JetBlue Award Flight Pricing Quirks – When the Cheapest Fare Isn’t the Cheapest Amount of Points

As many of you know JetBlue’s frequent flyer program, TrueBlue, doesn’t operate like many of the traditional award programs where a flight is a fixed amount of points irregardless of the cash price. Instead with TrueBlue and other programs like Southwest Rapid Rewards and Virgin America Elevate, the amount of points for the flight correlates to the current cash selling price of the flight. Generally, this means a cheaper fare should require fewer points but while looking at some JetBlue flights, this isn’t always the case. Let’s take a look at some strange discrepancies I found.

Recently JetBlue announced new service between JFK and Palm Springs starting in January 2016 with introductory fares starting at $99 – a fantastic price for a transcontinental flight. I thought this would be a great way to escape the cold NY winters so I decided to see if the fares lined up to make a long weekend possible. I search both cash and point options for a weekend in March and came across the following:

JetBlue cash Jetblue points

Noitce anything strange? The cheapest cash option should be the Blue fare which it is as that doesn’t include a checked bag so that makes perfect sense. Now take a look at the point options for the same flight – interestingly, the higher fare Blue Plus is the cheapest option on points. Basically JetBlue is offering me a 400 point discount to have the option to check a bag for free. In other words, I would be paying more points for the option to pay to check a bag. That doesn’t make any sense!

Here is an even more drastic example on a flight to the Dominican Republic where the difference is 1,900 points. By using points on the Blue Plus fare, this results in a value of 2.9 cents per TrueBlue point which is phenomenal. 

JetBlue cash 2 Jetblue points2

I’m not entirely sure what is going on but my guess is this relates to an IT issue when JetBlue offers a sale or special promotion on certain routes. Let this post serve as a good reminder to look at all fare options, even if you don’t want/need the option to check the bag. This isn’t too widespread as I didn’t notice this pricing quirk on other flights I searched but this is interesting to be sure. 

Advertisements

I Made Money by Paying a $40 Annual Fee on the JetBlue American Express Card

One card you never hear talked about in the points & miles world is the American Express JetBlue credit card and I can see why. The signup bonus is weak at only 20,000 points, TrueBlue points are worth less compared to other frequent flyer miles, you can only redeem points on JetBlue (or Hawaiian Airlines) flights and JetBlue’s flight network is mainly confined to the continental 48 states, Anchorage, Mexico and the Caribbean. Being based in New York, I have plenty of chances to fly JetBlue but I will have exactly one roundtrip flight with them this year. So with all that said, I decided to pay $40 to renew my card so I could make money. Let me explain.

Jet_blue_card

First, let’s start with why I have this card. Last year, American Express announced that as of May 1st, 2014 if you ever had a personal American Express card, you would not be eligible for another signup bonus on that card for the rest of your life. At that point, I looked at what American Express cards I had there were already closed that had signup bonuses and it was the JetBlue Card. I proceeded to apply for it again before the 5/1/14 deadline and earned an extra 20,000 TrueBlue points that I would not be able to earn again.

Now a year later the $40 annual fee was due and I had decision to make to cancel the card or pay the annual fee. At first blush, I thought I was going to cancel the card as I don’t fly JetBlue often (even if I did, I don’t think it makes a difference unless you really value the 50% off in-flight food/drinks) and I solely got this card for the 20,000 points a year ago. However, I knew I was going to ask for a retention offer since you should always do that before closing a card. If I got the fee waived, a statement credit for $40 or points equivalent to $40, I’d keep the card open since I’d essentially be even.

Except that’s not true. American Express in the past few months has had several great Amex Offers (Sam’s Club, Smart & Final, Whole Foods and a bunch of others I’m forgetting) and I think its fair to say over the next 12 months, I could definitely find a few to take advantage of. And I’m betting that American Express will run its Small Business Saturday promotion in November which was worth $30 per card last year. If I value the annual savings from Amex Offers at $30 (which is low in my opinion) and Small Business Saturday at $30 (just like last year), I’m actually up $20 after paying the $40 annual fee.

But wait – it gets better. That analysis above is assuming I just have my JetBlue card with no authorized users. As you probably know, you can add Amex Offers to authorized users cards AND those cards are also eligible for Small Business Saturday. You can have up to 5 additional authorized users so if you maxed this out this could be worth $300 ($60 per authorized user). 

American Express lets me add up to 5 authorized users

American Express lets me add up to 5 authorized users

Suddenly, it was quite clear – I will make money by paying the $40 annual fee. There is no way I should cancel this card and that’s true even if I don’t get a retention offer (though I did – see below).

In closing, I think there are two lessons to take away from this.

Lesson 1: To always ask for an offer before closing an account. I literally told the agent on the phone unless I get an offer with points or a statement credit to waive the fee, I will be closing this card now. I didn’t expect to get an offer based on my research I did prior to calling so I was pleasantly surprised. When the agent offered 2,500 TrueBlue points for not cancelling the card, I took it immediately. Valuing those points at 1.3 cents each, that retention offer was worth an extra $32.50 to me.

Lesson 2: The obvious choice isn’t always the right choice. Assuming you agree with my decision to open the card in the first place, I’m sure the consensus from others getting the card would be to close it after one year no matter what. There is no upside to renewing such as bonus points or other upfront perks that other cards offer for renewing. However, by digging down just a little bit, I realized I could make a profit by renewing this card if I used some Amex offers, took advantage of Small Business Saturday and added some authorized users. The icing on the cake would be if I got a retention offer as well. When I did the math above, I came out net positive so I kept the card as well as helping my credit score by not closing another card and shortening the average length of my accounts.

Do you agree with my rationale to keep my card open another year?

Quick Deal: Free Shutterfly Hard Cover 8×8 Photo Book & 250 JetBlue TrueBlue Points

If you are a member of JetBlue’s frequent flyer program, you may have gotten an email from JetBlue offering you a free 8×8 hard cover photo book, 50 free prints and 250 JetBlue TrueBlue points for signup for Shutterfly and purchasing the “free” photo book.  You must signup via the link below by February 1st and this is for new Shutterfly accounts only (hint: use a different email address if you already have an account).

Offer Landing Page

Offer Landing Page

Here is a direct link to the offer.

The “free” photobook will cost actually cost you $7.99 in shipping fees but considering the normal price of a Shutterfly 8×8 hard cover photo book at $29.99 (currently on sale for $22.49) this is actually quite a good deal. The 250 JetBlue points are icing on the cake to me but not worth doing solely for the points. This could be a nice way to print out some memories from your travels and earn some extra points on top of it.

20% Rebate on JetBlue Awards Through Tomorrow!

JetBlue is offering customers 20% of their points back when they redeem points for a reward flight by November 14. This is quite generous as the travel period is from 11/13/14 to 1/31/15 with no exclusions! So if you planned on using JetBlue points for your holiday flights, try to book them by tomorrow to get some points back!

JetBlue20back

To get the 20% in points back, just:

  1. Book by 11/14 using TrueBlue points for travel 11/13/14 – 1/31/15.
  2. Fly JetBlue and enjoy your trip.
  3. Check your TrueBlue account for your returned points!

Quick Reminder – 25% JetBlue American Express Transfer Bonus Ends Tomorrow!

Last month, I posted about a 25% bonus on all JetBlue point transfers from American Express. I wanted to send out a quick reminder that this promotion ends tomorrow, September 15th. Normally, the ratio to transfer American Express Membership Rewards points into JetBlue TrueBlue points is 5:4 and you must transfer in increments of 250 points. Without this promotion, to get 10,000 JetBlue points you would have to transfer 12,500 Amex points but now to get the same 10,000 JetBlue points, it would only cost you only 10,000 Amex points!

25% Bonus on Points Transferred to JetBlue Ends Tomorrow!

25% Bonus on Points Transferred to JetBlue Ends Tomorrow!

Now many points and miles bloggers don’t talk about the JetBlue program for a variety of reason – no first class, lack of “real” elite status, and a poor frequent flyer program. However, if you are like me and based in NY or in other JetBlue focus cities, like Boston, JetBlue is sometimes the best value for popular leisure routes to the Caribbean and Florida compared to the big legacy airlines. In my award booking service, I have found clients a roundtrip flight from JFK to the Bahamas for only 13,800 points as compared to the 35,000 miles that Delta, American or United would charge.

Before transferring any points over to JetBlue though, research the cost in points on JetBlue’s website. There are no blackout dates so every flight is available for points but some are better deals than others. Once you have settled on the flights you want, at that point only, should you transfer your Amex MR points to JetBlue. Transfers between Amex and JetBlue happen instantly so you could book the flight immediately after transferring the points (you might need to sign out and sign back in to see the points).

I do plan on transferring some Amex points over to JetBlue as I tend to visit the Caribbean several times a year and JetBlue offers the most convenient and plentiful flight options from the NY area. This isn’t for everyone but before you write off the JetBlue program take a look at your future travel goals and see if JetBlue makes sense for you.