Nerdwallet Zero Money Travel

FILE - In this Jan. 13, 2017, file photo, a blanket of fog covers the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge, top left, in front of the city skyline in San Francisco. What do you do if you don’t have enough points or miles left for lodging? That might mean couch surfing with locals, agreeing to a home exchange or signing up for housesitting. Websites and apps can help you connect with frugal options domestically and abroad. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

Credit card rewards can be your ticket — literally your plane ticket — to a dream destination. But even if you’ve earned what you need to get to where you’re going, the accommodations could be a different story.

What do you do if you don’t have enough points or miles left for lodging?

Couch Surfing

This option works for solo travelers or couples looking to make new friends over a few nights. Since you’re staying in someone’s home, you’ll likely need to “check in and out” at reasonable hours and clean up after yourself.

For Alexander Salas, who runs the YouTube channel Alex Travelbum, giving up some freedom is worth it. He uses the app from, which has allowed him to sleep in 15 countries for free. His trip to Naples, Italy, was the most

memorable, he says.

Home exchanges

This option offers more privacy since you’ll swap your home temporarily with someone else.

Melissa Conn, blogger at The Family Voyage , uses the GuestToGuest website. This service charges about $11 a night or around $147 annually (and you’ll have to pay a damage deposit). The host may also include additional charges or requests.

“Some hosts charge a cash cleaning fee, or they’ll leave a list of items that they want you to do before leaving, ” Conn says. You can offset the costs of such services by cooking in the kitchen to save money on meals. Some homeowners even let you borrow their car, Conn says.


If you don’t mind pets or a few chores while you travel, you can see the world for less.

Nik and Angel Rowell, YouTubers at Roadtrip with Nik, have traveled to Costa Rica and several U.S. states, among other destinations. They frequently use, which also has an app and charges $119 for an annual membership.

Take precautions

If you’re staying with strangers, screen them first. Some subscription services have a verification process, but it’s not always as robust as a traveler might like.

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