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When you love to travel but don't necessarily adore hotels, vacation rentals are easily the best alternative. With an Airbnb-style rental or vacation condo, you don't have to cram your entire family into a hotel room. Plus, you can also score more room to move around, along with a shared living space and kitchen for meal preparation — so you don't have to pay to eat out at every meal.
But, the biggest benefit of vacation rentals applies when it's time to go to sleep. If you're traveling with children or extended family and don't want to share sleeping space, you can book a vacation rental with more than one bedroom.
Many properties you can rent through Vrbo or HomeAway offer much lower rates than you'd find if you tried to book a similarly-sized hotel room. And you may even get the amenities of a big resort, such as a pool, hot tub, gym, or on-site restaurant.
While one of the biggest gripes people have about vacation rentals is that they're not as easy to book with rewards points, you can pay for rental condos with points if you have the right rewards credit card. Here are four rewards cards that work perfectly, allowing you to redeem points for vacation rental stays.
The Capital One Venture Rewards Card may be the ideal rewards card to cover vacation rentals, and for more than one reason. First off, this card offers unlimited 2x miles for each dollar you spend, plus a huge welcome bonus. Second, you can redeem your miles for any travel experience you want at a rate of one cent per mile.
Redeeming your miles is also easy as pie since you can use the miles to erase all or part of travel purchases from your bill. The key to making this work is ensuring your vacation rental will code as travel on your credit card statement.
The Discover it® Miles is another card option that makes booking vacation rentals with points easier than ever. This card doles out 1.5 miles for each dollar you spend. However, Discover will also match the miles you earn in the first year, bringing your year-one haul to 3x miles per dollar.
Redeeming your miles is also easy since you'll cash them in at a rate of one cent per mile to cover travel expenses on your bill. So, you can use your Discover it® Miles to pay for your vacation rental when you're ready, then cash in your miles to cover part or all of the expense.
The Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card is another travel card that works well for vacation rentals, and there's more than one way to use it. This card is also a good one to have in terms of long-term earnings since it offers plenty of rewards across multiple bonus categories.
On the redemption side, you can redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards® points for statement credits at a rate of one cent per point. For that reason, you can redeem your points for any purchase you want, including vacation rentals.
But, you may also be able to book vacation rentals through the Chase Ultimate Rewards® portal, depending on where you stay. While options are limited in some cases, it's not uncommon to see two- or three-bedroom condos bookable directly with points. The advantage of booking through the portal is that the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card offers 25% more value when you book with points. So, you may fork over fewer points for the same condo with this strategy.
The Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card can be a smart option for travel expenses since you earn a flat 1.5 points for every $1 you spend. There's no annual fee -- and no foreign transaction fees -- and you can also score a welcome bonus early on. Your points also never expire as long as you have the card.
Like a few other cards on this list, this one lets you redeem your points for statement credits to cover travel expenses. Unlike many hotel rewards cards, this flexibility allows you to price shop and compare vacation rentals to find the best deal, instead of being locked into one hotel brand.
If you find a vacation rental you like for a price you can live with on Airbnb or Vrbo, for example, you can use your card to book it and then redeem your points once the charge posts. But, you have the option to shop around for a lower price, so you could book with other travel vendors like Expedia, TripAdvisor, or Priceline, too.
Remember that any travel expense will work, so you could also use your points to book a vacation rental, flights, or a traditional hotel. The choice is up to you.
[This article was first published on The Simple Dollar in 2020. It was updated in March 2022.]