I got an email recently from JetBlue stating that their credit card by American Express was offering 20,000 TrueBlue points after spending $1,000 in the first 3 months of card membership. This offer is an upgrade over the previous offer of 15,000 TrueBlue points that had been around for a long time (TrueBlue is the name of JetBlue’s frequent flier program).
So, is this a great offer or not? Read on!
Generally, I prefer credit cards with signup bonuses of 50,000 points or higher. No matter the frequent flyer program, 50,000 is a good bellwether of whether the signup bonus is worth the application since there are so many other available credit cards that have bonuses of 50,000 points. 50,000 points is close to a one way business-class ticket to Europe, for example. 50,000 points also can often be redeemed for $500 or more in gift cards and statement credits, or towards travel booked through the card issuer’s portal. For example, 50,000 Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth $625 towards travel when booked using the Ultimate Rewards portal. Remember, this TrueBlue offer is only 20,000 miles.
Second, Jetblue’s frequent flyer program is limited to the US, Costa Rica, Colombia, Peru and the Caribbean islands, great for folks who may want to go to Medellin or Punta Cana, not great for those desiring Tokyo or Almaty.
Additionally, JetBlue doesn’t belong to a program like Star Alliance or Skyteam – their only partner when redeeming travel is Hawaiian Air. This means you almost always are limited to flying Jetblue planes only and always economy-class! While I love JetBlue’s economy-class product, I don’t play the miles game to sit in the back of the plane.
On Jetblue, you can’t have a stopover in Bogota, Colombia and continue onto Santiago, Chile on another airline; you must buy a separate ticket. Compare this to United, where you can fly down to Rio de Janeiro, stopover for a week and then continue on to your destination of Buenos Aires on United’s partner Copa – with both legs in business-class. Bueno!
TrueBlue miles are not worth a set amount, like with Southwest’s Rapid Rewards. Per the below images, I pulled up a random NYC-SFO itinerary leaving November 30, 2013 and returning December 7, 2013. The cost in dollars is the first picture in the set and the second picture shows the cost in points. As you can see, it’s totally up to JetBlue to decide how many points a particular flight will cost.
As you can see in the first flight set, a $360 flight costs 30,400 points. This comes out to a value of 1.18 cents per point. However,in the second flight set, a $994 flight costs 92,600 points. This value is much less at 1.03 cents per point. This is a difference in value of 13%, which is significant, in my opinion. These changing valuations make it harder to plan out trips with TrueBlue miles since you don’t have a concrete idea of how much a ticket will cost in points.
Compare this to a United roundtrip flight in the continental US – saver awards cost 25,000 miles and standard awards cost 50,000 miles. This does not change whether the price of the flight is $200 or $1,400. Since I live in NY, this creates cost savings for me when I go see family in California. These flights will almost always cost more than $$295. The $295 represents 25,000 miles valued at 1 cent per mile x 1.18, or the highest value JetBlue used in the previous paragraph. In fact, a NYC-California ticket often runs $400. You come out over $100 ahead when using United miles as compared to TrueBlue points.
However, not everything about this card or the JetBlue program is negative!
For example, there is no annual fee on the card, and the annual fee is only $40 each year after that. Many cards that have annual fees start them around $95, so if you fly JetBlue a lot, then it’s an acceptable annual fee.
It’s acceptable because you can earn a whopping 8 Trueblue points per dollar when purchasing JetBlue flights – 6 points for buying the fare from Jetblue.com and an additional 2 from buying the fare with the credit card. Let’s scale this out. As per JetBlue’s advertisement, free flights start at 10,000 points. That would mean you only have to purchase $1,250 worth of tickets (1,250 x 8 =10,000) to earn a free flight. Remember the NYC-SF example from above with the flight that cost 30,000 points or $360? Multiply $1,250 x 3 and it’s $3,750. Since the flight cost was $360, you have basically earned a 10% rebate on your spending. That’s amazing. Even the highest bonuses for credit cards are no higher than 5% and those are usually rotating quarterly promotions.
This rebate makes the most sense for self-employed folks or small-business owners who are really looking to save. In the case of a small-business owner, if the employee is traveling for business and earns that 10% rebate, then who’s to say that the owner can’t take 6% and give the employee 4% – who isn’t delighted to save money and give a bonus to the workforce at the same time?
The card also gives a statement credit of 50% of whatever is bought onboard, purchases like food, drinks and movies. 2 for 1 drinks? That could really make a difference on bicoastal flights (ok, any flight!). The card also has purchase protection from American Express, which can add an extra warranty year, among other notable benefits. (The FAQ and full details are here.)
To wrap, this card has several notable benefits and really rewards Jetblue’s frequent flyers if used correctly. However, I can’t recommend it, since JetBlue has no international partners with whom to redeem miles, meaning no caviar, no bed in the sky and no jacuzzi at the airline first-class lounge, as compared to airlines like Delta, United and American and their partners.
Read up and make your own decision if the card is or isn’t right for you! Any questions, feel free to leave a comment below or email me, especially if my math is wrong.