My Thoughts on the Pending Amex/ JetBlue Breakup
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This past weekend credible sources started to report that American Express is about to lose one of its long term co-branded partners: JetBlue. This came on the heels of American Express announcing that it will part ways with Costco, which has been a huge retail partner for years. While the loss of JetBlue won’t be as impactful from a business standpoint as Costco, it likely won’t bode well for the US Membership Rewards program, which counts JetBlue as one of its 17 airline partners.
I’ve gotten a lot of emails from readers asking whether they should proactively transfer American Express Membership Rewards from The Platinum Card® from American Express, The Amex EveryDay Preferred Credit Card from American Express, or The Amex EveryDay Credit Card from American Express to JetBlue, and the firm answer is NO. I wouldn’t make a rash decision based on this news; we still haven’t heard official details of the split, and JetBlue may even remain a Membership Rewards transfer partner, so don’t panic.
In fact, JetBlue is hardly one of my favorite Membership Rewards partners, since TrueBlue is a fixed value loyalty program, meaning the cost of awards is directly tied to the price of the ticket. You won’t see huge opportunity to maximize value there like you can through Aeroplan, for example.
For example, you can transfer 62,500 Amex MR to Aeroplan right now and book a first class award like Munich-JFK that costs $8,109. This is where I find the real upside in Membership Rewards, and why I list them at 1.9 cents apiece in my latest monthly valuations. (I usually get much more than that when redeeming for first or business class awards.)
With JetBlue you’re maxed out generally at 1.45 cents per point for economy and 1.3 cents for Mint business class. (Mint used to offer better value of up to 1.7 cents, but JetBlue has sinced raised the minimum redemption from 35,000 to 46,000.)
Beyond that, the Amex to JetBlue transfer ratio isn’t 1:1 like most other airline partners. Instead, you have to transfer 250 Membership Rewards to get 200 TrueBlue points (5:4), so to redeem for a $599 Mint ticket that requires 45,600 TrueBlue points, you’d need to transfer 57,500 Membership Rewards. In that scenario, 57,500 points gets you $599 in value, which is just over 1 cent apiece. That’s a pretty terrible value.
Transferring to JetBlue makes just about no sense at all, considering that you can redeem Membership Rewards at 1 cent apiece to book via Pay With Points, in which case you’ll also earn JetBlue points on the ticket as if you paid cash (3 points per dollar), as well as elite credits. In that case, the $606 ticket (including tax) would cost 60,599 points, and you’d earn 1,797 TrueBlue base points, which are worth roughly $25 toward future travel. That shakes out to almost exactly the same low value per point, with the small benefit of the elite credit you’d earn.
I have the The Business Platinum Card from American Express OPEN, which offers 20% back on Pay With Points redemptions, so my cost for that $606 Mint ticket would be 48,480 Membership Rewards, and I’d earn the 1,797 TrueBlue base points. That provides a better (but still not good) return of around 1.3 cents per point.
So basically, I wouldn’t rush to transfer Membership Rewards to JetBlue. There’s no indication yet that the programs will part ways. After all, Amex has many airline transfer partners that don’t share a co-branded credit card relationship, like British Airways. If JetBlue were to leave Membership Rewards as a transfer partner, there would likely be advance notice, and who knows, maybe there would even be a transfer bonus like the 25% bonus offered last year.
Should You Get a JetBlue Card Now?
Right now, the JetBlue American Express is offering a sign-up bonus of 20,000 points after you make $1,000 in purchases on the card within your first 3 months of cardmembership). I’d value that sign-up bonus at $280, plus the $40 annual fee is waived the first year. It’s a decent value if you’re a JetBlue loyalist and can make good use of those points. Still, I’m not clamoring to get it now with so many other good offers available.
Here are the other key benefits of the card:
- Earn 2 points per dollar spent on JetBlue purchases
- Earn 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere
- $50 statement credit each calendar year for JetBlue Getaway purchases
- 50% off select in-flight purchases, including food, drinks, & movies
- Various purchase and travel coverages, including car rental loss/damage insurance and purchase protection
- $40 annual fee (waived for the first year)
If Barclaycard does take over the JetBlue co-branded card, I suspect they’ll be aggressive about keeping existing cardholders and attracting new ones, though most new card sign-up bonuses won’t be available to customers who simply transfer their accounts (similar to Hawaiian airlines cardholders who Barclaycard acquired from Bank of America). Of course, the devil is in the details, and we don’t have those yet. If you’re keen on JetBlue points and want to get in on the card before it’s no longer offered, it’s an okay deal, but I wouldn’t make it a priority.
As always with Amex, check to see if you’re pre-qualified for a better, targeted offer via Cardmatch (no credit pull required to see what offers are selected for you).
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