Update 8/19/15: This is dead. Airbnb removed the option. Now you have to do this to avoid the 3% conversion fee.
Right now I’m in Eastern Europe, visiting the capitals of Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania for a week each. Then I’ll head to Belgrade, Serbia for around a month. For all of these stays, I’m staying at Airbnb properties. Check out “I’ve Been a Nomad for Eight Months. Where I’ve Slept This Year” for how often I stay in Airbnb versus hotels, hostels, camping, and on the floor.
Paying for these apartments in euros is cheaper than paying for them in dollars, which is the default if you set your Airbnb country as the United States. Here’s how to set the payment to the local currency and save money.
- Get to the payment screen.
- Change the payment country to the country of the stay.
- Enter your payment information, ignoring that your billing address is listed as a foreign country.
1. Get to the Payment Screen
Whether you’re booking a “Book Instantly” property, requesting to book a property that must be approved by the host, or accepting a pre-approved offer from a host, you make your move on the payment screen. (More info on these distinctions in How Airbnb Works Plus a $25 Credit You Can Use for Your First Stay.)
By the way, here are three ways to save money on Airbnb before you get to the payment screen.
2. Change the Payment Country to the Country of the Stay
At the top of the screen, the country and your saved cards are listed. Change the country to the country of the stay.
For a recent Finnish stay, I entered Finland.
This changed the currency of the stay. When my country was listed as United States, I was going to pay $651.
When I changed to Finland, the same $651 was listed as the headline figure, but the fine print underneath made it clear that I was not actually going to be charged $651, but rather €574. €574 was 3-4% less at the time than $651.
3. Enter Your Payment Information
Finally, enter your billing address. A foreign country will be listed in the billing address section. Pay that no mind and input the rest of the information correctly. Your card will be approved despite having the wrong country listed.
How Much Will You Save?
I just booked four weeks in Belgrade. Airbnb wanted to charge me $475.
I switched to euros–Serbia isn’t on the euro, but that is the currency of Airbnb rentals in Serbia–and the price dropped to €406.
Google said €406 was $456, which is a 4% savings.
In the event, my United Business card with no foreign transaction fee charged me $462.14 for the €406 purchase, leaving me only 2.7% in savings.
In the Helsinki example above, €574 cost $642.36, which was a 1.3% savings.
In both cases, I was expecting at least a 3% savings, but I think I got an unfavorable rate from my credit card company. In any case, I still saved 1.3% and 2.7%. Luckily I noticed the trick of changing my billing country to match my rental country for my two more expensive rentals. I didn’t notice it for Vilnius or Riga and paid in dollars, but those rentals were much cheaper.
Negotiate on Airbnb and then pay in the local currency to save big. Check out How Airbnb Works (Plus a $25 Credit You Can Use for Your First Stay) for more information on why I love Airbnb so much.