Maximizing points and miles on vacation rentals with Airbnb and VRBO
Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
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, making the room rates simply too expensive. Or maybe your destination doesn't have your preferred hotel chain or any hotels at all -- the list goes on.
Whatever the reason, renting a home or apartment through a service like Airbnb or VRO 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.
Earning points and miles with Airbnb
Airbnb is a service that launched in August 2008, connecting travelers with folks who want to rent out their properties. Now, the company has over seven million properties in 220 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. Owners 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 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 rewards credit card that earns bonus points on travel. You can earn as many as 3 points per dollar spent on travel with the Chase Sapphire Reserve. If you don't want to cough up a $550 annual fee, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card earns 2x on travel instead.
If you’re a Delta Air Lines or British Airways frequent flyer, don’t forget to book through their respective Airbnb portals. Operating just like airline shopping portals, Delta and British Airways have partnered with Airbnb to offer customers miles with each eligible booking (you’ll receive 1 Delta SkyMile or 2 British Airways Avios per dollar spent). If your Airbnb costs hundreds (or thousands) of dollars, this is a phenomenal way to earn airline miles with virtually no effort.
With the Delta portal, note that 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. Additionally, If you're a new customer to Airbnb, the British Airways portal offers 6 Avios per dollar spent for your first booking. Regardless of which portal you choose, since Airbnb doesn't offer its own loyalty program, why not earn some airline miles while you're at it?
For example, this six-night mountain house rental in Pa. costs $2,080. By booking through the British Airways portal and using a Chase Sapphire Reserve, I’ll earn 4,160 British Airways Avios (worth about $62.40 according to TPG valuations) and 6,240 Ultimate Rewards points (worth $124.80 according to TPG valuations). In total, I'll get a solid 9% return from my booking.
Earning points and miles with VRBO
VRBO launched in 1995 and stands for Vacation Rental By Owner. 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 whether you’re booking with an individual owner or a property management company.
Still, to maximize your purchases, it's best to check Cashback Monitor first -- a shopping portal aggregator that helps you browse opportunities to earn rewards. The current reward offerings for VRBO include 1 mile per dollar spent with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan or United MileagePlus (with a United Airlines credit card, or 0.5 miles per dollar spent without).
My Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card is currently offering 5% back as a statement credit for all VRBO purchases, which is a great way to stack up the savings by leveraging an airline shopping portal. Plus, the Capital One Venture earns 2 miles per dollar spent on all purchases -- a card that offers a solid return on non-bonus spending, just in case VRBO doesn't code as a travel purchase.
This four-night beach house rental costs $1,107. I'd enjoy a $55.35 discount with my Capital One Venture by leveraging the 5% statement credit option offer. In addition, I'd earn about 2,103.30 Capital One miles — worth $35.76 based on TPG's valuations.
To sum it up, I'm enjoying a 5% discount (in the form of a statement credit) and a 5.2% return on my purchase, which is still considerable at the end of the day.
A vacation rental may often be a better idea than booking a hotel, especially during the pandemic. Both Airbnb and VRBO have implemented extensive protocols on cleaning procedures in response to the pandemic, 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 and 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.