6 ways to use points to book vacation home rentals
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Vacation 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 since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 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.
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Home rentals have been great to us since we started branching out from hotels more frequently last year, but as 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 for a home rental isn’t as simple as reading an award chart and hitting “book now” … but it absolutely can be done.
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 the Chase travel portal, 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 if you are hoping to use Chase points to fund the trip.
Using my Chase Sapphire Reserve, I could cash in Ultimate Rewards points at a rate of 1.5 cents each toward available home rentals in that portal. Those with the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card would be able to do the same but at 1.25 cents each.
With the current 60,000-point bonus with the Chase Sapphire Preferred, after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening that’ll also easily give you $750 towards a home rental if that’s how you want to redeem points.
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. (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.
And right now, the Capital One Venture comes with the opportunity to earn 75,000 bonus miles after spending $4,000 on purchases within the first three months from account opening.
The card I’ve personally added to my wallet 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-bonus 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 Bank of America, it bumps up my earning on everyday charges to 2.625 points per dollar and on travel or dining to 3.5 points per dollar. This is now one of my go-to cards 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.
Use Marriott points with Homes & 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), another avenue for redeeming points to book a vacation home rental lies with the Homes & Villas by Marriott program.
Related: Best Marriott credit cards
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, 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.
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.
Related: Best credit cards for home rentals
Use Wyndham points with Vacasa
At the beginning of 2021, Wyndham announced a partnership with Vacasa, a vacation rental management company. This partnership allows you to use your Wyndham Rewards points to book over 15,000 vacation rentals around North and Central America.
With Wyndham’s fixed award chart — even on home rentals — it’ll cost 15,000 Wyndham points per bedroom per night. That means a studio or one-bedroom costs 15,000 points per night, a two-bedroom costs 30,000 points per night, a three-bedroom costs 45,000 points per night and so on. This can actually be a much better value than using your points on a traditional hotel room as some properties cost as much as 30,000 points per night — for just a studio hotel room.
The process, however, to book a vacation rental with your points is quite cumbersome. While you can search for homes and availability directly on the Vacasa website, you can not confirm a reservation immediately — like you normally can with a regular hotel room. Instead, you need to call Wyndham at 800-441-1034 and the representative will ask you a bunch of questions, including your Wyndham Rewards number and your desired location.
If you already know the home rental you want to book, you can also give them the listing number straight from the Vacasa site. Having a home rental already in mind will definitely speed up the process.
Unfortunately, due to blackout dates, there’s no way to know whether or not a property is available to book with points in the reservation calendar, and you’ll need to wait for the Wyndham representative to look up your specific dates. For the past few months, TPG contributor Jennifer Yellin has been booking different vacation homes at ski resorts in New England and is about 50/50 with properties being able to be booked with points (even though they are all available for a paid reservation).
Once you confirm a vacation rental and date that works, the representative will lock in your reservation with points and explain the cancellation policy. When using Wyndham Rewards points for a vacation rental, you’ll typically have to cancel at least 30 days in advance. As long as you cancel within the window, all points will go straight back to the account they came from and there are no additional fees. However, if you cancel within the 30-day window, you’ll forfeit all points redeemed.
Truthfully, if you are looking to redeem your hotel points for a vacation rental, this has the potential to be one of the best programs out there. Especially since you can easily earn Wyndham points from the Wyndham Rewards credit cards or transfer your Capital One miles to your Wyndham account at a 1:1 ratio.
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 it might be an OK use if you only have a Chase Freedom Unlimited or similar.
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 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.
Wyndham allows you to redeem points for multibedroom timeshare properties, and Choice allows you to do the same with Bluegreen Vacations properties. You could theoretically book a three-bedroom property with a full kitchen for 30,000 points per night.
Hyatt and Marriott also have multibedroom residence-style redemptions available, though availability is more limited than for standard hotel rooms. Keep in mind that Hyatt 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, 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 and more flexible types of travel, 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.
Additional reporting by Stella Shon and Jennifer Yellin.
Featured photo courtesy of Summer Hull/The Points Guy
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