Airbnb is expanding its partnership with American Express (Amex) in a move that will enable users that are cardholders better leverage their loyalty rewards benefits within the home sharing service. Starting today, guests may use their Amex Membership Reward points to not only directly book their stays at a host property, but also can use their account ID and password to create an Airbnb account, check out, and even verify their profile.
To entice Amex cardholders, Airbnb is offering a special through the end of 2015. U.S. card members can get $50 back when they spend $100 on a stay at an Airbnb property.
Although this isn’t the first time these two companies have done business with each other, this time around, there’s a much deeper technology integration. Whereas in 2014, Amex enabled its members to purchase Airbnb digital gift cards using their Membership Rewards points, today’s deal looks to be more symbiotic whereby both databases are in sync with each other.
“Amex members love to travel,” Leslie Berland, executive vice president for the credit card company’s global advertising, marketing and digital partnerships, told VentureBeat in an interview. “Our Card Members love one-of-a-kind and memorbale travel experiences, and with this partnership, we’re creating a frictionless and valuable way for them to take advantage of everything Airbnb has to offer.”
When a cardholder finds an Airbnb property that they’d like to stay at, should they wish to use their Reward points, they can authenticate their card on Airbnb and then once recognized, the system will present an option to use the balance on the card. Berland tells us that there’s a $0.70 per 100 points ratio, which is similar to what other accommodation providers have.
This service presents a unique opportunity for Airbnb in that it’s the first time Amex has formed a direct relationship with an accommodation service, even hotels. Lex Bayer, Airbnb’s head of global payments and business development, explained that typically when a cardholder wanted to use points, all the processing needed to be done right from Amex’s website. But now that process is more intuitive and seamless.
At the point of checking out and confirming your reservation, that process also is getting a bit of the Amex influence as Airbnb says it’ll be incorporating the credit card provider’s Express Checkout technology. Launched in July, this option lets cardholders enter their AmericanExpress.com username and password, pick a credit card on file, and use that data to process the transaction. The expectation is that by doing so, cardholders won’t have to constantly enter their contact information every time they book an Airbnb stay.
Along those lines, Amex has launched a sign up feature aimed at helping new users create an Airbnb account. Berland shared that cardholders can enter in their Amex credentials and it’ll populate Airbnb’s set-up fields (and quite possibly other sites in the future) in a way using data tied directly to their credit card number, including their name, address, phone number, billing address, and more.
“We’re very excited to unveil a product that is safe, secure, and industrial strength when it comes to credit card information,” Berland said. “It’s also gives us a great ability to welcome Amex card members to Airbnb,” Bayer chimed in.
Transactional data Amex won’t be shared with Airbnb we’re told, but the point isn’t about understanding where cardholders have traveled. It’s more about making it easier to set up a complete profile, which will go a long way in helping Airbnb users know more about the cardholder, specifically in terms of verifying their identity.
In 2013, Airbnb launched Verified Identification in an effort to improve trust between not only hosts and guests, but also with the company. There are several steps users have to take in order to be vetted, but now another option is to include your Amex account. It may seem strange that a credit card on file can make hosts feel more comfortable with a potential guest, but as Berland and Bayer explained, it’s about having more details in your profile. Think about it this way: Airbnb is putting Amex identities on a pedestal and showing that the data shared from cardholders can be a powerful thing.
“Your Amex identity means something,” says Berland. “Amex members care about the fact that other consumers are Amex card members. Knowing that you’re a card member means something.”
She continued by saying: “If you think about someone’s profile, the richer their profile, the more you know about them. You also know that they’re a vetted profile, they’re more credible, and they are who they say they are. It doesn’t mean that they’re paying with an instrument, it means they have a reputation that they maintain with Amex.”
If it’s not apparent by now, Airbnb and Amex are clearly fond of travel and both have a culture of helping their customers get the most out of their experience. Amex vice president and general manager for membership rewards and loyalty experiences Michael Rouse once said: “When it comes to travel, our Card Members love unique experiences they can’t find anywhere else.” And these are the types of things one would typically find with Airbnb, which has made strides to really give its guests something more than just a place to stay. In 2012, Airbnb launched Neighborhoods to help guests find information about the area where their staying, and let’s not forget about the company’s Apple Watch app which gives more ways to communicate with hosts.
But this enhanced partnership comes as Airbnb faces some struggles, particularly in the form of government regulation. In its hometown of San Francisco, Calif., the company has been battling against a home sharing proposition that’s up for a vote on Tuesday. However, Amex remains undeterred by these actions telling VentureBeat that it looks at the Airbnb relationship as a business, its growth, card engagement, and where the company is growing. It is aware of the regulatory hurdles, but Amex will continue to look at Airbnb holistically.
American Express Company (American Express) is a global service company. The Company’s range of products and services includes Charge and credit card products, Expense management products and services, Consumer and business travel se… read more »
Founded in August 2008 and based in San Francisco, California, Airbnb is a community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique spaces around the world online or from an iPhone device. Whether the available space is a ca… read more »
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