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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.
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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One of those where you just want to scream “But why, why is it company policy?”
It was a circular conversation for sure. I was assured of the validity of my complaint and was told she would have a manager follow up with me but no one ever did.
Typical stupid corporate Airbnb nonsense. They really are the worst.
It is not a customer friendly rule at all!
Yeah – I have run into this before as well. As soon as you said “I went back to get more gift cards to pay for the 2nd half” I knew where this story was going 🙂
LOL. Definitely a one time mistake but boy does it sting that first time!
I also missed this point when I booked an AirBnB last year. However, what I did was use the remaining value to book “experiences” through AirBnB and use up almost all the remaining gift card value. AirBnB charges the same for most of the experiences which are usually tours.
Thanks for sharing useful article here. Hi there, good work, I will suggest your blog to my friends.
They got me on this last month. I had a credit and when I booked the pre-set option was to split into two payments. I would have had to manually select to pay all at once. There was no mention of my credit not working for the second payment. This bizarre policy of theirs is by design I think. Now I have $250 of credit sitting there. And even though I want nothing to do with Airbnb’s crazy fees, I either have to book through them again or lose the money.
Dang it! The policy is definitely bizarre and not at all customer friendly. Sorry to hear it got you as well.
I agree with all that you and those who follow say. I found that when I used a $100 gift card plus paying the rest on my Sapphire Reserve, when I had to cancel a trip because of Covid, they took the non refundable service fee out of my gift card credit, which meant that I couldn’t even hope to get that part back from Chase travel insurance because the credit card portion had been fully refunded. It was only about $40, but that stunk. As long as you book with a superhost, Airbnb stays really are a great value. But the company has some real ethics issues. Gift card rules really do seem rigged to gouge you. I too got a number of 5x grocery points with the gift cards. Thanks for the reminder to use them wisely or get mistreated.