopping portals. The current reward offerings for Vrbo include up to 3% cash back and 1 mile per dollar spent on United MileagePlus and Alaska MileagePlan. We also see frequent promotions on airline shopping portals, which could boost your earning rate even higher.

If you’re unsure if you’ll receive bonus points for travel on Vrbo, you can use a card that offers solid return on non-bonus spending — like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, which earns 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases.

This three-night cabin rental costs $836.06, earning about 1,672 Capital One miles — worth about $23 based on TPG’s most recent valuations. I can then complete my transaction using Alaska Airlines’ shopping portal to effectively earn about 836 Alaska Miles — worth about $15. While a smaller return at 4.5%, it’s still considerable at the end of the day.

Bottom line

A vacation rental may often be a better idea than booking a hotel, especially during the pandemic. Both Airbnb and Vrbo have provided extensive protocols on cleaning procedures in response to COVID-19, giving renters peace of mind. And, vacation rentals typically give you more privacy, providing the ability to social distance from others.

Services like Airbnb and Vrbo include protections for both landlords and renters, as well as access to millions of properties all over the world. Therefore, you’re bound to find a rental to make your vacation possible — and earn points while you’re at it.

Related: How to earn maximum points for Airbnbs, hostels, campgrounds and more

Featured photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy

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