How to save money on Airbnb bookings

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Airbnb’s CEO recently divulged that the number of nights booked at properties in the U.S. from May 17 to June 3, 2020, was actually higher than the same time period in 2019 — even when much of travel has been put on pause. Similar statistics are reported in European, Asian, and Oceanic countries.

Yes, travel seems again on the upsurge. And while the act of social distancing spooks many would-be travelers from big hotels, the gravity of Airbnb’s expanding orbit drags more people toward its fun, quirky, exotic, spacious, adventurous doors. No matter your destination, you can find an aspirational Airbnb nearby.

With Airbnb perhaps capturing the lion’s share of upcoming travel, you may wonder — can you get discounts on Airbnb? You absolutely can, and the methods are endless. While there are certainly high and low seasons dictating the best time to book Airbnb cheaply, it’s possible to negotiate prices on Airbnb, reserve with the best travel credit cards, manufacture tons of referral credit and much more.

Airbnb can provide you five-star accommodation that would cost thousands more for a comparable hotel room. (Photo by Joseph Hostetler/Million Mile Secrets)

What is Airbnb?

Airbnb is a great alternative to hotels. It’s a “live like the locals” experience — something you won’t find at a hotel. Plus, there are many, MANY more locations around the world than hotel options.

If you like to stay off the beaten path, Airbnb is your dream come true. You can find them hundreds of miles from the nearest hotel. And if you travel with a large family or stay weeks at a time, you’ll save an absolute bundle with Airbnb over most hotels. Just realize that you’re staying in someone’s home or spare apartment, so you won’t be able to ring room service or maid service at a whim. Airbnb is your actual home away from home.

7 tips for saving money on Airbnb

Negotiate with the host

This point encapsulates many avenues in which you can find yourself with a discounted stay.

Airbnb charges a fee to use its platform, and with that comes protections and services for both the host and the traveler (think things like 24/7 help when something goes wrong).

I know a few travelers who routinely will message the host to ask about negotiating the price. If you choose to do this, understand that you’re walking a fine line between helpful and extremely annoying. Here are some examples:

  • You can privately message the host and request a private transaction outside the Airbnb infrastructure for a discount. This means neither party will have to pay Airbnb’s fees, which can really add up — especially for the host. However, this leaves you both (particularly the host) much more vulnerable than booking through the Airbnb platform. Not a good idea unless you both have stellar reviews
  • You can privately message the host if you’re looking for a last-minute booking. Hosts are often much more willing to negotiate a price if they’re confident they won’t otherwise sell their property. You can POLITELY explain that you’re looking for a place at the last minute, love their apartment, but were wondering if they could negotiate the price a bit since it’s a week or so before check-in. It’ll help both of your wallets. The host can then send you a link with a unique price that you’ve both agreed upon

It’s also possible to circumvent the minimum-night stay hosts place on their properties. For my last Airbnb, I messaged the host who was happy to reduce the four-night minimum to three nights.

Book week-long or month-long stays

A surprising amount of Airbnb hosts will offer some form of discount for an extended stay. They set up week-long and month-long discounts that trigger after the following stays:

  • Week-long discount: Triggered when staying between seven and 27 nights
  • Month-long discount: Triggered when staying 28 nights or more

Monthly discounts can sometimes near 50% (or even higher!). In other words, if you plan to stay in an Airbnb for three weeks, you may save money by actually renting it for a month — depending on the discount offered by the host.

Some may not feel comfortable doing this. Again, you can always negotiate with the host and explain your thought process. You can explain that it’ll actually behoove them to just give you the discount for your three-week stay, and they’ll get an extra week to rent out their apartment.

Referral links

You’ll get up to $30 for referring friends to Airbnb:

  • $20 for every friend who completes their first qualifying stay
  • $10 for every friend who completes a qualifying experience

At the same time, your friend will get $35 off their first qualifying stay.

Without going into too much detail, you and a travel buddy could manufacture a lot of referral credits if you play your cards right.

Use points

Airbnb isn’t a transfer partner of any flexible points program and it doesn’t have a loyalty program. Because of this, it’s more difficult to book free nights with Airbnb than it is a hotel chain like Marriott or Hilton.

The easiest way to book a free stay with Airbnb is by cashing in Capital One miles. You can use Capital One miles for just about everything travel related, including airfare, rental cars, cruises, trains, hotels, and Airbnb.

Each Capital One mile is worth 1 cent toward travel — and there are several Capital One credit cards you can open which help you earn Capital One miles in a hurry, including:

The information for the Capital One Spark Miles has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Of course, you can also offset your Airbnb expenses with a statement credit from one of the best cash back credit cards.

Shopping portals

When you make a purchase through a shopping portal, you’ll earn bonus miles in addition to the miles you’ll earn with your credit card. Airbnb partners with Delta and British Airways to give you extra miles just for reserving through their link. And yes, the price is identical to if you booked direct with Airbnb. Here’s what you’ll earn:

Discounted gift cards

Purchasing Airbnb gift cards is a fantastic way to save a bit of extra money on your stay.

Sites like Raise and Cardpool routinely offer between 2% and 4% off gift cards. That’s not a savings you’ll write your mother about, but adding it to your combination of other money-saving tactics won’t hurt.

You also may be surprised at how many different stores sell Airbnb gift cards. From popular grocery and department stores, you can likely find that most American staples will carry them — Amazon included! Some cards offer big spending bonuses at stores like these. The Amazon Prime Rewards Visa Signature Card earns 5% back at Amazon (if you have an Amazon Prime account), which provides you an instant savings, as well.

The information for the Amazon Prime Rewards Visa has been collected independently by Million Mile Secrets. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Filter your search

There are countless filters baked into the Airbnb search tool. You can specify exactly how much you’re willing to pay for your trip. However, you can also tell Airbnb if you’re looking for a full apartment or if you’re willing to stay with a host family.

The latter will save you TONS of money. You’re only promised a room to stay in — everything else will be shared with your host family. I know, it sounds like a nightmare — but it’s actually not (read the reviews, of course). You might make lifelong friends, and learn a lot about living like a local, even if it’s somewhere in the U.S.

Be flexible with your dates

This is one of the biggest actions you can take to save money. If you’re visiting Orlando during summer vacation, expect to contend for a reasonable price. Those with rigid travel dates almost always lose.

If you can only take your vacation at a specific time, you’re probably at the mercy of peak prices. You’ll have to use a combination of the above tactics to achieve an accessible rate.

Best credit cards for booking Airbnb

Below are the best credit cards for paid stays — not the best options for getting free stays. You’ll get a solid return from these cards that can jump start your next adventure. For a full explanation of why these cards are best, read our guide on the best credit cards for booking Airbnb.

Credit cardBest forBonus offerReturn rate with Airbnb/vacation rentals
Chase Sapphire Reserve®Best for earning Chase Ultimate Rewards points with Airbnb50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening3 points per dollar
Ink Business Preferred® Credit CardBest business card for Airbnb spend100,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $15,000 on purchases in the first three months from account opening3 points per dollar
American Express® Green CardBest card for earning Amex Membership Rewards points with Airbnb30,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first three months of account opening3 points per dollar
Wells Fargo Propel American Express® cardBest card for earning cash back card  Airbnb20,000 bonus points (worth $200) after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first three months of card opening3 points per dollar

Bottom line

You can save big on Airbnb by following these tips:

  • Negotiate with the host (politely)
  • Book extended stays
  • Use referral links
  • Use points
  • Book through shopping portals
  • Buy discounted gift cards
  • Filter your search
  • Be flexible with your dates

Let us know if you’ve got any other tricks for saving at Airbnb. And subscribe to our newsletter for more tips like this delivered to your inbox once per day!

Joseph Hostetler is a full-time writer for Million Mile Secrets, covering miles and points tips and tricks, as well as helpful travel-related news and deals.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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