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Spirit Free Spirit cheat sheet for using your miles

by on Fri July 1, 2016 • 14 Comments
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Spirit_Airlines_Airbus_A319_(N503NK)_landing_at_FLL

Flying Spirit Airlines isn’t easy. But if you know the rules, and how to add up what you’ll really pay, Spirit’s miles can offer you some really good value for flights, saving you hundreds of dollars for far fewer miles than traditional airline programs. Read on for what traps to avoid and how to get the most out of Spirit miles.

Airlines you can book and where to find award space

Since Spirit Air doesn’t have any partners, you can only use Free Spirit miles to book award flights on Spirit. Spirit predominantly flies in the United States, Mexico, and the Caribbean, with a few forays into Central and South America, namely Costa Rica, Guatemala, Salvador, Nicaragua, Colombia, and Peru.

The best use of Spirit Air miles is for nonstop flights, and this is why your location determines whether or not Spirit miles are useful.

Those who live in or close to Miami/Fort Lauderdale will benefit the most, as FLL is the main Spirit hub and home base. From there it flies to 45 nonstop destinations. Other U.S. cities where Spirit flies are (including seasonal flights):

  • Dallas: 24 destinations
  • Chicago: 21 destinations
  • Detroit: 20 destinations
  • Houston: 20 destinations
  • Las Vegas: 19 destinations
  • Los Angeles: 18 destinations
  • Atlanta: 17 destinations
  • Minneapolis: 16 destinations
  • Myrtle Beach: 14 destinations
  • Boston: 13 destinations
  • Baltimore: 12 destinations
  • Orlando: 12 destinations
  • Atlantic City: 10 destinations
  • Denver: 10 destinations
  • Tampa: 9 destinations
  • Cleveland: 9 destinations
  • Fort Myers: 9 destinations
  • New Orleans: 8 destinations
  • Philadelphia: 8 destinations
  • San Diego: 6 destinations
  • New York (LGA): 5 destinations
  • Oakland: 5 destinations
  • Latrobe/Pittsburg: 5 destinations
  • Phoenix: 5 destinations
  • Portland: 4 destinations
  • Kansas City: 3 destinations
  • Seattle: 2 destinations
  • West Palm Beach: 2 destinations
  • Niagara Falls: 2 destinations
  • Plattsburgh/Montreal: 2 destinations
  • Charleston (CRV): 1 destination

How much do awards cost?

The Spirit Air Free Spirit award chart appears as if it is region-based, but the regions are distance-based.

So the further you fly, the more your award will cost.

There are four regions, as seen in the chart on the right.First thing you need to know is that there is no value in Spirit miles unless you’re a Spirit credit card holder. You must be a card holder if you want to get their OFF-PEAK levels, which are the only levels worth getting.If you are a Spirit credit card holder, a one-way flight on Spirit costs from 2,500 to 12,500 miles one way. Round trip flights are doubled.

  • Region 1 (0-1,249 miles distance): 2,500 miles
  • Region 2 (1,250-1,749): 5,000 miles
  • Region 3 (1,750-2,499): 7,500 miles
  • Region 4 (2,500 and more): 12,500 miles

 

Spirit Chart 1

 

On the left side they clarify what their OFF-PEAK times are. They are not always accurate, so don’t put too much stock into them, just look for your flight using the Spirit’s search engine. At the bottom of the page, you can see the Spirit customer service telephone number. Avoid it at all times if you can help it.

Spirit prices

The way Spirit presents the chart looks confusing, but it’s quite easy to decipher.

What you need to figure out is the region determined by the distance between your departure and destination points. For example, a flight between New York and Fort Lauderdale costs 2,500 miles because they are in Region 1. A flight between New York and Lima (Region 4) costs 12,500 miles.

Spirit Chart 2
Spirit Chart 3

A Spirit award seat can be an incredible bargain if you use the miles right and avoid most of the auxiliary fees the airline is famous for. After the Avios devaluation, the cheapest flight with major U.S. programs starts at 7,500 miles (Avios, United, American, and Delta). A Spirit flight starts at 2,500 miles, and that price also covers the longest distance: 1,249 miles.

Tip: In most cases, Spirit, unlike British Airways Avios, counts the total distance between your departure and destination points, not just the distance by segments even if there is a connection (as long as there is OFF-PEAK availability for both segments).

What are award change and booking fees?

Spirit is known for imposing fees on everything. In fact, combining their somewhat lower fares with tons of auxiliary fees is their whole business model. None of Spirit’s fees is especially outrageous compared to other airlines, though, except their punitive $100 fees they impose if you try to beat the system and sneak your bag through the gate.

Close-in booking fee:

  • $15 – Award ticket requested between 21 and 179 days prior to departure
  • $75 – Award ticket requested between 7 and 20 days prior to departure
  • $100 – Award ticket requested 6 days or less prior to departure

Changes and mile redeposit fee: $110

Carry-on bag (22x18x10 maximum):

  • During booking: $35 ($26 for $9 club members)
  • Before and during online check in $45 ($36 for $9 club members)
  • Airport: $55
  • Gate: $100

First checked bag (62 linear inches maximum):

  • During booking: $35 ($26 for $9 club members)
  • Before and during online check in $45 ($36 for $9 club members)
  • Airport: $55
  • Gate: $100

Seat assignments: $8-75 per segment

Phone (agent transaction) fee: $10

Tip: If you know you will need a bag, pay for the checked bag during the booking. But don’t dismiss the free 16x14x12 personal item allowance. You can pack surprisingly many items into that bag as illustrated in Spirit’s entertaining videos (scroll half down).

When are award seats made available?

Spirit allows awards to be booked from 301 days (with many exceptions) to the same day of departure.

Waitlists

No.

What stopovers are allowed?

No.

Can you hold an award seat?

No.

What are the best award values?

Getting a flight between New York and Fort Lauderdale or Chicago for 2,500 miles is amazing, although finding an OFF-PEAK award flight to Chicago is very hard. Of course, New York is not a major hub for Spirit so there are not many non-stop flights. However, connecting options can be a bargain too.

  • Orlando, Tampa, New Orleans: 2,500 miles
  • Cancun, Montego Bay, Punta Cana: 5,000 miles
  • Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Aruba: 7,500 miles
  • Armenia (Colombia), Lima: 12,500 miles

Chicago is a bigger focus city for Spirit than New York, but it’s also farther away from the Caribbean and Central and South America, so all flights to these destinations are connecting ones.

  • Boston, Tampa, Dallas: 2,500 miles
  • Portland, Las Vegas, Montego Bay: 5,000 miles
  • Los Cabos, Aruba, Punta Cana: 7,500 miles
  • Bogota, Medellin, Lima: 12,500 miles

Dallas has the shortest distances from the South West and South East.

  • Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale: 2,500 miles.
  • Portland, New York, Boston: 5,000 miles
  • Aruba, Bogota, Panama City: 7,500 miles
  • Lima: 12,500 miles

If you live in or close to Miami/Fort Lauderdale, you’re golden. You can get to most places for a song. There is decent availability from FLL to many Caribbean islands and even far away destinations such as Columbia and Peru.

  • Boston, New York, Chicago: 2,500 miles
  • St. Thomas, San José, Cartagena: 2,500 miles
  • Mexico City, Medellin, Bogota: 5,000 miles
  • Las Vegas, Los Angeles: 7,500 miles
  • Lima: 10,000 miles

It’s not difficult to find a great value in the Spirit chart. It’s important to remember, though, that Spirit is not your spur-of-the-moment airline.

Tip: If you want to get the best value from the program, plan and book a few months in advance. Booking close to your departure date will normally cost you a lot in both miles and cash.

Can you upgrade with miles?

No, but getting a cash upgrade on Spirit is the best open secret of the Free Spirit program.
When you book an award seat you get an option of paying for a preassigned seat. Most people ignore it, since the only thing they are interested in Spirit is saving money.

That leads to a miserable flight in a cramped, non-reclined seat with the “industry-record” 28-inch pitch. Spirit, however, offers you upgrades to two much better options, either an exit row seat, which is as good as most domestic “premium economy” products or a “big front seat”, which is as good as domestic first class sans food, booze and personalized service.
The price of upgrade depends mostly on the length of the flight, but also on some other considerations, and can be as low as $25 and $36 for a 4-hour Portland–Chicago award (for exit seat row and BFS respectively) and as high as $25 and $75 on a 6-hour long-haul between Fort Lauderdale and Lima.

SPIRIT BFS PDX-ORD
SPIRIT BFS FLL-LIM

Alternative miles to book Spirit flights

None.

What hotel points can you transfer from?

None.

What credit cards earn Free Spirit miles?

There are two BoA Spirit World personal and business credit cards with 15,000-mile bonus each and no spending requirements. The personal card waives the $59 annual fee for the first year.

Can you book awards for others?

Yes.

Can you transfer miles?

No.

Do Spirit miles expire?

Free Spirit miles expire after 3 months of inactivity, which is strict, but as long as there is some monthly activity on the Spirit credit card, you are good. The easiest way to “set it and forget it” is to put a recurring charge on your credit card and let it run without interruptions.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Miles dont expireas long as card is open
Learn more

Partner Offer

50,000 bonus points

Intro Offer

$0 introductory annual fee, then $95

Annual Fee

$0

Foreign Transaction Fee Waived

Yes

Points Can Transfer to Airline Miles ?

Still confused? Have a question?

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14 thoughts on Spirit Free Spirit cheat sheet for using your miles

  1. andrea

    Why are some routes always listed as “premium.” I don’t believe this expensive “premium” category existed when I signed up for this card a year or two ago. It makes the award program pretty worthless.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @andrea – Yes it’s annoying – but also click through on individual dates as the calendar can sometimes be buggy.

      Reply
  2. Jess Madison

    Trying to book a few flights using Spirit miles. Chart shows “off peak” and zone 1 and I am a spirit mastercard holder. Should be 5000 miles roundtrip and I have 30,000 miles but when I try to purchase it says The trip will be 100,000+ and I need to buy more miles to proceed.

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Jess – The other issue is on some flights they only offer ‘Premium’ award prices. When you search, for dates on the calendar that have a black triangle – those have the off peak flights available.

      Reply
  3. Josh

    Hi,

    We flew from Baltimore to Vegas using spirit airline last year in September. The 15,000 bonus miles offer was too tempting to pass so we also opened a spirit mastercard. I am now trying to use those bonus miles before I have to pay the 59$ yearly fees as I really don’t travel enough to justify that fees. My question is that if I book a flight for lets say Feb 2017 (the off peak days on spirit calendar) now by using my points and then cancel my spirit card after paying it out to avoid the fees. Will that effect my airline reservation in any way when the time comes for my to flight?

    Thanks,
    Josh

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Josh – Once you book it should not, unless you decide to try to change your reservation, in which case you’d end up paying the non-member rates.

      Reply
  4. Allison M

    I need serious help with booking Spirit award miles and this is the best website I have found thus far. I signed up for the Mastercard after I reviewed the Spirit airlines chart and off-peak dates…etc. However, now when I try to book everything seems to be the premium 25,000 miles. Specifically, I need to go to San Diego in February (dates pretty flexible, but ideally the weekend of 2/10) from Dallas. I’d really like help figuring out the website in general too so I can figure out the best award flights on my own in the future.

    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Allison – The issue is for whatever reason Spirit isn’t offering nonstop flights to San Diego then. Only options with long 7 hour stops in Las Vegas are showing up.

      Not clear why – you can’t even buy a nonstop to San Diego in cash on the Spirit site or even on other sites that list flights. So it’s not an issue with award miles, or the site itself.

      And after February, like next June, they show flights.

      It’s possible San Diego is just a seasonal destination for Spirit from Dallas.

      Reply
      1. Allison M

        Interesting! Just my luck!! I actually really love flying Spirit and if you can read and follow rules it really does end up being cheaper. I just need to figure out their award miles game to understand more! Thank you!!

        Reply
  5. Nick

    Thank you for the tremendously informative article! I found more answers (which were more user friendly) within this article than even on the Spirit website. Two questions:

    – we signed up for our Spirit card last January in hopes of earning, with the 15,000 mile bonus, enough miles for two round trips from AC to St. Thomas. If we have enough miles for one round trip plus one of the two directions for the second ticket, will Spirit allow that? Or to utilize miles do you have to book a full, round trip?

    – in your expert opinion, which credit card or airline ticket offers the best rewards miles bases card?

    Thanks again!

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Nick – No need to book a full roundtrip. You can book as separate one way trips to piece things out.

      As for 3 one ways from AC to St. Thomas – yes 15,000 miles can do that at 5,000 miles one way. The catch is you need to be really, really flexible and get off peak dates that also happen to have ‘standard’ award seats available.

      When you’re searching on Spirit.com look for dates that show 12,500 miles as the price. When you click on one of those dates you’ll see the price for Spirit credit card holders of 5,000 miles.

      As for other cards…depends on where you like to travel. If you can get to Philly, Southwest points are pretty easy to use. The Chase Sapphire Preferred is one card that lets you earn points you could use on Southwest if they fly to places you want to visit.

      But if you’re really patient and flexible with all that Spirit is…5,000 Spirit miles to St. Thomas is a great deal.

      Reply
  6. Jeffrey Sappenfield

    We are one of those that took advantage of the Credit Card deal on our first Spirit flight in which we were promised 3 round trips or 15,000 miles if we signed up for the credit card that day. Since we don’t travel much seemed a great way to get 3 free trips. We understand the credit card situation that we need to use the card constantly to retain our files, so we put our monthly gym membership on the Spirit Credit Card. The problem is when you go and attempt to utilize the miles for a free trip you have constant headaches in finding such a time. We are planning on going from Dallas to Baltimore in mid September 15 – 18 and it seems the 6 am flight is the only flight we can use the miles on (we think – so confusing) Then another flight that we really want to go on is only $58. Others are $250. ????????????????? We haven’t even looked at the flight coming home. Do they define non peak or off peak differently. I just don’t understand and I am about to tell them to take this whole thing and shove it. I am hoping you can shed a light on this constant dilemma.

    Thanks
    Jeff

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Jeffrey – To get a flight for 5,000 miles roundtrip, 3 things need to happen.

      – The distance from point A to point B needs to be less than 1,250 miles (you’re good there for Dallas Baltimore)
      – The date of travel needs to be on an ‘off peak’ date (see that ‘#1’ circle in the chart above with the dates – you’re good there with your dates)
      – Spirit needs to make ‘standard’ award space available (this is where it’s a casino – and up to their whim of what flights get that space). To make it more confusing, the calendar you see will say 10,000 miles – but when you click on the date you’ll see the special price.

      But it’s not impossible.

      For your Baltimore trip, if you leave on Wednesday instead of Thursday there’s a flight for 2,500 miles one way at 1:52pm.

      For the way back, there’s nothing less than 25,000 miles until Tuesday, but if that’s not palatable, just book the flight out on Wednesday with miles.

      Then pay for the flight back with cash on Spirit or another airline.

      You’ll save the money on the flight out, and can use the leftover miles for another trip.

      Spirit doesn’t charge you more to book one way tickets vs roundtrips, so you can split them up like that.

      But you need to be really flexible. Best way to use these is to look for some dates that are available somewhere warm like Cancun or Florida in the winter, and see if you can make a trip out of that.

      For example, January 15 – 19 or January 22 – 26 you can go from Dallas to Cancun for 5,000 miles roundtrip per person.

      Reply

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