Frequent travellers, whether for business or pleasure, should never underestimate how much they can spend at the airport before taking off. From baggage fees, to pre-flight meals and entertainment, to airport parking, these extra costs add up quickly. Thankfully, there are more than a few loyalty tips and tricks that can help you avoid spending cold, hard cash before your next flight – or to help you turn those expenses into free travel!

''From food to WiFi, here’s how to use points and miles to spend less at the airport.''Click To Tweet

Pack a travel rewards credit card

Whether you’re looking for a place to park or want to grab a bite to eat while you wait, a travel rewards credit card can help you rack up enough points and miles to turn your dream vacation into reality. For drivers, points earned just by charging airport parking to loyalty cards like the Citi ThankYou Premier card could eventually earn you an award flight if you’re a frequent-enough traveller.

Do you want to reap the same loyalty rewards? Sign up for a travel rewards credit card that will help maximize your earning opportunities. For example, those getting dropped off at the airport can use the Hilton HHonors Surpass Card from American Express to earn six times the points for each dollar spent on a quick meal before a flight.

Ask for an upgrade

If you tend to be a not-so-light packer, you might want to consider redeeming your points and miles for a seat upgrade on your next flight. Plenty of airlines waive costly checked baggage fees on premium tickets. For example, Alaska Airlines allows first-class passengers to check up to two bags for free – a savings of $50. Not only will you avoid paying baggage fees on each flight, but you’ll also be rested and ready to go when you arrive at your destination. Take advantage of this opportunity by logging into your Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan account and redeeming the miles you’ve earned for an upgrade to first class. Or, better yet, save those miles if there’s a chance first-class seats are open at the last minute. As a loyal customer, if you ask at the right time, you just might get that upgrade for free.

For Virgin America Elevate members, many of the same benefits apply. Use the points you’ve collected to book a refundable Main Cabin or Main Cabin Select ticket and you’ll be eligible to check your first bag for free. You can also redeem your loyalty points for a first-class seat to earn two free checked bags.

Surf the web

Rather than counting down the minutes until boarding, hopping on airport Wi-Fi to get some work done or plan some last-minute vacation activities is an ideal way to pass the time. Atlanta, Denver and San Francisco are some of the few airports that offer free Wi-Fi to travellers. Other airports charge you for internet access by the hour, day, month or even year.

Luckily, those with the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card and Starwood Preferred Guest Business Credit Card from American Express can enjoy a complimentary Boingo membership, which offers 2,000 minutes of free, high-speed Wi-Fi at hundreds of airports and other public locations each month. If you’re a Starwood member, you can connect to Wi-Fi in the terminal without opening your wallet.

So the next time you find yourself at the airport, consider tapping into your loyalty rewards and save your hard-earned cash for where it counts – vacation!