Frontier Airlines EarlyReturns

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For a budget carrier, Frontier Airlines actually has quite a good frequent flyer program. Early Returns members must book on Frontier's website in order to earn miles at a normal distance-based rate; redemption options start at a lower-than-average 10,000 miles. Elite status doesn't come with too many perks, but they're in line with the Frontier profile.

Frontier Airlines is a small, no-frills carrier with an EarlyReturns frequent flyer program that our review found acceptable but constrained by the slim route system. Frontier flies to about 75 destinations and maintains a single hub in Denver. Like some other budget airlines, it tends to nickel and dime passengers on everything from soda to a carry-on bag. But Frontier also makes it easy to evade or reduce many of the fees -- just buy your ticket directly from FlyFrontier.com.

Travelers interested in earning EarlyReturns frequent flyer miles should do the same. Tickets purchased through third-party bookers garner only 25 percent of miles flown, while travelers who make their purchases through the company website earn 100 percent to 150 percent of miles flown, depending on ticket class.

Like many frequent flyer programs we researched, EarlyReturns offers members additional ways to earn miles: dining, using the Frontier co-branded MasterCard credit card, booking with partner hotels and rental car companies, and through special promotions. Frontier lacks an online shopping portal, which isn't a big deal except that the portals easily facilitate account activity. EarlyReturns miles expire when accounts have been dormant for 18 months.

Options for redeeming EarlyReturns miles are limited. Despite Frontier's partnership with four airlines for paid tickets that enable hassle-free connections, the carrier allows award seats only on its own flights. Earning miles through flights taken on a partner airline is restricted to Frontier's Great Lakes Airline partner. One-way award tickets require only 10,000 miles for travel within the United States (including Alaska) or 15,000 miles for travel to the Caribbean and Central America.

Frequent flyers can aim for two elite status levels, Ascent and Summit. The former requires 15,000 flight miles and 20 segments in a calendar year; minimums for the latter are 25,000 flight miles and 30 segments. Benefits include earning bonus redemption miles on flights, complimentary access to seats with extra room and in desirable locations, free checked bags, and more. The Summit level also includes complimentary alcoholic beverages and fee waivers when changing a flight or the name on a ticket.

Frontier offers a decent program for a budget airline. EarlyReturns reviews at frequent flyer forums, however, aren't convinced. Although the price of a round-trip award is relatively cheap, one thread at MilePoint asserts that the company is eliminating on-board perks for elite status flyers and instituting fees willy-nilly. Still, some frugal flyers may consider the program components plus the everyday low fares sufficient to warrant their business.

Louis DeNicola

Louis DeNicola is a freelance personal finance writer who specializes in credit, debt, and practical money-saving tips. He loves stacking savings opportunities to get amazing deals, traveling for free using credit card rewards, and teaching others how to do the same. Connect with Louis by visiting louisdenicola.com.

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