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Which Ultra-Low-Cost Airline Credit Card Is Best for You?

Which Ultra-Low-Cost Airline Credit Card Is Best for You?

*Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It may not have been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuer. This site may be compensated through a credit card issuer partnership.

This article was last updated Mar 15, 2019. Terms and conditions may have changed. For the most accurate information, please consult the issuer website.

For those who like to travel but don’t want to pay a lot for it, you might be tempted to fly on one of the four U.S.-based ultra-low-cost carriers. Allegiant Air, Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines and Sun Country Airlines offer rock-bottom airfares — but they also charge fees for everything from carry-on bags to calling customer service.

Other things these airlines have in common are smaller route networks, no airline partnerships and loyalty programs with fewer options to redeem miles. If you’re willing to play the fee-avoidance game and you’re good with where these carriers can fly, you can get solid savings on flights.

The four airlines offer credit cards designed to target their most loyal flyers. In general, their cards are best for travelers who fly each of these airlines pretty exclusively despite their limited networks. Potential cardholders must also be fine redeeming the points they earn on these cards mainly for travel on these four carriers. We’ll take a look at what we like about these cards and what potential customers should watch out for before hitting the apply button.

Allegiant World Mastercard®

What we like

Nice sign-up bonus. New cardmembers 15,000 bonus points, equal to $150 off your next Allegiant trip, after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. That bonus adds up to $150 after enrolling in the myAllegiant Rewards™ loyalty program.

Higher points. Cardmembers earn a sweet 3 points per $1 spent on Allegiant purchases (air, hotel, car rental and attractions), 2 points per $1 on qualifying dining purchases, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.. Redeem those points for airfares, hotels and car rentals at the myAllegiant Rewards website. Travelers should also appreciate the higher points per dollar spent for dining on this card.

Take a friend. The card’s buy one, get one free airfare program is a nice deal. Use the card to book an Allegiant vacation package for four or more hotel nights or seven or more rental car days. When you add a friend or family to your itinerary, they get free airfare, plus you earn points when you purchase the buy-one-get-one itinerary with your card.

Flight perks. Show the Allegiant World Mastercard® for priority boarding and a free in-flight beverage.

Points freedom. There are no blackout dates, restrictions or minimums on points redemptions under myAllegiant Rewards. Your points don’t expire as long as you make at least one purchase on the card every 12 months. Know that if you cancel the card, all accrued points will be forfeited.

Things to watch out for

Limited destinations and frequencies. Allegiant serves 122 U.S. destinations, most of them smaller cities and leisure destinations. The airline flies direct flights and some cities only have seasonal service, so you’ll need to be flexible when it comes time to redeem your points. And forget that trip to Rome on Allegiant points, since the airline doesn’t fly to Europe.

Fewer points per $1 spent on top categories. Other credit cards offer points more for gas, groceries and travel in broader categories.

Redemptions restricted. You can only redeem your points for Allegiant flights, hotel stays and car rentals booked through Allegiant.com.

It costs to cancel. Cardmembers will pay $75 per segment if they cancel a reservation using points; they won’t be put back into your myAllegiant Rewards account. You’ll only get a credit voucher for any remaining funds based on the reward value with an expiration date based on the date it was issued.

Pay those fees. Allegiant charges for the following: checked and carry-on bags, seat selection, priority access, flight cancellations and changes, food and beverage, calls to customer service and printing a boarding pass at the airport. You can’t redeem points for any of these services.

Bye-bye points. If you cancel your Allegiant World Mastercard®, all the points you’ve earned will disappear.

Where are the perks? Many airline and travel cards come with perks such as trip delay/trip interruption insurance, lost/delayed baggage insurance and purchase benefits. But this card doesn’t offer a single travel or protection perk.

Read our full review of the Allegiant World Mastercard®.

The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard®

What we like

Generous sign-up bonus. New cardmembers Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening and paying the annual fee. That’s a low spend for bonus miles you can redeem for two round-trip value flights within the U.S. and Puerto Rico or one round-trip value flight to the Dominican Republic, Jamaica or Mexico.

High miles. Earn 5x miles on purchases at flyfrontier.com, 3x miles on restaurant purchases, and 1x miles on all other purchases. The myFRONTIER MilesSM earned on the card for travel purchases at myfrontier.com are among the highest when it comes to airline-branded credit cards. Miles earned for restaurant spending are pretty generous, too.

Good redemption options. You can redeem miles for flights, hotels and magazine subscriptions, in addition to car rentals from Hertz, National and Alamo.

$100 voucher. Earn a $100 flight voucher every account anniversary after spending $2,500 or more on the card during your membership year.

Path to elite status. The card allows you helps you with myFrontier Miles elite status by allowing you to earn one qualifying mile for every dollar spent on the card each calendar year. Elite status on Frontier, which starts at 20,000 miles, unlocks benefits including a free carry-on bag, free seat assignment, priority boarding, waived redemption fees and the right to use miles to redeem last-seat-available award tickets.

Cardmember-only perks. The card comes with Zone 2 priority boarding, an award redemption fee waiver and family pooling of myFrontier Miles with one primary member and up to eight contributors. The airline’s reward redemption fee — between $15 and $75 depending on the flight date —  is waived if you book an award ticket and pay related taxes and fees with the card. If you’re short on miles, you can top them off at Points.com.

Things to watch out for

Limited route map. Frontier Airlines flies to more than 100 cities in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. That means you may not be able to fly to all the cities you want and many of those cities only have one daily flight. Outside Canada, Mexico and the Dominican Republic, you can’t use your miles for international flights.

Fewer points. You only earn the highest points on this card for Frontier-related travel. That doesn’t include categories such as airfare on other airlines, hotels, cruises, vacation packages, homeshares, rideshares, taxis, trains, highway tolls and parking. You’ll earn the lowest points for gas and grocery spending.

Keep it going. You must make at least one purchase every six months in order to keep the miles in your myFrontier account from expiring.

Limited early boarding. Only the cardmember receives early boarding.

Read our full review of The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard®.

Spirit Airlines World Mastercard®

What we like

Solid sign-up bonus. The sign-up bonus is a Limited Time Offer: Earn up to 30,000 bonus miles: 15,000 bonus miles after your first purchase + 15,000 bonus miles after making at least $500 in purchases within 90 days of your account opening. You have to love a credit card that doesn’t require a big spend to get bonus miles. Cardmembers also receive 5,000 bonus Free Spirit miles after spending at least $10,000 a year on the card.

Exclusive flight access. Spirit offers special cardmember-only, off-peak flights based on the airline’s four mileage-based regions. An off-peak Atlanta-Montego Bay, Jamaica flight costs only 5,000 miles round-trip. That same trip costs non-cardmembers 25,000 points round-trip. There are no blackout dates on award tickets.

Flat rewards points. Cardmembers Earn Double Miles on your everyday purchases – that's 2 miles for every $1. You don’t have to think about what different spending categories earn what with this card, which is a nice benefit.

Earn even more miles. The card gives you myriad ways to earn miles, including: renting cars with Hertz, Avis and Budget; staying in Choice Hotels; booking rooms at PointsHound; the Free Spirit Dining program; doing surveys for Miles for Thoughts; signing up for Swagbucks and watching videos, taking surveys and shopping online; joining online shopping portal MyPoints and receive points for  purchases; earning points after joining the Vinesse Wine Club; booking a cruise; and shopping at the Free Spirit online mall.

Things to watch out for

Few redemption options. Outside of Spirit flights, you can only redeem your miles for magazine subscriptions and playing online games.

Save the miles. Remember to make at least one purchase on the card every month or your miles will expire three months after you earn them. Miles can’t be transferred to other Free Spirit members.

Tough path to elite status. You’ll only earn all the miles you fly if you’re a member of Free Spirit’s Elite or VIP status tiers. Elite members earn 100% of actual miles, but only if they make one purchase a month on the card, earn 12,000 miles in the past six months or spend at least $1,200 on airfare in the past six months. VIP members earn 100% of their miles if they either earned 24,0000 miles or spent at least $2,400 on flights in the past six months. Otherwise, you’re stuck with Somebody status, where you only earn 50% of the actual miles they fly.

All about the fees. Spirit Airlines is known for its low fares — along with its myriad fees. All travelers, even cardmembers, pay for checked and carry-on bags, access to dedicated airport security lines and early boarding, choosing a seat on the plane, in-flight snacks and beverages, having the airline print boarding passes, calling reservations to book flights and making flight modifications and cancellations.

No perks. You only get a free monthly FICO® score with this card.

Read our full review of the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard®.

Sun Country Airlines® Visa Signature® Card

What we like

Good bonus. Sign up for Sun Country Rewards, the airline’s loyalty program, before you apply for the card, since that’s where you will redeem the miles you earn on it. Earn 30,000 Points when you spend $1,500 within the first three billing cycles. Those bonus points are worth $300 when you spend them on travel at suncountry.com. Cardmembers also earn 10,000 bonus points a year after spending $10,000 or more on the card.

Nice rewards. Earn 5 points per $1 spent on Sun Country purchases. A total of 5 points, 2 points for being a Rewards member and 3 points using their Visa on direct Sun Country purchases. Cardmembers get the biggest bang for the buck when using the card to pay for travel at suncountry.com. It’s nice to earn higher points for spending on gas and groceries. You can also use a mix of points and cash to pay for travel. Points never expire as long as cardmembers keep their cards active and there are no blackout dates for travel.

Cardmember discounts. Cardmembers get 50% off fees for seat selection, along with carry-on and checked bags. Discounted seat fees cost between $0 and $40, depending on where you choose to sit on the plane. Discounted bag fees run between $15 when reserving your flight online or $20 at the airport. For checked bags, it’s $20 and $17.50, respectively. The discount applies for the cardmember and one travel companion on the same reservation.

Airline perks. Cardmembers receive priority boarding and a free premium drink when they present their card.

Things to watch out for

Tiny route map. Sun Country only flies to around 50 cities in the U.S., Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean, mostly to leisure destinations. Most of the cities it serves don’t connect to many others. Most routes only have a single daily flight that operates between three or four days a week.

Limited redemption. You have two options when it comes time to redeem your points at the Rewards website: one is for airfare, vacation packages, seat assignments, baggage fees and car rentals; or two, donate them to Make-A-Wish. You can also use a mix of points and cash to pay for travel on the website.

Can’t escape the fees. The Sun Country Airlines® Visa Signature® Card still comes with fees for seat selection, carry-on and checked bags, calls to customer service, in-flight food and beverages and reservation changes and cancellations.

Have card, get discounts. Bring your card when checking in for your flight if you want your bag fee discount, priority boarding and free drink.

Read our full review of the Sun Country Airlines® Visa Signature® Card.

Allegiant World Mastercard® The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard® Spirit Airlines World Mastercard® Sun Country Airlines® Visa Signature® Card
Annual fee $59 $79 $0 Intro Fee for the first year; after that, Annual Fee will be $59 $69
Regular purchase APR 15.99% – 23.99% variable 17.74%, 21.74% or 26.74% variable 17.24% - 25.24% variable 17.24% - 25.24% Variable
Rewards 3 points per $1 spent on Allegiant purchases (air, hotel, car rental and attractions), 2 points per $1 on qualifying dining purchases, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases. Earn 5x miles on purchases at flyfrontier.com, 3x miles on restaurant purchases, and 1x miles on all other purchases Earn Double Miles on your everyday purchases – that's 2 miles for every $1 5 points per $1 spent on Sun Country purchases. A total of 5 points, 2 points for being a Rewards member and 3 points using their Visa on direct Sun Country purchases
Sign-up bonus 15,000 bonus points, equal to $150 off your next Allegiant trip, after you make $1,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening. Earn 40,000 bonus miles after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days from account opening and paying the annual fee Limited Time Offer: Earn up to 30,000 bonus miles: 15,000 bonus miles after your first purchase + 15,000 bonus miles after making at least $500 in purchases within 90 days of your account opening. Earn 30,000 Points when you spend $1,500 within the first three billing cycles
Foreign transaction fee 3% None 3% None

The bottom line

All four of these cards were designed to target their most die-hard travelers. When compared to other airline and travel credit cards, the perks on these four are slim. But that’s no surprise, considering that these ultra-low-cost carriers attract flyers who are more interested in rock-bottom fares and don’t mind choosing the fees they want to pay.

Three of the four cards offer pretty generous points per dollar spent for travel on their websites, while the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard® offers a convenient flat rate. However, know that you’ll need to be wedded to each of these airlines’ limited routes, knowing that they can’t compare to the global networks available with U.S. legacy carriers.

Also know that when it comes time to redeem the points and miles you earn on three of the four cards, you’re limited to using them to book travel on each airline. The Frontier Airlines World MasterCard® is the only one that offers options outside its own flights when it comes time to redeem the miles you earn. If these cards’ perks and benefits work for you, then consider applying for one of these four cards. If not, there are better airline and travel credit cards on the market that offer more.

Read our roundup of the Best Airline Credit Cards.


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