Should You Rack Up Rewards Points With Airbnb, Lyft and Uber?2017-10-03
Experts weigh in on the pros and cons of optimizing award points and perks through the sharing economy.
The days of stockpiling miles and points by crisscrossing the globe with your preferred airline and staying loyal to a brand-backed chain are long gone. Increasingly, extensive network alliances and travel rewards credit cards have made it easier to quickly collect points for award flights and hotel stays without jetting off to distant locales. Even better, today loyalists can collect points for routine, everyday tasks, from online shopping to dining to paying bills – without even stepping inside an airport. And now, in-the-know points-chasers are pursuing a new avenue for racking up rewards: the sharing economy.
Here are expert-endorsed tactics for collecting miles and points with popular ride-sharing programs and peer-to-peer booking sites to get the most out using startup platforms and services.
By syncing your Starwood account with Uber, you can earn points and miles for each ride, explains Zach Honig, editor-in-chief of the points-and-miles site The Points Guy. After connecting your accounts, you can earn one Starpoint per every $2 you spend with Uber, which can be redeemed for room upgrades, hotel expenses and to cover the cost of stays at Starwood hotels. Even better, when you use the ride-sharing service while staying at a Starwood hotel, you can earn two Starpoints per dollar spent on Uber rides. The only snag: “You’ll need to stay once each calendar year [at a Starwood property] to qualify to earn points,” Honig explains. Before February, Uber users were able to collect up to four Starwood points per dollar spent. But even with a reduced earning rate, “it’s still worth signing up and picking up the points,” says Gary Leff, co-founder of MilePoint and author of frequent flier site View from the Wing. “Earn points for the activities you’re going to undertake anyway,” Leff says. Rather than leaving points on the table, there’s an opportunity to continue stacking up awards points.
Aside from earning one or two Starpoints for riding with Uber, there’s a double-dip opportunity, explains Daraius Dubash, who runs the travel advice site Million Mile Secrets. With the Amex Express Platinum card, you can earn two points for Uber rides in the U.S. Plus, members are granted up to $200 in Uber credits annually ($15 per month for domestic rides) as an added bonus. It’s free to link your accounts, Dubash adds, so it’s at no extra cost to collect miles that could otherwise go to waste, he adds. Meanwhile, with the Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card, you can earn three points per dollar spent on Uber rides, Dubash explains. While connecting your accounts isn’t going to get you anywhere close to a free trip, it’s an “incremental way to ensure you’re not leaving anything on the table,” he adds. The drawback: It’s challenging to reap lucrative rewards if you’re not a frequent ride-share user. For example, say a domestic award flight requires 20,000 points, at an earnings ratio of one point per dollar spent (or even three points per dollar spent), it would be difficult to collect the amount needed with this method quickly, he says.
Marriot Rewards members are also in luck. Starwood Preferred Guest points also transfer at a high 1-to-3 ratio for the Marriott Rewards program, says Summer Hull, who writes the MommyPoints.com blog on using rewards for family travel. So, if you stay at Marriott properties frequently, it’s equivalent to earning three Marriott points per $2 spent on Uber rides. If you’re a United MileagePlus program member, you can also leverage value by investing in Uber gift cards available through the United MileagePlus X app at a rate of 2 miles per $1 spent, Hull explains.
And though details are still shaking out, Uber recently announced plans to issue its own co-branded credit card backed by Barclays in 2017. “Clearly there’s been an interest in loyalty,” Leff says. “I think we will see more happening in the rewards space,” he adds.
Thanks to Lyft teaming up with Delta, users can leverage the ride-sharing service to rack up miles by simply syncing their accounts at deltalyft.com. “Lyft riders earn 1 mile for every dollar spent on Lyft rides, and, for a limited time [through Aug. 31, 2017], 3 miles per dollar spent on rides to and from an airport, excluding taxes, fees, tolls and tips,” Honig explains. Lyft also has a partnership with JetBlue, enabling TrueBlue members to collect 30 frequent flier miles per ride from the airport and up to 1,200 points per year. For your first Lyft ride, you can also take $15 off your trip cost or collect 750 TrueBlue points for service from the airport. Another perk: The miles earned with Delta and JetBlue won’t expire, Honig says.
Airbnb’s peer-to-peer vacation rentals aren’t just ideal if you’re looking for alternative lodgings with attractive benefits such as extra space, fully stocked kitchens and free Wi-Fi access; they can also bring you closer to earning enough miles for flights. “If you’re planning to book a stay through Airbnb, be sure to link your Delta SkyMiles account in advance – you’ll be eligible to earn 1 mile per dollar spent, excluding taxes and fees,” Honig says. To collect miles, simply book your stay through Airbnb. Airbnb guests can take advantage of a $25 Airbnb credit for stays totaling a minimum of $75, Hull explains. Plus, Airbnb users can collect 1,000 bonus Delta SkyMiles for their first Airbnb stay totaling a minimum of $150 or 500 additional miles for a first stay totaling at least $75, Hull adds. Plus, you can earn one Delta SkyMile per dollar applied toward Airbnb bookings. While you won’t be collecting miles for free, you will be getting them at a discount, Leff says.
Even better, there are often short-term promotions that allow you to earn triple or quadruple miles per dollar spent, Hull says. And if you would rather rent out your home or apartment, you can collect up to 25,000 miles after meeting specific earnings thresholds, she adds. Consider picking up Airbnb gift cards, available on Amazon, grocery stores and through other online retailers, with a travel rewards card for added earnings, Hull suggests. For example, with the Chase InkPlus Business card, you can collect five points by buying Airbnb gift cards through office supply stores, she explains.