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Renowned for its ultra-low cost flights, Spirit Airlines brands itself as "a customizable guest experience," offering a low base fare with fees for extra amenities. When flying Spirit, expect to pay extra for refreshments, seat selection and even carry-on bags.
For the frugal traveler packing all their belongings in one personal item, Spirit aims to deliver. The airline offers two different programs: Free Spirit and the $9 Fare Club. Free Spirit is Spirit's frequent flyer program that's free to join, while the $9 Fare Club is a paid annual membership providing you access to discounted fares and bags.
Just recently, Spirit announced significant changes to the Free Spirit program, set to roll out on Jan. 21, 2021. Previously, the Free Spirit program was filled with quirks and nuances that were difficult to navigate — now Free Spirit offers customer-friendly improvements that enhance the value of this rewards program overall. You'll be able to earn Free Spirit points instead of miles, and enjoy better benefits with newly renamed elite status levels. In this guide, we take a deep dive into the changes to expect as we head into the new year.
Free Spirit elite status levels
Spirit will replace the current Free Spirit elite status levels with Silver and Gold tiers instead. Starting Jan. 21, 2021, you can qualify for either status by meeting a threshold of Status Qualifying Points (SQPs).
- Silver status: Earn 2,000 SQPs in a calendar year
- Gold status: Earn 5,000 SQPs in a calendar year
Any Free Spirit member can earn 1 SQP for every dollar spent on Spirit fares and À La Smarte options, including ancillary purchases such as priority boarding, seat selection and bag fees. Free Spirit cardholders can get to elite status faster, as you'll earn 1 SQP for every 10 dollars in net purchases made with your card. Once you reach Silver or Gold, you'll hold elite status for the remainder of the qualifying year and the entire next calendar year.
Free Spirit member benefits
Besides an elevated earnings rate, the previous elite status benefits were almost nonexistent. Now, Silver and Gold members can earn real benefits that provide a ton of value, since standard Spirit flyers are normally charged for these benefits. Gold status members can even bring a carry-on and checked bag, completely free-of-charge. These exciting changes will be sure to motivate loyal Spirit customers to work toward elite status, thanks to reasonable spending thresholds.
How to earn Free Spirit rewards
In addition to earning elite-qualifying SQPs, Free Spirit members will earn points for every dollar spent on Spirit Airlines — keep in mind, though, that any taxes and fees will not earn Free Spirit points.
Your membership level determines how many points you'll earn:
- Free Spirit members earn 6 points per dollar spent on fares and 12 points per dollar spent on À La Smarte options.
- Silver members earn 8 points per dollar spent on fares and 16 points per dollar spent on À La Smarte options.
- Gold members earn 10 points per dollar spent on fares and 20 points per dollar spent on À La Smarte options.
These are huge improvements from the previous earnings rate, which was based on distance rather than dollars spent. For example, standard members used to only earn 50% miles on the distance they flew. Now, Free Spirit offers bonuses for all members in a much more lucrative fashion.
Pool your Free Spirit points together
Points pooling is one of the unique additions to the Free Spirit program that many other airlines don't offer. Free Spirit Silver and Gold members and Free Spirit credit cardholders will be able to combine Free Spirit points with up to eight friends and family members for no additional charge (members of that group will also need to have a Free Spirit credit card or those higher tiers of membership). You'll be able to start your pool and track the progress on your Free Spirit account. This is an excellent way to gather unused points among your circle.
Spirit Airlines partner programs
Spirit Airlines has several partnerships that help you earn mileage through other existing programs. From car rentals to hotels, you can earn extra miles on common travel purchases you make alongside your airfare.
|Car rental||Avis||Save up to 35% off base rates. Until Dec. 31, 2020, earn 500 miles on rentals of three or more days at participating Avis locations worldwide. Offer expires Dec. 31, 2020.|
|Budget||Save up to 30% off base rates. Until Dec. 31, 2020, earn 500 miles on rentals of three more days at participating Budget locations worldwide.|
|Dollar||Earn 50 miles per day on rentals of one to four days. Earn 500 miles for rentals of five days or more.|
|Hertz||Earn 50 miles per day on rentals of one to four days. Earn 500 miles for rentals of five days or more.|
|Payless||Save 5% on rentals in the U.S. and Canada. Earn 50 miles per rental day.|
|Thrifty||Earn 50 miles per day on rentals of one to four days. Earn 500 miles for rentals of five days or more.|
|Hotels||Choice Hotels||Earn 250 miles each stay in the U.S., Caribbean, Mexico, Canada, Europe and Australia.|
|PointsHound||Earn up to 6,000 miles per night at over 150,000 hotels worldwide.|
|Other||Miles for Thoughts||Earn 400 miles when you complete your first survey. Earn additional miles for completing other surveys.|
|Ticket Club||Enjoy a free Ticket Club membership, plus $10 off your first purchase.|
|Vinesse Wine Club||Get six wines for only $6.99 per bottle ($41.94 total) + 1¢ shipping. Plus, earn 5,000 miles.|
If you're short a few hundred (or thousand) Free Spirit miles, any of these partnerships can help you earn extra rewards in no time. Be sure to use the Spirit partner-affiliate link and include your Free Spirit number to ensure you receive the correct number of miles.
Free Spirit dining and shopping portals
Many frequent flyer programs offer dining and shopping portals, which are excellent ways to earn miles on your everyday purchases.
By signing up for the Free Spirit dining program, you can search for participating restaurants, bars and clubs in your area, then link your credit or debit card to your account. Every time you dine at a participating location, you'll earn miles for every dollar you spend:
- Basic members earn 1 mile per $2 spent if you elect not to receive email communications from Free Spirit Dining.
- Select members earn 3 miles per $1 spent if you elect to receive email communications from Free Spirit Dining.
- VIP members earn 5 miles per $1 spent if you elect to receive email communications from Free Spirit Dining and have already completed 11 qualified transactions in the calendar year.
Assuming you dine more than 11 times per year, it should be a breeze to qualify for VIP status to earn Free Spirit rewards even faster.
The Free Spirit Online Mall is Spirit's online shopping portal, carrying thousands of brands you may already buy. To start earning miles, create an account, shop through the portal with the retailer of your choice and earn miles right away — some retailers have bonus offers as high as 10 miles per $1 spent. This is another effortless way to earn Free Spirit rewards on purchases you make daily.
Spirit flies to many tropical destinations, from Jamaica to the U.S. Virgin Islands. If you're a cruise fan, you can book your next trip on Spirit's portal, Spirit Cruises. Along with the best price guarantee, you can earn bonus Free Spirit miles on a variety of Cruise lines, depending on the length of your cruise:
- 1-5 nights: 1,500 miles
- 6-8 nights: 3,000 miles
- 9-12 nights: 5,000 miles
- 13+ nights: 10,000 miles
Spirit Cruises come equipped with cruise experts available 24/7 to help you find your perfect itinerary.
Buy Free Spirit rewards
If you're in a pinch, one last way you can earn some Free Spirit points is by purchasing them. This option should rarely be considered, as it will cost almost ten times as much as the miles are worth. You can currently buy 1,000 miles for $25 — that's a value of $0.025 each. In reality, Spirit miles are worth about $0.003, making this an extremely poor purchase. In general, you should stray away from buying airline points and miles, as they never live up to its actual value.
How to redeem Free Spirit points
Redeeming Free Spirit points for award travel can be a hassle. For example, you can't use your points for ancillary amenities through Spirit's À La Smarte options. Plus, unlike many airline loyalty programs, Spirit charges a redemption fee on award travel. This non-refundable, per-guest redemption fee will increase the closer you book to your departure date, with fees as high as $75 — which, in some cases, could be as high as the fare itself, entirely negating the transaction.
With the new Free Spirit changes, however, redemption fees still exist — but with more lax restrictions:
- At least three months in advance: No redemption fees
- 22-90 days in advance: $10 redemption fee
- Within 21 days of departure: $50 redemption fee
Although these fees can still be quite pesky, there are a few ways to bypass them. For Free Spirit credit card holders and Silver or Gold elite members, you'll never pay a redemption fee on award travel.
And it doesn't stop there — Spirit has added several other changes that make it easier than ever to redeem Free Spirit points. Spirit has finally discontinued its antiquated award chart and extended the life of your Free Spirit points, as well as adding a new Points + Cash redemption option.
The Free Spirit Award Chart will be discontinued
Many airlines have eliminated their award charts over the years, making it difficult for users to know how many points or miles they need for redemption. The new Free Spirit program will also do away with its award chart — but fret not, this is a positive change.
The existing award chart uses two factors to determine the mileage required — the time of travel and distance. The published redemptions required tons of miles depending on the travel date, rarely resulting in a good value.
Now, the number of Free Spirit points needed will depend on the cash price of the flight. The lower the price, the fewer Free Spirit points you'll need — and vice versa. Finally, redemptions will start as low as 2,500 points. These changes will likely raise the value of Free Spirit rewards.
New Free Spirit Points + Cash option
If you're short on points, the new Free Spirit Points + Cash option can help you mix and match. You can use as little as 1,000 points with cash to cover the flight balance. This new feature will exist on every flight (and every seat) available.
Leveraging the Points + Cash option can be a great way to avoid Spirit's redemption charges, as it won't require any additional fees. By shelling out the bare minimum of points needed and paying the rest of the fare in cash, you could avoid the pesky redemption fee altogether.
Free Spirit points expiration
Before these changes, Free Spirit points expired within three months of no account activity. This was one of the major issues with Free Spirit, putting it among the lower end of loyalty programs. Thanks to the major revamp, points won't expire until there are 12 months of no account activity, or if you're a Free Spirit member with an open Free Spirit credit card account.
There are plenty of ways to keep your account active without purchasing airfare. By leveraging any of Spirit's partner programs or using its dining and shopping portals, you can keep your account alive. Now, you'll also have a more generous window to keep your account active.
Spirit $9 Fare Club, explained
The $9 Fare Club is a membership that offers exclusive access to flight and baggage discounts. The program costs $59.95 for the first year and will automatically renew each year for $69.95. If you frequently travel with your family or in groups, you could save a lot of money through the following benefits:
- Discounted fares and vacation packages, available for $9 Fare Club members only
- Up to 50% off bag fees, compared to paying upfront at the airport
- Discounts apply for you and up to eight other people on your same booking itinerary
Spirit claims that members can "offset the enrollment cost in as little as one booking." Savings could add up quickly if you apply the discounted fares and bag fees to your itinerary, so this membership has the potential to be incredibly rewarding for the most loyal Spirit flyers.
If you're not convinced, you can sign up for the two-month trial membership for $19.95. Unless you cancel before the end of the trial period, your membership will automatically renew at $69.95 per year.
Credit cards that earn Free Spirit rewards
The Spirit Airlines World MasterCard® Credit Card's offers and/or promotions may have since changed, expired, or are no longer available.
Spirit currently offers the Spirit Airlines World MasterCard® Credit Card through Bank of America, with a $59 annual fee waived in the first year. The current sign-up bonus lets users up to 30,000 bonus miles. Get 15,000 bonus miles after your first purchase plus an additional 15,000 bonus miles after making at least $500 in purchases within 90 days of account opening. In terms of the rewards rate, you'll Earn 2 Free Spirit miles for every $1 spent on all purchases.
The card lacks Spirit loyalty benefits, but its most considerable perk is that it offers discounted redemption rates on flights with no blackout dates. While the Spirit Airlines World MasterCard® Credit Card is a mediocre airline card overall, the onset of the Free Spirit changes could make the rewards much more valuable.
Spirit has announced some significant changes to their co-branded cards, suggesting that launch day will bring in additional cards with benefits such as a companion discount. While the exact details are unclear now, the existing Spirit Airlines World MasterCard® Credit Card will be rebranded to the Free Spirit Mastercard with the following benefits:
- Points pooling ability
- 25% rebate on in-flight food and beverage purchases
- Points will not expire as long as the card account is open
- Zone 2 priority boarding
- No redemption fees
- Everyday purchases will earn SQPs to get you closer to Free Spirit Silver and Gold member status
These benefits are exciting new improvements and make the card much more competitive among the airline-affiliated cards market. Existing cardholders do not need to take any action and will receive more information from the bank in December. More concrete details surrounding the new Free Spirit credit cards will be released on Jan. 21, 2021.
Airline loyalty programs are mutually beneficial for the consumer and the airline — so it's nice to see Spirit implementing changes to make their Free Spirit program worthwhile. The new rewards are much more on par with other successful loyalty programs out there. With the ongoing pandemic, Spirit will finally offer perks that are not only useful but attainable — from its co-branded credit cards to new elite status levels.
The information related to Spirit Airlines World MasterCard® Credit Card has been independently collected by ValuePenguin and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of this card prior to publication.