AirBnb Gift Card? Think Again or Be Careful

All in the details of the Terms and Conditions..

We have been big supporters of AirBnb throughout our journey exploring the world. It often offers a cheaper alternative to hotels with larger spaces, better accommodations, and a kitchen to cook with. With this, we often receive Airbnb gift cards during holidays and for birthdays (much appreciated) but leading up to our Cambodia trip we learned a very interesting policy with their gift cards that has left us with many question marks. We will let you decide your thoughts but here is what happened.

We found a lovely 4 bedroom in Cambodia, not far from Angkor Wat, that offered two kitchens and a private pool. And later found out a maid that came daily to clean. We elected to book an Airbnb because we were traveling with another couple and wanted to do a shared space.

We secured this sweet deal for around $250 dollars and around 4 months in advance. The best part was it would be basically covered by the $250 dollars we had in gift cards. As we proceeded to check out we hadn't realized the default option selected was to pay a portion now and a portion later. We weren't too concerned because we assumed as it displayed it would charge our gift card for the first payment and then assuming it would charge it for the second payment with the remaining balance to our visa on file. It is what the system defaults to and the system knew our gift card balance.

Things get interesting...

A few months go by and we receive the email that our second payment is rapidly approaching. We didn't think twice cause we had a visa on file and gift card balance so everything should process smoothly. Well after the payment was received we checked our statement only to find the second payment was fully charged to our visa. To us... this clearly was a system issue or an oversite so a quick email should resolve the issue. What we quickly learned was that is not correct... after several email exchanges, a call and speaking with a supervisor it was determined AirBnb policy with gift cards is:

Gift card funds can’t be used to pay for the following:

Reservation of 28 nights or more

Changes to existing reservations

The second payment, if you choose to pay with the pay less upfront option

Here is what qualifies for pay less upfront

Can I split the cost of my reservation across multiple payments?

Yes, if you’re making a reservation for a home (not an experience) and if it meets other requirements. These include the following:

  • Initial payment is made with a credit card, debit card, or PayPal

  • Payment is made in any currency except Chinese yuan (CNY), Brazilian real (BRL), or Indian rupee (INR)

  • The reservation begins at least 14 days in the future.

  • How far ahead you need to book is determined by the listing’s cancellation policy.

  • Have a total value of $50 or more, including any taxes and fees

If your reservation meets this criteria, on the checkout page you’ll be given the option to select Pay less upfront. If you don’t see this box, then you’ll need to pay the entire cost of the reservation at once.

If you choose to pay less upfront, you’ll pay part of your reservation now, and you’ll be automatically charged the remaining balance at a later date. When you complete the booking, we’ll let you know the date when you’ll be charged the second payment. We’ll also email you a reminder 3 days before the second payment is processed.

The second payment must be made by the same payment method as the original payment–gift cards or credits can’t be used.

Maybe a solution talking with them... think again...

We would have never thought a second payment would matter and to our agreement, the supervisor on the phone had never experienced such a policy with another company. I mean AirBnb had already secured our cash when the gift card purchase was made... why force us to tie up more money. The only but very strange solution that could be offered up by the supervisor was:

1) contact our current Airbnb reservation host

2) request the host to be okay we cancel it with no fees but tell them not to actually cancel it (important they said)

3) reach back out to Airbnb to tell them the host agreed to it

4) rebook the stay, change the default setting of pay less upfront to all

5) have stay confirmed

With less than a month before our trip, other guests depending on us, and for the sake of the hosts experience we decided not to risk the above technique out of fear for it going wrong. We were even concerned that the host would've thought it was a scam to get out of the reservation or what if he changed the rate knowing we planned to rebook?

We asked the supervisor to follow up with us as to why Airbnb decided this is the policy to follow. To this date... we are still waiting the follow up they said they would offer.

At the end of the day, it is fine cause we will travel again in the future and there will be a place that makes too much sense to use an Airbnb so the funds will be used. We fear this might not be the case for all our readers or it could end up tying up additional funds not accounted for right before a trip. We strongly suggest AirBnb change this policy but now let's hear your thoughts!

To prevent this check our example checkout screens below to notice where the settings are:

As you can see on screen 1 there is nowhere to change it, you must go to step 3 on the confirm and pay to update it!

And here is on the app


2. On this page you must scroll down to find the change button. See the photo below


4. On the review page it is more clear but many probably don't realize this choice will have an impact on your gift card eligibility so you might be default continue.

We thought maybe we missed it when we put in to redeem our gift card but as you can see below it isn't clearly covered here. You must go to the Gift Card Terms page to read the fine print but we've all used gift cards before and paying for our stay isn't something we thought was crazy enough where we had to read the terms. Especially when the system is defaulting to this setting on peoples check out.

Keep this tricky policy in mind next time you think of buying an Airbnb gift card or making a reservation.

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