Middle Age Miles

Tips and Warnings About Airbnb Gift Cards

airbnb gift card warnings tips limitations challenges

Earlier this week, we published a detailed article exploring how to save money and earn points and miles on Airbnb bookings – How to Save Money on Airbnb Plus Earn Points and Miles.

As we outlined in that article, several of the best strategies to earn points and miles for Airbnb stays involve purchasing and using Airbnb gift cards (GCs). However, it’s very important to understand the ins and outs of successfully using Airbnb GCs, to make sure you receive the benefits without running into the pitfalls of Airbnb GCs.

There are enough tricks about using Airbnb GCs that some people have had very harsh words about them, including our very respected fellow blogger Mark Ostermann of Miles to Memories (and a Hat Tip to Mark for some of the content of this article). And frankly, there are far too many restrictions on Airbnb GCs. They can’t be used in some ways that people would expect them to be used. We do not mean to minimize these warnings in any way – to the contrary, this article is intended to highlight them so you can make informed choices for yourself.

On the other hand, as we covered in our previous article, there are significant opportunities for savings and points-earning with Airbnb GCs if you’re well-informed. Thus, we wanted to provide this follow-up article with tips and warnings about Airbnb GCs.

The Good News About Airbnb GCs

There are some good features of Airbnb GCs, in addition to the opportunities for savings and points-and-miles earning that we outlined in our previous article, so let’s start with those:

  • You can load Airbnb GCs directly into your Airbnb online account, where they are all combined into a single GC balance
    • This makes the GCs reasonably secure (unless someone hacks your Airbnb account)
    • This prevents any issues with using multiple GCs for a single reservation
    • Best practice is to load the GCs into your account immediately after purchasing them
  • Airbnb GC funds never expire
  • When you book an Airbnb, the GC funds are automatically applied to your charges

Express Limitations from the Airbnb GC Terms & Conditions

The terms and conditions on the Airbnb website for Airbnb GCs contain three major express limitations on the use of Airbnb GCs.

Airbnb GCs cannot be used for:

  • Reservations of 28 nights or more
  • Changes to existing reservations
  • The second payment, if you choose to pay with the “pay less upfront” option

Setting aside for a moment the fact that you have to read an obscure page on the Airbnb website to find these terms and conditions (we’ll generally call this “problematic”), let’s examine a couple of them in more detail.

There may be a work-around for the 28-night limitation. If you have this situation, contact your Airbnb host and/or Airbnb customer service. They may be able to set up 2 or more reservations of less than 28 days (and waive any per-reservation charges) in order to allow you to use your Airbnb GC balance. Best practice in this situation would be to make sure you can arrange for multiple bookings before you purchase Airbnb GCs to pay for it.

Not being able to use Airbnb GCs on the second payment of a “pay less upfront” reservation seems to catch more people off-guard than any other limitation. This is especially troublesome because, in our experience, the Airbnb site defaulted to the “pay less upfront” option when making a booking. If you are using your Airbnb GC balance to pay for a booking in full, you must be sure to disable the “pay less upfront” option so you can pay the entire cost of the booking with your GC balance. We cannot emphasize this enough.

Other Issues and Challenges with Airbnb GCs

Beyond the express terms and conditions, there are other issues and challenges with Airbnb GCs that you should be aware of, including:

  • Velocity loading limits
    • In our recent experience, we purchased $1,800 in Airbnb GCs – 5 GCs in the amounts of $500 (x3), $200 and $100. All of the GCs were purchased through third-party Raise. We were able to load two $500 GCs and the $100 GC immediately for a total of $1,100, but the others failed to load. A call to Airbnb customer service failed to resolve the issue. The issue eventually resolved itself. After 24 hours, we were able to add a 4th GC, and after another 24 hours, we were able to add the 5th/last GC. At that point, we were able to make our reservation and use the entire GC balance to pay for it immediately.
    • We are not sure of the exact parameters of the velocity loading limits. For us the cap was 3 GCs in a day, 1 more GC the next day, and 1 more GC the day after that. Others have reported different velocity loading limits.
    • Fellow blogger Stephen Pepper had a great tip in the Comments: If you run into a velocity limit roadblock when adding codes to the “Payment Methods” portion of the Airbnb website, try switching over to the following web page: https://www.airbnb.com/gift/redeem – and vice versa, if you get stuck on the “gift/redeem” site, try switching over to “Payment Methods.”
  • If there’s a problem with a booking using a GC, you have limited or no recourse, unlike if you pay with a credit card and can request a charge-back
    • In this FlyerTalk thread, the commenter’s Airbnb account was shut down and he couldn’t get a refund for his unused GC credit.
  • There are reports that you must have the Airbnb GC credit in your account before you begin making your booking – that is, you can’t add GCs while you’re in the midst of the booking process
  • There are reports that you can’t use your Airbnb GC balance if your address is outside the US and/or if you don’t have a US-based payment method in your Airbnb account.
  • You can’t use your Airbnb GC credit on any reservation with an outstanding balance
    • This is generally the same as the limitation on “pay less upfront” reservations that we discussed above, although there could be other situations where there is an outstanding balance as well.

More Reading on Airbnb GC Issues and Limitations

We believe that we’ve covered the issues and limitations that people have reported with Airbnb GCs. But if you want to read more and go straight to the data sources on some of the things we’ve reported in this article, here are some links for more reading:

Conclusion

As we said at the outset, there are good opportunities for savings and points-and-miles earning using Airbnb GCs. But there are also pitfalls that deserve large-font bold-print warnings. Be sure to be aware of these issues if you plan to use Airbnb GCs to purchase lodging for your next dream trip!

Do you have other warnings or issues related to Airbnb GCs? Please help out other Middle Age Miles readers by sharing them in the Comments!


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13 thoughts on “Tips and Warnings About Airbnb Gift Cards

  1. Stephen

    I’ve encountered the velocity limits a couple of times. I always enter the codes in the Payment Methods section of my account and the most recent time it maxed out after entering three codes. Those were for ~$400 each from the Google Fi promotion late last year, so I think it might also be related to value as I’ve been able to enter numerous $100 cards in the past without any issue.

    This most recent time though, after hitting the velocity limit in the Payment Methods section, I was able to enter a fourth card at https://www.airbnb.com/gift/redeem. If that’s where you were redeeming your cards, it might be possible to do the reverse and enter any additional cards in the Payment Methods section without having to wait 24 hours.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Many thanks, Stephen. That’s another good Airbnb GC trick to know, for sure. In our situation, I was entering our GCs in the Payment Methods section. I wasn’t aware of the other “gift/redeem” link. That might have saved us a lot of anguish about the booking, as opposed to having to sweat it out and hope for the best! I will add this to the article. Great tip, and thanks again. ~Craig

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  3. Bob Herman

    What about Airbnb banning your account for using too many gift cards? I dread this happening one day as I’ve already loaded a few thousand dollars worth of gift cards in the last year.

    Any idea or any experiences of what happens once you pass the $5,000, $10,000 or $20,000 mark loading many $100 gift cards to one account?

    1. Stephen

      I just checked through my gift card redemptions and I’ve loaded ~$15,000 over the last couple of years. The majority of those were $100 cards, so I don’t think there’s anything to worry about if you’re a legit customer.

  4. Bob Herman

    Also, any experiences of what happens if you ever get banned from Airbnb for any reason and still have a few thousand in your gift card balance when it happens? This is a “what if” scenario, but recently I did read a blog post on a different web site about someone who was banned from Airbnb for life and the reason given was not even clear. Apparently, it was because the guest had several stays where there were issues and Airbnb simply didn’t like him complaining about the issues. But in my experience, about 70% are good and 30% have been bad with about 10% of the time running into serious issues.. such as missing amenities, crazy noise from the neighbors, etc.

    I’ve done 300+ Airbnb stays since 2013.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Bob – Thanks for reading and for sending the great questions. I probably should recruit you to write the articles about Airbnb given your extensive experience! In the article, we referenced one person whose account was shut down and couldn’t get their GC money back, but that was a small-dollar deal with circumstances far different than what you’re describing. Frankly, you sound like Airbnb’s ideal, most valuable customer. At that volume of legitimate stays they’d be insane to shut you down. Thanks again for reading and commenting! ~Craig

  5. Debit

    Just stay away from them. Gift card should be like money but limited to the website. Airbnb is not customer friendly. They have become too big and srrogant.

    Why would you tie up your funds in a company lucr that?

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Debit – Thanks for the comment, and very sorry to hear about OMAAT. I certainly understand how you feel about Airbnb GCs, and you are not alone in that view. ~Craig

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  7. Atara

    Is there limitations when it comes to booking in a foreign country? For example I want to go to Japan but I was thinking of using a gift card. If I bought a gift card would there be any problems using it since I know Japan mostly uses Japanese Yen.

    1. Craig at Middle Age Miles Post author

      Hi Atara – I’m a little bit rusty on the minute details, but we have definitely used Airbnb GCs on foreign stays in Italy & France. I believe that if you book from the US, then the price will be displayed in US dollars. Then you can use a US$-denominated GC to pay for the booking. I would anticipate it working similarly for a booking in Japan if you make it from the US, although we’ve never tried that ourselves. ~Craig

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