Spirit Airlines' new program is now live, and as previously announced, the changes are very customer-friendly. Details of Spirit’s new credit cards were also provided, and for Spirit loyalists, they offer a lot of perks. Here’s what you need to know about the new program.
The new Free Spirit loyalty program
The new program is based on money spent rather than the number of miles flown, and miles (from the old program) will convert to points (in the new program) at a 1:1 ratio.
The shift to a revenue-based program will allow Spirit to reward customers who spend the most with the airline. All the main domestic carriers award status according to this model, and with Spirit aiming to transition from a purely low-cost carrier (not many perks) to one that offers low prices and an appealing loyalty program, the program shift seems natural.
Elite status tiers
There are now three status levels: Free Spirit, Silver and Gold. And here’s how they compare:
Under the new program, flyers will earn Status Qualifying Points, or SQPs, at a rate of $10 = 1 SQP. You’ll need to earn 2,000 SQPs and 5,000 SQPs to earn Silver and Gold status, respectively. SQPs are earned on flights, ancillary purchases (e.g., seats, bags) and by using its credit card.
The ancillary purchases, referred to as A La Smarte options, earn points at double the rate of flights, so if you frequently spend money on these extras, you’ll pick up some extra SQPs for that. The ability to earn status completely from credit card spend alone is a great option for those who will fly with Spirit but also use a card for everyday spending or large purchases.
Points pooling is another neat feature of the program, allowing up to eight friends or family members to combine points for earning and redeeming. Spirit says that redemption fees on award tickets are getting reduced: For awards booked within 28 days of the travel date, there is a $50 redemption fee, but there is no fee for awards booked further out than 28 days.
Since Spirit is shifting to a revenue-based earning/redeeming structure, the cost of a flight in points will be based on the price of the ticket. However, flights can still be redeemed at the lowest rate of 2,500 points. Customers will also be able to use the Points + Cash option to book flights for as low as 1,000 points plus money to cover the remainder of the fare.
Another meaningful benefit of the new program is that points no longer expire as long as you have qualifying earning or redeeming activity in your account in a year. If you hold a Free Spirit credit card, your points will not expire. This is a significant improvement over the punitive prior policy, which used to expire points after three months of inactivity.
The new Free Spirit credit cards
Spirit has unveiled four new co-branded credit cards, two for the U.S. market and two for the Latin American market. Bank of America® continues to be the co-branded partner on the domestic credit cards.
The Free Spirit® Travel Mastercard® is a $0-annual-fee card that has this welcome offer: Earn 10,000 Bonus Points after making at least $500 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.. If you spend at least $10,000 per year, you will earn 5,000 bonus points on each account anniversary. There are also no foreign transaction fees, which is a great perk for a no-annual-fee card. In a nutshell, this is a solid product for someone who is looking to start earning points with Spirit but doesn’t want the commitment of an annual fee. The card is not yet available on Bank of America®’s website, and a definitive timeline was not given for its rollout.
At the next tier is the Free Spirit® Travel More Mastercard®, which has an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $79. The welcome offer is Earn 10,000 Bonus Points after making at least $500 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.. Since flights start at 2,500 points, you could redeem the welcome offer for 16 award flights at the lowest level.
Upon spending $5,000 per year on the card, on each account anniversary you will earn a $100 companion flight voucher essentially erasing the annual fee. This card also earns SQPs, so if you’re looking to earn status based on credit card spend, this is the product you’ll want to go with. Another great benefit is no fees on any award redemptions, which is great if you’d like to book last-minute award tickets. Similar to the no-annual-fee card, this card does not charge foreign transaction fees. Overall, this is a credit card for frequent Spirit flyers who want to maximize the points earned with Spirit and benefit from all the perks.
Here are the rest of the perks offered on the two co-branded credit cards.
Free Spirit® Travel Mastercard®
Free Spirit® Travel More Mastercard®
Point earn rate
2x on Spirit; 1x on everything else
3x on Spirit; 2x on dining and groceries; 1x on everything else
Zone 2 shortcut boarding
Yellow Glove Concierge Service
25% in-flight rebate on food and drinks
Points do not expire
World Elite Mastercard®
Spirit Saver$ Club
Replacing the $9 Fare Club, the Spirit Saver$ Club is a subscription-based membership that offers perks such as:
Discounts on seats including Spirit’s Big Front Seats and exit rows.
Up to 50% off on bags.
Savings on A La Smarte purchases.
Offers with select partners ranging from wine memberships to car rentals.
The discount on Big Front Seats is interesting as they are essentially equivalent to domestic first class seats on major U.S. carriers. Big Front Seats have a 36” pitch and 18.5” of width, which is just slightly smaller than Delta’s and United’s first class product but for a much cheaper price. For example, a Big Front Seat purchased in advance ranges from $12 to $150, which isn’t that much to pay for a first class upgrade if your original ticket is already low priced to begin with.
The membership costs $69.95 for 12 months, $99.90 ($5 savings) for 18 months and $129.90 ($10 savings) for 24 months. If you value the perks offered by the Spirit Saver$ Club and often upgrade to the Big Front Seat, the savings could be worthwhile.
The bottom line
It's exciting to see a pivot in Spirit’s loyalty program, which is now more consumer-centric. The airline has come a long way from the Spirit of days’ past. Both credit cards offer solid choices for those who want to earn Spirit points, and the addition of a no-annual-fee, no-transaction-fee credit card is a great way to recruit potential customers.
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