Living with credit, Rewards, Shopping, Travel

How to save on parking when holiday shopping

Lyn Mettler

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Parking for holiday shopping is easier now with apps that can find you a spot and let you add time on the meter without leaving the store. No need to circle city blocks looking for a spot and then scrambling to find change.

Parking apps and loyalty programs can also save you time, money and headaches trying to find a space near to stores, hotels and airports.

For example, during a recent trip to Chicago, my family wanted to avoid paying the steep hotel valet parking fee and tips. We also didn’t want to lose time waiting for our car to be retrieved.

What did we do? We hopped online, found iParkit, and booked a spot in a garage across the street from our hotel for $40 less per night than we would have paid the valet. I was sold!

Whether you’re headed to stores, hotels or the airport, here are four ways you can make finding a parking spot less of a stressor – and save money, too.

Parking apps for urban areas
Parking services, such as Parkmobile and iParkit, let drivers find and book parking spots in cities.

“The idea for Parkmobile came from the realization that parking, both finding and paying for it, was something that had not really changed in nearly 100 years,” says CEO Jon Ziglar. “And yet, it was a huge cause of pain for consumers and cities.”

Ziglar says a driver in a large urban area spends an average of 25 minutes looking for parking, and a third of all traffic congestion in major cities is caused by drivers circling for parking spaces.

Most consumers who reserve a parking spot in advance, he says, will save money, in addition to time, versus paying at a lot in person.

These parking apps often offer drivers navigation directly to the parking spot and the ability to add time to a reservation via their smartphone rather than returning to the meter. Some services, such as iParkit, allow in and out privileges over the reservation period.

Philip Menna of Lincroft, New Jersey, says he often uses Parkwhiz and SpotHero and takes advantage of promo codes he gets via email or Google searches to cut costs.

“If they release a $10 off promo code, I can sometimes find a lot for $10 and park for free,” he says, which is what he did over a weekend in Boston. He also scored 12 hours free in New York City on a Saturday.

Airport parking made easier
“Frequent flyers have long considered parking the bane of their existence,” says Dale Fowler, director of INDECT USA, a company that makes parking guidance systems to direct drivers to open spots.

“When you are rushing to catch a flight, the last thing you need is to circle parking floors looking for an elusive open space.”

As a result, airports across the United States are making their parking facilities more customer-friendly, safer and more competitive with independent satellite lots.

As with the parking apps, flyers can use airport parking guidance systems to direct you to an open spot. Some airport parking systems scan your car, so there’s no need to stop to pull a ticket as you enter and to wait in line at a checkout booth as you leave.

But if you’re looking to save money, satellite lots almost always offer the best savings.

Denis Bekaert says he uses United Airport Parking and pays about $6 per day to park.

“They contract with local hotels for use of the hotels’ parking lots and the hotels provide their shuttle service to the airport,” Bekaert says.

Erin Allen of Russellville, Kentucky, uses Park ‘N Fly when she is flying out of Nashville

“I always choose the indoor valet parking, because you pull in, they ask your name to match the online reservation, give you a ticket and tell you to have a great trip,” she says. “While all of this happens, someone else is loading all your luggage in their van.”

“The entire process takes less than five minutes, and it’s a five-minute trip to the airport to be dropped off right by the door!”

Some airport parking companies, such as WallyPark, offer senior citizen discounts and you will often pay less for pre-booking online. WallyPark will not only wash your car but change the oil and dry clean your clothes while you’re gone for an added fee!

Save more with parking loyalty programs
While we tend to think of hotels, airlines and restaurants as having loyalty programs that let you earn miles, points and free meals, many airport parking companies – and some airports – also have frequent-user programs.

Members of The Parking Spot’s free Spot Club, for example, can save at least 15 percent on their parking and ground transportation costs, says Thom Zak, chief client officer of The Parking Spot.

Spot Club members also earn a free day of parking after seven paid days and use their club card for entrance and exit in the parking lot and get a 15 percent discount on car care services like car washes.

Satej Ankolekar, of Huntington, New York, frequently flies for business out of New York City’s busy airports. He uses The Parking Spot exclusively.

“I used to park at the airport, and it was a whopping $60 per day,” he says, adding that The Parking Spot charges $19.95 per day.

Even airports have joined the rewards game.

At Indianapolis International Airport, frequent travelers can join the free parkIND Plus program and earn a point per dollar spent at most garages. Travelers earn a free day in the economy lot after 200 points.

“This is particularly great for business travelers saving up for free parking during their next family vacation,” says Steve Wilson, director of parking operations with the Indianapolis Air Authority.

Members of the parkIND program can use their membership cards, which are tied to a credit card, to pay upon exit and enjoy ticketless entry.

Earn credit card rewards on your parking expenses
With some rewards credit cards, parking is considered a travel expense, meaning you’ll earn points or miles every time you park at the airport.

Cards that earn Chase Ultimate Rewards points, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred and Chase Ink Business Preferred cards, include parking lots in their “travel” category. This means you’ll earn up to three points per dollar spent on parking (depending on which card you use).

The Citi ThankYou credit cards also code parking lot charges as “travel.”

Bottom line: With parking apps, loyalty programs and cards that let you earn rewards on your parking, “You save, time, gas, money and most of all, stress,” Ziglar says.

See related: Holiday guide of credit tips, Rack up card rewards with holiday bonuses, perks

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