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The recent Chase promotion of earning 5x Ultimate Rewards bonus at grocery stores on the Chase Sapphire Reserve card made the purchase of gift cards a great deal. Our local Publix has a huge selection of gift cards. This made it was easy to max out the points accumulation from this option. The other benefit is that with the “Pay Yourself Back” feature it was possible to wipe away these gift card purchases as a grocery purchase. Unfortunately, the execution of this strategy did not work as well as I had planned.

Changing Course

After our Nicaragua flights were cancelled by American Airlines, we decided to look at other vacation options. I figured it was a great time of the year to escape hot and humid Florida. Therefore, we did what every Floridian does and decided to head north. We planned a trip to the Blue Ridge mountains. This was a perfect reason to buy some Airbnb gift cards at Publix to use for our payment in order to score the extra Ultimate Rewards and “Pay Ourselves Back”…or so we thought.

Planning a New Trip

We found several cabins but lots of other people must have had the same idea because multiple times we had places booked out from under us as we were planning. Finally, we found one that looked good and had a 48-hour cancellation policy, so we locked it in with a partial payment using our gift card balance. The second payment was due several days later. Since we exhausted the first gift card balance with the initial payment, we went back to Publix to buy another to cover the second half of the payment.

The Rule that Got Me

It was at this point that things went awry. I uploaded the gift card balance to my account. Then when I tried to pay the second payment using the gift card balance, I could not find an option to do so. After a quick internet search, I regretfully discovered that Airbnb gift cards can NOT be used to pay for the following:

  • Reservation of 28 nights or more
  • Changes to existing reservations
  • The second payment or future payments, if you chose a payment plan

“It’s Company Policy”

I messaged the company and chatted with a rep online. To my chagrin, they were steadfast on this rule. Even worse she offered no explanation other than it was “company policy”. Therefore, I was forced to pay for the second half of our payment with my Chase card and was left with a $600 plus Airbnb credit. I will eventually use the credit, but I found this to be a terrible user experience and a policy that seems to have no necessary function other than to hold Airbnb user funds “hostage” with the company. It seems rather arbitrary and petty to be honest.

You’ve Been Warned!

I tell this story as a cautionary tale. Be aware of the strict rules that Airbnb imposes on their gift card usage. Do not sign up for a “payment plan” if you plan to use gift cards for the final payment. Better yet avoid Airbnb gift cards unless you can earn extra miles or points and are aware of the restrictions. Don’t make the same mistake I did!

What are your thoughts on this Airbnb gift card rule? Does it make sense? Is it silly? Am I being ridiculous?! Let us know in the comments below!

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