Is Spirit’s $9 Fare Club worth the $59.99+ annual fee?

Sep 15, 2020

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As an ultra-low-cost carrier, Spirit Airlines offers some of the cheapest fares out there. If you don’t mind a no-frills approach to air travel, you can save a lot by flying Spirit. Aside from cheap fares and regular sales, Spirit also offers substantial discounts through a paid program called the $9 Fare Club. While the name is a bit misleading (you’ll rarely come across fares that low), the program can get you huge savings on group travel and last-minute reservations.

Sounds amazing, right? Like all things that seem too good to be true, there are some major caveats. You may not always save enough money to offset the membership fee and there is a way you can save even more without a membership. Let’s dive into everything you need to know about Spirit Airlines” $9 Fare Club.

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In This Post

$9 Fare Club cost and benefits

Spirit biometrics
(Photo courtesy of Spirit Airlines)

Contrary to its name, $9 Fare Club membership actually costs $59.95 per year and gets renewed at $69.95. In exchange, you get discounts on airfare, vacation packages and up to 50% off baggage fees booked online. The savings can be pretty substantial if you’re traveling with a group, since benefits apply to you and up to eight passengers on the same reservation.

Related: Everything you should know before flying Spirit Airlines

How much can you save with Spirit’s $9 Fare Club?

On average, you can expect to save $10-30 per ticket with Spirit’s $9 Fare Club. In one test case, I found last-minute availability between Oakland (OAK) and Los Angeles (LAX) that was $115 cheaper than the standard fare:

Spirit OAK-LAX last-minute fare

Meanwhile, Southwest was selling tickets on the same OAK-LAX route for $139. Mind you, this rate includes two free checked and you would make progress toward the Southwest Companion Pass. Competitor fares like this are worth considering, especially if you’re getting close to your status goals.

Southwest last-minute fare OAK-LAX
Screenshot courtesy of southwest.com

It’s worth noting that not all flights will have discounted rates available, so you may not get as much use out of your $9 Fare Club membership as you might expect. Using Spirit’s calendar feature, you can see availability for several months ahead. While the previously-mentioned discount was pretty substantial, it also happened to be the only $9 Fare Club rate on that route for all of September.

Looking at other routes, I found $9 Fare Club availability much more consistently. Namely, on the Newark (EWR) to LAX route, these discounted fares were appearing on at least seven days each month. Actual availability is a different story. For example, there were several days from October through February when the calendar showed $9 Fare Club rates for $44 and $69.

Spirit EWR-LAX calendar

Selecting those dates turned up only standard fares. On dates when I was able to find availability – like on Oct. 9 – the $9 Fare Club price was actually higher than the standard fare.

Spirit EWR-LAX fare

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t sign up for a $9 Fare Club membership. Just keep these inconsistencies in mind when you’re researching fares. Click on the actual travel date and confirm that the discounted fare is, in fact, available.

Related: How to pack only in a Spirit Airlines free carry-on bag

$9 Fare Club trial

If you’re not ready to commit to full membership, you can sign up for a $9 Fare Club trial for just $19.95. The trial lasts two months, after which your membership renews at $69.95. You can sign up for a trial on the payment page while you’re booking a fare. 

$9 Fare Club Trial

The trial can be a good value if you’re not a regular Spirit flyer and have identified some discounted fares you want to take advantage of. It can also be a good option if you’re looking to save on a one-time group booking. Just keep in mind that you can’t sign up for the trial until after you book a ticket, since the trial offer appears on the checkout page.

Luckily, Spirit does offer free 24-hour cancellation on reservations made seven days before departure. So you could book a Spirit Airlines ticket to get that $9 Fare Club trial offer, then cancel the booking shortly after.

Related: Earn easy miles with the Free Spirit Dining program

Spirit’s $9 Fare Club vs. Frontier Discount Den

Frontier Airlines’ Discount Den is very similar to Spirit’s $9 Fare Club. Fares are visible to all users and typically discounted by around $10-30 each way. The cost for Discount Den is lower than Spirit’s $9 Fare Club – at least after the first year. That’s because Frontier charges $59.99 for Discount Den membership, while Spirit’s membership increases to $69.95 at renewal.

Spirit $9 Fare Club Frontier Discount Den
Membership fee $59.95 ($69.95 renewal) $59.99
Trial membership $19.95 for two months N/A
Average discount $10-$30 $10-$30
Number of eligible travelers 8 6
Baggage fee discount Up to 50% None
Kids Fly Free No Yes

 

You can book Discount Den fares for up to six additional people on your reservation. Meanwhile, the $9 Fare Club discount is valid for up to eight. 

On the other hand, Frontier’s Discount Den members get access to the Kids Fly Free program. While there are some limitations around flight eligibility, it can make the cost of a Discount Den membership well worth it for family travelers

Ultimately, which program is best depends entirely on whether you’re a loyal Frontier or Spirit flyer. I wouldn’t recommend buying a membership unless you have an immediate use for it or you travel frequently enough to offset the annual fee. Families and frequent travelers will generally get the most bang for their buck. With the pandemic putting a stop to most people’s travel plans, you may not get as much value out of these memberships as you usually would.

Related: How this $59.99 membership can pay for itself after booking one flight

How to get $9 Fare Club discounts without membership

(Photo courtesy of Spirit)
(Photo courtesy of Spirit)

Spirit’s $9 Fare Club membership could be worth it if you’re a frequent Spirit flyer or plan on using the discount to book group fares. Even with savings of $10 each way, you can get your money’s worth on a single booking with two or more travelers. However, it’s important to note that these discounted fares aren’t available on all flights. Even when the low-fare calendar shows availability, these fares don’t always show up when you click on specific dates. 

If you don’t plan on using the $9 Fare Club membership beyond a single booking, then the two-month trial is a cheaper alternative at $19.95. It’s easier to get your money’s worth, even if you’re traveling solo.

Save by booking your Spirit flight at the airport

We’re so used to scouring the web for deals but did you know you can get discounted Spirit Airlines tickets at the airport? When you book in-person, the airline waives the Passenger Usage Charge, which varies by route. It generally ranges between $2.99-$22.99 per segment. 

Sometimes, the savings from booking at the airport work out cheaper than $9 Fare Club tickets. Just keep in mind that you will pay higher prices for bags at the airport than you would online. There have also been some reports of additional fees being added on these airport fares. This option is ideal for those who travel light and don’t mind possible long lines at the ticketing counter.

Sample fares

While searching on various routes through February 2021, I found the lowest prices to be on standard tickets – not $9 Fare Club deals. On the Chicago (ORD) – Orlando (MCO) route, the Fare Club ticket priced out at $52.14. Meanwhile, the lowest standard fare was just $17.10. If you can be flexible with your travel dates, you’ll sometimes find much better deals on standard tickets.

Spirit ORD-MCO September 2020

While the membership is called the $9 Fare Club, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a fare this low. You can, however, get very close to this number by booking a Spirit ticket at the airport. 

For example, I found an ORD-LAX standard fare in October for just $37.29, of which $22.99 is the Passenger Usage Charge. Book this fare at the airport and your total drops down to $14.30. No $9 Fare Club membership necessary!

ORD-LAX Passenger Usage Charge

There was also this $13.10 fare between Philadelphia (PHL) and Orlando (MCO). While this is already a fantastic deal, you can save $2.99 by booking it at the airport, bringing your total down to $10.11. Now we’re getting closer to the promised $9 Fare.

Spirit PHL-MCO Passenger Usage Fee

Whether you think it’s worthwhile to drive to an airport for one of these fares is another story. The savings from a group booking could be worth the hassle, especially when the Passengers Usage Charge is on the high-end.

Bottom line

Spirit’s $9 Fare Club can help you save money when you happen upon an eligible fare. It’s also great for group travelers and those with flexible travel plans. However, $9 Club Fares won’t always be the lowest on the calendar, and there may not be enough availability to accommodate your group.

You might even score more significant discounts by booking your Spirit Airlines ticket at the airport, though this option is significantly less convenient. The one significant advantage of Spirit’s $9 Fare Club is that you’ll get up to 50% off baggage fees when you pay online. Regardless, you should compare prices against other low-cost carriers, like Southwest, which not only offers competitive fares but includes two free checked bags per passenger.

All screenshots courtesy of spirit.com, unless otherwise noted.

Featured photo courtesy of Spirit

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