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Airbnb has become one of the more frugal ways to travel within the past couple of years. Not only can you find a better deal than most hotels, but you also get the chance to meet some great people.
What most people fail to see is that the price you see on the Airbnb website is not the price you have to pay. Here are 3 overlooked ways to help you save money on your next Airbnb booking.
I often find it quite strange that the prices that are listed on Airbnb are much higher than hotels in the same area. I could choose between staying in a hotel room in Portland with a free room cleaning and excellent service, or I could stay in a room in someone’s house in a potentially uncomfortable bed and a noisy environment.
So why are the prices so high? I’d like to believe this is mostly because the renters expect you to bargain. Lately I’ve been traveling through Romania, and I’ve gotten nearly 25% or more all of my inquiries. So how much should you negotiate down your price?
The Time of Year
Summer months are going to be a bit busier for travel, so expect hosts to be a little less lenient in lowering their prices. If you’re traveling during a time that’s not during the holidays or summer vacation, try going a little bit lower than you normally would.
A general rule of thumb that I like to use is that I contact my host and ask for 50% off the listed price. Of course they never accept the first offer. However, it shows that you’re serious about renting a place and that you’re willing to do pay for a reasonable price. From there the host will negotiate with you until you agree on a price. Never accept the price listed.
The only time I might not ask for such a high discount is if I know that the host is already giving me a great deal. If this is the case, I might only ask for 10% – 20%. In any case, I recommend always asking for a discount – you never know what they might say.
There have been times during the summer months in which I went too low and insulted the seller. The host said that I shouldn’t even bother, and was certain that I could find other hosts in my area around the same asking price. I tried renegotiating a higher price, but by that time they didn’t want to continue negotiating since they saw me as being too cheap.
If you know that you’re renting a room during a busier time of year, take that into account. For busier months, maybe you don’t have to go so low, nor should you expect the host to. For slower months, the host should be willing to cut their price down a bit. If needed, don’t be hesitant to message this to them.
Further Reading: 101 Free Money Making Apps
The Location and Demand
Location is a huge factor in determining how much you should be willing to pay for a place. If you find that there’s only a few places available for rent in a certain area, you might not be able to negotiate much. This is usually the case for smaller towns where there are fewer people and thus fewer rooms available.
Keep in mind that even though they may have a slight advantage in this situation, you can still compare their prices with hotels. Tell them that you can get a hotel for around the same price (or cheaper) than what they’re offering. Mention that you’d like to stay with them, but are on a budget. Remember that you’re dealing with people when negotiating.
If you’re looking to rent with a host that doesn’t have any reviews or only a small number of reviews, use this to your advantage. They’re going to be more lenient with the price because they want to improve their ratings. If they don’t get any guests, they won’t be able to increase their ratings and thus it won’t be as easy to get new clients.
I would personally never rent from a place that didn’t have any reviews. Even though I do tend to look for the best deal, sometimes a lousy living situation doesn’t justify the cost. Remember, we’re trying to be frugal, not cheap.
Check The Monthly Price
Hosts often offer a discount for staying for weeks or months at a time. Be sure to check what kind of discount you’d get for staying for an entire month and try to get the host to use that same rate.
For example, let’s say that the host offers a place for $15 a night instead of the original $20 for staying for 30 days. Tell the host that you only need the place for 25 days, but noticed that the monthly price is cheaper by $5. This is a great starting point for your negotiation. At the very least they should be able to give you a daily rate equivalent to what you’d get for having booked their place for a month.
2. Credit Cards Offers – American Express
For owners of the American Express Credit Card, you’ll have complete access to their special Deals and Benefits section. This consists of special deals that you can get at specific retailers. Sometimes you get a certain dollar amount off, other times you get a certain percentage off your purchase.
In order to find these deals, apply for an Amex Credit Card and log-in to your online account. Scroll down until you see a section listed “Deals and Benefits.” You should see a list of special deals available.
In the image below you can see that if you spend $100 or more on an Airbnb purchase, you get $50 back.
Whether you use the deal or not, we recommend logging-in to your account every once in a while and adding all available offers. There’s no penalty for not using them. Keep in mind that you must use your American Express Credit Card to receive the bonus.
It usually takes 1-2 billing cycles for the amount to be applied to your account in the form of statement credit. Usually there are special rules that apply. Be sure to carefully read the details in order to ensure that you get the discount. I’ve personally never have had a problem, and if you do Amex has excellent customer service.
These deals don’t come around too often, so snag them while you can. The thing that I like most is that they usually have a long expiration date. This means you’ll have plenty of time to plan your travel and use Airbnb as your host.
Which Credit Card Should I Apply For?
If you’re looking to get in on these special deals through American Express, we suggest applying for the Blue Cash Everyday Card. It comes with no annual fee and you get a $100 bonus after making $1,000 in purchases. Not only that, but there are excellent cashback bonuses.
Here’s a quick summary of what the card has to offer:
- No annual fee
- $100 statement credit after spending $1,000 within first 3 months
- 3% cashback at qualifying supermarkets
- 2% cashback at gas stations
- 2% cashback at department stores
- 1% cashback on all other purchases
- Purchase protection and extended warranty benefits
- Rewards points can be used to purchase future Airbnb bookings
We can’t guarantee that the Airbnb offer will be available by the time you apply. However, even if that’s not the case, it’s still a great way to save some money – they really do have some incredible deals.
Further Reading: 25 Survey Sites That Will Earn You $600+/Month
3. Refer Your Friends
If a friend or family member mentions to you that they’re looking to travel, mention to them the tips listed in this article. If it’s their first time using Airbnb, get them to use your referral link to register.
When they use your link to register you both get $25 USD (sometimes up to $40) in travel credit once your friend makes their first booking. Not only that, but if they become a host, you get $75 when they host their first guest. If you’d like to support FFL, use our referral link to register – we’d greatly appreciate it!
4. Business Travel
Are you using Airbnb for business? When you make your first business stay at Airbnb, you’ll receive a $50 coupon that can be used for your next purchase. Once you check-in you’ll receive the coupon via email.
Here are the rules that apply to the coupon:
- The $50 coupon is good for one year
- The coupon can only be applied to a single reservation
- There aren’t any limitations on dates or locations with the use of the coupon
- If the reservation is cancelled, you will not get a refund for your coupon
If you’re an employee or a business owner, you can join your company’s account or create a new one by clicking here. In order to qualify you will need a valid business, so don’t think that just anyone can apply.
Further Reading: 101 Ways To Make Money Right Now
5. Find the Host Outside of Airbnb
This method is a little bit riskier, so we don’t recommend it to just anyone. You can try slipping the host your contact info and arrange a price off of the Airbnb website. This way you’ll be able to avoid any unnecessary service fees for both you and your host.
However, there is a downside to doing this. By contacting the host directly, you’ll most likely be using cash when making your reservation. This means that if something goes wrong, you might not be able to get your money back.
Airbnb does a great job of proving customer support and wants to make sure your stay is happy. I’ve heard of quite a few cases in which they give a complete refund for unpleasant stays. If something goes wrong, don’t be afraid to speak out about it. Yet in order for you to do this, you’re going to have to book through their site.
Not only that, but since you’re dealing in cash you can’t use a credit card to make a purchase. Credit card companies also do an excellent job of refunding your money if you happen to get a service that’s not as described.
Keep these points in mind. If you do decide to go this route, be sure that the host has a lot of positive reviews, and be sure to read them carefully. Otherwise, you could end up losing a lot of cash.
Check Other Booking Sites
Instead of sending the host your contact information, try searching for their name and location on Google. If they’re renting out their space on Airbnb, it’s probable that they’re using other services as well.
These sites might have much cheaper service fees, and it’s possible that their space is listed at a cheaper place with other rental websites. The service fees can be as high as $100 USD if not more (see from the image below). Other rental sites we suggest to check out are VRBO and Homeaway.
6. Earn Cashback With Clink
I was disappointed to find that many online cash back portals didn’t offer cash back for Airbnb. These online shopping portals are websites that partner with thousands of partners across the web.
They place all of their affiliate links on one page, and each time you click on one and make a purchase, they earn a commission. Instead of keeping all of this commission for themselves, they give most of it back to you in the form of cash back.
Below is an image showing that you can currently earn 7% – 8% in cash back at Walmart (rates may change) from Topcashback, one of the more popular shopping portals out there. Reach a minimum of $10 in earned cash back and cash out to PayPal. For me personally, there’s no way to shop without first looking at a shopping portal – it’s basically free money.
I was happy to run across Acorns, a free mobile app that helps you invest your money $5 at a time. Unlike most investment apps out there, Acorns includes a special cashback section when you make purchases through their app. I was happy to find that Airbnb on their list. This can be found in the “Found Money” sections in the side menu in the app.
Unfortunately, the cashback rate is only at 1.8%. While this may seem low, if you rent an Airbnb for a month at $1,000, you’re going to get $20 back. All you have to do is It took me almost 2 months to get my money back when I booked through Acorns, but I eventually got it.
For more information on Acorns, you can read our full Acorns guide – you even get a free $5 sign-up bonus.
Airbnb is a great way to travel. Although it can sometimes seem expensive, it doesn’t have to be. These 5 tips can help you save a ton of money. If it’s your first booking, be sure to use someone’s referral link to get $25+ USD in free credit.
Do you have any other tips to saving on your next Airbnb rental? Feel free to let us know down below. Thanks for reading and happy traveling!
My name is Jason Wuerch and I'm currently located in Madrid, Spain running a personal finance blog called Frugal For Less. My goal is to help everyone and anyone willing to make and save money through easy and simple ways that don't require much effort. Just because you're frugal doesn't mean you have to give up life's luxuries.