Personal Finance

Your Guide to the Frontier Airlines Award Chart

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Frontier Airlines award bookings are both straightforward and complex. The Frontier Miles program (formerly EarlyReturns) is based on a set award chart, but booking award travel may not be as easy as it seems at first glance. We’ll help break it down for you so you can fly with confidence.

How the program works

As a Frontier Miles member, you’ll earn 1 mile for every mile you fly, no matter the price of the ticket. There are no blackout dates, but there are capacity controls. So once all the award seats on a given flight are gone, you can’t redeem your miles.

Award flights start at 10,000 miles for a one-way domestic flight. That’s not the best rate in the industry, but it’s not the worst, either.

There are three award levels to choose from: Value, Standard and Last Seat, the latter of which is only available to elite members. Last Seat is just what it sounds like: Access to any seat on the plane, even if it’s the last available one. The only difference between Value and Standard fares is greater award availability, but Standard seats start at 20,000 miles each way.

Miles expiration

Frontier miles expire every 180 days if there’s no activity on the account. That means you either need to keep earning miles, keep redeeming miles, or donate some to keep them from expiring. Qualifying earning activities include flying with Frontier or using the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®.

Once miles have expired, you can get them back by paying a reinstatement fee, which is based on the number of miles. Below is a chart of these fees from the Frontier website:

» Learn more: Frontier Airlines credit card review: Potential boon for budget flyers

Redemption fees

If you book your award flight less than 180 days before travel, Frontier Airlines charges an award redemption fee. Below is a breakdown of these fees from the Frontier website:

  • 180+ days before travel: Free.
  • 21-179 days before travel: $15.
  • 7-20 days before travel: $50.
  • <6 days before travel: $75.

There are a handful of ways around this, but they won’t work for everyone: Elite members and holders of the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® get redemption fees waived. Traveling on the same reservation as a cardholder also qualifies you for a fee waiver.

Family pooling

Don’t have enough miles to book an award flight? Or maybe you have a plethora but want a friend or family member who hasn’t banked as many to join you? Pool miles with your family members. You can designate eight people to your family pool, and they don’t even have to share your last name: They can be friends, family members, co-workers or anyone in between.

One person is in charge of the miles earned by all of the members in the pool. That person can redeem the miles in the pool. This offers the ability to combine what might be small individual collections of miles in order to book air travel long before one individual might be able to do so themselves.

There are a few caveats, however. To be eligible to pool miles, you must be an elite member or have a Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® (more on that later).

» Learn more: Baffled by points and miles? Let the 80/20 rule guide you

Elite status

Frontier has three elite status levels: Elite 20K, Elite 50K and Elite 100K. As the names might suggest, each level requires the corresponding amount of miles to achieve. If you’d prefer to earn status via segments flown, Elite 25K requires 25 segments, Elite 50K requires 50 and Elite 100K requires 100.

All status levels offer access to family pooling and priority boarding, last seat availability and waived redemption fees, plus Stretch Seating. Elite 50K offers family seating, 50% off a Discount Den membership and 1.25X miles on every flight.

Elite 100K tacks on the additional benefits of a free checked bag, Family Status, 1.5X miles earned on flights and a free Discount Den membership.

Frontier Airlines credit card

Signing up for a Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® comes with a fair amount of benefits for those who fly with the airline relatively frequently. But in addition to waived award booking fees and access to family pooling, cardholders are eligible for the following welcome offer: Earn 50,000 bonus miles after spending $500 on purchases in the first 90 days and paying the annual fee.

You’ll earn 5 miles for every $1 spent on Frontier.com, 3 miles at restaurants and 1 mile on everything else. You’ll also get a $100 flight voucher on your account anniversary, provided you spend at least $2,500 on the card in a year.

There is a $79 annual fee, which makes the card most beneficial for those who would make good use of the perks and benefits.

The bottom line

The Frontier Airlines award chart is fairly straightforward, making planning for travel easy. But things like award booking fees and baggage fees for even certain carry-ons simultaneously make award travel less attractive and the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® (which can help offset such fees) more so.

If you know the ins and outs of the program and how to avoid fees and get the most out of each award booking, you could do worse than Frontier Airlines for award travel.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2019, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Find the best travel credit card for you
Frontier Airlines credit card now a ticket to elite status
Earn more points and miles with these 6 strategies

This article originally appeared on NerdWallet