Simple Tips For Avoiding High Airbnb Fees

Booking a vacation is never cheap, but there's something particularly aggravating about paying those seemingly never-ending Airbnb fees. From those charged by the host, like the consistently high cleaning fee, to the service fee added by Airbnb itself, which can be up to 14.2% of your price, the total always seems to be going up. Frustratingly, you're actually paying fees on your fees because Airbnb includes the cost of fees set by the host in the total that it charges you a percentage of!

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The best way to get out of this cycle of endless fees is to shop around and book your stay somewhere else. Fortunately, many hosts list their properties on a few different sites, and if you compare them, you might secure a better deal. Some websites like HiChee will take a link from Airbnb, Booking.com, or Vrbo and check if it's listed on any of the others for you. However, if your dream place is only available through Airbnb, you may have to try other strategies to avoid paying exorbitant fees.

Check out on time

Some fees are applied by default, but others are caused by things you do while you're at the Airbnb. While these can be the most frustrating (since you thought you'd already paid for everything and suddenly got slapped with yet another fee), they are also the easiest to avoid. Airbnb hosts set their own check-in and check-out times, and they have the option to charge you a fee if you check out late.

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The easiest thing you can do to avoid getting charged a late check-out fee is to leave on time. This takes a little effort since there isn't one set check-out deadline for all Airbnbs, so you'll have to carefully read the listing and any house guides and updates from your host to make sure you know when you're supposed to leave, but it's worth it. If you need to check out later than it says on the listing, let your host know as soon as possible. If they don't have another guest checking in right after you, they may be willing to let it slide without charging you anything.

Offer to clean up

One of the most notorious Airbnb charges is the cleaning fee. These can be particularly frustrating because there's little consistency regarding their cost. At some places, you might only pay an extra $20; at others, you might end up stuck with a $300 charge. According to an analysis by Nerd Wallet, you'll probably be charged around 25% of the price of one night at the property. In a few cases, the cleaning fee exceeds the base cost of staying there!

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So, what can you do to avoid these unpredictable fees? Your best option may be to offer to clean up after yourself. Airbnb SuperHost Brian James stated in his blog Travel Roulette, "The biggest expense for this fee comes from the cost of doing the laundry for the beds ... I am willing to waive the cleaning fee for a one night stay if my guests are willing to bring their own sheets and bedding!"

If you can't find a host as accommodating as James, you could try only staying at places that don't charge a cleaning fee –– but that will drastically reduce your choices, and if the host is compensating by charging a higher nightly rate, you might not save any money. You could also extend your trip. Most Airbnb hosts charge the same cleaning fee regardless of how long you stay, so at least if you check in for a week instead of a night, you get more for your money.

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Know the cancellation policy

Things happen. You might get a new job the month before you're supposed to leave for your vacation and not want to take the time off after all. Your best friend might come down with the flu two days before your vacation. A bad snowstorm on the morning of your trip might keep you from reaching your Airbnb. Depending on your host's cancellation policy, you might be able to get a full refund for your stay in any of these situations, or you might end up paying a considerable percentage of the full price anyway. When booking, make sure you pay attention to the cancellation policy.

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If there's a risk you may have to cancel (and let's be honest, there's always a risk that you may have to cancel), you want what Airbnb calls a flexible policy. This means you can secure a full refund if you give your host 24 hours' notice. If the place has a moderate cancellation policy, you'll have to give the host five days of notice, or you'll owe a fee equal to 50% of what you would've paid if you'd been able to go. Firm and strict policies can cost you even more, with some even costing the full price whether you go or not.

Know your rights

In 2022, one Reddit user claimed that an Airbnb host had tried to charge them a $750 fee for checking in to their stay at 11 p.m. The contract also purportedly included a clause that if they complained about their stay on social media or in a review, they would be charged $100 per day until they took their post down. Despite some difficulty getting help from Airbnb initially, the guest said they avoided the fee and got the entire stay cost refunded. The takeaway: If a host tries to charge you a fee that doesn't make sense, don't be afraid to tell them that you think it's unreasonable, talk to Airbnb support, and even go through your bank to dispute a charge.

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Airbnb will allow hosts to charge you more money after your stay if you make changes after booking, like bringing another person on your trip or damaging items on the property. Still, if the host claims you did something you didn't, you should contact support immediately. If you're worried about getting hit with an extra cleaning fee or being charged for damages you didn't cause, taking photos of the Airbnb right before you check out is never a bad idea. If the worst should happen, you'll have proof that you left it clean.

Should you consider paying in cash?

In 2023, vegan travel influencer @annathingbutanimals shared what she called her "biggest travel hack," which she claimed "saves me literally thousands of dollars": contacting Airbnb hosts directly and offering to pay cash for a stay. Considering the platform's fee will likely be the most significant, you may get the most budget-friendly price for an Airbnb using this TikTok hack. However, there are considerable risks to going off the app and paying your host in cash for your stay. You can save money this way, but whether or not the savings are worth it is debatable.

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For one thing, cash payments are against Airbnb's Terms of Service, so there's a chance both you and the host could end up getting kicked off the platform for doing it. It also puts you at serious risk of being scammed. While you should always check for fakes while going through photos on Airbnb listings, this is even more critical if you're trying to pay cash. Usually, if you get scammed on the platform, Airbnb will help you get your money back, but if you book directly, you're on your own. While it isn't explicitly mentioned in @annathingbutanimals's video, this may be why she only uses this hack to book places where she and her friends have stayed before.

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