4 workarounds to book your fall vacation rental with points
Even before the pandemic, home booking sites like Airbnb and Vrbo were becoming increasingly popular with travelers. The opportunity to have a homely experience, with a full kitchen, additional living space, and a local flavor, was more appealing than a standard hotel room for many.
Arlyce Melheim of Stillwater, Minn., Likes to book homes for family trips rather than regular hotel rooms. “I like vacation rentals that feel warmer and are often in a neighborhood rather than a row of hotels,” she says.
In the days of covid-19, home rentals became even more attractive. Travelers could enjoy a much needed change of scenery but not be surrounded by other people in a crowded hotel. They could rent a house large enough to accommodate friends and family in their “bubble” and have a comfortable shared experience.
The problem? For many savvy travelers who like to use reward points to cover accommodation costs, most major vacation rental companies don’t have loyalty programs. This means that when you book one trip you cannot earn points that can be redeemed for the next one. You also cannot sign up for a co-branded credit card and earn rewards for your next rental stay.
But booking a house with points is not impossible. And with fall approaching, you might be looking to book a comfortable getaway for a weekend of foliage viewing and apple picking. Here are some options for using your credit card or hotel rewards to help pay for your next vacation rental.
1. Use cash rewards
One simple option is to use the rewards earned on a cash back credit card and invest that money into renting your home. If you have good credit, there are a variety of credit cards that offer up to 5% cash back on certain purchases, often with no annual fee.
And as Winnie Sun, Financial Advisor and Managing Director of Sun Group Wealth Partners, notes, “Even though it’s not a cash back credit card, you can often redeem your points for cash. . Many credit card points that are typically redeemed for travel can also be converted to cash, although you might not get the best value for your money.
Plus, unlike some travel rewards, when using cash you won’t be bound by blackout dates or fine print restrictions.
2. “Clear” your charges
Some travel credit cards offer the ability to book any trip you like and “wipe” the purchase with statement credit. Here’s how it works: Use the card to pay for your vacation home rental. Then, once the debit is complete, log into your credit card account, select the purchase, and redeem your rewards to cover the cost.
In some cases, there may be a limit on the length of time that charges can be cleared with statement credit. Make sure you know the conditions before planning this option.
3. Use flexible stitches
Major credit card issuers like Chase, American Express, and Citi have their own reward points that cardholders can earn and use in a variety of ways. While most of the options you’ll find when redeeming points for travel are traditional hotels, it’s also possible to find vacation rental bookings.
Melheim used Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book a vacation home rental for his family’s trip to Switzerland. The house was available for rent directly on several home rental sites, but when she also found it on the Chase travel portal, she jumped at the opportunity to redeem her points. “I knew Switzerland was an incredibly expensive country,” she says. “Saving money and booking with points instead was helpful as our costs in the field like food and trains added up quickly.” Some Chase cards offer up to 50% more redemption value when you use points for travel booked through the issuer portal.
4. Re-examine the big chains
While traditional hotel settings are still bread and butter for most hotel chains, home rental options are slowly springing up. Marriott, for example, has a Homes & Villas affiliate that allows you to redeem Marriott points for house reservations. Wyndham has a partnership with Vacasa, a leading home rental platform.
Sun points out that it is also possible to find comfortable accommodation in some hotels. “If you’re looking for more space than standard hotel rooms, consider using your points to book a suite. Or, some hotels have options like casitas that are more private. Some hotel chains have completely apartment-style signs and also offer additional space and amenities.
Booking comfortable accommodation through a hotel program can be smart, as there may be more flexible cancellation options. With many home booking platforms, the host can choose a cancellation policy which may not be fully refundable. Sun advises, “No matter what you book, be sure to read the cancellation policy carefully.”
This article was provided to The Associated Press by the NerdWallet personal finance website. Erin Hurd is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: ehurdnerdwallet.com. Twitter: Erin Hurd 1.