FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida- All over the insides of Spirit Air planes are posters saying, “Get three free flights.”
Apparently, you can get these free flights by signing up for their credit card.
I thought nothing of this: credit cards are scams, I don’t want to be scammed so I don’t participate. I have only once participated before — at age 18 — and I scammed myself: credit is not worth the agony.
I flew on Spirit Air from Santiago in the Dominican Republic to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I had a layover there. In the terminal were booths of pushy old Jewish women trying to get passengers to sign up for their credit card. The passengers were signing up in droves. Clipboards, which had credit card applications on them, were fluttering all around the passageways of the Spirit Air terminal — many people were signing up for the credit card in hopes of getting the promised free flights.
The deal seemed too good to be true, there had to be a catch somewhere: could we really get three free round trip tickets on Spirit Air just for getting a credit card?
Chaya, my wife, and I began asking questions: if this was legit then it could be a good budget travel move. I know that my traveling family is looking upon very rough financial times along the road ahead — traveling with a three person family on a single income means spending three times as much money each day of travel. Our fractions are not constant, we are in deep financial trouble.
If we could get free flights around the middle region of the Americas than we ought to try for it.
I asked the credit card reps lots of questions. They told me that they had a special promotion, if I was to get the credit card right away the annual charge for the first year would be waved, I would be enrolled into Spirit Air’s $9 flight club for free, I could cancel the card for free just by making a single phone call, and all that I would have to do to get the free flights was make a single purchase.
“You could just buy a sandwich, or get something for the baby” the middle aged credit card rep spoke in the accent of the south Florida Jew. Apparently, she said that it was easy to really get the free flights, that this was for real.
I mulled over the situation. I could sign up for the card — I somehow have amazing credit for a vagabond — buy something with it for a dollar, get my flights, book them, take any privileges that I could from the $9 flight club program, and then cancel the card before the first year was up and it would, apparently, cost me nothing.
It seemed too good to be true, there had to be a catch, but I was drawn in enough to try to discover what this catch was.
“So we get three free flights, and can cancel the card at any time?” I asked again.
“Yeah, this is a good deal, there is no reason not to do it,” the woman snapped, “here, I will fill out the application for you as you are holding the baby.”
“Now sign here,” she ordered.
I refused. She got pissed off.
My wife and I continued asking questions, we found that we don’t really get “three free round trip flights” but 15,000 miles. A round trip ticket from Boston to Bogota is 20,000 miles alone. So the three free flights ads were misleading, but this was not enough to deter us in full. If we could only get one free flight it would be worth it.
We called my father in law, who knows a few things about finding deals, and ran through the specs with him. He said that sometimes credit care promotions are more or less legit if you remember to cancel them. He said that the way they get you is if you screw up — the credit card industry is built on people screwing up. Chaya and I weighed our options:
We are in honest financial straights, we need to try anything, even if that means signing up for a credit card. I also write a travel website based in extreme budget travel, if an airline is offering free flights for signing up for a credit card with the annual fee waved for the first year which can be canceled for free at any time, then I should try it out and either find out what the catch is, or pass the word along to other travelers.
I signed up for the card, my wife did too.