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Spirit Airlines is a Florida-based, ultra-low-cost carrier that flies more than 600 daily flights to 73 cities in the U.S., Latin America and the Caribbean. It’s known for selling what it calls “unbundled” fares, and charging fees for everything else, including carry-on and checked bags, seat assignments, refreshments and checking in for flights at the airport counter.
It squarely targets those who want to fly at the absolute lowest fares. Its legions of flyers have made a game of avoiding Spirit’s fees by doing everything from printing out their own boarding passes to carrying onboard bags that don’t trigger charges.
So it only makes sense for the airline to offer the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard®, designed to give a few perks to its most loyal customers. We take a look at what the card has to offer and compare it to the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card.
Where the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard® stands out
New cardmembers start with 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. It’s good to have a card that comes with a sign-on bonus where no big spend is required to get it.
After joining the Free Spirit™ loyalty program, book exclusive cardmember-only off-peak trips based on the airline’s four mileage-based regions. An off-peak Baltimore-Fort Lauderdale flight costs only 5,000 miles round-trip. Or fly between San Diego and Boston round-trip for 25,000 miles. There are no blackout dates on award tickets.
The annual fee is an $0 Intro Fee for the first year; after that, Annual Fee will be $59. . That flat rate is nice for those who don’t want to worry about which spending categories offer more miles. Receive an anniversary bonus of 5,000 Free Spirit miles after spending at least $10,000 a year on the card. Having an account allows cardmembers to book travel quickly and manage reservations for no fee.
Earn miles when renting cars with Hertz, Avis and Budget, staying in Choice Hotels or booking rooms via PointsHound. Other ways to earn miles include:
- With Free Spirit Dining, earn up to 5 miles for every dollar spent at more than 10,000 restaurants, clubs and bars.
- Miles for Thoughts allows cardmembers to earn 400 miles when signing up and doing a survey, plus earn more every time one is completed.
- Earn up to 750 miles while also earning free gift cards after signing up for Swagbucks and watching videos, taking surveys and shopping online.
- Join online shopping portal MyPoints and receive 250 miles after 30 days of membership, then earn up to another 500 miles after making a purchase within 30 days.
- Get 1,500 Free Spirit miles and six wines for $41.94 after joining the Vinesse Wine Club.
- Shop at the Free Spirit online mall and earn miles while shopping at popular retailers including Macy’s, Walmart, Target and Home Depot.
- Book a cruise with the card and earn bonus miles.
Image source: Spirit.com
Where the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard® falls short
A big issue with this card is with earning miles and achieving elite status. The Free Spirit loyalty program has three tiers — Somebody, Elite and VIP. Somebody members can only earn 50% of the actual miles they fly.
Elite members earn 100% of actual miles — but there’s a catch. They either have to make at least one purchase a month on the card, earned 12,000 miles in the preceding six months or spent 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.
Make at least one purchase on the card each month to keep miles from expiring; otherwise, they expire three months after they are earned. Plan reward travel carefully, since mileage from purchases made with the card, bonus miles and partner miles may take up to eight weeks to post to an account. Miles can’t be transferred to other Free Spirit members.
Stick to the website when it comes time to book reward travel because calling a customer service agent will cost $35. Other redemption options are limited to magazine subscriptions and playing online games for a chance to earn miles, enter contests and win prizes.
The only perk that comes with the card is a free, monthly FICO® score. It doesn’t come with any airline-related perks such as a checked bag or early boarding. Cardmembers also pay for choosing a seat, having the airline print boarding passes, calling the reservations center to book regular and award flights, make flight modifications and cancellations, using a dedicated airport security line and having access to early boarding.
There’s a way to save on the fees that come with flying on this airline, but — no surprise — it costs. After joining Spirit’s $9 Fare Club for $59.95 a year, cardmembers and their travel companions get exclusive online-only access to the lowest fares available, discounts on vacation packages and $9 off standard online bag fees.
Compare it with the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card
If Spirit Airlines’ route network isn’t robust enough, its card-related fees are too much or if you’re looking for a card that comes with more ways to redeem miles, then the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card may be a better fit. Southwest serves 99 destinations in the U.S., Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
The card is best for travelers who want a basic Southwest Airlines-branded card and don’t care about a lot of perks. After joining the Rapid Rewards® loyalty program, new cardmembers Earn up to 80,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months. Use those points to fly from Boston to Cancun in May.
Cardmembers earn 2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.. You can also earn 3,000 bonus points every account anniversary. Besides flights, redeem your Rapid Rewards points for gift cards, hotel stays, car rentals, merchandise, cruises, spa packages, golf trips, wine tastings and other experiences. For cardholders who want to travel outside of Southwest’s network, book flights using points via the airline’s More Rewards website.
There are no blackout dates or seat restrictions when booking reward travel. Earn unlimited points that don’t expire as long as the card account is open, and there are no limits on how many points can be earned.
An enticing benefit is the chance to earn Southwest Airlines’ Companion Pass for both cardmembers and Rapid Rewards members. Get it by flying 100 qualifying one-way flights or by earning 110,000 qualifying Rapid Rewards points in a calendar year. Once either goal is achieved, a companion can fly for free on every subsequent flight for the following full calendar year, plus the remainder of the year in which the pass was earned.
Everyone who travels on Southwest Airlines gets two free checked bags. In addition, there’s no fee if a flight needs to be changed, but there may be a fare difference that must be paid. But like the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard®, this card doesn’t come with priority security lines or boarding.
The only way to get those perks is to qualify for A-List status. Regular A-List comes after flying 25 one-way trips or earning 35,000 tier qualifying points, while A-List Preferred happens after 50 one-way trips or 70,000 tier qualifying points in a calendar year. A-List gives you priority check-in, dedicated security lanes (where available), priority boarding, an additional 25% bonus points, a dedicated customer service line and free same-day standby on flights. A-List Preferred members get all of the above, plus 100% bonus points and free in-flight Wi-Fi.
The card comes with lost luggage reimbursement, baggage delay insurance, extended warranty and purchase protection. Terms may apply.
While cardmembers do earn extra points per $1 spent on Southwest-related travel and Rapid Rewards hotel and rental car partners, they don’t earn them in popular spending categories such as dining, groceries, gas or broader travel. If you’re lucky enough to earn the Companion Pass, you’ll have to pay fees and government taxes whenever it’s used.
While cardmembers can use their Rapid Reward points to book international flights outside Southwest’s route network, it’s not the best use of them, since they’re only worth about 1 cent per point. Using them to book Southwest flights is a much better use of these Rapid Rewards points.
|Spirit Airlines World Mastercard®||Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card|
|Annual fee||$0 Intro Fee for the first year; after that, Annual Fee will be $59||$69|
|Regular purchase APR||15.99% - 22.99% Variable|
|Rewards||2 points per $1 spent on Southwest® purchases and Rapid Rewards® hotel and car rental partner purchases. 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.|
|Sign-up bonus||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 up to 80,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months.|
|Foreign transaction fee||3%||3% of each transaction in U.S. dollars|
The bottom line
Whether choosing the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard® or the Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card, cardmembers must be loyal to either carrier to get the most benefits from them. They both have limited route networks and lower points per dollar spent on popular spending categories such as dining, gas and groceries.
The Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card allows cardmembers to earn 100% of points every time they fly, while the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard® comes with strings attached before earning 100% of miles. There are competing airline and travel credit cards that offer more points per $1 spent in top categories and better perks than these two cards.
Let’s be frank — with all the credit cards out there and the perks that come with them, cardmembers should be really committed to each of these airlines before applying for either of these credit cards. Spirit Airlines cardmembers need to follow the card’s spending rules to earn 100% of the points they fly and understand that they will have to pay for the carrier’s perks just like everyone else
Southwest Airlines cardmembers need to be fine using their points only on the carrier’s limited route network, earning fewer points per $1 spent outside of flights and Rapid Rewards hotel and rental car partners and having limited travel or purchase perks.