Three Ways to Save Money on Airbnb


Right now, if you sign up for Airbnb through my referral link, you’ll get $39 off your first stay, and I’ll get money towards my next stay. Feel free to leave your referral link in the comments.

I’ve booked myself many stays on Airbnb, a website that lets you rent rooms, apartment, and houses from locals around the world. And using the three tips in this post, I’ve saved thousands.

I prefer Airbnb to hotels because it is almost always cheaper, you have more options for neighborhood on Airbnb, and apartments have more space and amenities than hotels (like kitchens.)

My brother and I loved our Airbnb apartments in Hong Kong and Seoul a few years ago. We averaged about $100 per night to stay in two of the most happening neighborhoods, far away from the sterile locations of the business hotels. Plus we had our own bedrooms, and the use of kitchens.

For people into the miles game, you can redeem Barclaycard Arrival miles for free Airbnb stays. My brother knocked $500 off the price of our Airbnb stay with his Barclaycard Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard.

Credit card links have been removed from posts and added to the menu bar at the top of every page of MileValue under the heading Top Travel Credit Cards.

  • What three tips have saved me over $3,000 on Airbnb?

1. Counter-offer

You do not have to accept the price offered on Airbnb. You can send the host a counter-offer and start a negotiation. The longer your intended stay, the bigger per-night discount you should request.

Here’s an example in Buenos Aires. This looks like a very nice studio in Palermo, one of the hipper neighborhoods, with a listed price of $98 per night.

If I were interested in the apartment, I would NOT click the red Book button on the right side of the page. Doing so would require me to input my credit card information, and I’d be on my way to paying the list price.

Instead, I would scroll to the bottom of the listing and click Contact Host.

I send a quick message emphasizing how good of a guest I am (reference any positive reviews you have on the site), how much I like the place, how long I am staying, and then I request to pay a certain amount total for my stay.

Here’s a message I once sent to a host in Bogota, Colombia:

Hola Martha,

I’m a Hawaiian guy [Scott: people like people from Hawaii and other places they’ve heard of, so I always include it] coming to Bogota for 15 days to meet up with a friend, and I want to stay in your apartment because it looks like a really comfortable and secure place.

I’m contacting you about a discount since I am coming for 15 days. I would like to pay $700 total. Maybe you’d be interested in such a deal because of the length of my stay and my positive reviews on Airbnb.

Another owner offered me this price, but I prefer your apartment. [Scott: consider including whether true or not.]

Looking forward to hearing from you.


The place was listed for about $1,050 for 15 nights, and I offered $700. The host countered with an offer of $750, which shows up in your message history with a red Book It button. I accepted, knocking $300 off the price of my stay.

Screen Shot 2014-10-20 at 8.49.26 AM
Dates “no longer bookable” because I booked them

The One Killer Message to get Big Discounts

If you’re not worried about getting a specific apartment and your number one priority is value, then the best time to negotiate is close in the dates of your stay. I think 1-3 days before arrival is a sweet spot when the host is getting very nervous his apartment will be unoccupied (earning $0), but you still have time to get responses and make a decision.

Here’s exactly what I sent to a prioir host of mine in Dubrovnik whose apartment was listed at 798 euros ($882) for a week.


I am a Hawaiian guy who is traveling for four months po bivšoj Jugoslaviji to learn hrvatski.

I will be in Dubrovnik one week, starting tomorrow (5 July) when my bus arrives around 18:30. Your place caught my eye since it’s in the old town.

Would you be willing to go 450 euros from 5 to 12 July since it’s last minute? If so, send me an offer, so I can accept it. ? I’m a good guest: quiet, no smoking, clean.


Let’s break down why I wrote what I wrote:

  • First, it’s short and to the point. As someone who gets a lot of emails, I appreciate that, and I know she will.
  • Second, I state the exact reason I’m asking for a discount: it’s the last minute and her place is vacant.
  • Third, I tried to appear likable. Airbnb owners are people, and they are more likely to give you a discount if you seem likable, especially if they have to interact with you at check in. Again, people like Hawaii, and everyone likes someone trying to learn their language, so I played that up in one sentence:


I am a Hawaiian guy who is traveling for four months po bivšoj Jugoslaviji [Scott: through ex-Yugoslavia] to learn hrvatski [Scott: Croatian].

  • Fourth, I gave the exact dates and even the time I’d arrive, to minimize follow up emails and make accepting me seem easy. I’m offering her an easy 450 euros, which might feel very different to her than having to offer me a 40% discount while going through huge hassles, even though both are the same amount of money.
  • Fifth, I play up that I’m a good and easy guest (“quiet, no smoking, clean”). Sometimes I point to my good feedback from hosts instead.
  • Sixth, I offer an exact amount. I usually offer about 60% of the quoted price.
  • Finally, I tell them what action to take: “send me an offer.” An offer is a price that is immediately bookable and valid for 24 hours. My goal is to collect several of these and then look through them.

For specifics about my tactics negotiating on Airbnb days before arrival for deep discounts, read The One Killer Message to Get Big Discounts on Airbnb.

2. Slip the host your contact info

Even with the $750 offer from the host, I still paid $832 all in after the “service fees” that Airbnb tacks on. That’s about 11% Airbnb got from me, and I hear that hosts get about 3% less than the headline number ($750.)

That’s a big amount of fees that excluding Airbnb from the transaction can save. There are reasons NOT to exclude Airbnb:

  1. Protections: Airbnb has host and renter protections. I am not sure exactly what they are honestly. If I am renting a place with tons of positive reviews (scroll down to the bottom of the page), I am not too worried about these protections. Certainly they aren’t worth 14% to me.
  2. Ethics: Airbnb provided a service by aggregating many places for you to see or by showing your place to many potential renters, so cutting them out of their fees is unethical.

But if you want to exclude Airbnb from the transaction, you can pass your contact details to a host.

Airbnb tries to stop you. Its computer can detect phone numbers, email addresses, and websites, and it will block them from messages between people on the site.

If you’re clever, you can get around the block by adding your phone number, WhatsApp number, Skype, or email address to a message to a potential host. Here’s what I added to the end of my message when contacting someone on Airbnb in Buenos Aires about a five-month rental:

You +18 can 08 contact 26 me 22 here 1 or 44 on WhatsApp. (My number is in that sentence.)

Now if they prefer to contact me and negotiate a fee-free deal, they can. In the end, an apartment that was listed at $1,800 per month, we got for $1,200 per month, which saved us $3,000 over the course of the stay.

3. Search for the Host’s Contact Info Online

Similarly you can search for your host’s contact info online on sites other than Airbnb that might allow you to negotiate a deal without fees.

On my same Bogota search, I saw an apartment with the listed owner as “Colombia Cool Apartments” or something similar instead of a person. I googled that company name, and found they had listings on other sites that listed a phone number. I called up and negotiated a few hundred dollars off the price of their Airbnb listing.

Even more useful is a tip that reader Brian gave me at the Chicago Seminars a few years ago. Google image search one of the images on any listing. (Here’s how.) This will show you if the photo is anywhere else on line, likely on another rental site or on a craigslist post with contact info.

Bottom Line

Airbnb is amazing and a big part of my cheapskate lodging strategy. I plan to use it many times over the next 6-9 months for rentals ranging from a few weeks to a few months across the world.

But I don’t plan on paying full price.

And remember, when you sign up for Airbnb through my referral link, you’ll get at least $39 off your first stay, and I’ll get money off my next stay. You can also leave your referral links in the comments.

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  1. I love airbnb as well. Fully converted, also even host now with over 50 guests in my first year. It’s a fantastic way to stay when you travel and much more personality than most any resort–no matter how fancy.

    I definitely consider guests who want to make an offer for an extended stay (even offer a free night for every 7 days automatically), however, I will certainly deny any guests who inquire about discount requested for short stays or guests who have no reviews.

    Also, guests who are attempting to circumvent the system by providing a direct contact number to get around bookings are most always just denied as it’s not worth having a guest that doesn’t understand the system. Going through Airbnb protects both parties–never had a single dud in my 50 guests so far (fingers still crossed).

    I appreciate you covering this topic as many bloggers just overlook this fantastic travel option that’s really budget conscious without sacrificing an amazing and unforgettable stay. Most hosted homes I’ve stayed at provide such a great insight and local recommendations.

  2. Another thing that can be mutually beneficial is to offer to pay for one night via Airbnb but to pay the rest in cash upon arrival (or some other fee-free method). I did this in both Hong Kong and Cusco and it saved a significant amount in fees while also allowing me to leave a review of the property on Airbnb, which most hosts want.

  3. We rent out our “garden-level” apartment via Home Away. Home Away doesn’t take a percentage of each rental but rather gets a flat annual fee from us and takes 3 to 5 percent vigilance on any credit card payments made to us through the site (which covers the booking deposit and occasional instances in which people pre-pay the whole amount by credit card).

    We’re able to list separate rates for weekdays, weekends, week-long, and month-long rentals so discounts are already baked into our rates. We’re not particularly amenable to negotiating as we’re full almost all the time but I think we’ve done it once or twice in the dead of winter when New York is really slow.

    Because the guest doesn’t pay any fees to Home Away, there’s no incentive for them to end-run the service and reach us directly. If they did, however, I have to say that we would not look favorably on that potential guest. After all, if they’re trying to escape their payment obligation to Air BnB what does that say about they way they’ll treat our property and their payment obligation to us?

    • If you’re already pricing at such a well-thought out level, then I would be less likely to expect a discount (though it is very low cost to ask.) On airbnb, most places I looked at were charging the nightly rate times 15 for a 15 night stay. Plus they had all 15 nights free about a month out, so I expected they’d drop their price. 2/2 did drop their price.

      • Scott, it would have been helpful for you to make that clear in the article (RE: the hosts you contacted didn’t already have a weekly rate posted that provided a discount), as someone who reads the article but not the comments will end up with the idea that you feel it’s appropriate for them try to haggle a host down from what is often a more than reasonable discounted weekly rate. As we already offer automatically caclculated discounts for weekly and monthly stays, it makes me wonder if the some of the people who’ve contacted us wanting to rent for an entire month for less than we charge for one week have been reading articles like yours!

        • I do think it’s appropriate to haggle with a host under any circumstances. The host can decline of course.

  4. I have been an AIRBNB host of over 110 parties in the past 5 years. I have also used Airbnb as a guest. I agree with the previous post from Traaveller. I give automatic 10% discount to guests staying for a week or longer. I would not consider anyone trying to bargain with me on a short stay, as I searched the market thoroughly and am already charging an incredibly cheap price (about half of what hotels charge in this area …). Please don’t encourage your readers to negotiate every stay, as they will be denied and it also feels very disrespectful to the host (as if to say “your home is not worth that much and you are over charging”… While in reality, it is already a huge saving over most hotels, plus the “personal touch”…).

  5. Mr. Scott was just offering an OPTION to people who are looking for the lowest price period !!! I don’t want to be caught Anywhere in a bad deal (EU) let alone a bad deal with someone unless their aware what’s going on which I sure his family knows . I travel as a single with CASH so I get FREE or super discounts in areas most can’t ..
    Good post !!
    I’m a Cave Lord so I know the deals that can happen but never with ME ..

  6. I’ve been a perpetual traveler for over 5 years now. I often end up booking places for 1-3 *months*. The “service” fees on these periods in AirBnB are insanely greedy, and I would never book through the site. I do my best to avoid AirBnB altogether and use sites that have served me well way before AirBnB existed (Homeaway, etc.). However, if I see something I like on AirBnB, I contact the owners directly and give them a chance to close a deal off site (normally a deposit is requested and that’s quite fine). I don’t break any AirBnB terms, since I never signed up to AirBnB and agreed to any terms. The owners don’t break any terms because the booking/lead never came through AirBnB, and owners are free to list their home on any service.

    Hosts that reject potential guests who bypass airbnb’s greed are a minority in my experience, and are losing good business (I’m a very good renter). Homeaway et al have been successfully providing the same system for years without the need to censor your communications, invade your privacy, limit your searches (try sorting by price in airbnb!) and definitely without the false hype :(.

  7. I have never used Air B&B but plan to on my next trip. One thing I have not figured out is: is there an etiquette/expectation/rule regarding cleaning up after oneself? Can I leave the place uncleaned as if I were leaving a hotel room or do I need to do laundry, dishes, etc before leaving?

    • I am curious about this too. I used airbnb to book a trip for visiting family once and the host did not provide towels and charged a cleaning fee at the end of the stay. Does this vary a lot from owner to owner?

    • Depends on the owner, generally it’s expected to be about the same level as a hotel room. Not completely cleaned and made ready, but not trashed either. It’ll get you a better review and lead to more approvals. Just don’t be a slob.

    • I feel less need to clean up if there is a cleaning fee also. On my last trip, the first host asked us to take out the trash at the end and provided directions, so we did. Our second didn’t, so we didn’t.

      The first one, we didn’t use any dishes. The second one we did and left them in the sink. Both hosts left me good reviews.

    • I’d just recommend leaving the room as you would if you were actually staying at a friend’s home. As a host, it’s always a pleasant surprise when a guest just leaves the room with their trash in the trash can and extra bonus points if they pile their used towels. Some even go as far as pulling the sheets. I definitely express my appreciation in their reviews for future hosts to know their considerate nature.

  8. Please note that you are entering “someone’s home”. You would want to leave it as if you were a family member staying there. The cleaning fee is for the host, or a cleaning service, to launder, change the sheets, clean the bathroom, dust, mop and vacuum. It does not mean that you have to be a slob when leaving the place, just because someone is going to clean after you. Remember that as a guest you are also rated and if your reviews are not favorable, hosts will turn you down. This is a two way street. I know that my place is impeccable before guests arrive. I let my guests use the kitchen, but ask that they clean up after themselves. I don’t expect them to make the beds when they leave, but don’t want them to trash the place either…

  9. I have used airbnb but never considered negotiating….and probably wouldn’t.
    But as far as tidying up, regardless of the fact that I am ‘renting’ via airbnb, I also feel as though I am a guest in their personally owned property. As such, I feel it is the least I can do to tidy up before I leave. I usually strip the beds of linens as well. But that’s just me. I keep a neat hotel room too….. 😉

  10. I echo the other Airbnb hosts. For a stay less than a week, we have a policy not to rent to guests who ask for a discount. Our reply to the bargainers is always the place is unavailable. While none of our couple dozen experiences as hosts have been negative, we have found it’s the least hassle weeding out the cheapest guests. They’re the ones who have been more high-maintenance in our experience. Finally, please do take out the trash, wash the dishes, and tip the cleaning lady.

    • Brian and Susan
      I agree I do that in a Hotel and TIP too and do get the best room (after first visit) and ADVISE they can give me .. It’s called respect for people and their property it goes a long way like Good Morning ect. when you greet ANYONE .

    • Even as a host I would have to ask you why on gods green earth would I do the dishes if there is a cleaning lady to be tipped?

    • If I have multiple options and it’s off-season for a five day stay damn right I’m asking if any price reduction. I have noticed many in USA negotiate, not Europe. To reject someone asking for best price during off season seems short sighted business wise to me. You may price well dynamically but a lot of people don’t.

      I think it’s nuts to tip the maid if there is a cleaning fee unless you really messed up the place.

  11. Goes without saying its a buyers market. I always ask for a discount on 5+ day stays. Almost every single renter replies at the minimum, usually someone will offer a discount, especially -30 days in.

  12. I’ve used airbnb successfully several times. Always gave and received excellent reviews. I wouldn’t seek a discount, nor circumvent the website. If I were on the other end, I’d just be suspicious of people like that. What other games do they have up their sleeve? What protections do I have in dealing with them?

    • A lot of people are averse to negotiation is one of the takeaways from the comments on this post. It’s also the takeaway from the messages I sent to Madrid hosts for a month stay there. But I only need one person to drop the price for my strategy to work.

  13. When you skipped the website to reach a deal, how did you pay the cost? Did you pay part beforehand and part in person or whole in person? With cash?

  14. Funny advice- all the worst guests I’ve ever had on airbnb have been those looking for “bargains” or wanting to negotiate the prices on my listings. This isn’t a flea market- it’s a vacation rental that we tent at a fair and competitive rate. It’s insulting when people “counter offer” and something I never do as a guest. We now automatically deny anyone who asks for a discount to avoid the trouble seemingly associated with bargain hunters.

    • That’s fair. You can respond however you want. Being insulted by bargaining I’ll never understand though.

  15. And Scott Grimmer…you very well may find an el cheapo deal- but it won’t be our awesome place 😉 or most of the awesome places that have a high enough demand not to have to accept hagglers.

  16. Sorry, I’m a little late to the party. Quick question for Scott or anyone else familiar with Airbnb. Do prices trend up or down as the date nears? Such as concert tickets on stubhub will often drop right before the event. Is it advantageous to book right before you plan to stay?

    • Hosts set the price, and I doubt most actively manage like that. You can negotiate a lower rate as your dates approach if the apartment is still empty.

  17. The advice makes sense to me. I am a “slow” traveler, and I normally want a place for 1 Month, so to negotiate on that seems more than normal. Also, to avoid paying to much Airbnb, I would agree on 1 week with owner (and pay via Airbnb), and the other 3 weeks I will pay in cash when I arrive. Everyone happy, Airbnb gets money (but not too crazy) and owner gets a good deal, and is still protected.

  18. […] Saving Money On Airbnb:  In our quest to travel the world for pennies on the dollar, you may find yourself needing to stay at places other than a hotel.  There may not be any point redemption options for you at your destination.  Airbnb (click here for $40 off your first stay) is a good choice that could save you a lot of money vs a paid hotel stay.  Here are some tricks to help get an even better deal. […]

  19. Thank you Scott for sharing the bargain tips. I seriously dont understand how people feel disrespected or insulted when people gave a lower offer. As long as the counter offer is not too too low, host can always deny or offer a new price. No hurt feeling here. I suggest those hosts try to visit China and see how they feel like when they can’t even handle bargainning. They will end up being ripped off. Seriously, people need to travel more to understand the world so they don’t feel insulted or hurt easily, just my thought.

  20. Nice to hear from Scott and that he’s still out there traveling!
    Re: Negotiating – Put me in the “it can’t hurt to ask’ column.
    I understand hosts wanting to circumvent the hassle factor one sees with aggressive low-ball negotiators. On the other hand, I understand the ‘Hosts-don’t-want-$0-revenue-days-so-they-smartly-negotiate’
    Respectful negotiators who analyze the objective factors (close in dates/availability, etc.) and are trying to put together a win-win deal shouldn’t hesitate to inquire. The worst a host can say is ‘no’
    Personal travel strategy: On my first trip to a location, whether I am staying at a hotel or other, I only book 2 of 7 nights of my planned stay. If I love the accomodation/location/hosts upon arrival, I book for the rest of my dates. However, if during those first few days of my trip I discover another neighborhood, host, etc that appeals to me, I can easily switch over.


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