Vrbo Does Not Code As Travel For Earning Credit Card Bonus Points
Booking a vacation rental from Vrbo instead of a hotel can make a lot of sense. Prices are often cheaper for large groups of people, and you get the flexibility to stay in locations that may not have any hotels. Add in the fact that many Vrbo rentals come with full kitchens, and the choice becomes even easier.
The drawback comes if you are looking to earn valuable credit card rewards points from Chase and other top issuers. As a vacation rental service, you would expect Vrbo rentals to code as travel. Unfortunately, that is not always the case, which means you are likely sacrificing bonus points.
A company called HomeAway acquired Vrbo in 2006. Expedia acquired HomeAway and Vrbo in 2015. For many years, Vrbo rentals would post on credit card statements as HomeAway. Sometimes, rentals would simply post as Vrbo. Instead of coding as travel, they would be categorized as “professional services” or “real estate”.
The problem with this coding is it makes Vrbo vacation rentals ineligible for bonus travel reward points and other benefits. For example, the popular Chase Sapphire Reserve card earns 3x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent on travel. Since Vrbo rentals do not usually code as travel, Sapphire Reserve cardholders only earn 1x Ultimate Rewards points per dollar spent. It also means Vrbo rentals will not count towards the $300 per year travel credit.
Does This Only Affect Chase or All Credit Card Companies?
Unfortunately, this is not an issue with just Chase. Credit card companies like Chase, Capital One, Bank of America, and Citi do not select the code that a transaction will fall under. The merchant, Vrbo in this case, selects their type of business. For unknown reasons, Vrbo categories itself as a “professional service” and “real estate” company instead of a travel company. Chase and other credit card issuers simply offer rewards points based on the category presented by the merchant.
In addition to the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Preferred card is also affected. The Sapphire Preferred earns 2x points per dollar spent on travel. The Bank of America® Premium Rewards® Credit Card offers 2 points for every dollar spent on travel. Using it to book a Vrbo means you will only receive 1.5 points.
Can My Credit Card Company Just Recategorize My Vrbo Rental To Travel?
From my experience, credit card companies will not change a Vrbo rental code to travel. They may award you extra bonus points, however. For example, I recently booked a Vrbo rental using my Chase Sapphire Reserve card. I had read some people are now seeing their Vrbo rentals categorized as travel, so I was curious about whether or not mine would be.
Unfortunately, my rental received the dreaded “professional services” code. This means I only received 739 points for a $739 travel purchase. I contacted Chase via a secure message to see what they could do.
They explained the transaction (listed as Real Estate Agents and Managers – Rentals) was not eligible for bonus rewards since it was not in the proper category. As a “one time courtesy”, Chase awarded me the additional 2x (1478) bonus points.
The transaction is still coded as “professional services”, however. It also did not count toward my $300 travel credit.
The Vacationer Tip
If your Vrbo rental does not code as travel, call your credit card company and ask for an adjustment. Chase should at least provide you with a one-time point adjustment, but it depends on your issuer.
Vrbo Says It Cannot Change It
Out of curiosity, I contacted Vrbo for its stance on the issue. I was told it cannot do anything and it is up to the payment processor to code transactions. At this point, it appears Vrbo is in no rush to get this corrected.
Best Credit Cards for Vrbo Rentals
Until Vrbo codes its vacation rentals as travel, it makes more sense to use a non-travel focused credit card. We recommend the Chase Freedom Unlimited card or the Citi® Double Cash card. Neither card has an annual fee, and you will earn more than you would with a Chase Sapphire card. The Chase Freedom Unlimited card earns 1.5% cash back on every purchase. The Citi® Double Cash earns 2% cash back on every purchase. If you use the Chase Freedom Unlimited card, you can transfer your points to your Chase Sapphire card for added value.
Airbnb Rentals Do Code As Travel
While Vrbo rentals do not code as travel, Airbnb rentals do. That means you can earn 3x points on your Chase Sapphire Reserve card and 2x points on your Chase Sapphire Preferred card. It will also count towards the $300 per year travel credit for Sapphire Reserve cardholders. While the points are great, you should not pick Airbnb over Vrbo solely for that reason. Location, accommodations, and total price may be more important than bonus credit card points.
Vrbo, meaning Vacation Rentals by Owner, is an online portal allowing you to book vacation rental homes. It is owned by Expedia Group
They may, but they usually do not. Instead, Vrbo rentals generally code as “professional services” or “real estate”.
The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts
With a large selection of vacation rentals at competitive prices, Vrbo is a great place to book your next trip. Despite the travel category making sense, Vrbo codes its rentals as “professional services” and “real estate”. This means you are unlikely to receive bonus points on your travel-focused credit card. Regardless, we recommend you still consider booking a Vrbo rental if the price is better than hotels and Airbnb.
Earlier this year, Expedia announced it is retiring its HomeAway U.S. brand to put more focus on Vrbo. Whether or not that will change anything remains to be seen, but most Vrbo rentals are still not coding as travel as of 2020.
Featured Image by Dennis Larsen from Pixabay
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