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(Video) Sunday Reader Question: Is the Spirit Airlines Mastercard Worth It?

by on September 2, 2012 · 24 comments

in Spirit

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This week TPG reader Ron asks about Spirit Airlines:

“I have read nothing but negative reviews about Spirit, but I notice that they are offering a Mastercard with 15,000 bonus points after first spend and 1st year fee waived.  All transactions on card are 2X.  Their 9$ club is not included with the card and is an additional $50+. 

I went onto their site and saw that off-peak, staying in your zone which is about 1,300 miles will cost 5,000 points for a round trip.  I can do Ft. Lauderdale to Boston, Atlanta, Cancun, Baltimore or Atlantic City within the zone.

What is your opinion on applying for the card?”


I’ve never flown Spirit, but have heard pretty bad experiences across the board. That being said, they actually have a pretty impressive route map and after all- travel is really about getting you from point A to point B, right?
The current offer for the Bank of America Spirit MasterCard is 15,000-points with your first purchase, which is nice since so many cards these days have steep spend requirements.
15,000 points may seem low, but what sweetens the deal is that Spirit offers off-peak awards that start at 5,000 miles roundtrip.  This would allow you to fly from LGA to Fort Lauderdale 3 times off-peak with the sign-up bonus alone.When earning points with credit cards, many times you have to worry about the points expiring before you are able to redeem them. With the Spirit World MasterCard as long as you earn miles within the previous three months, your points will stay active so the smartest thing to do would be to make at least one purchase per month on the card to make sure there is not chance for your points to expire.

Another benefit is that that $49 annual fee is waived for the first year and being that is it a World Mastercard you can get a lot of great perks like primary rental car insurance.

Spirit Airlines award booking chart.

Some of the negative aspects of this program is that it can be confusing when trying to book trips and get the most value from your points. Spirit has 4 award tiers including off-peak, peak, standard and premium as well a bunch of different zones to choose from which makes figuring out how many points you need extremely difficult. Lastly, when booking travel you have to call and speak with a representative which is something I try to avoid as much as possible.

Their mileage expiration policy is pretty draconian as well “FREE SPIRIT Miles will expire when an account becomes inactive for a period of 3 months or more. An ‘inactive’ account is one that has no miles credited to it from any source during the preceding 3 months.” Using the credit card is an easy way to keep the miles active, but I have a hard time recommending a loyalty program that makes you jump through so many hoops to use your miles and then will try to expire them at the first chance possible.

I won’t be applying for this card anytime soon, but it might make sense for those who do fly Spirit and can redeem for off-peak awards.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • guest

    I get why you say, “travel is really about getting you from point A to point B,” but for me there are other requirements, including being treated with respect and being on a plane that’s clean and appears well maintained. In my experience, Spirit doesn’t meet those requirements.

  • Oberonin

    I have had their card for 2 years, on paper they have a very nice point redemption table, but why do you think they don’t publish the actual availability of point redemption flights and you have to call to find that out?
    The answer is because there simply doesn’t exist any availability, once I called and asked them to give me any available flight within any day of the next 7 months for flight from any of the 5 cities around me that they fly to any of the 5 cities in Caribbean that they fly and there was not even one single flight available, off peak, peak, premium, whatsoever! So the agent told me I better call couple days before the actual day I want to fly and may be they open some flights for points, of course he didn’t mention their hefty fees if you book your reward flight so late!

  • rusher

    I have flown Spirit many times as they were the only direct flight between my city and NYC. Their motto should be “we are not happy until you are unhappy”. They have cancelled so many flights and left us stranded for days before they would re-book us that we and our family will never use them again. Calling customer service is a nightmare and the reps are often hard to understand. I had tried to book my points many times without success. Note that your points disappear with activity in your account for a few months. Spirit Airlines sucks and they just don’t care about the customer.

  • Larry D

    I had similar experiences in the past where I struggled getting reasonable availability for a points based trip. However, back in April when the NFL schedule came out, I inquired about flights to Tampa for my family of five to see our team play there. I was shocked when the representative said in broken english, “Round Trip will be a total of $25 and 25,000 miles for the five of you” (Not each, but total). We ended up getting two upgrades to the “big front seats” so the total came in at $25 and 40,000 miles. These are definitely miles that you want to burn, for risk of having them expire (or keep having to pay annual fees on the credit card), (or the risk of the increasing the miles needed or carry-on bag fees increasing) however, this was a great redemption (assuming their plane gets us from Point A to Point B). Now, trying to use my wife’s miles ……..

  • PJ

    Everyday has a dog; every dog has a day. Life is full of cost next to nothing free gifts. If credit pull does not bother you why pass over a next to free gift which might save you more than a few hundred dollars.

    I wish I would have the VA bonus miles when I was paying cash to book VA flights . Last week I was a bit annoyed Barclays Reconsideration did not approve my VA card application with a long awaited juiced up bonus. I was cited for ” busy card application activities” though m credit score is ~800

    If the 15K is the special promotion and spirit fly to the destinations I would occasionally like to go..I would cerntainly add it to my card collection

  • Chemist661

    I am lifetime Gold with American so there is no incentive for me to go with Spirit. I got the 5K free miles signup but the miles disappeared within several months. Not for me!!

    At least with American, I can snag exit rows (I had no problems as an AA Platinum) for my wife & I. I now fit into an exit row seat since I lost 140 lbs (320 lbs in May 2011 to 180 lbs now).

    The only time Spirit was considered was when my mother passed away in Oct 2003 and I looked up airfare for my aunt. (LAX-DTW) and Spirit was under $200 RT (nonstop!!) when everyone else was almost $2K for a last minute ticket. The Spirit times were crappy but for that price differential, I would not have cared!!

    My aunt ended up not going so at least she did not have to put up with the Spirit service.

    Bottom line: No Spirit for me!!

  • Bellagio

    I have not flown on Spirit, but every time I look at the possibility, the airline wants to charge each person $30 for each flight segment for carry-on baggage.

  • tassojunior

    I agree getting where you’re going is the biggest part of travel. But Spirit often doesn’t get you there- their cancellation rate is terrible.

    I go between DCA and FLL a lot and Spirit should be a great match- but no way. I’ll pay a very few more dollars on a legacy carrier to know the plane’s going to fly. Sometimes Spirit is actually more expensive after paying for your carry on and sometimes they make you pay for fuel.

    And the rewards program is worthless as is the $9 Club.

  • tassojunior

    Spirit does have a fantastic route system and it would be great if a real airline bought them.

  • Alexkgtu

    I love spirit. yes, customer service is nonexistent – but you should expect that when paying $38 to fly from NY to FLL – every tuesday in sept is $38, I just checked. Yes, it takes a lot of time to haunt for the best deal, but if you’re not willing to do it – fly legacy airline!
    speaking about carry on…I understand they need to make money somehow…if yo dont want to pay for carry on – then pay $18 for luggage to your destination!
    and when it comes to redeeming miles…I have 40000 miles as of right now and never redeemed them..but I just noticed they fixed their calendars with a switch, much like southwest, no display the price in either dollars or miles, and plenty of award availability is displayed, including 2500 miles segments.
    Do your homework and save money.

  • Asdfasfda

    It takes a minimum of 30 minutes to book a spirit award. The call center is in India. They repeat back your name as you spell it. The availability is ok actually. You still have to pay all the BS fees.

    Spirit used to be amazing. I.E. $40 all in roundtrip. Now they must be $150 less than legacies minimum for me to even consider them.

    The planes are ok, but I haven’t been on the 28″ pitch a320. you can see what plane it is basically once i think you are on the final booking page on the seat map.

    The big problem is the miles will expire. That and they have a history of abandoning travelers during the strike:
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37663236/ns/travel-news/t/spirit-cancels-all-flights-through-wednesday/#.UEQw-aSe6BA

    So I wouldn’t use them to book a once in a lifetime trip somewhere nonrefundable or if I had to be home for sure on a Sunday night.

    But if you are flexible, have a brain, and can add in the a la carte fees, they are fantastic.

    I.E. $60 for Big Front Seat to LAS nearly transcon one way confirmed.

    Spirit BFS = (DL F) – (crappy breakfast) -(~$20 booze if you are lucky)

    So if you don’t have status and will pay fees anyway, they are a good choice.

  • Asdfasfda

    oh and I think their planes are pretty young actually, and the FA’s can be funny/nice

  • Ron B.

    Actually, quite recently it became possible to book awards online. Just click the little box on the reservation screen. That said, pretty hard to find a redemption that works. At least it is much faster now.

  • Asfasfasdsf

    Wow that increases the value of the miles tremendously!! Nice find!!

  • mikep

    The 15k definately has value. I would apply on the plane from the flight attendants because they give you a 4k bonus miles certificate to take withyou. Whether you get approved or not. I actually had their barclay card and got the 15k and 4 k bonus and reappied when they went with bank of america and got the 15k and 4k again!
    I booked ft lauderdale-las vegas for november and only paid $10 for 2 tickets becuae it was 120 days in advance.
    I also booked my daughter and I, ft laud- la guardia for $20 each because it was 90 days in advance.
    They had plenty of seats and the people in India who answered the call were nice and repeated everything like 4 times.
    I used to think their seat pitch was bad but then I just flew delta in July from FLL-MSP and their seat pitch was even worse on an old Delta MD 80 in economy.
    I imagine their award availability is good if you live in ft lauderdale like i do because its their hub.

    Now i would not pay the annual fee for the card. I cancelled it a month before the year was up but made sure I books my 4 reward flights first.

  • Jenny Benevento

    I fly Spirit pretty frequently and I have only had good experiences. If you are the kind of person that doesn’t read what your ticket price includes (i.e. baggage) and bring a lot of bags, then it sucks. But I use it mainly for ORD>other major us cities for weekends and it’s great and I just bring a backpack (my “personal item”) for free. A big front seat is relatively cheap, and it’s a really nice seat. In terms of paying for other seats, I just check in and see what they give me, and then attempt to upgrade at the airport if I don’t like it. I was chatty to the desk attendant the last time I flew and he gave me a free upgrade to the exit row. My impression is that people are way hostile to the workers at spirit because they show up at the airport and dont realize they are going to pay for all their luggage.

    As for the card–I have their old Barclay card. I haven’t used my miles yet, but they do travel to a lot of cool Americas locations. I just booked a one way Chicago>Minneapolis for $20. That’s cheaper than the bus! :)

    I would insert here that this is most worth it for Chicago fliers out of O’Hare. Most budget airlines here go out of Midway, so if you live near ORD, they’re out! Spirit is ORD!

  • Jenny Benevento

    a “personal item” (which for me is my backpack) is free. Checking a bag is cheaper than carryon which I appreciate actually because we aren’t sitting on the tarmac for 30 mins while someone tries to cram a giant bag into the overhead.

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  • Dee

    I have over 100K miles and have been trying for about 2 months to book from LAX to anywhere and have not gotten the website to work once. It says the site is busy, but I feel that it may not actually work. Ever.
    Has anyone redeemed points online and actually gotten it to work? These points seem pretty useless.

  • Mary Jo

    We have a condo in Sarasota, Fl. We will probably start flying instead of driving. We can fly into Sarasota, Tampa or Ft Myers airports. What card and airlines would you recommend?

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  • sc nj

    I have had the spirit mastercard for several years and have found it to be impossible to use the 70k points i accumulated. Off peak fares are rare and often only one way and are often offered on the cheapest paid flight so not worth using. Several times I have searched and found something only yo have ALL availability disapear for two weeks,I think they game the system. Once tried to get to Florida anytime in the month of may typically not a peak month, booking 4 months in advance tried 4 different airports, even flying into one and home from another, could not get anything on points and was told i needed to be more flexible. Even wrote their prez for help, heard from the public relations whose response showed me they deliberately dont care. Finally vowed to use as many miles as I can before I have to pay the annual fee again even if i have to go somewhere i have no interest in. I have paid more in annual fees than I would have paying for the flights. This is the worst of the worst in reward situations. I have amex and other travel cards, cant wait to get rid of this card and my freespirit account!

  • disgusted

    The points earned on Spirit MasterCard are useless. I looked at the points required for a vacation in September and found that as a Master card holder I had enough points to get 2 people round trip to Cancun, Atl-Cancun was 2500 and Cun-Atl was 25000. So I made reservations that can not be changed for those dates. before the resort confirmations came back Spirit changed it to were there were 25000 points required both ways. There are very few dates that you can get the reduced points requirements even 6 month out. I plan to burn up these points and cancel my card. I will never fly Spirit again and the card will be cancelled. Get another card. Try American Express Delta or anything but Spirit MasterCard. The Airline also sucks with all the extra cost you can fly a better airline

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