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From January to June of 2018, I lived in Australia on a working holiday. I paid a total of $1,800 for accommodation. If I had been a bit smarter, I could have paid close to $0. But how is this possible?! In this article, I will teach you how to unlock the synergies between credit card bonuses and Airbnb accommodation.
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is an online accommodation-sharing site where hosts can rent out their couch, bedroom or their entire home for a specified period of time. Nervous about staying in somebody else’s house? Don’t be!
Airbnb has a strict vetting process for both hosts and guests. Any serious complaint or violation will ban a host or guest from the platform permanently. I have stayed in over 50 different Airbnbs and have NEVER had a serious problem.
Unlike hotels that cost a minimum of $100 for a one-night stay, Airbnb accommodation can cost as little as $10 for one night (The lowest price I’ve stayed in)!
The company operates in over 191 countries and 34,000 cities around the world. If you’re in any relatively developed area, chances are that an Airbnb is available.
Interested? If you use my referral link to sign up, you’ll earn $40 in Airbnb credit to use on your first eligible stay!
Now that you have a general understanding of the Airbnb platform, let’s dive in.
Like I mentioned before, Airbnb is everywhere! Just type in your travel destination (or close to it) and find the accommodation that works best for you. The best way to show you how this works is with an example.
Let’s say I wanted to travel to San José, Costa Rica for two weeks in August 2018 (This is completely random).
Type in the destination and click “Homes in _____”. Although Airbnb also offers activities and excursions, we are going to ignore “Experiences” for now.
After I select the destination, I can specify my search criteria to find the best results.
The customizable filters include Dates, Guests, Home Type, Price and More Filters. Make sure to click “Apply” after changing a filter.
Enter the dates of your stay. For this example, I chose August 1st to August 15th (2 weeks).
For this example, I will be traveling alone. However, you can enter as many guests as you want! Just understand that prices will increase as guest numbers increase.
This filter allows you to choose the Home Type of your Airbnb accommodation. The three options include “Entire place, Private room, or Shared room”.
- The Entire place option is either an entire home, entire apartment, or detached guest suite. You will have no contact with the host inside the accommodation.
- The Private room option is typically a bedroom inside of someone’s house. You will have your own room but may share the common areas including the kitchen and bathroom.
- The Shared room option is most commonly a hostel. If you’re not familiar with the term, hostels are large, shared rooms filled with bunk beds for cost-conscious travelers. The number of people per room can range anywhere from 4 to 16 in my experience.
When I search for Airbnb accommodation, I usually leave this filter blank. It’s all up to personal preference. Just note that a private penthouse suite will surely cost more than staying in a hostel.
The price filter allows you to set a maximum per-night price. I typically set this to $20 because I do not like paying any more than that. This may not be reasonable in every location, but you will be surprised at how many accommodation options meet this criterion.
The minimum price is always set to $10 by default.
If you want to get crazy you can be highly specific about your accommodation. You can search for accommodation options with certain amenities, facilities, host languages, and much much more. I have never used this option, but it may be applicable for some travelers.
Now that all of my filters have been entered, I can search for suitable accommodation.
On the left-hand side of the page, you can see the accommodation options with a preview photo and short description. On the right-hand side, Airbnb shows a map of all the accommodation options that meet our criteria.
I typically find the property on the map feature first since I can see more options at once. Then, I click on the cheapest property and check it out.
The cheapest option I found after scanning the map was the Pension De La Cuesta Hostel B&B. $130 for 13 nights is $10 per night. Not bad at all!
If you’re fine with sharing a room with other travelers (which has been fine in my experience), you’ve found yourself some great accommodation.
However, I understand that many travelers may feel uncomfortable in a shared room, so I’ll continue my example with the cheapest non-hostel option.
This is the cheapest private room I found from my search. $162 for 13 nights = $12.46 per night. Not too shabby. From my four years of Spanish in high school, I know that “Desayuno” means breakfast. Yum!
After clicking on the accommodation, you can read more details about the property. On this page you will be able to view all the amenities, host information, booking details and reviews.
I typically only book a property if it has 5 or more reviews. Luckily, this property has exactly five! I would stay away from properties that only have a couple of reviews.
After you’ve looked over all the information and deem the property a suitable accommodation option, click the “Request to Book” option.
You will then arrive at a summary page for your booking, and you will click the button below to confirm.
Congratulations, you just booked your super affordable Airbnb!
“Hold on a second, that’s not FREE accommodation like you promised!” – Angry reader
Good point, angry reader. Let’s make this accommodation free using credit card rewards.
Credit Card Rewards
Before I go on, I’d like to make something very clear. The mission of this blog is to help people optimize their lives and achieve financial freedom. I do not wish to promote any unhealthy financial habits.
Please read my article on Credit Card Basics before proceeding.
If you come from the Dave Ramsey school of thought, you may have been taught that all debt (including credit cards) is evil. This may certainly be true for an individual who does not pay his or her cards on time and in full every month.
However, if you are intentional and responsible, credit cards can work in your favor!
Many credit cards will offer a sign-up bonus to users who meet a minimum spending requirement in a specific period of time. A typical bonus offer may read “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.”
Yes, you read that right. Just by hitting the minimum spend on that credit card, you are awarded $500 in travel credit (100 miles = $1). These travel credits can be used to pay for expenses such as flights, accommodation, transportation, excursions and more.
In this article, I focus solely on using these travel credits for Airbnb accommodation.
Where to Start
My all-time favorite travel credit card is the Capital One Venture Card. As of June 2018, this credit card has a sign-up bonus of 50,000 miles once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.
In addition, you earn 2X miles on every purchase. This means that after you hit the $3,000 minimum spend, you will have 56,000 miles or $560 in travel credit.
50,000 sign-up bonus + 3,000 * 2 = 56,000 miles or $560
The Capital One Venture card typically has an annual fee of $95, but the fee is waived for the first year!
Hitting the Minimum Spend
In order to hit the minimum spend, I put ALL of my purchases on my newly acquired card. This includes groceries, gas, restaurants, entertainment, and anything else you can think of. All you need is $1,000 per month or more and you’re golden!
If $3,000 in three months seems out of reach for you, there are some strategies to help. I think it’s easiest to list them in bullet form.
- Pay off your insurance for the year (Auto, Homeowners, etc.)
- Pre-pay your utility bills.
- Purchase gift cards to stores you shop at frequently (Walmart, Amazon, Costco, etc.).
These are my three favorites, but there are dozens of ways to hit the minimum spend. Think creatively!
What Not To Do
Do not, I repeat, do not make frivolous purchases just to hit the minimum spend. The goal of this strategy is to save you money, not spend it carelessly.
More Credit Card Options
Although the Capital One Venture Card is my personal favorite, there are dozens of other cards that will get the job done. Dozens of cards mean that you can potentially unlock months or even years of free accommodation!
The three main programs in the travel rewards space are:
- Citi ThankYou
- Chase Ultimate Rewards
- American Express Membership Rewards
Each of these programs offers a handful of credit cards with generous sign-up bonuses. With these rewards programs, your points or miles can be redeemed through their portals to purchase Airbnb Gift Cards.
Quite frankly, any credit card that offers a cash back, miles, or points bonus can be used to get free Airbnb accommodation. However, not all bonuses were created equal, so choose your credit cards wisely!
Airbnb + Credit Card Rewards = Free Accommodation
Now it’s time to put it all together.
Before you book your Airbnb, you must earn the sign-up bonus on your chosen credit card.
There are three ways to redeem your bonus, depending on the type of card.
1. Flexible Travel Cards
This is the card category that the Capital One Venture Card falls under.
In order to redeem your miles, you must first book the Airbnb accommodation using your Capital One Venture card.
After the payment processes, you can “wipe out” the travel expense using your miles. I’ll show you an example on my Capital One VentureOne card (I have this card since I downgraded from the Capital One Venture to avoid the annual fee).
After you log in to the Capital One website and select your card, you will arrive at this screen.
Click “Rewards miles”.
That will bring you to this page. The next step is to click “Redeem Travel Purchases”.
Finally, Capital One will display all of the purchases made on your Venture card in the Travel category. Just click “Redeem” for the Airbnb line item and you’re all set!
(Airbnb is not an option in the screenshot above because I’m currently using a different credit card. I just wanted to show you the Capital One portal.)
2. Rewards Program Cards
For the three main rewards programs I mentioned earlier (Citi ThankYou, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and American Express Membership Rewards) the best option is to purchase Airbnb Gift Cards through their redemption portals.
I will not get into too much detail since the three redemption portals are different, but the process is quite simple for each.
3. Cash Back Cards
With cash back cards, the user can earn a specified amount of “cash back” by hitting a minimum spending requirement. These offers may read something like “Earn a one-time bonus of $500 once you spend $3,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening.”
Other offers may include a $150 bonus after spending $500 on purchases. The bonuses from these cash back cards appear as “statement credit”. After you book with your cash back card, this “statement credit” can be used to pay for your Airbnb accommodation.
Travel in Perpetuity
If we look back at our original example of the Costa Rica trip, the total cost was $162 for a two-week stay. After redeeming our points, miles, or cash back to “wipe out” the purchase, we still have $398 in travel credit leftover ($560 – $162)!
According to my calculations, the Capital One Venture bonus miles would allow for nearly 7 weeks of free accommodation at this price! ($560/$81 = 6.91 weeks)
If you were to repeat this process with three credit cards, you could potentially unlock a free 20-week stay in San José, Costa Rica. Better start sweet-talking your boss to get the time off!
As you begin to employ this strategy, you will become better and better at it.
Airbnb hosts will continue to offer low rates to minimize vacancy and credit card companies will keep offering bonuses as bait for irresponsible user sign-ups.
Since discovering this amazing strategy, I’ve redeemed nearly three months of free accommodation. I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon either.
Join me and travel in perpetuity with free accommodation!
There’s always another side to the equation. If there’s a buyer, there must be a seller.
If everyone reading this article starts looking for Airbnb accommodation, they’re going to need a place to stay!
You can make great money as an Airbnb host and generally, guests are friendly and respectful. If you have a spare couch, bedroom, or second home that you’d be willing to rent out, why not earn hundreds or thousands of dollars per month by renting on Airbnb!
“But Cody, you only stay in places that cost $20 or less per night. That’s not good money”.
True, in my example I limited my search to $20 per night, but that’s me traveling alone. Even so, $20 per night x 30 days is an easy $600 in your pocket if you’re fully booked.
I’m sure a family of four has a higher budget than $20 per night, so your unused guest suite or second home could bring in handsome profits.
If you’re interested, you can sign up for Airbnb hosting in a matter of minutes.
Discovering this free accommodation strategy changed my life and completely opened my eyes. I hope that you too can take advantage of this life-changing tactic and start to travel the world for free!
The next step is to eliminate the cost of the flights for these amazing adventures. Fortunately, my friend and travel rewards expert Brad Barrett has an amazing free course on this exact topic.
I highly encourage you to check it out. Travel Miles 101 covers everything you need to know about earning free flights with travel rewards.
Welcome to the world of free travel!
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