Saving on vacation rentals with credit card rewards

Holly Johnson
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Holly Johnson
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When redeeming credit card rewards for travel, people often try to figure out how to pay for expenses like long-haul flights or hotel stays. This strategy often makes sense as consumers can also earn loyalty points each time they travel with their favorite airline or stay at a preferred hotel brand; however, the path to free travel gets murkier for those who don’t necessarily want to use rewards on traditional travel expenses like airfare or hotel accommodations.  

Those who prefer to book alternative lodging options like vacation rentals through Airbnb or VRBO may find that it’s difficult to redeem rewards for the types of stays they want, but there are ways to save money on vacation rentals with credit card rewards – even if the rewards program doesn’t necessarily make this obvious.

Read on to find out how you can use credit card rewards to defray the costs of your next vacation rental getaway, whether you’re exploring a large urban area, renting an oceanfront villa on a beautiful beach, or getting away from it all in the mountains.

Redeem points for a vacation rental

First, you should know that some travel rewards programs make it easy to book vacation rentals with rewards, although you may have to do some digging to find options. An example of this is the Capital One travel portal, which you can access with cards like the card_name and card_name. This portal lets eligible cardholders redeem their miles directly for hotel stays, as well as stays in resorts and some available vacation rentals.

While not all locations offer condos and resorts you can book through Capital One Travel, plenty of destinations do. A quick search showed vacation condos available in resort destinations like Destin, Florida; Gatlinburg, Tennessee; and Branson, Missouri; to name a few.

The cards above also let you use rewards to cancel out eligible travel purchases, so an alternative option would be to pay for your trip with your card, and then later redeem those miles to cover the cost of your eligible travel expenses such as a condo rental or an Airbnb.

The card_name card is another option that allows you to take this approach.

Cash in points for dining and grocery gifts cards

Also note that many cash-back and travel credit cards often let users redeem rewards for dining and grocery gift cards. These gift cards can be used to defray costs while on vacation, or to stock up on items at the store to take with you to your vacation rental.

Gift card options offered through credit cards tend to change over time, but most programs have some options that almost anyone can use. For example, current gift card options for Chase credit cards include restaurants like Chilis and Outback Steakhouse. Available supermarket gift card options come from stores like Kroger and Walmart.

Book a car rental with rewards

Most flexible rewards programs also let users redeem rewards for car rentals, which are often necessary if you’re flying to your destination. Programs that offer this option include American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One Miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards and the Citi ThankYou program.

You may even get primary rental car coverage when you pay for a car rental with rewards, cash or a combination of the two, but only if you have the right credit card. The card_name, for example,  makes this possible since it comes with automatic primary rental car coverage worth up to $75,000 for theft and collision damage for rental cars in the U.S. and abroad.

Redeem for statement credits

You may also have the option to redeem rewards for statement credits to cover any aspect of your trip, whether you need some help with gas purchases to get there or you want to cover grocery purchases, restaurant meals, or activities for your family to enjoy.

Most flexible rewards credit cards offer the option to redeem rewards for statement credits for eligible purchases, and virtually all cash-back credit cards offer this option as well.

And then as we mentioned above, some credit cards let you do this specifically for eligible travel purchases, which can be an easy way to cover or offset the cost of a vacation rental or other unique bookings, such as a campsite or national park cabin rental.

Look for vacation rental offers you can benefit from

Also watch out for credit card special offers that can help you earn more rewards when you book a vacation rental or other types of travel. These offers can apply when you add them to your account ahead of time and make an eligible purchase before the offer expires.

Examples of offers programs to keep an eye out for include Amex Offers, Capital One Offers and Chase Offers, although you should know that the special offers they include change throughout the month. As of this writing, however, we found Capital One Offers for eligible purchases with Expedia.com, Viator.com and VRBO.com, and Chase Offers that apply to purchases with Turo (a car rental platform) and RVShare.com.

The bottom line

While vacation rentals may not be as easy to cover with rewards as flights or hotel stays, there are plenty of workarounds that can help you save on this type of trip. You can redeem rewards to cover part of a vacation rental booking, or for gift cards to cover dining out or grocery expenses. You can even redeem rewards for statement credits to cover some of your credit card charges, which automatically reduces the amount you owe on your card when you get home.

Just remember that some rewards programs are better for vacation rentals than others, and that you’ll want to make sure your redemptions net you at least 1% cash back or one cent per point. If you’re getting less than that for your rewards, you may want to pay for your vacation rental in cash and hold off until a better opportunity comes along.

author
Holly Johnson
Cardratings Contributor

Holly Johnson is a professional writer who has been covering personal finance, credit cards and loyalty programs for more than a decade. She is passionate when it comes to explaining the ins and outs of various programs and financial products to consumers, as well as...Read more

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The information in this article is believed to be accurate as of the date it was written. Please keep in mind that credit card offers change frequently. Therefore, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information in this article. Reasonable efforts are made to maintain accurate information. See the online credit card application for full terms and conditions on offers and rewards. Please verify all terms and conditions of any credit card prior to applying.

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