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I love Spirit and Frontier. Not flying them–I think I’ve flown them three total times, which weren’t particularly pleasant experiences. I just love what they represent. As the two largest ultra-low-cost carriers in North America, they put downward pressure on all airlines’ fares, which benefits flyers immensely.

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We are all used to paying for checked bags and meals, but Spirit and Frontier charge for a lot more including carry on bags, seat assignments, and even water. A lot of people hate them for that, but I actually agree with their marketing that it’s fairer to charge a la carte pricing and have customers only pay for the services they want. Everyone reading this site is astute enough to compare apples to apples and figure out whether he is getting a better deal on an ultra-low-cost carrier even after the nickle-and-diming.

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Another thing Spirit and Frontier have in common: paid membership clubs. You pay $50 to $70 per year in exchange for discounts only available to Spirit $9 Fare Club and Frontier Discount Den members. Are the Spirit $9 Fare Club and Frontier Discount Den worth the price? Let’s check them out.

Spirit $9 Fare Club

The Spirit $9 Fare Club costs $20 for the first two months or $60 for the first year. Both plans automatically recur for $70 per year.

Members get discounted fare sales and discounted checked and carry on bag fees. Spirit claims that members save an average of $75 per booking.

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Most fares are not discounted for $9 Fare Club members, but some are. Most fare sales offer a cheaper price for $9 Fare Club members. The discount is $11+ per person per direction.

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The Terms & Conditions do not specify how many people can get the discounted fare on the same reservation as one $9 Fare Club member, but I believe that all members of the reservation get the discounted fare if booked from the $9 Fare Club member’s account. (“2.3. Members must always be one of the customers traveling when booking a special fare.”)

In addition to sometimes getting fare discounts, $9 Fare Club members always get bag discounts of $9 per bag per direction.
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Since the only free bag you get on Spirit is a personal item, most members will save at least $18 per roundtrip on baggage fees and $36 if you fly with a companion.

If you fly Spirit roundtrip twice per year ($36+ saved in bag fees) and book at least one roundtrip on a fare sale ($22+ saved), then you should probably join the $9 Fare Club. Do the math, and see if you get more in benefits than you pas a membership fee.

However even if it makes sense to join, don’t join today. Wait until you need to purchase a Spirit ticket, so that your membership period extends as far out into the future as possible.

What about if you need to book one Spirit roundtrip, and you’re not sure if you’ll fly them again? If there’s an 11% chance you’ll need to book another Spirit roundtrip in the next two months, pay for the $20 trial membership. You’ll save $18 guaranteed on bags on the first roundtrip, and if you do book that second roundtrip, you’ll save another $18+.

Are there any $9 Fare Club members reading this post? How much money have you saved with membership?

Frontier Discount Den

The Frontier Discount Den only offers discounted airfare only, no savings on Frontier baggage fees. The Discount Den costs $50 per year, and membership renews automatically.

Certain sale fares are only available to club members, and the sale page says as much.

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Flight searches have a separate Den Deals column.

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Not all routes and flights offer discounts for club members.
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Discounted fares are available for up to six people on a member’s itinerary, as long as he is one of the passengers.

Again do the math, and see if you get more in benefits than you pas a membership fee.

Just like with the $9 Fare Club, don’t join today. Wait until you need to purchase a Frontier ticket, and choose the Discount Den price. You’ll be prompted to join then, which maximizes how far into the future your 12 month membership runs.
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Are there any Discount Den members reading this post? How much money have you saved with membership?

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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I tweeted this deal first from @MileValueAlerts. Follow @MileValueAlerts on Twitter andfollow these directions to get a text message every time I tweet from that account. I tweet from @MileValueAlerts only a few times a month because it is designed to be used only for the best and most limited-time deals–like mistake fares–so that you aren’t bombarded by text messages.

Travel from Houston to Managua, Nicaragua for $172 roundtrip on Spirit Airlines this Summer and Fall. Travel from Dallas, Houston, Chicago, Charlotte, Philadelphia, and Miami to Managua for $246+ roundtrip on Delta this Summer and Fall.

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Contents:

  1. When are the $172+ fares?
  2. Why Nicaragua?
  3. Mileage Earning
  4. Best Credit Card to Buy the Ticket
  5. Copa Baggage Policy

$172 Roundtrip to Managua

Sample Dates: Houston to Managua, September 2 – 10, on Spirit

All of the flights in this post are roundtrips on Delta from American and United hubs (Gotta love competition!) except this Spirit fare out of Houston.

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There are similarly cheap fares out of Houston the rest of the month.
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Search on ITA Matrix by calendar of lowest fares for acceptable trip lengths.

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Philadelphia

$247 roundtrips from August until November

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Dallas

$247 roundtrips from August until November
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Charlotte

$246 roundtrips from August to November

Screen Shot 2015-08-06 at 3.17.16 PMChicago

$326 roundtrips from August to November

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Miami

$247 roundtrips from August to November

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Select the number of nights you’d like the roundtrip to be by hovering over a date on the calendar.

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You cannot book on ITA Matrix. Instead note the dates and search on delta.com or spiritair.com.

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Why Nicaragua?

In the Spring of 2008, I went for a week and a half to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Lago Nicaragua was the highlight. I rented a Vespa and cruised around Isla Ometepe, composed of two volcanoes. I stayed at an awesome hostel and hiked one of the volcanoes to the crater lake on its summit.

I could easily have passed a relaxing week on the island. The views are stunning. Getting around on a scooter rental is fun. And the prices are dirt cheap.

If you want to go to Ometepe, go soon before the proposed Nicaragua Canal cuts through the lake.

I didn’t like Managua at all. Frankly, it scared me a bit.

I did not go to Granada, Nicaragua, a well-preserved colonial city. I think I would have really liked Granada based on my time in the similar Antigua, Guatemala.

You can also easily cross the land border to Costa Rica and see the Monteverde Cloud Forest like I did when I was in Nicaragua.

Mileage Earning

To non-elites, Delta offers 5 miles per dollar for tickets, so these tickets will barely earn 1,000 miles!

Spirit’s program expires miles after 90 days, so don’t invest much in that program.

Best Way to Buy the Ticket

Purchase your ticket with your Citi Prestige® Card, since it comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that will cover the purchase of this ticket. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy this fare with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement: a completely free ticket!

Even if you’ve already used your $250 credit for this year, the card offers 3x on all airfare purchases.

See my review of the Citi Prestige Card which explains its many benefits like it annual $250 Air Travel Credit, 50,000 point sign up bonus, access to the American Airlines Admirals Clubs and Priority Pass lounges, 3x points per dollar on air travel and hotels, and a $450 annual fee.

My second choice would be the Citi ThankYou® Premier Card, which offers 3x on all travel and gas purchases and also has no foreign transaction fees. The card comes with 50,000 bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months.

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Delta and Spirit Baggage Policy

Delta allows one free personal item, one free carry on, and charges $25 for the first checked bag and $40 for the second. Having a Delta credit card will get you a free first checked bag.

Spirit allows one free personal item and charges $35+ for a carry on bag and $30+ for a first checked bag. There are $9 discounts available for members of its $60+ per year “$9 Fare Club.”

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Hat Tip Secretly Flying

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Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

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Updated July 4, 2015 because this deal is still alive, and I love reading the full Economist print edition online each week for free.

Updated August 14, 2014 because my miles were credited to my account several weeks ago, and I just got my free magazine and newspaper subscriptions today! The updates will appear throughout this post.

Complain about any airline in less than 140 characters to earn 8,000 Spirit miles, which are enough for several magazines or three free flights for some people.

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This is a three-step process that takes just a few minutes. I have gone through the process and now have free subscriptions to The Economist, Entrepreneur, and the Wall Street Journal.

  • What are the three steps?
  • What are the possible ways to redeem 8,000 Spirit miles?

1. Sign up for a Free Spirit account.

It takes a few minutes to sign up for Spirit’s loyalty program.

2. Leave a 140 character complaint.

I left a complaint about a Spirit flight from several years ago. Here’s the complaint site.

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The site says you’ll get the miles within 10 days. I got mine 11 days after my complaint.

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The Terms & Coniditions say that the promotion say that the promotion “will end” on July 31, 2014 unless extended by Spirit. Since the site is still up, I assume the promotion has been extended. You may not get your miles, but in that case you’ve only lost a few seconds.

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3. Redeem the Miles.

Magazines

I recommend redeeming your 8,000 miles for magazines. Here is the magazine redemption page.

I redeemed for:

  • The Economist: 51* issues for 2,600 miles
  • Entrepreneur: 12 issues for 900 miles
  • The Wall Street Journal: 228 issues for 4,100 Miles

I had a few hiccups.

First, I kept getting an error message in my Firefox browser after making my selections and typing in my address that I had to go back and make new selections. I switched to Safari, and the order went through.

Second, The Economist was listed at two prices for 51 issue subscriptions, so I chose the cheaper one.

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My confirmation screen said that I had just redeemed for digital access only.

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My confirmation email confirms the 51 issues. We’ll see what I end up getting, but I’m OK with just digital access.

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Flights

You can also redeem the miles for flights, but the Spirit program is terrible if you don’t have the Spirit Airlines World MasterCard.

Spirit miles expire after 90 days if you don’t have and use the Spirit credit card every month. Awards start at 2,500 miles one way for Spirit credit card holders or 10,000 miles one way for non cardholders. Here is the chart and legend:

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The Spirit card might be worth getting if it weren’t so terrible on its own:

  • 15,000 bonus miles after you make a purchase within 90 days of account opening with the World MasterCard® credit card – enough for up to 3 roundtrip off-peak tickets with taxes and fees from $5.00 per award
  • Earn 2 miles for every dollar you spend on purchases with the World MasterCard credit card
  • Earn 5,000 anniversary bonus FREE SPIRIT™ miles when you spend at least $10,000 in purchases annually and pay your annual fee
  • Enjoy Free FREE SPIRIT™ miles that don’t expire for active members (active members must use their Spirit Airlines MasterCard® credit card each month)
  • Start redeeming round-trip reward tickets at just 5,000 FREE SPIRIT™ miles with taxes and fees from $5.00 per award (redemptions levels start at 20,000 FREE SPIRIT™ miles for noncardholders)
  • Enjoy an Introductory annual fee of $0 for the first year; a $59 fee will apply to World MasterCard® accounts thereafter

Bottom Line

Spending a few minutes to open a Spirit account and complain about any airline can get you several free magazine subscriptions or a few flights if you have a Spirit Airlines World MasterCard.

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I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Update 6/30 at 1 PM ET: Stack this sale with the promo code 24OFF.

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It offers $12 off per one way and $24 of per roundtrip. But on the $23/$34 fares, it only offers 1 cent off.Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 8.54.11 PM On the $58 fares, it offers the full $12 off. The cut off point is somewhere in between.Screen Shot 2015-06-30 at 8.57.03 PM

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Through today June 30, Spirit is selling tickets for July and August starting at $23.10 one way for members of its “$9 Fare Club” and $34.10 one way for non-members. (More info on the $9 Fare Club below.)

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The sale is valid for bookings made by 11:59 PM ET today (June 30) for travel on different dates specified by each sale route.

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Here is the sale page and restrictions. I see $23/$34 fares between:

  • Atlanta and Orlando
  • Atlanta and Tampa
  • Atlantic City, NJ to Boston
  • Charleston, WV and Myrtle Beach, SC
  • Chicago and Latrobe, PA
  • Chicago and Minneapolis
  • Cleveland and Boston
  • Cleveland and Myrtle Beach, SC
  • Dallas/Fort Worth and Kansas City, MO
  • Dallas/Fort Worth and New Orleans
  • Denver and Phoenix
  • Denver and Las Vegas
  • Fort Lauderdale and Tampa
  • Fort Lauderdale and Orlando
  • Houston and Kansas City, MO
  • Houston and New Orleans
  • Las Vegas and Los Angeles

There are also many $38, $43, $48, and higher fares, sorted by city.

I had no trouble pricing out Cleveland to Boston on July 28 for $23/$34.

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$9 Fare Club

The $9 Fare Club offers $9 discounts on checked bags and carry ons, and during sales, discounts on airfare. During this sale, the discount on airfare is $5-$15 per one way, depending on the route.

Here is the FAQ of the $9 Fare Club.

Membership costs $60 for the first year and $70 per year thereafter.

If you fly Spirit four or more roundtrips per year, and you always carry at least one paid bag, you should definitely join the club. Otherwise probably not.

Fees

Spirit now follows the ultra-low-cost, fee-for-everything model.

Seat selection costs $1-$50, and more if you want a Big Front Seat, which has the size and legroom of domestic First Class without any of the benefits you normally get for sitting in First Class. Spirit will assign you a seat at check in for free, but you’ll probably get the worst one.

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Only a personal item is free to bring on board. For non-members of the $9 Fare Club, checked bags cost $32 and carry ons cost $35, so I would think of these fares as costing $32 more each way and plan on checking a bag. $9 Fare Club members get a $9-$11 discount on bags.

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All food and drinks cost money. Here’s the snack and drink menu.

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Even checking in at the airport will cost you $2.

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While some people get frustrated by all these fees, I don’t mind them at all. Spirit is super upfront about all the fees, and they’re simple enough to account for or avoid. I buy into Spirit’s marketing that it is fairer to have people pay for their options and NOT pay for they don’t use than have everyone buy a bundled fare with options they might not want.

Getting These Flights for Free

There’s no need to actually pay cash for cheap, cash fares. The Citi Prestige® Card comes with a $250 Air Travel Credit every calendar year that will cover the purchase of this ticket. If you haven’t used the credit yet, buy this fare with your Prestige, and you will receive an offsetting credit on your next statement, so you’ll get a completely free ticket. The Air Travel Credit will also offset seat selection, baggage, and food fees.

 

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Never miss a post again! Follow MileValue on Twitter and Facebook. And sign up to receive one free daily email every morning with all of the day’s posts!

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $800 in American Airlines flights) after spending $3,000 in the first three months on the Citi Prestige® Card. Plus get an additional $500 in free airfare on any airline in the first 12 months plus free airport lounge access worldwide for only a $450 annual fee. Why I got the card.

I earn a commission for some links on this blog. Citi is a MileValue partner.

Today only, there are some great deals on the non-legacy carriers.

Southwest

Southwest is offering oneway flights on Christmas Eve for $100 or less oneway. This could considerably cut down on your holiday fares, if you can combine the fare with a cheap oneway home. The full list of cities and T&C are here.

Here’s LAX’s list of sub-$100 destinations.

Atlanta, Nashville, and Chicago stand out as steals. Here’s Chicago’s (MDW) list:

The discounted fares can also be purchased with fewer points. LAX to Atlanta is under 6,000 Rapid Rewards oneway.

Virgin America

Virgin America is offering 10% off specific routes between December 4 and March 6 using code CYBER10. See the full list of routes and terms and conditions here.

On top of that, if you are among the first 3k bookers, you will get free wi-fi on the flight. I just got the email about this minutes ago, so I think you have a good chance of that.

Virgin America is my second-favorite domestic in-flight experience behind JetBlue and just ahead of Hawaiian.

Spirit

Spirit has three deals that all expire at 11:59 PM ET today.

Take $50 off roundtrip travel November 28 and December 18 with promo code “50OFF”. Full terms and conditions, and book here.

Take $35 off roundtrip travel between December 19 and March 6 with promo code “35OFF”. Full terms and conditions, and book here.

Take $24 off roundtrip travel between March 7 and August 31 with promo code “24OFF”. Full terms and conditions, and book here.

You have until tomorrow at 11:59 PM ET to join the $9 fare club and take advantage of these $19.80 oneway fares. (Full T&C) Here are the options from New York:

There are a ton of options for the cheap fares, but you have to fly on select Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and you have to join the $9 fare club, which costs $60 per year, but grants benefits like exclusive sales and discounted bag fees.

Recap

Southwest, Virgin America, and Spirit are all having deals that end today that are worth looking at. Please factor in baggage fees when booking. Southwest allows two free checked bag, a free carry on, and a free personal item. Virgin allows one free checked bag, a free carry on, and a free personal item. Spirit allows a free personal item, but charges for checked bags and even your bigger carry on!

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