On our Resource page, you’ll find 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 sent us a great tip on velocity loading limits: 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:
- Miles to Memories: Buyer Beware of Airbnb Gift Cards – They Are NOT Customer Friendly(and be sure to read the comments)
- Airbnb Community forum: Reasons NOT to buy gift card for Airbnb
- Amazon.com: 1-Star reviews on Airbnb GC purchases
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!