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TravelHow to use airport rewards programs to get free perks like parking

How to use airport rewards programs to get free perks like parking

I’ve flown in and out of Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport (SDF) for over a decade now.

Every time I stepped into the parking garage elevator, I would see a sign for the SDF Rewards Frequent Parker Program, and every time I stepped out, I promptly forgot about it.

The signs were everywhere, and I eventually realized I was likely missing out by ignoring them — it took five minutes to sign up for the SDF Rewards program. A few days later, I received a transponder that monitors how frequently I park at the airport. After six trips, I earned enough points to park for free during a weekend trip to New York.

Related: Don’t miss out: Get perks just for signing up with these loyalty programs

I am signed up for several free loyalty programs, from McDonald’s to Marriott. If I’m being honest, I get just as excited to earn a free Diet Coke as a free hotel night. So why not add free airport parking to the mix?

However, SDF isn’t the only airport with a loyalty rewards program; several airports worldwide offer programs where you can earn free parking, meals, lounge access and other rewards. The programs are free to join, so sign up and start earning today.

What are airport loyalty rewards programs?

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Much like hotel loyalty and frequent flyer programs, airport loyalty programs reward frequent customers. The more often you visit a participating airport, the more rewards you can potentially earn. It’s a win-win situation for both airports and travelers: The programs encourage patrons to spend more time and money in airports, and travelers have the opportunity to rack up freebies and discounts.

Several major and regional airports participate in these free frequent traveler programs, and you aren’t limited to solely signing up for your home airport’s program — If you regularly transit through any other airports, consider signing up for their loyalty programs as well.

What can you earn with airport loyalty rewards programs?

Denver International Airport. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Airport loyalty programs reward travelers with points based on how much money they spend on things such as parking, food and merchandise. You can then use those points on things like:

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  • Free parking
  • Gift cards
  • Cash back
  • Airline miles
  • Lounge access

Keep in mind that each airport loyalty program works differently, though; some get pretty creative with their rewards.

For example, the Fly Lafayette Club at Lafayette Regional Airport (LFT) in Louisiana rewards members by entering them into monthly giveaways. Each time you visit the airport and swipe your driver’s license or membership card at a designated kiosk, you are automatically entered to win monthly prizes such as meals, merchandise, gift certificates and more.

The GNV Ultimate Road Warrior Club at Georgia’s Gainesville Regional Airport (GNV) also gives out monthly rewards, which are donated by local businesses such as museums and restaurants. However, once a month, it rewards the passenger who took the most round trips through GNV with a special grand prize. Whether or not you win, all Road Warrior members get private airport lounge access.

Our favorite airport loyalty rewards programs

Boston Logan International Airport. DAVID SLOTNICK/THE POINTS GUY

This isn’t an exhaustive list of airport loyalty rewards programs. Rather, we sought to highlight programs located at some of the busiest airports in the world or ones that are exceptionally lucrative. Next time you fly, do a quick search to see if any of the airports you’ll be passing through have a frequent flyer program and sign up before your trip.

  • Buffalo Niagara International Airport (BUF) Frequent Parker Program: Earn points toward free parking and get access to dedicated airport parking entry and exit lanes.
  • Harrisburg International Airport (MDT) Susquehanna Club: Travelers age 21 and above who fly at least 25,000 miles per year on an airline serving MDT can join the Susquehanna Club airport lounge.
  • Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport (GSP) Parking Rewards: Sign up online and prebook parking to earn reward points. You earn one day of free parking for every 10 days of paid parking.
  • Greater Binghamton Airport (BGM) Business Travelers Rewards Program: This program has three tier levels, each based on how often you park at the airport. You can earn perks like free parking and gift cards to use at airport restaurants.
  • Indianapolis International Airport (IND) parkIND Plus Program: Members earn points toward free parking every time they park at the airport.
  • Heathrow Airport (LHR) Heathrow Rewards: Members earn points by spending money at participating airport retailers, bars, restaurants, hotel partners, lounges, prebooked parking facilities and more. Points can be used for discounts on shopping and parking or transferred to select airlines.
  • Paris Aeroport’s Extime Rewards: This loyalty program is valid at both Paris-Orly Airport (ORY) and Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). After signing up, you can receive discounts on airport services like parking and luggage wrapping. You can also earn points at participating airport retailers or when prebooking parking. Points can be redeemed for parking or at select retailers.
  • Thanks Again Rewards: More than 100 airports, including Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and Miami International Airport (MIA), partner with Thanks Again to provide frequent travelers with rewards. When you register, you can link your debit and/or credit cards to your account and earn points when you use your linked cards to shop, dine and park at participating airports. You can redeem your accrued points for gift cards, cash back or Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles.

The best credit cards for airport perks

Louisville Muhammad Ali International Airport gift shop. LOUISVILLE MUHAMMAD ALI INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

With most airport loyalty programs, you have to spend money to earn rewards. You might as well put those costs on a credit card that can improve your airport experience even more. Here are a few of the best credit cards for perks like lounge access and airport dining:

The following cards are some of our favorite cards for airport lounge access:

  • Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card: This card provides access to more than 1,300 lounges, including Capital One Lounges and the Partner Lounge Network.
  • The Business Platinum Card® from American Express: With the American Express Global Lounge Collection, cardholders can access over 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries, including Centurion lounges, Delta Sky Club lounges (limited to 10 annual visits from Feb. 1, 2025) and Priority Pass Select lounges. Enrollment is required.
  • The Platinum Card® from American Express: With the American Express Global Lounge Collection, cardholders can access over 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries, including Centurion lounges, Delta Sky Club lounges (limited to 10 annual visits from Feb. 1, 2025) and Priority Pass Select lounges. Enrollment is required.
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve®: After an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass Select, you can access more than 1,300 airport lounges worldwide.
  • Delta SkyMiles® Reserve American Express Card: Complimentary unlimited access to the Delta Sky Club lounges when you are traveling on a Delta flight. Starting in February 2025, this benefit will change to 15 free annual visits, with unlimited annual visits after spending $75,000 in a year.

The following cards offer a free meal for you and a guest ($28-$30 value per person) at participating Priority Pass restaurants at more than 20 airports.

*The information for the Bank of America Premium Rewards Elite, Citi Prestige, J.P. Morgan Reserve, Ritz-Carlton and UBS Visa Infinite cards has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

The Citi Prestige card is not taking new applicants, and you can’t apply for the Ritz-Carlton card, though you can obtain it if you have another Marriott credit card from Chase.

Bottom line

Airport loyalty rewards programs aren’t the most lucrative programs out there, but you have nothing to lose by signing up for a free membership. If you spend money on things like airport parking and dining, these programs can help you earn valuable rewards that you can use toward future trips.

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