Which Rewards Cards are Best for Vacation Rentals?

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When you love to travel but don’t necessarily adore hotels, vacation rentals are easily the best alternative. With an Airbnb-style rental or vacation condo, you don’t have to cram your entire family into a hotel room. Plus, you can also score more room to move around, along with a shared living space and kitchen for meal preparation — so you don’t have to pay to eat out at every meal.

But, the biggest benefit of vacation rentals comes in when it’s time to go to sleep. If you’re traveling with children or extended family and don’t want to share sleeping space, you can book a vacation rental with more than one bedroom.

In a lot of ways, renting a vacation condo is more like staying in someone’s home than staying in a hotel. You get more space, and can often score a reasonable price: Many properties you can rent through VRBO or HomeAway offer much lower rates than you’d find if you tried to book a similarly-sized hotel room. And you may even get the amenities of a big resort, too — such as a pool, hot tub, gym, or on-site restaurant.

Five Travel Rewards Cards Ideal for Airbnb Travelers

While one of the biggest gripes people have about vacation rentals is that they’re not as easy to book with rewards points, you can pay for rental condos with points if you have the right rewards credit card. Here are five rewards cards that work perfectly, allowing you to redeem points for vacation rental stays.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card

The Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card may be the ideal rewards card to cover vacation rentals, and for more than one reason. First off, this card offers 2x miles for each dollar you spend, plus a huge signup bonus. Second, you can redeem your miles for any travel experience you want at a rate of one cent per mile.

Let’s say you managed to rack up 75,000 miles with this card after earning the signup bonus and using your card for regular spending. At that point, you would have $750 in travel credit you could use to pay for part or all of a rental condo of your choosing.

Redeeming your miles is also easy as pie since you can use the miles to erase all or part of travel purchases from your bill. The key to making this work is ensuring your vacation rental will code as travel on your credit card statement.

Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card


Highlights
  • Enjoy a one-time bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $500 in travel
  • Earn 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Plus earn 10X miles on thousands of hotels; learn more at hotels.com/venture
  • Named ‘The Best Travel Card' by CNBC, 2018
  • Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®
  • Fly any airline, stay at any hotel, anytime; no blackout dates
  • Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • $0 intro annual fee for the first year; $95 after that

Discover it® Miles

The Discover it® Miles is another card option that makes booking vacation rentals with points easier than ever. This card doles out 1.5 miles for each dollar you spend. However, Discover will also match the miles you earn in the first year, bringing your year-one haul to three miles per dollar.

Redeeming your miles is also easy since you’ll cash them in at a rate of one cent per mile to cover travel expenses on your bill. So, you can use your Discover it® Miles to pay for your vacation rental when you’re ready, then cash in your miles to cover part or all of the expense.

The best part about this card is that, unlike many of the other top travel credit cards, it doesn’t charge an annual fee. On the flip side, it doesn’t offer a signup bonus.

Discover it® Miles


Highlights
Card Highlights Provided by Discover:
  • INTRO OFFER: Discover will match ALL the Miles you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. For example, if you earn 30,000 Miles, you get 60,000 Miles. That's $600 towards travel!
  • Earn unlimited 1.5x Miles for every dollar spent on all purchases all with no annual fee.
  • No Blackout Dates - fly any airline, stay at any hotel.
  • Redeem your Miles as a statement credit towards travel purchases.
  • Freeze your account in seconds with an on/off switch either on the mobile app or website to prevent new purchases, cash advances, and balance transfers.
  • Get your free Credit Scorecard with your FICO® Credit Score, number of recent inquiries and more.
  • Receive FREE Social Security number alerts-Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No Annual Fee.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is another travel card that works well for vacation rentals, and there’s more than one way to use it. This card is also a good one to have in terms of long-term earnings since it offers 2x points on travel and dining, 1x points on all other purchases, and a big signup bonus.

On the redemption side, keep in mind that you can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points for statement credits at a rate of one cent per point (i.e. exchange 50,000 points for $500 in statement credits). For that reason, you can redeem your points for any purchase you want, including vacation rentals.

But, you may also be able to book vacation rentals through the Chase Ultimate Rewards portal, depending on where you stay. While options are limited in some cases, it’s not uncommon to see two- or three-bedroom condos bookable directly with points. The advantage of booking through the portal is that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 25% more value when you book with points. So, you may fork over fewer points for the same condo with this strategy.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card


Highlights
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards

Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card – 25,000 Bonus Points Offer

The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card can be a smart option for travel expenses since you earn a flat 1.5 points for every $1 you spend. There’s no annual fee – and no foreign transaction fees — and you can also score a signup bonus early on. Your points also never expire as long as you have the card.

Like a few other cards on this list, this one lets you redeem your points for statement credits to cover travel expenses. Unlike many hotel rewards cards, this flexibility allows you to price shop and compare vacation rentals to find the best deal, instead of being locked into one hotel brand.

If you find a vacation rental you like for a price you can live with on Airbnb or VRBO, for example, you can use your card to book it and then redeem your points once the charge posts. But, you have the option to shop around for a lower price, so you could book with other travel vendors like Expedia, TripAdvisor, or Priceline, too.

Remember that any travel expense will work, so you could also use your points to book a vacation rental, flights, or a traditional hotel. The choice is up to you.

The Bottom Line

A vacation rental can be better than a hotel because it affords you more space to spread out. Having your own kitchen can also save you money if you’re someone who wants to prepare some meals at home in lieu of dining out.

Fortunately, you can cover the full expense of your trip with the right combination of rewards cards. Or, at the very least, you can rack up some points to pay for part of your trip.

Doing so can reduce the costs of your family vacation, whether you’re opting for a vacation rental at the beach, in the mountains, or near your favorite theme park. By scoring your digs for free or at a discount, you can free up cash to spend on food and fun.

Holly Johnson is an award-winning personal finance writer and the author of Zero Down Your Debt. Johnson shares her obsession with frugality, budgeting, and travel at ClubThrifty.com.

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