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Ultra low-cost carrier Frontier Airlines and Barclays have overhauled the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard, creating a rather unique value proposition. Along with the card revamp come a few changes to Frontier’s myFRONTIER Miles Elite Status, as well as the ability to earn top-tier status through credit card spend alone. Let’s take a look at the new offering which has the potential to give traveling families and leisure travelers significant value.

Card Basics

The new Frontier Airlines World Mastercard is offering 40,000 miles after spending $500 in the first 90 days of account opening. One-way award flights for Frontier start at 10,000 miles, so you have the potential of booking two round-trip award tickets with the sign-up bonus. The card carries a $79 annual fee and has no foreign transaction fees.

When it comes to earning miles, the card has a new miles earning structure Barclays is calling 5-3-1. Earn 5x miles on purchases made at flyfrontier.com, 3x miles on purchases at restaurants and 1x miles on all other purchases. You’ll also get all of the usual World Mastercard benefits like delayed baggage coverage, secondary auto rental collision damage waiver, trip cancellation insurance and trip accident insurance.

The card basics are rather boilerplate and not too inspiring at face value. 5x for Frontier flights is a solid earning rate, but I’d much rather earn 5X Membership Rewards on purchases directly with airlines by using my Platinum Card® from American Express. The same situation exists for dining — 3x is good, but I’d much rather earn 3x Ultimate Rewards with my Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Added Benefits

The excitement for this card offer comes when you look at the additional benefits for Frontier flyers. The new card has the ability to save Frontier customers a lot of money and make the low-cost carrier’s flights more enjoyable for both individuals and families. Here’s a quick rundown of the added card benefits:

Unlock myFRONTIER Miles Elite Status Through Spend — There are now going to be three levels of Frontier Elite status, with each level essentially giving you additional ancillary services for free. As a cardholder, you’ll earn one elite qualifying mile for every dollar spent on purchases each calendar year.  You can combine any qualifying miles earned from flying with credit card spend to qualify for elite status (e.g.: if you fly 9,000 miles with Frontier and spend $11,000 on the card, you’ll qualify for Elite20k Status). The three status levels and an overview of their benefits are below.

  • Elite20k Status: Earn 20,000 qualifying miles each calendar year and get benefits like a free carry-on bag and seat assignment.
  • Elite50k Status: Earn 50,000 qualifying miles and get all the benefits of Elite20k Status, plus perks such as family seating and seat assignment for the cardmember and eight traveling companions on the same reservation.
  • Elite100k Status: Earn 100,000 qualifying miles for Elite100k Status and you’ll get “the WORKS” bundle for the primary cardmember and up to eight traveling companions on the same reservation.

The ability to have “the WORKS” bundle for no additional cost on the cheapest Frontier ticket represents a lot of value. Here’s everything “the WORKS” includes:

That would mean I could speculatively book my entire family on the cheapest Frontier flights to the end of the published schedule and cancel at any time if I see we won’t be able to take the trip. If we do fly, we’ve got everything included to make the experience not that much different than flying with a legacy carrier. Atlanta (ATL) to Orlando (MCO) on Frontier is routinely $29, meaning my family of four could fly to Florida any time we like for $116 all-in and even refund the ticket at the last minute. That’s a win.

Account Anniversary Flight Voucher — Spend $2,500 on the card during your cardmember year and at your card anniversary you’ll receive a $100 flight voucher. If you’re going after elite status with the card, you’ll obviously reach that threshold, which in my case would drop my family’s all-in flight to Orlando to $16.

Family Pooling — Family pooling allows one primary pool member and up to eight pool contributors to combine myFRONTIER miles. Again, another benefit great for the traveling family. I asked Frontier Senior Director of Loyalty Scott Fisher what could be considered a family. He told me I could define it as I see fit, but there would be time limitations on adjusting your family make up, meaning you couldn’t fly with friends and add and delete them every time you buy a ticket.

Keep Miles from Expiring — Make at least one purchase every six months with your card to keep miles from expiring. Currently you have to earn miles in your account every six months to keep them from expiring. This means the time waiver is the same, but putting $1 on your cobranded card is easier than trying to earn a Frontier mile in other ways.

Award Redemption Fee Waiver — Earn an award redemption fee waiver when you book an award ticket and use your card to pay the related taxes and fees, starting from $5.60 for a one-way ticket. Frontier has unfriendly fees when trying to redeem miles less than 180 days from departure. It starts out at $15 when redeeming miles or flights between 179 and 21 days in the future, jumps to $50 for 7-20 days, and $75 for less than seven days before departure. Tickets are often cheaper than $75 on Frontier even close-in, so avoiding these fees with the card is a much needed win as far as the value of Frontier miles are concerned.

Priority Boarding — Zone 2 boarding is available to all cardmembers.

Who Should Get This Card?

There’s a certain subsection of the population that just won’t fly on any low-cost carrier, and I completely understand that viewpoint. If you’re a business traveler looking for the best on-time performance with hard deadlines to arrive and depart, Frontier’s operations aren’t currently in a state to support that. While the airline will shortly have the newest fleet of any US carrier in terms of average aircraft age, the carrier also flies each plane they have the most hours daily of any airline (13, according to the Frontier staff I met). It’s a hedge to keep fares low, but can make for ugly circumstances when an aircraft is delayed early in the day due to the compact schedule any particular plane must complete on any given day.

On the other hand, if you’re a frequent leisure traveler, especially with family in tow, this card is an avenue to really flying for cheap. If I lived in or near any Frontier focus city, I would probably line this card up for an application and study my monthly spend habits to see which new elite tier I could reach. If you have large annual credit card spend and have a family, I would definitely shoot for Elite100k and start speculatively booking all kinds of family trips.

Bottom Line

Probably like most of you reading, I was skeptical before reviewing the details of an ULCC co-branded card. But by the end of my analysis, I was pleasantly surprised by the ability of Frontier to offer a value proposition which now has me seriously studying the Frontier route map. Free seat selection or, even better, “the WORKS” included for my family of four would equate to a lot of really cheap, less stressful, family flying. Can I fly the airline enough from Atlanta to justify moving spend to the card? I’m going to find out.

Featured image by Kathryn Scott Osler/The Denver Post via Getty Images.

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