Let’s be honest, if you’ve been inspired by some of the amazing Airbnb’s out there, you’re going to want to know these tricks of the trade because earning something back is always better than nothing. So, if you want to book a secluded house in the mountains, a place with a gorgeous ocean view or even a perfectly located apartment in an amazing city, this is for you.
Airbnb has discussed launching a loyalty program in the past but it has yet to get off the ground. As a result, we’ve heard from many travelers who would like to give Airbnb a shot but are hesitant to actually click “book” because it means sacrificing nights which could be earned with a favorite hotel chain, earning hotel points or redeeming hotel points entirely.
While these things won’t matter for some, others find themselves weighing the pros and cons of booking a stay with Airbnb. It’s natural, and you should.
However, we’re here to tell you that you can still earn some serious points on your Airbnb stays in ways you may never have even considered. That’s right, Airbnb might not have a loyalty program of its own but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice earning points on these stays. Oh no!
Credit Card Bonus Category Points
The easiest of easy. Make sure you’re using a credit card that has travel as a bonus category. If you want to keep things simple with a broad travel category that you know will earn bonus points, I’d look to Chase.
Both the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card (Learn More) and the Chase Sapphire Reserve (Learn More) earn bonus points on travel — 2X and 3X, respectively — and are easy choices for this. Additionally, the Ink Business Preferred (Learn More) earns 3X on travel for the small business owners out there.
Buy Airbnb Gift Cards
Rather than booking your Airbnb stay with a credit card, you could also buy an Airbnb gift card to use. You might be wondering why you would take the extra step to go to an office supply store or a grocery store to pick up an Airbnb gift card to book the exact same thing.
Well, bonus category earning, of course!
Office Supply Stores
Perhaps my favorite way to pay for my stays is buying Airbnb gift cards from office supply stores so I can earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points with my Chase Ink Plus. While this card is no longer available, you can still earn 5X at office supply stores with the Ink Business Cash (Learn More) up to $25,000 per cardmember year.
That’s 2X or 3X more than the Sapphire Reserve or Sapphire Preferred!
If saving cash is your number one priority, the SimplyCash Plus Business Credit Card from American Express (Learn More) earns 5% cash back at office supply stores.
Neither of these cards has an annual fee. To make the Ultimate Rewards points you earn with the Chase Ink Cash full functional — re. transferable to partners, you’ll need to also have the Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve or Ink Preferred.
Additionally, many cards include grocery stores (or U.S. supermarkets) as a bonus category. The American Express Gold Card (Learn More) which is my personal favorite right now. It earns 4X Membership Rewards points up to $25,000 per calendar year and the points can be transferred to 18 different airline partners.
If you need hotel points, you could use the Hilton Honors Ascend Card (Learn More) to earn 6X Hilton points per dollar. You can also earn 2X American AAdvantage miles with the Citi AAdvantage MileUp card or 2X Asiana Club miles with its co-branded card from Bank of America.
If you time it right, you might even be able to earn bonus fuel points on the purchase so you can save some cash on your next trip to the gas station.
If you’re looking to earn points AND save a little cash on your next Airbnb stay, keep an eye out of sales on Airbnb gift cards. In the past, we’ve seen plenty of 10% off deals via the PayPal Digital Gifts store on eBay and from GiftCardMall. Both of these stores sell firsthand — not previously owned — gift cards.
Alternatively, you might try buying Airbnb gift cards from a secondary market such as Raise where you can often save 3%. There are some other fun ways to reduce the cost further or earn bonus airline miles via shopping portals which we’ll discuss below.
Leverage Quarterly Bonus Categories
If you have the Chase Freedom (Learn More) or Discover It (Learn More), you already know how lucrative their quarterly bonus categories can be. Every quarter, these cards offer different bonus categories that earn 5X Ultimate Rewards points and 5% cash back, respectively, on up to $1,500 in spend.
Grocery stores and drugstores — both of which carry gift cards — are regularly included at some point during the year. Additionally, the Chase Freedom has included PayPal purchases as a 5X bonus category which can be huge when PayPal Digital Gifts has a sale on Airbnb gift cards.
As with the Chase Ink Cash, you’ll need a Sapphire Preferred, Sapphire Reserve or Ink Preferred to make the Chase points you earn with the Chase Freedom fully functional.
If you’ve never used the MileagePlus X app and you’re a fan of United miles, we need to talk. This app makes it easy to earn bonus United miles or even just keep your United account active on purchases you’d make anyway.
With the MileagePlus X app, you can purchase gift cards that can be used instantly at a number of in-store locations as well as online. Lucky for us, Airbnb is one of the online partners.
As I write this, you can currently earn 2X United miles per dollar spent on an Airbnb gift card. If you have a co-branded United card (Learn More) attached to your United account, you’ll receive a 25% bonus on all MileagePlus X purchases — you don’t even have to use the card.
What makes this more interesting is that Chase recognizes the category of your gift card purchase so it will correctly code the Airbnb gift card as a travel purchase. That means you can earn 3X or 2X Ultimate Rewards points (Learn More) PLUS 2X United miles.
If you have the Citi Access More card (no longer available for application), you can earn 3X ThankYou Points as MileagePlus X will code as an online retail purchase. You can also earn 2X ThankYou Points with the Citi Access card which is still available.
Perhaps the most overlooked hack to earning more miles on Airbnb bookings is simply booking through Delta or Qantas. Seriously, just start your search at Delta’s Airbnb page or Qantas’ page — have your frequent flyer number handy — and you’ll automatically earn points for each dollar you spend (not including taxes).
You’ll earn 1X SkyMile per US dollar via Delta while you’ll earn 1X Qantas point per Australian dollar. Additionally, you can earn 500 Qantas points on your first booking.
All Nippon Airways (ANA) has also run promotions with Airbnb but the promo is not live at the moment. It might be worth checking back soon though as the latest promo just ended on January 31, 2019.
While Capital One miles earned via the Capital One Venture Card (Learn More) or Capital One Spark Miles Card (Learn More) can be transferred to airline partners, you can still use the purchase eraser function.
With the purchase eraser, you can simply use your Venture or Spark Miles card to pay for your Airbnb stay then apply the points to it after the purchases posts to your account. Each point will be worth 1 cent when doing so.
Similarly, the Barclaycard Arrival Plus (Learn More) also has a purchase eraser option with points worth 1 cent each. However, with the Arrival Plus, your purchase must be at least $100 if you want to erase it with points which can be a bit limiting if you find a cheap Airbnb for a one-night stay.
Do NOT Redeem Amex, Chase or Citi Points
Speaking of redeeming points, let’s be clear about this one. American Express Membership Rewards points, Chase Ultimate Rewards Points and Citi ThankYou Points should not be redeemed for Airbnb gift cards.
With Chase, if you have the Sapphire Preferred or Ink Preferred, your points are worth at minimum 1.25 cents each through the Chase travel portal. Sapphire Reserve cardholders can get an even better 1.5 cents per point in the portal.
Similarly, Amex points and Citi points are better off left to airline transfers for award flights if you want to get more value out of them.
Unlike with Capital One miles, these three programs require you to exchange points for Airbnb gift cards of specific denominations which means you’ll likely have to use more points than necessary.
Stack The Hacks
Before we start stacking the hacks, if for some reason you haven’t signed up for Airbnb yet, you can get $40 toward a stay of at least $75 (excluding taxes/fees) when you sign up plus $15 toward an Airbnb Experience.
Even using just one of these hacks on its own will be better than using the wrong credit card — or heaven forbid a debit card — but the real fun starts when you stack the hacks. Now, there are lots of ways to do this so I’m not going to go into every single possibility but this should give you a good idea.
Let’s say you need to spend $1,000 on an Airbnb stay. Maybe it’s a luxury stay in a big city, maybe it’s a group house with friends or maybe it’s just an extended stay. Whatever it is, this will be our example rate.
Beginner X Delta
Let’s start with my go-to option. Using the Ink Cash (Learn More) to buy Airbnb gift cards from Staples — you can get e-gift cards online. At 5X points per dollar, you’ll earn 5,000 Ultimate Rewards points. You can then go through Delta’s Airbnb page to book and earn 1,000 SkyMiles. Nice and easy, 6,000 points and miles in the bag.
Intermediate X United
Let’s say you don’t have an Ink Cash, but you have the Sapphire Reserve (Learn More). You can use the United MileagePlus X app to buy Airbnb gift cards to earn 3,000 Ultimate Rewards points and 2,000 United miles. Since Chase points transfer to United, this could easily be 5,000 United miles if you so choose. Top that off by going through the Delta Airbnb page for an additional 1,000 SkyMiles and you again have 6,000 points and miles for your booking.
Advanced X Avios
Now, let’s take things to the next level. You visit the Brtish Airways shopping portal where you’ll find that you can earn 5X Avios on Raise up to $1,000 through March 31, 2019. After clicking through to Raise, you find that you can save 3% on two $500 Airbnb gift cards which means you’ll spend $970.
When you sign up for Raise, you’ll also get $5 toward your first purchase. You can get an additional $10 off your first purchase if it’s at least $25 by using the promo code WELCOME10.
You can use a Blue Business Plus Card from Amex (Learn More) to earn 2X points on the purchase. As with our other examples, you can book your Airbnb through Delta to earn SkyMiles.
For your effort, you’ll save $30, earn 4,850 British Airways Avios, 1,940 Membership Rewards points and 1,000 Delta SkyMiles. That’s a total of 7,820 points and miles plus the $30 discount. And just think, that 4,850 Avios is enough for a short one-way economy award in many parts of the world. Heck, the $30 you save could even cover the taxes/fees on that flight.
If you’d prefer to save a little cash rather than earn Avios, you could also use the cash back portal Mr. Rebates and receive 4% cash back on your purchase at Raise. Instead of 4,850 Avios, you’d receive a rebate of $38.80 on the $970 purchase. If it’s your first time using Mr. Rebates, you’ll also get an additional $5 just for signing up.
One final bonus tip for those who like to negotiate. Rather than selecting Request to Book, select Contact Host. Tell the host when you will be staying and a bit about yourself — connect with them. Once they have pre-approved your stay, you can ask for a small discount on the stay.
If they are up for it, they’ll be able to send you a Special Offer so you can book the discounted rate.
Let me be clear, you are NOT owed a discount. If a specific Airbnb location really is your favorite and just outside your price range, let them know but be understanding if they can’t make it work.
In the end, it’s a judgment call, but I know sometimes people can get a little caught up in the chase to find the best deal possible. Don’t get carried away. If the price is in your budget, don’t push just to see if you can.
If hosts complain about this option being abused, Airbnb can simply pull the option, so don’t be the one that pushes things too far.
As with so many things in the miles and points world, there are lots of ways to get what you want out of the travel experience. Some of the options above are super straightforward and simple while others take another step or two. However, I think we all have 30 seconds to burn for the extra points.