Have Airbnb Gift Cards? Be Careful About When You Use Them, One Family Found

“It’s really against the consumer, it seems kinda like a gotcha,” one travel blogger said

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If you’re planning a getaway, you might be renting a house. If so, the NBC4 Los Angeles I-Team has a warning about one popular vacation rental site: your rental could cost you more than you expect.

Jodee Peko and her daughter planned a family getaway to Las Vegas to celebrate a graduation. Peko wanted to help her daughter foot the bill for the trip, so she gave her $1,200 in Airbnb gift cards to rent a house.

“It was just for her to get away and go see family for the first time with her baby,” said Peko.

When you book an Airbnb rental, you have two payment options: pay upfront, in full; or put down a deposit and pay the balance later, which is the option Peko chose. She used the gift cards to pay the deposit, but when she later went to pay the balance with the gift cards, Airbnb rejected them.

“The person told me, ‘Oh you can only pay it all in full with gift cards,’” said Peko.

That’s right, Airbnb doesn’t allow you to use gift cards to pay off balances — you can only use them for deposits or to pay it all upfront. The gift cards Peko bought still had hundreds of dollars on them, and with no future travel plans, she says the family was throwing away that money.

“I just cried,” said Peko. “It was heartbreaking, and the people at Airbnb were just so heartless. ‘Sorry it’s our policy, read it, you should have read it.’”

If you dig around on the Airbnb website, you’ll find its gift card policy. The I-Team asked Airbnb the reason behind the policy, but didn’t get a response.

“It’s really against the consumer, it seems kinda like a gotcha,” said Mark Ostermann, who called out Airbnb on his travel blog for what he calls an unfriendly consumer policy. He thinks the company should post a clear warning when consumers use a gift card.

“A pop-up should come up that says, ‘Hey, you’re paying with a gift card and when you go to make a second payment, you’re not going to be able to use a gift card,’” said Ostermann. “Some type of warning.” But until that happens, Peko leaves fellow Airbnb travelers with some advice.

“Don’t buy their gift cards, don’t do it,” she said.

Things eventually worked out for Peko’s family. The host ended up canceling their reservation, so they booked a new rental house, and this time they knew to use their gift cards to pay it all upfront.

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