icon Skip to content



How to Save on Airbnb with Credit Card Rewards

Airbnb's rise to prominence has changed travel for the better. As great as it is though, there are some drawbacks. The biggest one in my eyes is the lack of a rewards program. Yes, Airbnb does offer referrals for getting your friends in on it, but gone are the days where it was a niche app. With that in mind, I want to review one of the ways that I stay at awesome Airbnb's and also get them on the cheap. And the best part is, you can get in on this too!

airbnb-viewSarah and I travel all over and credit cards play a huge role in us being able to afford it. Big trips wouldn't be possible - like our trek to Australia and New Zealand earlier this year or our jaunt to Ireland last year - and little trips like to Canada and Maryland to visit family - would be more expensive. This is where credit cards, and specifically credit card sign-up bonuses, come into play! But first, some ground rules.

Credit Card Ground Rules

Credit can seem pretty daunting. And intimidating. And my-life-is-over-if-I-screw-this-up important. And in this day and age, credit is key. But, credit can be understood and owned. I lay out all the important things I've learned over the years on my blog, and I also make an effort to dispel some of the common myths surrounding credit.

I would encourage you to head there and read up on it and then research elsewhere to really take ownership of your credit. But right now I'm just going to lay out some ground rules that I want you to consider before jumping into this delightful pool.airbnb

Balance = Bad

It's not a good idea to carry a balance and pay interest if you are planning on using credit cards for travel rewards. Travel credit cards don't always have the best interest terms and that could offset any benefit you might get. If there is a need to carry a balance, there are other cards that can accomplish this. I always encourage paying off the interest in full each month.airbnb-sunset

Credit Score

If your credit score is above 700, then you are in a great position to get a travel rewards card. If not, now might not be the best time. Unsure? Check your credit for free at creditkarma.com.

Get Your Head in the Game

High School Musical references aside, if you are a relatively responsible person, can buy and spend within a budget and know yourself well enough to tick that autopay box, credit cards should not be something that scares you. But it's important that you treat them with care and learn about how they work.


But Wait... What Happened to Free Airbnb?

Ok, so back to this. Probably everyone has seen commercials about credit cards and sign-up bonuses. And they are important because sign-up bonuses make up for all the money you aren't spending to earn those points. It would take me a long time to spend enough money to earn, say, 50,000 Southwest points, but with a sign-up bonus, I just have to hit the minimum spend and those points are mine!

Of course, there are your standard airfare and hotel cards, but there are some cards that are perfect for Airbnb. So perfect that I almost exclusively use them on Airbnb. And those are travel cards that give you what I call "flex points" aka... flexible points.  :)


Flex FTW

Of these cards, my two favorites are Barclay's Arrival card and Capital One's Venture card. They have sign-up bonuses that vary depending on the promotion at the time but usually sit at 50,000 points earned after spending $3,000 in the first 90 days of having the card. Those 50,000 points equal out to about $500 in travel – that’s what I call couponing to the max!

Airbnb's tend to be great deals or just plain awesome - renters have the power to pick a bnb that speaks to them or fits their budget. But no awards program and no credit card can make it a little hard to snag discounted stays. Flex cards don't discriminate though - any purchase that is classified on the card as "travel" can be redeemed against with the points.

Obviously, this leads to some pretty great opportunities - Aibnb stays? Check. Disney tickets? Just book them through a travel portal. Check. I have used these cards on Airbnb's around the world, and they have saved me some serious cash along the way.


There are, of course, some drawbacks to using this approach. First, it takes some time and energy to get acquainted with credit and credit cards. And that is important to do because you want to make sure you are on top of what you are doing.

Secondly, some of these cards have annual fees. Fortunately, both of the ones I mentioned have the annual fee waived for the first year. That means you get a year to test-drive it before you commit to and then have to pay the annual fee.

Lastly, Barclay's recently changed the Arrival card to a minimum redemption value of $100, which means your Airbnb stay has to cost over $100 in order for you to redeem points against them. That's probably not a big deal on multi-night stays, but for a one-nighter, it's not ideal.

So... Now what?

I suggest reading up on credit. A good start is the links above and if you are really interested in traveling on the cheap, I suggest reading up on how to choose your first credit card, an intro to credit card points, and planning trips with points and miles.

Once you've gotten at least your Associates degree in credit and feel like you have a handle on it, I'd suggest looking at your upcoming travel and identifying a card with a sign-up bonus that works for you. At this time, it might not be a flex card - it might be a Southwest card to go visit Grammie at Christmas. And that's fine, because when you get back from Grammie's at Christmas, the other cards will be there waiting for your next adventure.

Ian and Sarah are a Canadian-American duo who now call Birmingham, Alabama home. They are passionate about traveling and finding savings in the everyday (so they can travel more ;) ) Ian works for the federal government by day and renovates their house at night; Sarah owns her own calligraphy business by day and designs house renovations by night. Oh, and in the midst of all that they (sometimes) lead a church small group, play sports, and find time to blog over at Simply Well Spent. Follow their journey on Instagram! https://annasherchand .com/things-to-do-in-mandalay/


Previous article Sip, Sip, Hooray! A Brew-tiful Guide to the Best Coffee in the World