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The recently introduced JetBlue Plus Card marks the airline’s move to a new issuer (Barclaycard), and there are plenty of positive changes in store. Below, TPG Senior Points & Miles Contributor Nick Ewen walks through the various benefits that led him to apply for this product.
There are many factors to consider when applying for a new travel rewards credit card. While an application may temporarily ding your credit score, a new credit card can provide a wide array of benefits. This is especially true when an issuer releases a brand-new product, as Barclaycard recently did with its new line of JetBlue credit cards. Today I want to go through 7 key reasons that led me to apply (and immediately get approved) for the JetBlue Plus Card.
1. The welcome bonus
It’s no secret that bonuses are incredibly lucrative. Even though I’m no longer a road warrior, my loyalty account balances are still quite high thanks to the numerous welcome bonuses I’ve earned in the past couple of years. In some cases this can be a limited-time offer (like the now-expired, highest-ever bonuses on the Starwood Preferred Guest® Credit Card from American Express and the Starwood Preferred Guest® Business Credit Card from American Express), but in other cases, like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, it can be a permanent increase.
In the case of the JetBlue Plus Card, you can earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days. TPG pegs TrueBlue points at 1-1.4 cents apiece in his most recent valuations, so this sign-up bonus is worth anywhere from $300 to $420, which easily covers the $99 annual fee on the card (which isn’t waived for the first year). You can use these points to visit a variety of destinations, so be sure to check out Jason Steele’s post on 6 Cool Places To Go With 30,000 JetBlue Points for some inspiration.
JetBlue does have a revenue-based program, so you won’t be able to maximize the sign-up bonus for long-haul international first class. Nevertheless, the sign-up bonus is easily enough for a free flight and could get you even more. I recently redeemed 19,200 TrueBlue points for two round-trip flights from West Palm Beach to New York-LaGuardia (base fare was $256, so a value of 1.33 cents per point).
2. 10% points rebate
Another terrific benefit on the card is the fact that you get 10% of your redeemed points back. When I first heard about these new cards, I assumed that this benefit was similar to the 10% mileage rebate offered to holders of certain American Airlines credit cards (like the Citi / AAdvantage Platinum Select World Elite Mastercard). However, the great thing about this perk is that it is unlimited, whereas you’re limited to just 10,000 AAdvantage miles per year with the American cards. Every time you utilize this benefit, it essentially increases the value of your points by just over 11%.
Let’s take a look at the redemption I mentioned above. The standard price of the redemption was 19,200 points on a base fare of $256. However, since I now have the JetBlue Plus Card, I should receive 1,920 points back, lowering my overall cost to 17,280 points. This raises by redemption value from 1.33 cents per point to 1.48 cents per point, which is even higher than TPG’s valuation.
So how many points do you need to redeem to cover the annual fee with this benefit? Here’s how the calculations break down at both the low and high end of the range of TPG’s valuation:
1 cent per point
$99 / $0.01 = 9,900 points
9,900 / 10% = 99,000 points
1.4 cents per point
$99 / $0.014 = 7,071 points
7,071 / 10% = 70,710 points
3. Free checked bag
Like many other airline credit cards, the new JetBlue Plus Card gives you a free checked bag. This is especially valuable given the new fare structure that the airline introduced last year. The lowest fare option, Blue, generally costs at least $15 less than Blue Plus, which includes a free checked bag. In the past, if you had to check a bag, you had two options:
- Book a Blue fare and pay $20 during online check-in ($25 at the airport)
- Book a Blue Plus fare
Now, with this credit card, you and up to three companions on the same reservation don’t have to worry about either of these options, since you’ll always enjoy a free checked bag, even when you book award flights.
However, it’s important to note that the FAQ section of the application page includes the following statement:
“All ticket purchases must be made with your JetBlue Plus Card, and the primary cardmember’s TrueBlue member number must be entered at the time of booking.”
This indicates that the free checked bag benefit works a bit like that of the United MileagePlus Explorer Card, where you have to use the actual card for your ticket purchase. This shouldn’t be too big of a deal, given the fact that there aren’t any other cards that offer you a better return on your JetBlue purchases. This brings me to my next item…
4. Bonus points on JetBlue purchases
As a JetBlue Plus cardholder, you’ll earn 6x points on JetBlue flights. Even at the low end of TPG’s valuation range, that’s a return of 6% on these purchases, and it jumps to 8.4% if you value TrueBlue points at 1.4 cents apiece. This is an incredible bonus and far surpasses both those of any other airline credit card and what any regular travel rewards card would offer on JetBlue purchases. Here are some other popular cards for airfare that would give you bonuses for using them with JetBlue:
- American Express Premier Rewards Gold Card: 3x Membership Rewards points (5.7% return)
- Citi Prestige Card: 3x ThankYou points (4.8%)
- Citi ThankYou Premier Card: 3x ThankYou points (4.8%)
- Chase Sapphire Preferred Card: 2x Ultimate Rewards points (4.2%)
As you can see, the minimum return of 6% still beats even the best alternative option. While the card also offers double points on restaurants and at grocery stores, this bonus for JetBlue purchases is the clear winner.
5. Anniversary bonus
Another great aspect of the JetBlue Plus Card is the anniversary bonus. Every year when you renew your card and pay the $99 annual fee, you’ll receive 5,000 bonus TrueBlue points. If you choose your redemptions carefully, these bonus points could be worth up to $70, covering most of the annual fee in one fell swoop.
6. 50% off in-flight purchases
Cardmembers are also able to enjoy 50% off in-flight purchases. This covers cocktails, food and in-flight movies. Here’s a sample of what that would get you:
- EatUp Boxes: Usually $7 but just $3.50 with the card
- In-flight movie: Usually $5 but just $2.50 with the card
- Alcoholic drinks: Usually $6 – $9 but just $3 – $4.50 with the card
Now granted, it would take a lot of snacks, drinks and movies to make up the annual fee on the card, but it’s important to note that this discount far exceeds that offered by other airline co-branded cards (typically 20%).
7. Overall experience
The final reason I applied for the card doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the card itself. Instead, it’s about the overall in-flight experience that JetBlue provides. From free DirecTV and SiriusXM Radio to unlimited snacks and non-alcoholic beverages to free Wi-Fi on most of its planes, JetBlue prides itself on offering more amenities and services than the legacy carriers. Sure, having top-tier elite status has its perks, but for a casual flyer, JetBlue is a compelling option, especially given the fantastic Mint product on transcontinental routes (soon to be expanded to certain Caribbean destinations).
The carrier also makes sense for me personally given where I live. Since my wife and I are about halfway between Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, we have access to two of the larger JetBlue hubs and almost 50 different nonstop destinations. In the past two years, we’ve taken nonstop flights to San Juan, Washington-Reagan, New York-LaGuardia and Cancun (I’ve also done work trips to Austin and Boston).
What about the regular card?
In addition to the JetBlue Plus, Barclaycard has also introduced JetBlue Card, which carries no annual fee but provides fewer benefits. To me, deciding between the two was easy, as the Plus Card offered an enhanced value proposition that was well worth the annual fee:
- Sign-up bonus: The regular card’s is just 5,000 points after you spend $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days.
- 10% rebate: This is exclusive to the Plus Card.
- Earning bonus: You’ll earn 3 points per dollar spent on JetBlue purchases (compared to 6 points per dollar spent on the Plus Card).
- Anniversary bonus: This is also exclusive to the Plus Card.
Given these critical differences, I felt that the $99 annual fee on the Plus Card was well worth it, especially in the first year (given the sign-up bonus).
The new JetBlue credit cards from Barclaycard offer some terrific options for both regular and casual JetBlue flyers, and there are several additional benefits on the JetBlue Plus Card not mentioned here (like Mosaic status after spending $50,000 in a calendar year and the $100 yearly credit for purchasing a JetBlue Getaways vacation package) that may give you even more value. I hope this post has given you insight into my thought process as I made the decision to apply for the card. Now I’m excited to begin using it!
Are any of you planning on applying for a JetBlue card this year?