AmEx teams up with Airbnb for rewards redemptions, other perks

Today, American Express (a CreditCardForum advertising partner) and Airbnb announced a partnership that allows you to book Airbnb rentals directly with your Membership Rewards points – and makes Airbnb more streamlined for cardholders.Amex-Airbnb-Press-Image-2

Perks that all AmEx cardholders are eligible for

If you have a card that earns Membership Rewards points, you get an additional perk (more on that below). However, even if you have an AmEx card that doesn’t earn MR points (the Blue Cash cards, for example), you can still benefit from this partnership in the following ways:

  • Signing up for Airbnb via your AmEx account: You can now sign up for Airbnb by using your AmEx login. That’s one less password to remember.
  • Verify via AmEx: If you link your AmEx account to your Airbnb account, an “American Express Cardmember” badge will be displayed on your Airbnb profile. It’s similar to how you can already verify your identity in the Airbnb community via your Facebook or Linkedin profile. Look at it as an extra step that could help you appear more trustworthy to renters and owners, as it indicates you’re a real person — with an active credit card from a trusted institution.
  • Express checkout: This makes the payment process more seamless when you book through Airbnb. You’ll choose “AmEx Express Checkout” from a dropdown when you reach the payment screen and enter your American Express login information. The checkout fields will then be auto-filled.

Redeeming Membership Rewards points for Airbnb stays

Among American Express’s sprawling card portfolio, some cards (the Platinum card, the Premier Rewards Gold and the Everyday Cards, for example) let you earn Membership Rewards points, which can be redeemed for cash, travel, merchandise and more.

If you have one of those cards, you get another benefit of the AmEx-Airbnb partnership: redeeming your points directly to pay for Airbnb stays. When you check out on Airbnb, enter your MR-earning card’s information for payment. You’ll see your points balance displayed in the checkout flow and can use those points for all or part of your booking. Simply enter the dollar value of the points you’d like to redeem, and those points will be automatically deducted from your Membership Rewards balance.

We confirmed with an American Express spokesperson that the conversion rate is $0.70 for 100 MR points. In other words, 10,000 MR points would get you $70 toward an Airbnb booking. That’s the same point value you get when paying for hotel stays with MR points. These details are subject to change, so check the program’s terms.

Should you take advantage of this partnership?

By joining forces with Airbnb, American Express is giving you another choice for redemption (if you have an eligible card) and ways to streamline your use of Airbnb.

Until now, vacation-rental-by-owner schemes (Airbnb, HomeAway and similar) have existed somewhat at the fringe of the credit card rewards game. While it’s well known among rewards maximizers that generic travel rewards cards often categorize vacation-rental purchases as “travel” (for the purpose of bonus-category points and travel redemptions), your success will depend on how these purchases are coded. If the wrong merchant code is used, you’re out of luck. With this partnership, American Express is providing an official avenue for redeeming points for Airbnb stays.

As with all redemption options, however, make sure you’re getting a good value for your points. The Membership Rewards program has a variety of redemption options, including the ability to transfer your points directly into airline and hotel loyalty programs. So, before you cash in your points for a villa on Airbnb, make sure you wouldn’t be better off paying cash for the stay and using your points for the flight to get there.

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