We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Over the past few years, several accommodation alternatives have sprung up to compete directly with the hotel industry. The most famous example is Airbnb, which allows folks to rent out their spare rooms or entire homes to travelers.
Airbnb and other vacation rental companies often have cheaper prices than traditional hotels and offer ease of booking online or through an app. I personally booked several Airbnbs during my European vacation this summer and all my stays were great!
One of the best things about Airbnb is that you can book stays nearly anywhere for free with miles and points from cards like the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® or the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. These cards allow you to “erase” most travel purchases with rewards. And both cards come with excellent sign-up bonuses worth hundreds of dollars in travel (including vacation rentals like Airbnb)!
We’ll walk you through getting free stays at Airbnb and other vacation rental alternatives using miles and points!
How to Book Airbnb Stays Using Our Favorite Travel Cards!
Airbnb purchases are considered travel by some of our favorite cards. Here are a couple of options that will help offset or eliminate the cost of your Airbnb stays!
Earn $600+ in Stays With the Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card
The Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite Mastercard currently offers welcome bonus of of 60,000 Arrival miles (worth $600 in statement credits towards travel purchases of $100+) after spending $5,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. Because you earn 2 Arrival miles for every $1 you spend, you’ll earn an additional 10,000 miles after spending the $5,000 to meet your minimum spending requirement, giving you 70,000 Arrival miles (worth $700 in travel) total!
Using your miles is just as easy as earning them. You can redeem Arrival miles for eligible travel purchases of $100 or more made with your Barclaycard Arrival Plus card in the past 120 days.
You can redeem miles through your Barclaycard online account starting at 10,000 Arrival miles ($100) or more. But after that, you don’t have to redeem in $100 increments. So if you book an Airbnb stay for $210, you can redeem 21,000 Arrival miles toward the expense. Head over to team member Devon’s review of the Barclaycard Arrival Plus Card where he breaks down how to easily redeem miles for travel.
This card has an annual fee of $89, but the fee is waived the first year, giving you ~11 months to test drive the card to see if you like it!
Or Get an Easy $500 Worth of Travel With the Capital One Venture Card
Apply Here: Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card
Another great card that lets you eliminate travel charges with the click of a button is the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. Currently, you can earn 50,000 Venture miles after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first 3 months.
You won’t earn as many miles as the Arrival Plus, but the spending requirement is lower. And there’s no minimum redemption amount, unless you’re using miles to partially pay for a travel purchase, in which case the minimum amount is 2,500 Venture miles ($25)
Additionally, one of the most valuable perks on this card is that folks can earn 2 Venture miles per $1 spent on all purchases, as well 10 Venture miles per $1 you spend on hotel stays booked and paid for with your card through this Hotels.com link (through January 31, 2020). Earning 10 miles per $1 is a great way to boost your miles balance that you can then redeem for things like flights and Airbnb.
Redeeming miles for travel is easy on with the Capital One Venture card. Similar to the Arrival Plus, you book your purchase on Airbnb with your card, and once it posts you have 90 days to erase it from your statement using your Venture miles!
The Capital One Venture card has a $95 annual fee, but it’s also waived the first year! In addition to the great sign-up bonus, you also get up to $100 statement credit when you sign-up for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck!
The Best Alternatives to Airbnb
While Airbnb is extremely popular, here are some of our team members’ favorite alternatives!
Vacasa is a website that lists thousands of vacation rental properties around the world. I recently booked a house in Key West using Vacasa for our family to celebrate my wife’s 30th birthday this coming winter.
One feature I loved about Vacasa was the 3D virtual tour that let me walk through the house Google Maps style, moving from room to room to make sure it would suit our needs. Booking couldn’t have been easier as I found my perfect vacation home and reserved it within a few minutes.
Vacasa vs Airbnb: I would say that pros for Vacasa were the 3D virtual tour, the fact that Vacasa is a professional rental service so they have their own employees that clean and run the homes, as well as the fact that I found Vacasa was $200 cheaper than all the other websites that had the house listed, including Airbnb!
Cons for Vacasa is that Airbnb has a killer app that lets you book stays on the go, while Vacasa doesn’t have an app.
VRBO, or Vacation Rentals By Owner, is another site where you can book apartments, condos, and entire homes. I have found VRBO’s selection to be extremely extensive with lots of properties available to rent! There is some overlap in properties with VRBO and Vacasa, however, I have found more properties listed on VRBO and they also have an app which makes booking on the go much easier than Vacasa.
VRBO vs Airbnb: Both VRBO and Airbnb have apps which let you book trips from your mobile device. In searching for Key West properties, I found more results on VRBO, including stays at some of the bigger chain hotels in suites and apartments. Prices for properties listed on both sites were pretty similar, but I think being able to book Airbnb as travel on my cards pushes Airbnb ahead of VRBO if the same property is listed on both sites.
Earning Miles and Points on Vacation Rental Sites
Unfortunately, booking on websites like Vacasa does not code as travel so you won’t earn bonus points when you book with cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. However, there are still ways to earn points when booking. I would still recommend using cards like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus or the Capital One Venture to keep earning 2 miles per $1!
Redeeming Miles and Points for Free Stays on Vacation Rental Sites
The issue with many vacation rental sites like VRBO is they code as real estate, not travel, so you aren’t able to redeem miles from cards like the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card to wipe away the charges. However, lots of cards, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred, allow you to redeem your points as a statement credit. While this redemption won’t normally be as good as transferring your Chase Ultimate Rewards points to travel partners, it’s a good way to turn your points into cash! For example, you could use 20,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points to cover $200 worth of Vacasa charges.
Or consider opening one of the best cash back cards and using it for your vacation rental purchase. Because you can redeem cash back for anything you want!
Sites like Airbnb, VRBO, and Vacasa have opened up lots of travel opportunities for folks looking to travel cheaply or in larger groups. These sites give you the flexibility of booking just a room, an entire apartment, or an entire house, anywhere in the world!
It’s easy to get free stays with Airbnb if you have cards like the Barclaycard Arrival® Plus World Elite Mastercard® or Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card. Because Airbnb codes as travel, you can use miles from these cards to “erase” your Airbnb purchase.
But other sites, like VRBO, code as real estate, so won’t earn bonus points in the travel category and aren’t eligible as a travel redemption with the cards mentioned above. So take that into account when you’re choosing which site to rent through, or use a cash back card and offset the cost of your stay that way.
Have you redeemed miles and points for Airbnb stays or services like VRBO / Vacasa? If so, we’d love to hear how you did it in the comments below!