Spirit Airlines’ New Loyalty Program is Live and Includes New Credit Cards

Spirit Airlines’ new program is now live, and as previously announced, the changes are very customer-friendly. Details of Spirit’s new credit cards were also provided, and for Spirit loyalists, they offer a lot of perks. Here’s what you need to know about the new program.

The new Free Spirit loyalty program

The new program is based on money spent rather than the number of miles flown, and miles (from the old program) will convert to points (in the new program) at a 1:1 ratio.

The shift to a revenue-based program will allow Spirit to reward customers who spend the most with the airline. All the main domestic carriers award status according to this model, and with Spirit aiming to transition from a purely low-cost carrier (not many perks) to one that offers low prices and an appealing loyalty program, the program shift seems natural.

Elite status tiers

There are now three status levels: Free Spirit, Silver and Gold. And here’s how they compare:

Under the new program, flyers will earn Status Qualifying Points, or SQPs, at a rate of $10 = 1 SQP. You’ll need to earn 2,000 SQPs and 5,000 SQPs to earn Silver and Gold status, respectively. SQPs are earned on flights, ancillary purchases (e.g., seats, bags) and by using its credit card.

The ancillary purchases, referred to as A La Smarte options, earn points at double the rate of flights, so if you frequently spend money on these extras, you’ll pick up some extra SQPs for that. The ability to earn status completely from credit card spend alone is a great option for those who will fly with Spirit but also use a card for everyday spending or large purchases.

Points pooling is another neat feature of the program, allowing up to eight friends or family members to combine points for earning and redeeming. Spirit says that redemption fees on award tickets are getting reduced: For awards booked within 28 days of the travel date, there is a $50 redemption fee, but there is no fee for awards booked further out than 28 days.

Redeeming points

Since Spirit is shifting to a revenue-based earning/redeeming structure, the cost of a flight in points will be based on the price of the ticket. However, flights can still be redeemed at the lowest rate of 2,500 points. Customers will also be able to use the Points + Cash option to book flights for as low as 1,000 points plus money to cover the remainder of the fare.

Another meaningful benefit of the new program is that points no longer expire as long as you have qualifying earning or redeeming activity in your account in a year. If you hold a Free Spirit credit card, your points will not expire. This is a significant improvement over the punitive prior policy, which used to expire points after three months of inactivity.

The new Free Spirit credit cards

Spirit has unveiled four new co-branded credit cards, two for the U.S. market and two for the Latin American market. Bank of America® continues to be the co-branded partner on the domestic credit cards.

The Free Spirit® Travel Mastercard® is a $0-annual-fee card that has this welcome offer: Earn 10,000 Bonus Points after making at least $500 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.. If you spend at least $10,000 per year, you will earn 5,000 bonus points on each account anniversary. There are also no foreign transaction fees, which is a great perk for a no-annual-fee card. In a nutshell, this is a solid product for someone who is looking to start earning points with Spirit but doesn’t want the commitment of an annual fee. The card is not yet available on Bank of America®’s website, and a definitive timeline was not given for its rollout.

At the next tier is the Free Spirit® Travel More Mastercard®, which has an annual fee of $0 intro for the first year, then $79. The welcome offer is Earn 10,000 Bonus Points after making at least $500 in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.. Since flights start at 2,500 points, you could redeem the welcome offer for 16 award flights at the lowest level.

Upon spending $5,000 per year on the card, on each account anniversary you will earn a $100 companion flight voucher essentially erasing the annual fee. This card also earns SQPs, so if you’re looking to earn status based on credit card spend, this is the product you’ll want to go with. Another great benefit is no fees on any award redemptions, which is great if you’d like to book last-minute award tickets. Similar to the no-annual-fee card, this card does not charge foreign transaction fees. Overall, this is a credit card for frequent Spirit flyers who want to maximize the points earned with Spirit and benefit from all the perks.

Here are the rest of the perks offered on the two co-branded credit cards.

Free Spirit® Travel Mastercard®

Free Spirit® Travel More Mastercard®

Point earn rate

2x on Spirit; 1x on everything else

3x on Spirit; 2x on dining and groceries; 1x on everything else

Points pooling

Zone 2 shortcut boarding

Yellow Glove Concierge Service

25% in-flight rebate on food and drinks

Points do not expire

Card product

World Mastercard®

World Elite Mastercard®

Spirit Saver$ Club

Replacing the $9 Fare Club, the Spirit Saver$ Club is a subscription-based membership that offers perks such as:

  • Discounts on seats including Spirit’s Big Front Seats and exit rows.

  • Exclusive fares.

  • Up to 50% off on bags.

  • Savings on A La Smarte purchases.

  • Offers with select partners ranging from wine memberships to car rentals.

The discount on Big Front Seats is interesting as they are essentially equivalent to domestic first class seats on major U.S. carriers. Big Front Seats have a 36” pitch and 18.5” of width, which is just slightly smaller than Delta’s and United’s first class product but for a much cheaper price. For example, a Big Front Seat purchased in advance ranges from $12 to $150, which isn’t that much to pay for a first class upgrade if your original ticket is already low priced to begin with.

The membership costs $69.95 for 12 months, $99.90 ($5 savings) for 18 months and $129.90 ($10 savings) for 24 months. If you value the perks offered by the Spirit Saver$ Club and often upgrade to the Big Front Seat, the savings could be worthwhile.

The bottom line

It’s exciting to see a pivot in Spirit’s loyalty program, which is now more consumer-centric. The airline has come a long way from the Spirit of days’ past. Both credit cards offer solid choices for those who want to earn Spirit points, and the addition of a no-annual-fee, no-transaction-fee credit card is a great way to recruit potential customers.

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 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

Is the AmEx Business Platinum Card Worth Its Annual Fee?

Perks of The Business Platinum Card® from American Express

New cardmembers can collect a stack of welcome bonus points. Earn 85,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases within the first 3 months of Card Membership. Terms Apply. Plus, cardmembers earn points for every purchase.

You’ll get:

  • 5x points on flights and prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com.

  • 1.5x points on eligible purchases of $5,000 or more.

  • 1x points on all other eligible purchases.

Other benefits also help make the card worthwhile:

  • Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee credit.

  • 35% points refunded when you redeem them for eligible flights.

  • Airport lounge privileges.

  • Elite status in participating hotel and car rental loyalty programs.

  • $200 annual airline fee credit.

  • $200 annual credit for qualifying Dell purchases.

  • Travel and consumer protections including rental car coverage and baggage insurance.

  • Flexible ways to use your points, including transferring points to partner airlines.

Terms apply.

The annual fee is worth it if you …

Earn the welcome bonus

Membership Rewards points are redeemable for travel booked directly through American Express, gift cards, statement credits or online shopping, or you can convert them into airline miles with partner programs.

Depending on how you use them, NerdWallet estimates those points are worth anywhere from 0.5 cent to 1 cent each. That means your welcome bonus is worth several hundred dollars and can offset the annual fee for the first year if you use your points well. Terms apply.

Use the annual airline fee credit

Every year, you can charge up to $200 in incidental fees with one airline, and those charges will be automatically reimbursed in the form of a statement credit.

First, you select an airline (you can change your designated airline in January every year). Then, just use the card to pay for checked-bag fees, seat assignment fees or in-flight refreshments.

Take full advantage of this benefit every year and it essentially puts $200 back in your pocket. Terms apply.

Get reimbursed for Global Entry or TSA Precheck

Like other ultra-premium credit cards, The Business Platinum Card® from American Express offers a statement credit for either Global Entry or TSA Precheck. Because Global Entry comes with TSA Precheck, it makes sense for most people to get Global Entry if they have a passport.

The card reimburses you $100 every four years when you use the card to pay the application fee for Global Entry. Or, you can get reimbursed $85 every 4 1/2 years if you opt for TSA Precheck. If you don’t already have this benefit from another credit card, figure this perk has a value of around $25 per year. Terms apply.

Spend strategically

With The Business Platinum Card® from American Express, every purchase can earn you Membership Rewards points — but some purchases earn more than others.

The 5 points per dollar you earn on flights and prepaid hotels booked through amextravel.com can offset a big portion of your annual fee. For example, if you spend $4,000 per year this way on flights and hotels, you’ll earn 20,000 Membership Rewards points, worth several hundred dollars depending how you redeem them.

If your business needs to make big purchases — anything over $5,000 — those buys give you 1.5 points per dollar. Making two qualifying $6,000 purchases on the card every year would get you 18,000 Membership Rewards, worth a couple hundred dollars depending on your specific redemption. Terms apply.

Maximize the 35% point rebate

Redeem your points in the American Express travel portal for any first or business class flight, or on any class of flight on a single airline you preselect, and you’ll get 35% of your points rebated back to you. This means you can stretch your points even further. Now, that 50,000-point flight will cost you only 32,500 points. Terms apply.

Use your lounge access

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express allows you to access five different kinds of airport lounges, including:

The value that you’ll get from this benefit depends on how much you travel and what other airport lounge access you already have. It’s hard to put a dollar value on this benefit, but a conservative method is to think of what you would spend in airports on food and drinks without lounge access.

If you’d shell out $15 on average for a sandwich consumed at a crowded gate, free food and drinks in an airport lounge 10 times per year would put $150 back in your pocket (with the added bonus of a quieter, more spacious area to enjoy them in). Terms apply.

Get elite status with hotel and rental car companies

Holders of this card qualify for elite status in several hotel and rental car loyalty programs:

But don’t assume your new elite status kicks in automatically. For example, you have to take steps to request your Gold status in Marriott Bonvoy. Once you do, you’ll enjoy perks like possible room upgrades, accelerated points earning and a chance for late checkout on every qualifying stay at a hotel or resort in the Bonvoy program. Terms apply.

You know your purchase and travel protections

The rental car coverage, baggage insurance, extended warranties and other travel and purchase protections that come with this card can be extremely valuable if you know how to use them.

For example, when you rent a car, you must decline the collision damage waiver offered at the rental car counter in order to get coverage from your card benefits. Spend some time learning about your coverages so you can get the most out of them, hopefully further offsetting your card’s annual fee. Terms apply.

The bottom line

The Business Platinum Card® from American Express’s $595 annual fee is undeniably high. But you can put that much and more back in your pocket if you make the most of this card. Points earning, fee credits, loyalty program status and travel and purchase protections can easily offset the cost for users who can take full advantage of them.

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 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

What You Need to Know About Traveling to Hawaii During COVID

Hawaii has one of the consistently lowest COVID rates in the U.S., and the Hawaiian Islands opened back up to tourism in October. Southwest, American, Delta, United, Alaska and Hawaiian airlines all resumed flights to Hawaii from the mainland at that time.

But that doesn’t mean you can just hop over to Hawaii to enjoy the endless sun, beaches and mai tais. Here’s what is helpful to know about Hawaii’s COVID travel restrictions if you’re thinking of heading there.

Hawaii’s Safe Travels program

Before even booking your trip, you will likely want to have a strong grasp of Hawaii’s travel restrictions for visitors.

If you’re arriving in Hawaii from the mainland, you’ll need to quarantine for 10 days if you haven’t gotten a negative COVID test, registered with the state, answered a health questionnaire and taken some other steps outlined in Hawaii’s Safe Travels program.

Travelers from the contiguous U.S. who are heading to Oahu, Maui and the Big Island can avoid the 10-day quarantine requirement by following the steps below. Travelers to Kauai must complete these steps, plus meet some additional requirements.

Regardless of where you are coming from, all Hawaii visitors must:

  • Enter travel information for each leg of your trip.

  • Upload negative COVID test results from a Hawaii-approved testing facility no more than 72 hours before the last leg of travel (bring proof of your negative test to the airport).

  • Upload a recent picture (selfies are OK).

  • Fill out the Travel Health Questionnaire no more than 24 hours before departure.

  • Retrieve a QR code via email and put it on your phone or print it out.

  • Pass through screening at your arrival airport, showing your QR code, negative test results and other documents, and get your temperature taken via thermal screening.

  • Be prepared to present your QR code to staff at your hotel and rental car agency.

  • Wear a mask pretty much every public place you go except while eating, drinking or exercising safely away from others.

Travelers who don’t meet these requirements before they arrive will be subject to a mandatory 10-day quarantine. Travelers who quarantine still have to fill out the Safe Travels Form and, additionally, must do a daily quarantine check-in, following instructions that are sent via email.

Hawaii quarantining does not operate on the honor system — Hawaii state agents often knock on hotel room doors to ensure guests are complying with quarantine requirements. On our recent trip, we saw numerous different patrols that came to the hotel to make sure that people had not left their rooms. Plus, hotel staff or anyone else who sees you breaking quarantine can report you.

If you break quarantine, you can be fined up to $5,000, sentenced to up to a year in jail or both.

Special travel requirements for visitors to Kauai

The island of Kauai requires travelers to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival — even after going through all the steps above and supplying proof of a negative COVID test. However, a new Kauai “resort bubble” option can cut quarantine down to three days.

Travelers must stay at an approved “resort bubble” property, without leaving, then take a post-travel COVID test — in addition to the pre-travel test they took before heading to the islands. If the post-travel test comes back negative, the traveler will be allowed to leave the property.

Because of these tough restrictions, some flights from the mainland to Kauai have been canceled, but there are still ways to get there, including inter-island flights.

How to get started

Register at Hawaii’s Safe Travels website

Before you travel, you must register at the state’s Safe Travels website, where you’ll submit information about your COVID test, lodging in Hawaii, flight information and more. Once finished, you’ll get a QR code that you may be required to show to your travel providers. Do not delete or lose this QR code.

On a recent trip, when we checked into our hotels and picked up our rental cars, we were required to show the form so employees could document our whereabouts and confirm that we weren’t breaking quarantine.

Get a Hawaii-approved COVID test

You can’t go to just any testing facility or get just any kind of test to travel to Hawaii. You need to pass a nucleic acid amplification test administered by one of the state of Hawaii’s approved testing providers, including:

Submit negative results from one of these labs at the Safe Travels website and prepare to bring a digital or paper copy as well.

Pack your mask

You’re required to wear a mask in public spaces in Hawaii, with a few exceptions, such as when eating or drinking, exercising at a good distance from other people or engaging in a few other exempted activities. See this state of Hawaii webpage for specifics, including exemptions for children and for health reasons. If you don’t wear your mask when required, you could be fined or jailed.

What to expect at the airport

Arrival

No one at our departure airport checked our information, but as soon as we landed in Hawaii, we were escorted to a secure area to be checked.

Some travelers on our flight had not done the work ahead of time. They were sectioned off to finish their paperwork — a process that clogged the system, affecting other travelers. So do your paperwork before you fly.

Nerd tip: If you fly Alaska Airlines to Oahu or the Big Island, you can skip the screening process when you land by signing up for the Alaska Airlines Pre-Clear Program before departure. Because of this partnership, you can get a wristband that will allow you to skip the screening line at Honolulu or Kona airport. Alaska will send travelers an email prior to departure asking them to confirm that all adult travelers in their party have completed the required steps in Hawaii’s Safe Travels program.

The interview

If you’re not flying Alaska Airlines or you are and haven’t pre-cleared, you’ll need to head to an interview station to speak with a representative of the Hawaii Department of Health after you land. They’ll scan your QR code and make sure that you have all the required paperwork uploaded.

Photo by Jon Nickel-D’Andrea.

Approval

If everything is in order, a health department rep will give you a piece of paper showing that you are exempt from quarantine. Keep this paper with you through your journey. You will need to show it if you are asked to do so.

If you have not finished your paperwork or something is not correct, you must fill out a quarantine form. Then you must head directly to your hotel or lodging and stay there until you’ve completed your quarantine.

Frequently asked questions

How to travel between islands

If you want to travel between islands in Hawaii, restrictions vary depending on where you’re headed and where you’re coming from. For example, if you first landed on Oahu, but then you want to head to Kauai, the Big Island or Maui, you must test again at your own expense before you move on to the next island. But if your first entry point is Kauai and you complete your quarantine requirements there, you can head to Oahu without retesting. Check the Hawaii Department of Transportation website for requirements for your specific islands.

Want to choose your island based on COVID risk? You can check the state’s COVID information webpage, where you’ll find that Oahu currently has a higher infection rate than the other islands.

So … should you travel to Hawaii during COVID?

In the COVID pandemic, all travel is a risk. But Hawaii’s strict requirements mean that many — or maybe all — of the people on your flight recently tested negative. At your destination, the people around you will have either tested negative or quarantined for 10 days, or they will be residents of a state with a relatively low COVID rate. And you’ll all be wearing masks.

But only you can decide. Weigh the possible benefits of a trip to a tropical destination against the risks of travel, especially through your home airport, keeping in mind that the safest option is to stay home until the pandemic is under control.

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 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

Is the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard Worth Its Annual Fee?

If you’re a frequent flyer, then it can often pay to get the credit card of the airline that you fly with the most. In addition to the miles that you get from spending on the airline’s co-branded credit card, most airline cards offer perks that are especially useful to those who travel frequently with that airline.

The Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® is no different: Frequent Frontier travelers will benefit from having this card in ways that those who only occasionally travel with Frontier will not. Like many co-branded airline cards, the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® comes with an annual fee ($79), so it only makes sense to hold the card if the benefits you’ll get outweigh the cost.

Here are a few points to consider when deciding whether the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® is worth it for you.

Valuable perks of the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®

The welcome bonus

Award flights start at 10,000 miles for a one-way domestic ticket so this sign-up bonus can be worth several flights on its own.

$100 Frontier Airlines flight voucher

On its surface, this travel voucher would seem to more than pay for the $79 annual fee. However, the travel voucher does come with several restrictions that make it a bit harder to use.

For one, you have to meet the required $2,500 spend in net purchases within 12 months of your account start date to qualify. You must book your travel within 180 days from the date of issue, and that the voucher is only good for airfare and taxes. The voucher will load to your account within six to eight weeks of your anniversary date, and it can be earned each year that you qualify.

Keep in mind that you can’t use your voucher to pay for seat, baggage or change fees, nor on a Discount Den membership.

Earning scheme

You can earn 5 miles per dollar spent on FlyFrontier.com. You can also earn 3 miles per dollar spent at qualifying restaurant purchases, plus 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Note that, even in the dining bonus category, your points are only worth around 0.9 cent per dollar spent.

Elite status

You can earn 1 Elite Qualifying mile for every mile flown on Frontier, as well as for every dollar spent on the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard®. The lowest level of Frontier elite status, Elite 20K, requires 20,000 Elite Qualifying miles. This level offers perks like a free seat assignment and a free carry-on bag, not to mention priority boarding.

Nerd tip: Remember the opportunity cost of putting $20,000 on this credit card. If you instead spent that on a 2% cash-back card, you’d earn $400 in cash back, which could be more than you typically spend in a year on extra fees for Frontier flights.

Miles expiration management

Frontier Miles typically expire with only six months of inactivity (this is currently on pause due to COVID-19). Having the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® provides an easy way to make sure that your miles don’t expire: Making a qualifying purchase on the card counts as activity.

Since occasional Frontier flyers will likely run into this miles expiration, this is a useful way to make sure you don’t lose your miles.

No award redemption fees

Frontier charges an award redemption fee from $15 to $75 for any award bookings within 180 days of the date of travel. Holders of the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® have this award redemption fee waived.

No foreign transaction fees

This perk alone can save you up to 3% in pesky foreign transaction fees when you swipe your card at an international destination.

The bottom line

Who is the Frontier Airlines World Mastercard® right for? If you’re a frequent Frontier flyer, you will likely be able to get a good value from the card that exceeds its annual fee.

Even if you’re new to Frontier or don’t plan on flying the airline often, it could make sense to apply for this card to earn the sign-up bonus well in advance of your upcoming trip. Just keep in mind that there are other options that might make more sense or provide more widespread value.

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 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

A Guide to Southwest Flights to the Caribbean

If your travel plans include booking a Caribbean getaway on a budget, your choice of airline matters. Southwest flights to the Caribbean are worth a look if you’re interested in securing low fares, avoiding change fees and saving on baggage fees.

Southwest Airlines flies to a number of Caribbean destinations, including some very popular tourist spots. If you’re enrolled in the Rapid Rewards program, you can redeem your points to book flights and/or earn bonus points when you book your trip with a Southwest co-branded credit card.

Curious about how Southwest flights to the Caribbean work? Here’s a closer look at what you can expect.

Destinations

The Caribbean islands feature a diverse mix of scenery and things to do, and Southwest makes it easy to explore all they have to offer.

When you fly Southwest to the Caribbean, you can book flights to:

  • Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

  • Havana, Cuba.

  • Montego Bay, Jamaica.

  • Nassau, The Bahamas.

  • Oranjestad, Aruba.

  • Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.

  • Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

  • San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Fly direct

It’s helpful to know which airports Southwest flights to the Caribbean will take you through. If you want to fly direct to the islands, you’ll need to depart from one of these airports:

  • Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI).

  • Chicago Midway International Airport (MDW).

  • Denver International Airport (DEN).

  • Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL).

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL).

  • Nashville International Airport (BNA).

  • Orlando International Airport (MCO).

  • St. Louis Lambert International Airport (STL).

  • Tampa International Airport (TPA).

  • William P. Hobby Airport (HOU).

Say you wanted to fly to Aruba in May, but you live in Seattle. You couldn’t fly directly out of Seattle, but you could book a flight to Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI), then make a connecting flight from there. Doing so may mean factoring a layover into your travel plans, but that may be necessary if you’re not able to fly direct from your local airport.

Availability

When booking Southwest flights to the Caribbean, you’ll need to factor in flight operating schedules to make sure your chosen dates can be accommodated by checking the low-fare calendar for flight availability.

Southwest doesn’t always operate flights to individual Caribbean destinations daily — in fact, the availability for departure and return flights may differ significantly across locales and desired travel dates.

By dates

For example, say you wanted to schedule a winter getaway and fly round-trip from Atlanta (ATL) to Punta Cana (PUJ). A look at Southwest’s low fare calendar shows no available departure flights until mid-March. However, if you were to book the same trip from Atlanta to Punta Cana for May, you’d see that you could only fly out on a Saturday, but you could book your return flight for any day of the month.

By destination

Your departure destination and arrival location may also influence flight availability. For example, say you’re departing from Baltimore (BWI) and traveling to Aruba (AUA) in the month of May. A look at the low-fare calendar shows there are more flights to choose from compared to the Atlanta to Punta Cana options in May.

Booking Southwest flights to the Caribbean

Southwest fares to the Caribbean can vary based on where you’re departing from, where you’re traveling to and your travel dates. You can use points or cash to book Southwest flights.

Dynamic pricing

If we go back to the example of the Atlanta to Punta Cana flight mentioned earlier, you’ll see that it’s much cheaper to book flights in early May versus late May. Fast-forward to July and you’ll see fares peaking even higher.

That’s assuming you’re paying cash, but remember — you can also use points to book if you’re a Rapid Rewards member. The amount of points you’ll need again depends on your travel dates and destination.

For the Punta Cana trip, you’d need 7,800 points to book a departure flight at the beginning of May, but if you book around the first of July, you’d need 14,742 points instead.

Fees

Keep in mind that even when you book with points, the prices don’t include applicable taxes and fees. On the bright side, Southwest has a reputation for being fee-friendly. There are no change fees and your first and second checked bags fly free. But you’re still responsible for federal excise tax of 7.5%, a $4.10 federal segment fee, a $5.60 security fee per one-way trip and airport-assessed passenger facility charges.

Earn points faster with a credit card

If you’re interested in saving money on Southwest flights to the Caribbean, the right travel rewards card can help. Southwest offers several co-branded credit cards to help you rack up points toward free flights on purchases.

Card options include:

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Plus Credit Card: Earn up to 80,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months.

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Premier Credit Card: Earn up to 80,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months.

  • Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card: Earn up to 80,000 points. Earn 50,000 points after you spend $2,000 on purchases in the first 3 months. Earn an additional 30,000 points after you spend $10,000 on purchases in the first 9 months.

Aside from earning points on Southwest purchases, each of these cards allows you to earn points on everything else you spend. When comparing cards, first decide whether a personal or business card is more appropriate. Then consider the annual fees and card benefits to help you choose the right one.

The bottom line

Southwest is a top-rated economy airline in the U.S. and the option to fly to the Caribbean may be appealing if you’re interested in low-cost flights or don’t mind foregoing business- or first-class amenities. You can visit eight Caribbean destinations when flying Southwest, and flights can be booked with cash or Rapid Rewards points. Joining the Rapid Rewards program and opening a Southwest Airlines credit card can help you earn points toward free Caribbean flights faster.

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 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

Who Can Benefit Most From the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard?

The Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® is a good choice for frequent transatlantic travelers. The card offers a nice welcome bonus and a relatively rare opportunity to earn airline status through credit card purchases, with an annual fee of $90. Unlike other airline credit cards, it doesn’t offer a free checked bag — but many Virgin Atlantic tickets come with a checked bag included.

Four types of travelers can benefit most from the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard®: welcome-bonus chasers, families, status seekers and big spenders.

Welcome-bonus chasers

The Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® offers the opportunity to earn a nice welcome bonus — For a limited time: 60,000 bonus Virgin Points after spending $2,000 or more on purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.

That’s a relatively low minimum spending requirement to earn a relatively high number of bonus points.

Plus, on each account anniversary, you get up to 15,000 additional points. Travelers who value credit card welcome bonuses as a fast track to earning award travel will appreciate these perks.

Families

The card offers 2,500 bonus points for adding an authorized user, up to a maximum of two. This relatively uncommon credit card benefit is valuable for families who can also combine the entire family’s spending on a single card in order to earn more rewards.

Another family-friendly benefit of the card is the companion certificate; cardholders who spend $25,000 in any year get access to this highly coveted perk. The companion certificate entitles you to one complimentary extra ticket on a single award booking during the year. However, you’re still obligated to pay the taxes, fees and carrier-imposed charges, including Virgin Atlantic’s notorious fuel surcharges. This perk alone can save you hundreds of dollars on a round-trip transatlantic ticket.

Users who reach the $25,000 spending target but tend to travel solo can choose an upgrade to upper class on an award ticket instead of the companion pass. Like the companion pass, this benefit applies only when flying on Virgin Atlantic.

Status seekers

Besides earning points that can be redeemed for flights, the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® earns Tier Points, which are used to qualify for elite status on the airline. The card offers 25 Tier Points per $2,500 spent each month with a maximum of 50 points per month and 600 per year.

Silver status on Virgin Atlantic requires 400 Tier Points, which you could earn in as little as eight months with sufficient spending on the card. With that status, you earn 30% more points on each flight you take, free seat assignment (even when traveling in economy light) and priority baggage.

Gold status requires 1,000 Tier Points, which means that more benefits, like lounge access when flying Virgin Atlantic and Delta, are also obtainable when you combine your Tier Points earned via both credit card spending and actual flights flown.

Big spenders

The Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® is designed to reward spending on the card. You earn 1.5 Virgin Points per dollar on everyday spending and 3 points per dollar on purchases from Virgin Atlantic.

For people who don’t spend or travel a lot, it can take a long time for these incremental earnings to add up to award travel. But if you fly Virgin Atlantic regularly or spend enough, this card can get you a lot of points and elite status, while also giving you a companion certificate every year.

The bottom line

If you fly across the Atlantic a lot — or plan to — the Virgin Atlantic World Elite Mastercard® can turn your travel spending and everyday purchases into award flights and other perks.

Families, big spenders, travelers who value elite status and anyone who likes the idea of earning a nice stack of welcome bonus points should take a closer look.

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 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

The Guide to Priority Pass Lounges at LAX

Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX, is the second busiest U.S. airport by passenger traffic and the busiest on the West Coast, serving about 84.5 million passengers every year. With that many people passing through, you might be looking to escape the terminal’s hustle and bustle and find a bit of peace (not to mention a snack and beverage) at an airport lounge.

At LAX, members of the Priority Pass network — including credit card holders whose cards come with a Priority Pass Select membership — have access to three airport lounges and two restaurants where Priority Pass membership pays part of the bill.

Here’s a look at your options to help you figure out which is the best Priority Pass lounge at LAX for you the next time you’re there.

Note: Due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, some lounge benefits and/or hours of operation may be temporarily altered or unavailable. Always check directly with the lounge or Priority Pass website for the most up-to-date details on availability.

Priority Pass network options at LAX

Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse

Location: Terminal 2, Level 4, above the departure gates

Hours: 5 to 11:50 a.m.

Conditions: Maximum stay is limited to three hours. Children younger than five are admitted free. Complimentary alcohol is limited to beer and wine only.

Priority Pass members are admitted to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse only in the morning, but if you have an early flight out of Terminals 2, 3 or Terminal B (they’re connected airside by a shuttle bus), it’s a nice place to relax with a cup of coffee or grab a muffin, oatmeal or yogurt before you board.

Alaska Lounge

Location: Terminal 6, near Gate 64 on the mezzanine level

Hours: 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Conditions: Access permitted up to three hours prior to departure. Limited to two guests or immediate family (spouse and children younger than 21) per cardholder. Children younger than two are admitted free.

The Alaska Lounge works best for travelers departing from Terminals 4, 5, 6, 7 or 8, or the Tom Bradley International Terminal (Terminal B) — if you’re willing to walk. But before you make the trek, check that the lounge is open. The Alaska Lounge is notorious for restricting access to Priority Pass members. To avoid frustration, add your name to the waiting list. Keep in mind that access isn’t guaranteed.

KAL Lounge

Location: Tom Bradley International Terminal, on the fifth floor after security and a duty-free store

Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Conditions: Access permitted up to three hours prior to departure. Limited to two guests per cardholder. Children younger than two are admitted free.

Although the lounge itself is open longer, Priority Pass members aren’t allowed to visit outside of these hours. If your flight departs from Tom Bradley International Terminal later in the evening, you’re out of luck.

The KAL Lounge is the only Priority Pass lounge at Los Angeles International Airport that has showers. For many travelers, a quick shower can make a world of difference on a long connection before an international flight.

Rock & Brews

Location: Terminal 1, across from Gate 11B

Hours: 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Rock & Brews is a restaurant that participates in the Priority Pass network. Members get $28 per person off their bill for food and drinks (limited to $56 per visit). To-go or grab-and-go orders aren’t eligible for the credit.

To use the perk, present your Priority Pass card (digital or physical) and a boarding pass when getting seated. If the bill exceeds the maximum allowance, you must pay the remainder. If you don’t use up the entire credit amount, it can’t be used toward gratuity, so make sure to have some cash on hand to tip your server.

Terminal 1 isn’t connected airside to any other terminals at LAX. If you’re flying Southwest Airlines, grabbing a bite at Rock & Brews is a solid option upon either departure or arrival in Terminal 1.

Point the Way Cafe

Location: Terminal 6, between Gates 65A and 65B

Hours: 1 to 11 p.m.

Point the Way Cafe is another Priority Pass restaurant where members can receive a credit toward meals and beverages. You’re limited to $28 off your bill per guest or $56 per two guests for dine-in only.

If your total exceeds the maximum credit, you’re responsible for covering the rest of your bill. Should you end up with remaining balance, it can’t be used toward a tip, so plan accordingly.

How can I access these lounges?

Priority Pass sells memberships starting at $99 per year, but the best option is to get Priority Pass lounge access for free as a credit card perk. Premium credit cards that come with a complimentary Priority Pass membership include:

Most of these cards offer Priority Pass Select membership, which includes unlimited visits to any of the more than 1,300 lounges within the network. Up to two guests can enter free of charge, but terms vary and you should pay attention to entry conditions. Additional guests are $27 to $32 per person.

For travelers with access provided by an American Express card, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express or the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, restaurants are excluded. This means that American Express cardholders with Priority Pass Select membership don’t receive any allowance toward their bill at participating restaurants. Terms apply.

The bottom line

Priority Pass members traveling through the busy Los Angeles International Airport have three lounges available to them, along with two restaurants where their membership will cover part of the check. The lounge nearest your departure gate may have limited hours or limited access for Priority Pass members, so check the Priority Pass website before you head to the airport.

With any luck, you’ll be able to spend some time relaxing with a drink or snack before your flight.

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 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

How to Take Advantage of the Gaping Hole in the Credit Card Market

Imagine going to a store to buy a new pair of jeans and being presented with a choice of low-end ones for $25 or a few premium designer styles for $200 and up. You would be disappointed if the store didn’t have an option in between.

That’s essentially the market that travel rewards credit card users face. There are dozens of decent rewards cards with annual fees under $100 and a growing number of ultra-premium travel rewards cards with annual fees of $450-plus.

But which travel credit cards fill the gap between these two staggeringly different price points?

Though they can be hard to find, when you do, it can be a very good deal. Read on to find a list of midrange travel credit cards to help you take advantage of this gaping hole in the credit card market.

Midrange American Express travel credit cards

Whether by design or by coincidence, American Express offers most of the cards with annual fees between $100 and $450.

American Express® Gold Card

The American Express® Gold Card has an annual fee of $250, and its most valuable benefits include 4x points on all dining purchases and on your first $25,000 spent each year at U.S. supermarkets. It also pays 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com. Terms apply.

These features are a great way to quickly accumulate valuable Membership Rewards points that you can transfer to airline and hotel partners or redeem directly for travel through the Membership Rewards portal or Expedia. The card also comes with a $120 worth of dining credits each year. Terms apply.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

The Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card offers 3x miles on Delta purchases and 2x miles at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets. Benefits include your first bag checked free, priority boarding and a $100 statement credit toward the Global Entry or TSA Precheck application fee. Terms apply.

But the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card’s most valuable feature is a domestic, main cabin, round-trip companion certificate that you receive each year when you renew your card. This benefit alone can easily be worth the cost of its annual fee, and potentially much more. Terms apply.

American Express® Green Card

There’s also the American Express® Green Card, which now has a $150 annual fee. It offers 3x points on travel including ride share and transit purchases, and 3x points at restaurants. It also offers you a $100 annual credit toward a Clear membership, which helps you speed through security at select airports and stadiums. Terms apply.

Other midrange credit card options to consider

If AmEx isn’t for you, consider adding one of these three other mid-tier travel credit cards to your wallet.

Southwest Rapid Rewards® Priority Credit Card

First, you get a $75 annual Southwest travel credit, which brings the net cost down to a more reasonable $74. But you also get 7,500 points each year on your account anniversary, which are worth about $120. Finally, the card offers you four upgraded boardings a year, which can be worth over $100.

AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®

Another option in this price range is the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®, which is issued by Barclays and has a $195 annual fee. It offers 3x miles on American Airlines purchases, 2x miles on hotels and car rentals and 1 mile per dollar spent on all other purchases.

Benefits include a free checked bag, priority boarding and $25 per day in statement credits toward inflight food and beverages. You also get a $50 annual statement credit toward inflight Wi-Fi. On top of that, you get an anniversary Companion Certificate good for two guests to fly with you for $99 each after you use your card to spend $20,000 in a calendar year.

Nerd tip: This card gives you the ability to earn up to 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles (EQMs) each calendar year. You earn 5,000 EQMs after spending $20,000 on purchases and another 5,000 EQMs after spending an additional $20,000 on purchases. You can even earn $3,000 Elite Qualifying Dollars after spending $50,000 on purchases each calendar year. These last two features can help you reach the next level of elite status and enjoy upgrades and other perks.

If the AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard® sounds like a good choice for you, then you should know that there’s one small catch. You can’t actually apply for this card directly. Instead, you must first apply for the AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®, which has a $99 annual fee. Then, you’ll have to contact Barclays and request a product change to the Silver version.

This card is so highly valued among American Airlines flyers that many go through those steps to get it.

The bottom line

There aren’t many travel rewards credit cards with annual fees between $100 and $450, but the ones that fill this hole are often worthwhile alternatives to cheaper cards and to more expensive cards. When you take a closer look at this price point that most credit card issuers have neglected, you might find just the right card for your needs.

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 2021, including those best for:

Source: nerdwallet.com

How to Use Your Wanderlust to Build Credit

June 15, 2016 &• min read by Jill Krasny Comments 0 Comments

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Disclaimer

Love to travel? Good news: There are ways to put that wanderlust to use with a travel rewards credit card.

Though travel rewards cards aren’t the easiest to get approved for as they require an excellent or good credit score, those who are able to snag one can use it to build better credit. (Just remember, before you apply it’s important to know where you stand so you don’t get turned down only to see your score suffer as a result of the inquiry.)

Travel Rewards Cards & Credit

A travel rewards credit card lets accountholders earn points or miles that can be put towards hotel stays, airfare and other travel expenses. These rewards can help travelers lower the cost of vacations, and the card itself can be a good tool for building credit.

If you make payments on time, eventually your score will begin to rise because this behavior creates a positive payment history, an important factor in credit scoring models. The card’s credit limit will also count toward your credit utilization rate, which is another big factor in scoring models. Your credit utilization rate is how much debt you carry versus your total available credit. For best credit scoring results, it’s recommended that you keep your debt below 10% and at least 30% of your credit limit(s). So if you charge a vacation and then pay most or all of the purchases off right away, your score could benefit.

You can keep track of how your usage and payments are affecting your credit by signing up for Credit.com’s free credit report summary. Beyond seeing your credit scores, you’ll be able to check how you’re doing in five key areas of your credit report that determine your credit score, including payment history, debt usage, inquiries, credit age and account mix.

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Since interest rates for travel rewards cards tend to vary depending on creditworthiness, you’ll want to be mindful about carrying a balance. Doing so could hamper your credit goals, and the interest you pay could exceed whatever you’ve managed to glean from rewards. Many travel rewards cards carry annual fees, too, so you’ll want to make sure your spending habits justify the potential cost. (You can read about the best travel credit cards in America here.) Of course, making purchases on your card and paying them off quickly (and on time) will generally boost your credit.

Remember, if your credit is looking a little lackluster and you’re having a hard time qualifying for any type of credit card, you may be able to improve your scores by disputing errors on your credit report, paying down high credit card balances and limiting new credit inquiries until your score bounces back.

More on Credit Cards:

Image: Geber86

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How to Simplify Your Holiday Celebration and Save Your Sanity

Do the shopping, plan the menu, wrap the gifts, cook the food—fa la la la la! If your family holidays are more stressful than joyful, here’s how to step back and find your happy place again.

By

Cheryl Butler
December 2, 2019

magical holiday season possible. First, I had to orchestrate amazing decorations. Then I would not only make festive treats but plan elaborate five-course meals. And let’s not forget shopping ’til I dropped so I could shower my friends and family with impeccably wrapped, showstopping gifts!

No pressure.

I spent so much time and energy trying to pull off the perfect Christmas that, come December 25, I was run so ragged I hoped to never see another candy cane for the rest of my life. I would collapse after the last gift was unwrapped. Fa la la la la la la la … ugh. 

Each year I vowed to be smarter with my time and efforts, but I still wound up mindlessly repeating this vicious cycle. That is, until I was expecting my fifth child. Seven months pregnant, I ended up with pneumonia and a cracked rib. As miserable as I was, it was the year I received the best gift ever—the doctor ordered bed rest!

I had to rely on my husband and the grandparents to take over so that our kids would still have a Christmas. By no means did they do everything the way I would’ve done it. (Actually, they did nothing the way I would’ve done it!) But by letting go of the control, I watched a wonderful holiday unfold. I finally wasn’t in the trenches driving myself crazy trying to create a perfect holiday. Instead, I was living in the moment.

I knew right then that I was finally done with all the holiday hype.

De-stress this holiday season by deciding what’s important

I still enjoy the magic of the holiday season, but now I approach this time of year with much less fuss.

If you’ve realized that spending time with loved ones is more important than pulling off the “perfect” holiday, think about what you can cut back on this year.

  • No time to stage a photo card of your family this year? New Year’s cards are festive, too! Bonus: They might even stand out more if they arrive after the rush of holiday cards.
  • Is it really necessary to spend time and money on gifts for teachers, bus drivers, teacher assistants, and the school nurse this holiday season? Have your child write a heartfelt card to these special folks instead.
  • Does the Elf on the Shelf really have to make a pre-Thanksgiving appearance? Maybe he could show up the week before Christmas. Less work, same fun!
  • Can you simplify your holiday décor by cutting back on outdoor lighting or limiting your decorating to just one special room in your home? You don’t have to be the neighborhood Griswolds to have a happy holiday.
  • Which holiday invites do you really want to accept? Politely decline invitations for parties you’re not really interested in or just don’t have time for.

Center your time and energy more on the things you actually love doing and less on those that feel like a chore. You’ll automatically simplify this hectic time of year.

Tap into your holiday senses

I’ve always been a Christmas junkie! Whether it’s enjoying all the lights and bling of the season, soaking in the enchanting sounds and delicious tastes that surround us, or decking the halls—count me in. Being mindful of the elements that make this time of year so special can deliver an entirely new experience for both you and your loved ones.

Instead of rushing from one errand to the next, tap into your holiday senses so you can be more present this season. Here are some festive, low-key ideas.

Bake with your kids. Find an afternoon where you can roll out some sugar cookies, decorate a gingerbread house, make homemade fudge, or dabble with delicious peppermint bark. Notice how amazing your house smells while these goodies are baking. Enjoy an ice cold glass of milk as you nibble on a delightful iced gingerbread man. Make an extra dozen or so for your neighbor and leave them as a surprise on their front porch. Savor the experience. Check out these yummy holiday recipes on Food Network.

Get crafty. Watch your child swell with pride when they create a special masterpiece for Grandma and Grandpa. Head over to Pinterest for hundreds of easy, jolly ideas. In our house, our favorite DIY holiday décor is paper snowflakes. Even my college kids love to make these every year. We sprinkle a little glitter on them and decorate our windows to create a real winter wonderland feel.

Play holiday tunes. Get in the spirit by playing festive music first thing in the morning. When your kids get up, they can jingle all the way to the breakfast table. Sing along with Frosty the Snowman as you carpool to practice. Let holiday music play quietly in the background on Christmas Eve as you prepare for the excitement of Christmas Day.

Check out holiday light displays. Take a brisk early evening walk through your neighborhood and enjoy the beautiful glow of holiday lights. When you get home, make some creamy hot cocoa and talk about which scenes were your favorite. Or drive through your community to take in the festive displays. Soaking in the holiday bling can illuminate positive energy and it’s a low-cost way to spend some time together as a family.

Watch holiday classics. Pick a cozy afternoon or evening and binge-watch your favorite holiday movies together. Don’t forget the popcorn!

RELATED: 7 Ways to Save Money During the Holiday Season

Focus on tradition

One of my favorite parts of the holiday season is celebrating the traditions we’ve created over the years. There’s something comforting about practicing a tried and true ritual that belongs to your family.

My parents established a fun tradition—Christmas Eve PJs! We opened them before bed each year.

When I had my own family, we continued the tradition. But I incorporated a theme each year like footed pajamas, Star Wars, Polar Express, or our favorite sports teams. This year we’re getting reindeer pajamas, and yes, they will come with antlers!

The beauty of a traditions is that you can start them any time. Here are a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

  • Make a gingerbread house
  • Cut your own fresh tree
  • Have a Secret Santa exchange
  • Donate gifts to those less fortunate
  • Go caroling
  • Have a grab bag of both practical and gag gifts
  • Explore another culture’s tradition
  • Have a potluck holiday celebration with friends
  • Decorate your tree with colorful, handmade paper chains
  • Have a family game night
  • Create a romantic, special quiet time for you and your spouse to exchange gifts—just the two of you

RELATED: 6 Ways to Create Family Traditions

Give Experiences

The average American will spend $700 on holiday gifts and goodies this year, totaling more than $465 billion nationwide. Yikes!

Don’t get me wrong, I love watching my kids open their gifts on Christmas morning, particularly when the gift is some pricey item I know they weren’t expecting. But gifts are not what the holiday season is all about.

Experiences are a great alternative to material gifts. We started doing this years ago, and my kids look forward to receiving things like concert or sporting event tickets, a family weekend away, or private lessons more than a new electronic gadget. One year we gave them bedroom makeovers and let them pick out their color schemes!

Rely on Mother Nature

I recently attended a wellness workshop and one of the speakers focused on one of the most neglected, free assets available—mother nature.

If you live in a climate where winter weather is getting into high gear, it may be tempting to limit your time with nature to climbing in and out of the car. But winter is a wonderful time to get outdoors and enjoy the fresh air. Embrace a walk in the new-fallen snow, take your kids to an outdoor ice-skating rink, or hike on a nature trail and take in the frosty landscape. A walk on the beach in the winter can also be invigorating. With fewer people around, you can have some quality time with your own thoughts.

Reconnect with yourself

Most parents focus on making things fun for their kids throughout the holidays. The decorating, baking, shopping, and constant running around seem to be for everyone but ourselves. Instead of waiting until post-holiday exhaustion sets in, use the holiday season to reconnect with yourself.

Finding quiet pockets of time throughout the week may seem like a laughable concept, but if you put your mind to it, you’d be surprised at the different ways you can sneak some me-time into your schedule.

Give meditation a try. Listen to an inspirational podcast or captivating audiobook that takes your mind away from the daily annoyances you have little control over. This well-spent me-time will help you to relax and get into the true spirit of the season. You may also learn something new!