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Why one of the best deals in frequent flyer programs comes from a budget airline

Aug. 19, 2021
5 min read
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Sometimes, the best deals can be found in unlikely places.

Right now, one of the top deals in airline frequent flyer programs is lurking within an ultra-low-cost carrier's program. Frontier Airlines' mid-tier elite status (that I status matched into simply by having mid-tier United Gold status) is turning my family's $30 one-way tickets from Florida to Houston into a true bargain.

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Usually, the biggest problem with buying a cheap ticket on a low-cost airline such as Frontier or Spirit is that the ticket can end up not being so cheap after all if you have to add in a bushel of seat assignments and bag fees that can easily cost more than the ticket itself.

But this time, thanks to the nuances of Frontier's elite status, a $31 ticket meant $31 all-in. Here's why.

(Screenshot courtesy of Frontier Airlines)

Frontier Airlines status basics

Frontier Airlines rolled out its current version of an elite status program back in 2018. I liked it then on paper, and really like it today now that I've had a chance to try it out due to a status match offered earlier this year.

There are three different elite status levels with Frontier: Elite 20k, Elite 50k and Elite 100k.

(Screenshot courtesy of Frontier)

Not surprisingly, those numbers reflect how many elite qualifying miles you need to earn a year to unlock that status. Just remember you can also spend your way to status with the Frontier Airlines credit card.

I'm not saying you should charge $50,000 per year to your Frontier credit card, but if you did, you'd earn Frontier's mid-tier 50k status.

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Obviously, the higher you go up the status levels the more perks you get, but you'll find legitimate money-saving perks such as a free carry-on bag and free seat assignment starting at the 20k level.

Related: Best credit cards to jump-start elite status

Frontier status perks extend to the whole family

The leg-up that Frontier has on some of its competition is that even though the carrier makes a sizeable portion of its revenue on ancillary revenue items such as seat assignments and bag fees, it includes some of those perks not just for the status holder, but for those on the same ticket once you get to the mid-tier status level.

This makes having Frontier status extremely valuable if you often travel with friends or family who are booked on the same reservation.

In my case with 50k status, we booked $31 flights for myself and my two daughters and were then able to select free seat assignments in the extra legroom 'stretch' seats towards the front of the plane.

(Screenshot courtesy of Frontier Airlines)

That alone likely saved us more than $100 in seat assignment fees for a single flight. But that wasn't the end of the savings.

With mid-tier status, the status holder also gets a free carry-on bag. When combined with the one free personal item per traveler (think: a backpack) that should be enough luggage for us on this particular trip with no extra costs there.

(Screenshot courtesy of Frontier Airlines)

And to cap that off, we also got added flight flexibility for no added cost, which will allow us to make one free date or time change up to 24 hours before departure in case our plans change.

Related: Guide to airline elite status matching

(Screenshot courtesy of Frontier Airlines)

If I happened to have top-tier Frontier status then I and everyone (up to eight people) on the reservation would get an included 'The Works' bundle.

This would include not only the free seat assignments but also an included checked and carry-on bag, flight flexibility and refundability at no extra cost. That's really pretty exceptional for any carrier's frequent flyer program -- let alone a low-cost carrier's program.

Related: Guide to Frontier Airlines elite status program

Kids can fly free on Frontier (Summer Hull / The Points Guy)

Bottom line

Sometimes, deals that look too good to be true are indeed not that great upon closer inspection.

If we didn't have Frontier status, those $31 flights may still be a great deal but would have ultimately cost far more than double that amount with all the added fees.

But in this case, we got a whole lot by paying just a little — all thanks to elite status that we didn't even really have to earn.

So, what's the moral of this travel tale? Don't discount the programs offered by some of the low-cost programs as it is where you might find some of the best savings.

Featured image by (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023