How to use credit card rewards to cover Uber and Airbnb purchases

Uber and AirBnB are two of the fastest-growing companies on the planet right now.  Travelers like these two services because they oftentimes can be more convenient & enjoyable than traditional taxi or lodging services.  The only drawback, while many credit card programs consider purchases with both companies as “travel expenses” to earn bonus points, it can be rather difficult to find a credit card that allows reward points to be redeemed for AirBnB stays & Uber rentals.  Although, that is slowly changing as an increasing number of “reward travelers” seek to maximize their credit card points to pay for these travel expenses.

AirBnB

AirBnB might be the tougher of the two nuts to crack for redeeming points.  This is mostly because only a select few credit card issuers allow rewards points to directly be redeemed for AirBnB stays.  Do not let this fact deter you as it is still possible to redeem points for AirBnB purchases!  It just takes an extra step or two.

American Express

Mentioned previously, American Express is the only issuer to have a direct partnership with AirBnB that allows card members to redeem Amex Membership Reward points for all or part of the purchase  price.  While this can be a great way to travel without having to pay with cash, the redemption rate is pretty lackluster at 0.7 cents per point.  This means 1 Amex reward point is only worth 7/10 of one cent.  For example, as the current American Express welcome offer for their Premier Rewards Gold credit card is 40,000 bonus points, you can redeem the sign-up bonus on an upcoming AirBnB stay for $280.  It is intriguing to have the opportunity to partially pay for AirBnB stays with partial points, similar to some hotel rewards programs that charged a reduced cash rate when a reservation is paid for with a combination of points & cash.

The better option for Amex cardholders is to exchange the Membership Rewards points for an AirBnB gift card.  Amex card members get the most “bang for the buck” with rewards points when they redeem them for airfare or gift cards.  Travelers can exchange points for AirBnB gift cards at a 1% redemption rate.  The two options are $100 and $250 gift cards that cost 10,000 or 25,000 points respectively.  As an apples-to-apples comparison, 40,000 points are redeemable for $400 while the direct stay is only worth $280.  For an extra $120 in rewards, most people will view the extra step of paying for an AirBnB stay with a gift card as a good deal.

Another positive with the American Express relationship is the fact that paying for an AirBnB stay with Amex points or an Amex credit card also adds an extra layer of verification.  This can help make the reservation process more secure and comfortable for the booker and host.

Virgin America

You cannot use Virgin America Elevate points to pay for an AirBnB stay, but you can earn points and get a discount.  For reservations made before November 1, 2017, first-time AirBnB users that provide their Elevate loyalty program membership number will earn a bonus of 1,500 Elevate points and a $20 AirBnB travel credit for a booking of at least $150 in value.  Existing AirBnB users will only earn 1 Elevate point per $1 spent.  Although the points cannot be redeemed for a purchase, the 1:1 ratio is still great to offset future Virgin purchases and you can still earn extra rewards from your rewards credit card too.

Statement Credits

AirBnB stays can also be redeemed for AirBnB stays with the Barclaycard Arrival Plus in the form of a statement credit.  With this option, you must book and pay for the stay with the credit card to earn Arrival points.  As Barclaycard offers a 5% bonus redemption rate for travel purchases this can be a great way to offset the entire rate or only part of it by earning a statement credit of 1 cent per mile.  You can also earn 2% rewards on all purchases.

The Barclaycard Arrival Plus is the best credit card to redeem points for statement credits from AirBnB purchases, but, this method can also be used with the Capital One Venture or Discover It Miles credit cards.  With the Discover It Miles credit card, new users can earn 3% on all purchases made within the first year of account opening.

Uber
On to Uber.  The worst nightmare of traditional taxi companies.  Credit cards are more flexible with Uber but are still rather restrictive compared to other transportation methods such as rental cars.

American Express

Similar to AirBnB, American Express has partnered with Uber that allows cardholders to directly pay Uber fares with Membership Rewards.  The redemption rate is 1% (better than the AirBnB redemption rate of 0.7%).  This means 10,000 reward points are worth $100 in Uber credits.  Also, Amex users will earn 2x Membership Reward points on Uber purchases.  And, first-time Uber riders that use the promo code UBERAMEX can earn a $30 credit for their first ride purchase.

Another solid option is the American Express EveryDay card for those that use Uber several times per month, can enjoy a 20% Membership Rewards boost for a recurring purchase of at least 20 times per month.  And, cardholders can still take advantage of the 2x Membership Reward bonus compliments of Amex’s partnership with Uber.

Capital One Quicksilver

Cardholders of the Capital One Quicksilver can earn every 10th Uber ride free (up to $15 value) through November 2017.  Users just need to link their Quicksilver credit card to their Uber account and pay for the first nine rides with their Quicksilver card to earn the free ride.  If the 10th ride costs more than $15, the cardholder will pay the difference in excess of the $15 credit.  In addition to the credit, you can also earn 1.5% cashback on all purchases, including the first nine Uber rides.

Statement Credits

Similar to AirBnB, Uber rides can be paid, after the fact, by redeeming reward points for statement credits.  The best option is the Barclaycard Arrival Plus with a redemption rate of 1 cent per Arrival mile redeemed and a 5% travel redemption bonus.  If you are a current Barclaycard Arrival cardholder, here is how to redeem your statement credit.

Uber rides paid for with the Capital One Venture Card and Discover It Miles can also be redeemed for statement credits, similar to AirBnB purchases.

Starwood Preferred Guest

Travelers can link their SPG rewards account to their Uber account and earn 1 SPG point per $1 spent on Uber rides.  During an SPG stay, patrons can earn 2-4 points per $1 spent.  Points can be earned up to $10,000 in Uber purchases per calendar year.  This can be a steady way to earn loyalty points that can be redeemed for hotel stays or transferred to another loyalty program.

Cash Back Credit Cards

While this method will not redeem points for AirBnB or Uber purchases, they can offer better redemption rates.  While it’s always great to not pay cash for lodging or transportation, sometimes it is not worth the tradeoff.  Other travelers, simply don’t want the hassle of going through a rewards portal to convert points into rewards travel or a statement credit.

If that is the case, some of the best cashback credit cards to consider are the Citi Double Cashback (2% rewards rate) or any rewards card that pays at least 2% for everyday purchases or on travel purchases.  The good thing about AirBnB (unlike VRBO or HomeAway) and Uber is that many credit cards include them in the travel purchase category.  By earning enough cashback from purchases, the rewards money can be used to indirectly pay for a stay or ride.

And of course, you can use your Ultimate Rewards points earned from the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card for statement credits, or cash back. But UR points are more valuable when transferring them out to a travel transfer partner. But you will earn 2x points per $1 on travel purchases with your Chase Sapphire Preferred too, so there’s that.

Geoff Whitmore

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How to use credit card rewards to cover Uber and Airbnb purchases
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