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Airbnb’s Split Payments Service has One Major Defect

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The Downside of Airbnb’s Split Payments Service

As you probably know I am not a big Airbnb user, since I try to avoid paying as much as possible for travel.  Having said that they are still a huge part of many people’s travel arsenal, my buddy included.  He reached out to me to tell me there is a major flaw with Airbnb’s split payments service.

Airbnb Lets You Split the Cost with Friends Online

Hate trying to collect money from your friends?  Airbnb has a fix for that, you can book a place to stay and then split it among your group of friends.  Airbnb’s split payments service will send out the payment link to everyone listed. They must have an Airbnb account and they will have 72 hours to complete their payment.

This is a nice feature to have but probably isn’t used a ton with PayPal and Venmo making money transfers pretty easy.  But there are still people out there who will use it because of it’s ease and the lack of confrontation needed.  There is one major problem with it though.

The One Major Flaw

My buddy had done this for his upcoming trip to Greece but they ran into one major snag.  Only the booking party, the person who starts the reservation, can use Airbnb gift cards OR Airbnb credit.  My friend called Airbnb to inquire how this could be and why something that seems so easy wouldn’t be possible. They responded that it is a technical deficiency in their system.  I am no IT guy but I wouldn’t think it would be hard to make this possible.

The only work around would be to send unused gift cards to the person who is booking the trip.  But, if they have already been added to your account then you are out of luck.

For bigger groups who are renting a large house this is a problem because frequent Airbnb users are going to likely have an account credit.  This makes your account balance unusable in certain situations.  That should never happen.  My friend had taken advantage of the 20% off Amazon deal last week and thought he would be able to use the gift cards on his trip.  Unfortunately, he is unable to use them for this trip because he loaded them to his account first.


The split payments option is a good move on Airbnb’s part. Not allowing gift cards or account credit to be used by most of the group is a huge oversight though.  It doesn’t seem like it would be a difficult fix.  If it is a difficult change they should at least offer a work around for it.  Hopefully it is something they are working on.

If you decide to use the service and want to use gift cards it is probably better to just send them to the person booking the stay.  Work it out outside of Airbnb.  This also may be a reason not to redeem Airbnb gift cards to your account balance.

Hat Tip Ryan J.

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Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. Here’s another reason to avoid Airbnb gc like the plague.
    In April 2019, I bought Airbnb gift card for a reservation I was making. I used my CF card to get 5x points at supermarket where I bought the gc. Sounded like a win win situation.That covered about 90% of the cost, the balance was paid with my CSR.
    I just cancelled for medical reasons and I got back the amount paid Cw/SR no problem. The amount I paid with gift card is now back to being an Airbnb gift card. It cannot be used by anyone else but me. Argh. That was a big mistake.
    I also lost the “service fee” of $40. I understand that, it’s part of the booking terms. I will try to get it back from airbnb under their extenuating conditions and see what happens.
    Not a happy camper right now.
    Take away – do not buy/use Airbnb gc. PITA

  2. I had the same thought for an upcoming Airbnb booking – I had already paid half and the balance is due in a couple of months. Fortunately I checked before buying the gift cards at Amazon, but apparently it’s also impossible to use a gift card or credit balance on an existing reservation with an unpaid balance. So even within your own account there are several limitations.

    • Good point. That isn’t very consumer friendly though. Especially if they are gift cards that haven’t been added to your account yet…those should always work.


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