5 ways to use points to book vacation home rentals
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Whole-home rentals have always been a great tool to have in your travel toolbox, especially when traveling with a family or group of friends. But now, during the realities of COVID-19, home rentals have a whole new set of benefits related to space, distance from others and the ability to be a self-contained entity with a kitchen, potential backyard or even a private pool.
Home rentals have been great to us since we started branching out a little bit earlier this summer, but being a “points person,” I’ve been curious about the best ways to use your points to book a vacation home rental because plunking down cash gets old in a hurry. And just like choosing the best home rental for you takes some skill, figuring out the best way to redeem your points on a home rental isn’t as simple as reading an award chart and hitting “book now” … but it absolutely can be done.
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Redeem Ultimate Rewards points
Just as you can redeem your Chase Ultimate Rewards points for as much as 1.5 cents each when booking flights and hotels via Chase Travel, you can do the same for the home rentals it has available in its program (powered by Expedia) by selecting the vacation rental option.
Naturally, some areas have more vacation rentals than others, but it is worth looking around.
Using my Chase Sapphire Reserve®, I could cash in Ultimate Rewards points at a rate of 1.5 cents each toward available home rentals. Those with the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card would be able to do the same at 1.25 cents each.
Redeem fixed-value points
If you have a credit card that earns fixed-value points in your wallet (or you are looking to add one), those are some of the best types of points to use to pay for vacation home rentals.
For example, the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card earns 2 miles per dollar on all purchases and allows you to redeem those points at 1 cent each toward travel. So, if you book a $500 Airbnb and pay with the card, you can wipe out that charge by using 50,000 miles from the card. (Here’s how to redeem those miles for travel.) However, be aware that while VRBO.com sometimes codes as travel, it doesn’t always code as travel, depending on who owns and manages the property, so proceed with caution in that regard.
The card I’ve personally applied for and received during the pandemic with this exact goal of points-fueled home rentals in mind is the Bank of America® Premium Rewards® credit card. For me, this card is turning out to be a points powerhouse for uses like home rentals or any other charge that doesn’t fall under any one particular umbrella.
It earns 1.5 points per dollar on non-bonused charges and 2 points per dollar on travel and dining. But it gets better if you bank with Bank of America, as your deposits with the bank can earn you up to a 75% bonus on points earned with this card via the bank’s Preferred Rewards program. Since I’m in that top tier for banking with BoA, it bumps up my everyday charges to 2.625 points per dollar and travel or dining up to 3.5 points per dollar. This is now my go-to card for everyday spending and I’ll be able to just cash the points out at 1 cent each to offset what I spend on a home or cabin rental (or anything else) in the future.
Related reading: How to redeem Bank of America Premium Rewards points
Marriott points for homes and villas
If you have Marriott Bonvoy points, or a credit card that allows you to transfer your points to Marriott (as with Amex Membership Rewards or Chase Ultimate Rewards), then another avenue for redeeming points to book a vacation home rental lies with the Homes & Villas by Marriott program.
Your per-point redemption value may not be as great as some other uses, so do the math before redeeming. However, if you have Marriott points you aren’t sure what to do with as you are avoiding hotels for now, it can be an easy way to lock in a fabulous home rental using your hotel points.
TPG’s Scott Mayerowitz booked a summer home rental via Marriott and had a really good experience — and benefited from the program’s current flexible cancellation rules.
You’ll also potentially benefit from more standards and support if something goes wrong by booking through a program such as this than booking a one-off home rental from an individual owner. Just know that while you are booking via Marriott’s program, your individual bookings will be turned over to property management companies that handle it from that point on.
If this route sounds appealing to you, know that right now you can get up to 100,000 Marriott bonus points via a limited-time credit card bonus offer.
Related: Best credit cards for home rentals
Redeem points for Airbnb gift cards
Another way to redeem points for a home rental is to cash in your points for a home rental gift card. Airbnb gift cards, for example, are available via several points programs.
Be careful when redeeming points for gift cards as it isn’t always the best return per point, but it is an option. With Chase Ultimate Rewards, you can redeem points for Airbnb gift cards at 1 cent each. That’s not a great use of points from a Sapphire Reserve card, but might be an OK use if you only have a Chase Freedom or similar.
This story talks a bit more about redeeming points for gift cards and similar cash-out options.
Related: How to book the perfect Airbnb
Don’t forget multi-bedroom hotel residence options
While not a home rental in the true sense, don’t forget that multiple hotel loyalty programs do have redemption options for multi-bedroom residences. You probably won’t have a backyard and a pool with these, but odds are good for a kitchen and multiple bedrooms.
Wyndham allows you to redeem points in multi-bedroom timeshare properties and Choice allows you to do the same in Bluegreen Vacation properties. You could theoretically book a three-bedroom property with a full kitchen for 30,000 points per night.
Hyatt and Marriott also have multi-bedroom residence-style redemptions available, though availability is more limited than for standard hotel rooms. Keep in mind that Hyatt newly allows you to book suites online with points, too.
Your points can get you more than just flights and traditional hotel rooms — you can use them to book home rentals. If you know for sure you want to go that route more in the future, now may be the time to take stock of your wallet and see if you have the best card for this goal. I didn’t have the perfect card for redeeming points for home rentals, so I added the Bank of America Premium Rewards Card. The perfect program for you may vary as there are many different credit cards and loyalty programs that will allow you to use rewards toward that next vacation home rental for a socially distanced vacation.
Featured image courtesy of Airbnb
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