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Whether you travel a lot or a little, you know that your expenses aren’t limited to airfare, hotels food and excursions. Getting to and from your home airport can get pricey.
Of course, there are always cabs, Lyft, Uber and even shared airport transfer services, but what if you want to drive your own car? Not only is it convenient, but it can be cost-effective as well. That’s especially true if you travel with any frequency, as most airport parking companies run their own loyalty programs — and, to sweeten the deal even further, you can often earn bonus points for your spending by using the right credit card.
Want to drive your own car to/from the airport? Use a multi-layered approach to maximize your savings and earnings.
Use the Right Credit Card
There are two Chase credit cards you’ll want to consider for parking: Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred. Chase quite generously counts parking lots and garages as travel, so you’ll earn 3x points on the CSR and 2x points on the CSP. Plus, the Sapphire Reserve’s $300 annual travel credit can be using toward parking.
If you have a Citi Premier Card, you’ll earn 3x points on travel including parking lots and garages. Interestingly, the more expensive Citi Prestige card defines travel more narrowly, so you’ll only earn 3x points on purchases made at airlines and hotels, so don’t use it for airport parking and expect to earn bonus points.
Offsite Parking Companies
It might be nice to drive into the airport parking lot and walk to your terminal, but there are two problems with this approach: it can be very expensive, and the lot might be full. An off-site airport parking lot will almost always give you a much better deal, and there are frequent shuttles to and from the airport, so you shouldn’t have to wait long.
With a presence at 44 airports in 40 cities (as of publish time), this is probably the biggest off-site airport parking company in the US. If the ParkRideFly locations work for you, check the current coupons and join the Frequent Parker Program (you’ll earn 5 points just for signing up). A free day of parking nationwide costs 10 points.
Examples of available discounts include 10% off with a coupon code for all users through June 1, 2018 and with another code for AAA members, 12% off for AARP members and 10% automatically when you pay with a Mastercard small business card. The terms and conditions don’t explicitly forbid stacking the Mastercard rebate with other discounts, so you could be looking at big savings if you can combine it with a coupon code.
The Parking Spot
The Parking Spot currently has lots at 21 airports in 18 cities (a lot is scheduled to open at SLC in Salt Lake City in December 2018). The Parking Spot also offers coupons on its website, which seem to be airport-specific and sometimes more generous than ParkRideFly’s — up to 40% at some airports. The Parking Spot also runs a loyalty program called theSpotClub. You’ll receive 5 points per dollar, and you’ll get a free day after as few as seven paid days of parking. There are also elite tiers, from Silver to Platinum, that offer additional benefits to members.
Fast Park & Relax
Fast Park & Relax operates 14 airports in 13 cities (a Chicago Midway parking lot opens in Q4, 2018). Owners of electric vehicles will be glad to know that all Fast Park & Relax locations offer complimentary charging.
Fast Park & Relax doesn’t offer coupons or discounts on its website, but it will “honor many membership discounts including AAA and AARP,” and “make certain veterans and active military receive special offers as well.” It also accepts competitors’ coupons that need to be presented “upon exit.”
The Relax for Rewards program offers a progressive redemption scheme. You get 1 point for one paid day, and you can redeem 8 points for one free day, 20 points for three consecutive free days and 40 points for one free week of parking, so your free parking day can cost you from ~6 to 8 points.
Park ’N Fly
Park ’N Fly runs 16 parking locations, but it can also let you book 65 partners’ locations. The problem is that you can only earn and redeem rewards at Park ’N Fly’s own locations at:
- Park ’N Fly Atlanta
- Park ’N Fly PLUS
- Park ’N Fly Nashville
- Park ’N Fly Cleveland
- Park ’N Fly Dallas
- Park ’N Fly Ft. Lauderdale
- Park ’N Fly Houston
- Park ’N Fly Los Angeles
- Park ’N Fly Miami
- Park ’N Fly Minneapolis
- Park ’N Fly New Orleans
- Park ’N Fly Oakland
- Park ’N Fly Ontario
- Park ’N Fly San Francisco
- Park ’N Fly San Diego
The Park ’N Fly Frequent Parker Program appears to be fairly straightforward. You earn one free day of parking for every seven paid days. Elite Gold and Platinum members will receive one and two free days of parking for reaching their respective tiers.
I didn’t find any coupons or discounts on the Park ’N Fly website — check general coupon sites or your local Groupon deals.
WallyPark has 12 locations in 11 cities. As of publish time it was running a 15%-25% spring promotion with the code MAYSTAY. It also offers corporate discounts, as well as discounts for AAA members, senior citizens and government employees.
The WallyPark loyalty program is called WallyClub. You earn 1 point per dollar spent and you can redeem 10 points for one dollar off. In other words, you’re getting $1 back for every $10, or a 10% reward.
Thrifty Airport Parking
Thrifty Airport Parking operates off-site airport parking locations in 11 cities. Thrifty has an unusual rewards program in that it offers two options. You can choose which one is more appealing based on your travel patterns.
- Preferred Reward Points
If you enroll in the Preferred Reward Points program, you’ll receive 1 point for each paid day, and 12 points will buy you a free day of parking. Preferred Reward Points members also get access to discounts that vary by the location (starting at 10%).
- Blue Chip Express
You’ll earn 5 Thrifty Blue Chip Rewards credits when you park three times within a 12-month period, but one free rental day will cost you 16 points.
PreFlight parking lots are present at seven airports in six cities. It offers coupons that vary for each individual parking lot.
PreFlight’s loyalty program, called Frequent Parker, offers a choice of free parking days or airline miles. You get either one free day of parking for six paid days or one mile with American or United for every dollar spent.
Choosing the Best Option for You
When you consider what program to join, make sure to take into account more than just the price. Check the shuttle schedule, and read reviews from other customers to see the complaints and praises. Sometimes, a small local company can provide superior service.
Booking through the company with the most locations in the US might not be that important when you remember that you use their services predominantly at your home airport(s). So if you find that a local company with one or a few locations offers a better deal, you might want to stick with them; even more so in that some local airport parking companies and airports might also offer their own rewards programs.
Airpark operates parking lots at JFK, LGA, and (in partnership with Newark Long Term Parking) EWR. Airpark runs its own Frequent Parker Program, where you earn one point for every day of parking (one free day of parking costs seven points). These benefits don’t apply to EWR, but Newark Long Term Parking has its own rewards program called LTP Club, and you get 10 points (enough for one free parking day) just for signing up.
Although the trend is more prevalent in Europe than the US, some airports also run their own rewards programs. That’s worth checking out if you’d rather park on-site. Jacksonville International Airport, for example, runs The JAX Passport Frequent Parker Program. The JAX Passport member earns 10 points per dollar (valet parking excluding), and a free parking day starts at 500 points.
This is one of the top premium cards out there since you earn 3x on all travel (excluding $300 travel credit) and dining and have access to great perks like a $300 travel credit each cardmember year, 50% more value when you redeem points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards and you get elite travel benefits like Global Entry application fee rebate, Priority Pass Select and special rental car privileges.
- Earn 50K bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Named "Best Premium Travel Credit Card" for 2018 by MONEY® Magazine
- $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
- 3X points on travel immediately after earning your $300 travel credit. 3X points on dining at restaurants & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases. $0 foreign transaction fees.
- Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
- 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
- Access to 1,000+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select
- Up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®