Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® vs. Spirit Airlines World Mastercard®: Battle of the budget airlines

Young woman sitting in airport terminal, looking up frontier vs spirit credit cards on her digital tablet Image: Young woman sitting in airport terminal, looking up frontier vs spirit credit cards on her digital tablet

In a Nutshell

Good news: Fans of low-cost airlines Frontier and Spirit can take their money even further with either airline’s card. Between the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® and Spirit Airlines World Mastercard®, the best card for you is probably determined by which airline serves a higher number of destinations from your airport. But if both airlines are good options for your travel needs, Spirit Airlines offers the superior card, saving you money upfront with a waived annual fee the first year and when booking travel with its affordable “off-peak” redemption options.

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Spirit Airlines World Mastercard® vs. Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®

Feature Spirit Airlines World Mastercard® Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®

Sign-up bonus offer

Up to 30,000 miles

40,000 miles

Highest rewards rates

Two miles per $1 spent on all purchases

Five miles per $1 spent on eligible purchases made at frontier.com

Anniversary bonus

5,000 anniversary bonus miles if you spend at least $10,000 in purchases in a year

$100 anniversary flight voucher every account anniversary if you spend at least $2,500 on purchases in a year

Stand-out perk

Redemption options start at 2,500 miles

Ability to pool miles with friends and family

Annual fee

$0 annual fee the first year; $59 after that

$79

 


What you need to know about each card

Either card is a good option if you’re already a loyal flyer with one of the two low-cost airlines.

Adding the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard® to your wallet can help you earn Free Spirit® miles and ultimately save you money on flights.

If you’re not already loyal to one brand but like the idea of getting a card with either airline, first take a look at local flight options before fretting too much about card benefits — the card that’s best for you may depend on where you live.

Both airlines fly coast to coast within the U.S. and serve many North American and Caribbean destinations, but they may have different levels of service at your local airport. Generally, Spirit Airlines is a better option for folks on the East Coast and Frontier is better for those in the West.

But if both airlines are equal options for you, here’s what you need to know.

Spirit Airlines World Mastercard®: Best for flexible travelers who plan early

The Spirit Airlines World Mastercard® stands out by offering bargain-barrel flights starting at just 2,500 miles, plus taxes and fees. That’s pretty impressive when you take into account the welcome bonus offer.

The Spirit Airlines World Mastercard® offers a sign-up bonus of up to 30,000 miles: 15,000 miles after your first purchase and another 15,000 miles after making $500 in purchases within 90 days of account opening. That means the sign-up bonus could get you seats on up to 12 flights.

And when you consider the 5,000 anniversary bonus miles that the card offers every year that you spend $10,000, that’s an additional two flights annually that you can potentially get. All that without even touching the two miles you’d earn for each $1 spent on any day-to-day purchases.

Although the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard® offers cheap redemption options, they’re limited to “off-peak” travel — which generally doesn’t overlap with holidays or the summer. Otherwise, you can expect flights to start at 10,000 for “standard” dates or 15,000 miles for “peak” travel windows. Plus, the amount of miles needed for redemptions depends on the flight distance. To see if the redemptions might work for your travel needs, check out the Spirit Airlines award chart.

You can save on redemption fees by booking early. There is no fee for flights booked at least 181 days before departure. These fees, which range between $15 and $75, increase the closer you get to the departure date.

If you want to learn more about the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard®, you can find a more in-depth review of the card here.

Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®: Best for families and groups of friends

The Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® is unique in that it offers the ability for a primary cardholder to pool points with up to eight friends or family, allowing them to accrue miles much faster than they might on their own.

Also, this card offers five miles per $1 spent on eligible purchase at frontier.com, three miles for every $1 spent on qualifying restaurant purchases and one mile for each $1 spent on all other purchases.

The other big benefit offered by the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® is the annual $100 flight voucher, which more than makes up for the $79 annual fee. But in order to qualify for the voucher — which is awarded every account anniversary — you have to spend at least $2,500 on purchases every year.

To justify opening the Frontier credit card, make sure you can comfortably afford to hit the spend requirement and that you can use the flight voucher before it expires. You’ll have 180 days (about six months) before it expires.

Want to learn more about the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®? You can read Credit Karma’s full review of the card here.

Winner: Spirit Airlines World Mastercard®

If you’re a fan of low-cost airlines and saving every penny on travel, either of these cards can help take your money further.

But if both airlines are equally useful in their destinations from your local airport, the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard® might be a better option for you, simply because of its ultra-low redemption options. Sure, the qualifying “off-peak” windows are limited, but if you’re flexible on travel dates and can plan in advance, you can save a lot of money with this card.

In contrast to the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®, the Spirit Airlines World Mastercard® has a lower annual fee, which is waived the first year. That’s a $79 comparative savings in the first year, and $20 every year after that.

An important caveat with both of these cards is that, unlike most airline credit cards, neither offers free checked luggage. Spirit and Frontier don’t even give you a free carry-on bag — just a personal item. So if you’re hoping to travel for cheap but need to bring more than can fit under the seat, neither of these cards will help you avoid these airlines’ famous baggage fees.

What to consider when applying for a travel card

If you travel often, a travel card can be a powerful tool to turn those travel-based purchases into miles.

Travel cards come in two general categories.

  • Brand-specific cards like the Spirit or Frontier cards are best if you fly with a specific airline consistently because they both offer airline-specific perks and reward loyalty.
  • Generic travel cards, such as the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card, offer rewards that can be used with many travel brands but don’t offer specific perks with particular carriers. These are better if you like shopping for the best deals across brands when booking travel.

But as with all credit cards, travel cards should be used with caution and a plan. Travel credit cards are not your best option if you don’t expect to pay your credit card statement balance in full every month. If you do carry debt on these cards, the interest fees could quickly wipe out any benefits you may have earned from the rewards.

Not sure either card is for you? Consider these alternatives.


About the author: Sean McQuay is a long-time personal finance nerd. He’s passionate about budgets, credit cards, and earning useful rewards with minimal effort. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and … Read more.