Frontier Airlines Reward Optimization for Beginners

It pays to plan ahead when booking your Frontier award flights to avoid added fees.

Rand ShoafSeptember 25, 2020
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Frontier Airlines offers a lot of value in its rewards program, which recently changed names to Frontier Miles. With its hub in Denver, this ultra low-cost carrier flies to more than 100 cities in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean. In 2020, Frontier will also be introducing 25 new routes with direct flights to several Central American destinations including Guatemala and El Salvador.

Frontier Miles are redeemable for flights on Frontier Airlines only — there are no partner airlines you can book with Frontier Miles — so the number of destinations you can reach using your miles is limited. But if you’re interested in earning award travel to the destinations Frontier serves, this loyalty program offers good value.

How to get started using your points

Frontier has no blackout dates on award travel. But there is limited availability at each redemption level. This means that you will pay more miles for flights in high demand. In general, the earlier you book, the lower the cost of the award ticket.

There are three redemption levels:

  • Value.

  • Standard.

  • Last Seat (only available to elites).

There are two ways to book an award flight. You can call Frontier reservations at 801-401-9000, though you will be charged a reservation service fee of $25 for making your reservation by phone. Or you can book online through your myFrontier account.

To book online, log in to your myFrontier account directly on flyfrontier.com.

Enter your departure city and destination using the drop-down menu in the “Book A Flight” section. Before hitting “Search” be sure to click “Search By Miles.”

A results page will show you available flights and their prices. You can sort through flights based on redemption level and routing. It's also useful to view flight prices on the seven-day price carousel at the top of the page.

What to consider when redeeming

When using your Frontier Miles, it pays to plan early. The fees you pay to book an award flight depend on how close to departure you make the reservation. If you have the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® or hold elite status you won't pay any redemption fees.

Here are the fees you’ll pay when you book:

  • 180 days or more before travel: $0.

  • 21 to 179 days before travel: $15.

  • 7 to 20 days before travel: $50.

  • 6 days or less before travel: $75.

How to know if your award flight is a good value

NerdWallet currently values Frontier Miles at 0.3 cent each. Use this estimate as a guideline to make sure you are getting the best value out of your miles.

To calculate your Frontier Miles redemption value, use this easy formula: price of flight in cash divided by price of flight in miles.

Say, for example, you've found a round-trip flight from Denver to Atlanta that costs either 10,000 miles or $148. That means you’re getting a value of 1.48 cents per mile ($148 flight price divided by 10,000 miles). Compared to the average value of 0.3 cent per mile, this is a great value.

A few program sweet spots

With a little searching, you can find great value when redeeming your miles. Here are a few areas where you might be able to beat the 0.3 cent average by finding a “sweet spot” redemption.

Head to Puerto Rico

You can enjoy the blue waters and amazing beaches of Puerto Rico for just 20,000 miles and $11.20 in taxes round-trip from the continental U.S. This is as cheap as it gets, especially when you are flying from the Western U.S. For example, a Denver-to-San Juan round trip in mid-December starts at a little over $400. Divide that by the 20,000 miles you could use to book an award flight and you’re getting a value of 2 cents per mile — more than triple NerdWallet’s average of 0.3 cent.

Escape to Mexico

You can fly from a U.S. city like San Francisco to Cancun for only 30,000 miles round-trip. Compare that to a cash fare of about $400 round-trip in August or $750 in December, and your miles are getting you a value of anywhere from 1.3 cents each to an impressive 2.5 cents each.

Plus, taxes and fees are reasonable on Frontier’s international flights. For example, on a round-trip flight to Mexico, you will pay around $80 in taxes and fees.

Fly transcontinental within the U.S.

One of the best ways to use Frontier Miles is to book long transcontinental flights across the U.S. It will cost only 10,000 miles one-way, no matter where you fly within the U.S.

This means you can fly from the West Coast to East Coast or vice versa for just 10,000 miles each way. Taxes and fees on all award flights within the U.S. are just $5.60 one-way.

The bottom line

The Frontier Miles frequent flyer program isn’t for everyone. If you’re a luxury traveler looking to earn first-class award travel to faraway places like Europe or Africa, Frontier Miles are of no use to you. But if you’re a frugal traveler who wants to earn miles toward flights in North and Central America and the Caribbean, Frontier Miles can offer great value.

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