May 20, 2022
Ramsey Qubein, Freelance Writer for Nerdwallet.com
Airport rewards programs may help you get discounts on parking and shopping, free Wi-Fi and lounge access.
Hotels and airlines aren’t the only travel-related organizations with appealing loyalty programs. Airports have them, too. An airport rewards program can deliver some great benefits and encourage travelers to fly more from an individual airport.
Should you join an airport rewards program? Most are free, so there is little downside. While it won’t send you first class to a tropical resort with miles or points, an airport loyalty program can still help make your overall travel experience more pleasant.
Here’s why you should join an airport loyalty program and where to find them before your next trip.
Why join an airport loyalty program
Airports are competing for your business just like airlines, especially as passengers may be willing to drive longer distances to reach an airport with lower fares.
Loyalty programs help airports hang on to more travelers by dangling enticing benefits in their direction, and they help travelers by giving them access to frequent discounts or other perks, like free Wi-Fi or the ability to redeem points for gift cards.
6 top airport rewards programs around the world
1. London — Heathrow Rewards
Do you travel to — or through — London often? Try Heathrow Rewards, London Heathrow’s airport loyalty program. Though the airport is known for providing travelers with an experience akin to shopping at a mall, the airport’s loyalty program offers even more incentive to add LHR as a stop on any journey.
How it works: Register your credit card during enrollment in the program, and you’ll collect 10 points for every roughly $14 (£10) spent at dozens of retail brands, restaurants, bars and hotels, plus on parking at Heathrow and Heathrow Express transportation. Even currency exchanged at Travelex will earn points. Additional points may be earned at Heathrow’s airport lounges and by booking hotels through Rocketmiles — between 500 and 10,000 points per night on reservations.
Redeeming rewards is easy, as members receive a physical (or virtual) card to scan for payments at participating stores and Heathrow Express train tickets. Five hundred points is worth about $7 (£5), and when used for parking at Heathrow, 500 points is worth about $14 (£10). The same equation is provided through airport shopping vouchers that can be used at dozens of airport stores and outlets. You can also use your points toward your miles program, including Miles & More by Lufthansa, British Airways Avios and Emirates Skywards (250 Heathrow Rewards points equals 250 miles).
Nerdy tip: You can also convert airline miles into Heathrow Rewards with some airlines. For example, 6,000 Emirates Skywards miles convert to 2,000 Heathrow Rewards points. This isn’t the best value of using your miles, but is an option if you have orphan miles sitting in an Emirates account.
New members to Heathrow Rewards receive 100 points just for registering. You can also earn points for having items delivered to your home or referring a friend.
There’s an elite tier, known as Heathrow Rewards Premium, reserved for members who spend at least about $1,057 (£750) during the calendar year. Premium members earn twice as many points (20 points for every approximately $14 spent), which makes the rewards add up faster.
2. Paris — My Paris Aeroport
Do you fly in and out of France often? You could sign up for My Paris Aeroport. In Paris, Charles de Gaulle offers the My Paris Aeroport program. Being a member means access to free high-speed Wi-Fi at the airport, plus an ongoing 5% discount at participating airport shops and on parking booked online or via the Paris Aeroport app. Members collect 2 points for about every $2.44 (€2) spent in participating stores.
Once you reach the 500 point threshold, you’ll receive a voucher good for about $6 (€5) in partner shops or about $12 (€10) off your next parking booking made online or in the app. You can also transfer 500 points to 500 miles with Air France/KLM Flying Blue or 250 hotel points toward Accor Live Limitless. Additional deals are offered on the website, including discounts on the commission to exchange currency at Travelex and luggage delivery services.
New members receive 100 points for registering and about a $6 (€5) discount on the first online car booking. Refer a friend and you both receive an additional 500 points.
3. Milan — ViaMilano
If you visit Italy with regularity, ViaMilano may work for you. Frequent travelers through Milan Malpensa or Milan Linate airports might consider joining the ViaMilano program, which partners with more than 200 stores and restaurants while also providing members a 15% discount on parking. Earn 10 points for about every $1.22 (€1) you spend at partner locations.
Take your well-earned points and receive VIP Lounge access (9,000 points), a chance to expedite, or “Fast Track” your airport security and boarding experience (2,000 points) or receive vouchers worth about $18 (€15) to $55 (€45) to use at the program’s partners (starting at 6,000 points).
New members will receive 200 bonus points and two Fast Track passes after making their first purchase.
4. Auckland — The Strata Club
For New Zealand travelers, The Strata Club in Auckland Airport is the Kiwi way. Like other international airports, free Wi-Fi is an immediate benefit of the program, and you’ll earn points when shopping, dining and parking. Where the program differs is in its elite tier structure, which provides additional benefits for those in Silver, Gold or Platinum status. A free drink, parking upgrades and lounge access are granted for members who spend $181 for Silver ($250 NZD), about $580 for Gold ($800 NZD) or $1,450 for Platinum ($2,000 NZD) in a year. Regardless of status, spend about 72 cents ($1 NZD) and you’ll earn a point.
Vouchers are provided as rewards for your purchases. Every 500 points equates to a roughly $3.62 ($5 NZD) voucher that can be used at partner shops, restaurants, cafes and bars. Earn and redeem at a variety of airport shops and restaurants, an online shopping mall, car rentals, airport parking and lounges, and even for travel insurance through Cigna.
» Learn more: How to find the best travel insurance
5. Singapore — Changi Rewards
Changi Rewards is yet another Singapore Airport perk. Singapore Airport, known for many glamorous features — like a swimming pool, cinema and butterfly garden — offers its reward program as one more incentive to entice frequent travelers. The program provides discounts on eligible purchases, plus promotions, such as double points on the user’s birthday and regular rebates, among other benefits.
Gold and Platinum elite tiers take the benefits to greater heights. These are achieved based on how much someone spends within a calendar year. Members can earn points to redeem for cash discounts to offset purchases or transfer to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles. The more you spend, the more benefits there are, including perks like free parking and lounge access.
6. The U.S. — Thanks Again
A frequent flyer in the U.S.? Join Thanks Again, a rewards program that works with more than 100 airports. Enroll and enter your credit cards (up to 99 credit cards are allowed per membership account), then you’re all set to earn points for dollars spent at participating partners.
In Miami, for instance, earn points at restaurants like Corona Beach House or Jamba Juice. Shop at CNBC for points in San Francisco, and at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International, earn points for parking, shopping and dining, including fast food options like Arby’s.
When you’re ready to redeem points, visit your online account to discover what redemption deals are available. Spend your points for gift cards, such as a $15 Amazon or Uber gift card (1,500 points) or airline gift cards, like $50 to spend on Delta (5,000 points) or $100 on American (10,000 points).
Other U.S. airports
- Florida’s Gainesville Regional Airport. GNV developed the Ultimate Road Warrior program that offers monthly prizes to its most frequent travelers. These include tickets to local attractions, free food and beverages, and even hotel loyalty points. The airport also opened its own executive lounge for members to access via private code as another perk.
- Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. MDT offers the Susquehanna Club lounge for its rewards members, complete with free coffee and soft drinks, plus private work space.
- Colorado Springs Airport. COS Premier members in Colorado Springs can use the airport’s lounge with free snacks and drinks (interestingly, top elite members of many airlines can use the facility, too). While COS Premier membership is not free, it does come with perks like free valet parking and airport shopping discounts.
- Lafayette, Louisiana. LFT offers the Fly Lafayette program, which gives frequent flyers the chance to win rewards for every flight they take. Each trip registers the passenger for a drawing to score prizes like free meals or local merchant gift cards.
- Binghamton, New York. Here, travelers can earn prizes like free parking the more they fly. Its Business Travelers Rewards Program helps to encourage flyers to stay local rather than drive to a nearby airport.
- Indianapolis International Airport. IND has its own frequent parking program known as parkIND Plus where frequent travelers can earn comped parking.
- Buffalo/Niagara Falls, New York. This airport has a “frequent parker” program that rewards travelers for parking a car at the airport.
- Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton, Pennsylvania’s airport. Aero Club at ABE provides parking privileges to travelers that fly at least 15 times within a 12 month period from the airport.
Duty-free shoppers can save even more
It’s more than just airports joining the loyalty train, duty-free shops have their own programs, too. For example, RED by Dufry is popular with shoppers. This group includes tax-free stores in airports around the world, like World Duty Free and Nuance brands — among others — plus Hudson stores in North America.
Members show a QR code with each purchase to take advantage of discounts, and can save even more when they achieve elite status (earned by spending more). Shoppers earn 4 points for each dollar spent. The moment you join, base-level members (Silver) receive 5% off purchases. Gold status earns 7% off while Platinum status saves 10%.
Take advantage of airport rewards programs when you fly
Airports offering free loyalty programs are making it worth it for in-the-know travelers to join with nothing to lose and quite a bit to gain.
About the author: Ramsey Qubein is a freelance writer and editor who travels more than 450,000 miles a year. With 166 countries under his belt and counting, he has a wealth of knowledge about loyalty programs and credit card perks to help people travel more efficiently and in style without breaking the bank.