Why having the Spirit Airlines credit card isn’t crazy
Editor’s note: This post has been updated with new information.
There's an airline credit card that may draw snickers and laughs from some, but others know how valuable its power can truly be in the quest for very affordable travel. This credit card allows you to earn award flight, pool your points together and even achieve elite status solely based on spend. Although the affiliated loyalty program and the credit card have changed drastically this past year, this card has literally opened up the country for my retired parents to see and do more than they ever thought possible on a minimal budget. (That is, when the airline isn't experiencing multiple operational meltdowns.)
So, what card is it?
For more TPG news and travel tips delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our free daily newsletter.
The magical card is the Free Spirit® Travel More World Elite Mastercard®. While you likely don't have this card in your wallet, it's key to earning free flights and money-saving status levels for those who are OK with flying Spirit Airlines — and who understand how to maximize the Spirit frequent-flyer program.
Related: Reasons to love Spirit Airlines
Spirit Airlines credit card basics
There are actually two different Spirit cobranded credit cards: The Free Spirit Travel More World Elite Mastercard ($79 annual fee) and the Free Spirit Travel Mastercard (no annual fee).
Related: 5 things you should know about Spirit’s revamped credit card lineup
While the no-annual-fee card might sound enticing, we recommend the higher-level card more, unless you truly don't fly Spirit often at all. This is because the current welcome offer for new cardmembers includes a $0 introductory annual fee for the first year (and then after that, the annual fee is $79). This will allow you to try out the card for the first year for the same no annual fee and see if the benefits are worth it for you and your family for the years following. You'll also earn 40,000 bonus points, plus a $100 companion flight voucher after spending at least $1,000 on purchases within 90 days of opening an account.
Free Spirit Travel More World Elite Mastercard cardholders receive the following benefits, too:
- Spirit points will not expire for cardholders, even without activity (benefit for both cards).
- Redemption fee waiver for those with the Free Spirit Travel More World Elite Mastercard.
- Points pooling for themselves and up to eight others (benefit for both cards).
- 25% rebate on inflight food and beverage purchases when charged to the cards (benefit for both cards).
- Shortcut Zone 2 boarding (benefit for both cards).
- Earn 1 Status Qualifying Point (SQP) toward status for every $10 charged to Free Spirit Travel More World Elite Mastercard.
- Earn a $100 companion voucher flight each cardmember anniversary with Free Spirit Travel More World Elite Mastercard with $5,000 in spending on the cards.
The information for the Spirit Airlines credit cards have been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
While these are overall decent benefits, there's one that truly sticks out amongst the rest: The ability to earn 1 Status Qualifying Point (SQP) toward status for every $10 charged to the card.
One big complaint from most travelers is the pesky fees that go along with flying Spirit. While bag fees and seat assignment fees are starting to be a bit more standard these days, Spirit even goes as far as to charge you to print your boarding pass during check-in and for soda while on board. You might even find out that the advertised cheap fare you found is triple the price once all of your necessary fees are added into the equation.
Related: How to pack only in a Spirit Airlines free carry-on bag
Fortunately though, with the opportunity to earn SQPs, the card on its own can help you achieve status and waive some of those fees. Spirit requires you to earn 2,000 SQPs for Silver and 5,000 SQPs for Gold status. And since one of the card perks is that you'll earn an additional SQP at a rate of 1 SQP per $10 charged to the card, this means $20,000 in annual charges on the card automatically earns you Silver status, while $50,000 in charges earns you Gold — with just credit card spend alone. Of course, if you earn SQPs flying Spirit throughout the year as well, this will lower the amount of spend required on the card.
Related: How much is Spirit Airlines' elite status worth?
While this is a lot of spend in a single year, if you're able to achieve elite status, you'll receive some great benefits and save a decent amount of money. Silver status includes perks such as free seat selection at check-in, shortcut boarding and free same-day standby. More valuable Gold status even allows free seat selection at the time of booking (including the exit row), a free drink and snack on board, a free first checked bag and a free carry-on bag.
Another huge perk of the credit card is that your points will never expire as long as your account is open. Spirit points typically expire in 12 months if there's no account activity (which is very short compared to other programs), so not having to worry about keeping your account active — especially if you aren't flying these days — can be significant.
Related: How to keep Spirit Airlines points from expiring
Perhaps even more valuable is that, with so many unknowns right now, cardmembers can book a flight at the last minute with their points and not have to pay a fee. Typically, Spirit charges $50 if you redeem your points within 28 days from departure, but this fee is waived for cardmembers. If you fly even just a few times a year and are more of a spontaneous traveler, saving on that fee makes paying the annual fee on the card well worth it.
Stretching your points with the Spirit credit card
It used to be that cardmembers received a special perk of being able to book flights from just 2,500 points each way. This was a great benefit that has now been extended to all Spirit travelers. And while Spirit has done away with their award chart, there are still opportunities to fly Spirit at this low level. For example, if you live in Houston, you can easily fly Spirit to places like Las Vegas or Orlando for just 5,000 Spirit points round-trip (if you're flexible with dates).
Or, now that Spirit offers the opportunity to use Points + Cash, you can book an award flight starting at just 1,000 points plus a copay. This is great for folks who don't spend a lot on their credit card and want to redeem points for as little as possible.
Related: Save money buying Spirit Airlines tickets at the airport
Flying Spirit isn't for everyone, and neither are the Spirit Airlines' credit cards. But if you like redeeming points for flights and are looking for the cheapest way to get from Point A to Point B, I can’t help but suggest at least considering this card option. I don’t currently have the Spirit card myself, but my semi-retired parents have had the Spirit card for years and are happily racking up points and memories by having access to inexpensive award tickets courtesy of their Spirit credit card.
On a recent flight comparison, two of our TPG staffers flew on Spirit Airlines and compared the Big Front Seat to the economy experience. Both Nicky Kelvin and Stella Shon enjoyed their point-to-point, no-frills flight, and both agreed that they would fly Spirit again.
In a case like that, having the Spirit credit card isn't crazy at all — it would be crazy not to have it.
Additional reporting by Summer Hull.