Why the JetBlue Plus Card Remains Firmly in My Wallet
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There are many different travel rewards credit cards out there today. Some may offer terrific sign-up bonuses but not many benefits to offset the annual fee and entice card holders to keep the card after the first year. However, others provide intriguing value propositions that can more than cover your out-of-pocket costs. Today I want to take a close look at one such card to demonstrate how much value I continue to get from my one card and highlight why I continue to carry the JetBlue Plus Card in my wallet.
When Barclaycard first introduced three new JetBlue credit cards back in March 2016, I quickly jumped on the opportunity to make my travels with the carrier even more rewarding. I live in South Florida about halfway between Orlando (MCO) and Fort Lauderdale (FLL), two cities with very large JetBlue operations. The carrier also flies to several cities out of West Palm Beach (PBI), and I love the ability to pool points with my wife and daughter. Thanks to this multitude of flight options as well as the very pleasant inflight experience (free Wi-Fi, unlimited snacks, complimentary DirecTV, etc), I find myself booking with JetBlue more frequently than with just about any other airline.
I’m also very intrigued by the carrier’s plans to fly to London starting in 2021. While it will face serious competition on the routes it expects to launch, the same was true when it debuted Mint business class in the US transcontinental market, a product that continues to impress to this day. We still don’t know details on the earning and redemption aspects of this new international service, but the expanded route network is yet another positive for JetBlue and adds additional weight to my decision to keep the card.
Every year when my various credit cards come up for renewal, I review the value proposition on each one to determine if the benefits outweigh any applicable annual fee. This just happened on my JetBlue Plus, so I wanted to crunch the numbers to see just how much value I continue to get from the card and whether it should stay in my wallet. Not surprisingly, the answer was a resounding yes. While I (personally) don’t utilize the perk of automatic Mosaic status after spending $50,000 on the card in a calendar year, there are many other perks that carry tremendous value for me, namely:
- 10% of my redeemed points back
- Free checked bag on Blue fares
- 50% discount on inflight purchases
Let’s break this down by each of these benefits to show you the total value I got from the card in the past year and why you should consider adding it to your wallet.
When you first open a credit card with an annual fee, the sign-up bonus should virtually always cover said fee (and then some). The JetBlue Plus Card is no exception, as it currently offers new card holders 30,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 on purchases in the first 90 days, worth $520 based on TPG’s most recent valuations, which peg TrueBlue points at 1.3 cents apiece. I typically get slightly higher values for my redemptions, and keep in mind that the next benefit I’ll discuss technically increases the value of your points by roughly 11%. However, I’ll stick with TPG’s valuation and keep this sign-up bonus at $520.
Of course, the sign-up bonus only applies to your first year of card membership, and I am long since past that point, so I won’t include it in my calculations. However, there’s another bonus that is awarded to card holders in year two and beyond: 5,000 points on (or around) your anniversary date.
Again, using TPG’s most recent valuations, these points are worth $65, so without ever setting foot on a JetBlue plane, you’re already covering nearly two-thirds of the card’s $99 annual fee.
In addition, I also use the card whenever I need to purchase a JetBlue ticket. Even though I carry the Platinum Card® from American Express in my wallet, which awards 5 Membership Rewards points per dollar spent on airfare booked directly with airlines, I actually prefer using the JetBlue Plus Card, even though it offers a poorer return based on TPG’s valuations:
- Amex Platinum: 5 points/$ at 2 cents per point = 10%
- JetBlue Plus: 6 points/$ at 1.3 cents per point = 7.8%
This is due entirely to the coverage and protections the card offers as a World Elite Mastercard. You can access the full benefits guide at this page (warning: PDF link), but there are a couple that stand out:
- Trip Delay protection: Covers up to $300 per trip if your flight is delayed more than 6 hours (maximum of twice in a 12-month period)
- Trip Cancellation and Interruption coverage: Covers up to $5,000 in nonrefundable expenses per trip ($10,000 maximum per 12-month period) if you need to cancel or interrupt a trip for a covered reason.
Unfortunately, the Amex Platinum doesn’t cover any of these. While I can get some tremendous value from Membership Rewards points, I’d rather charge JetBlue flights to my JetBlue Plus Card.
Now I’m not going to value those bonus points at face value (1.3 cents per point x 6 points/$ = 7.8 cents of rewards per dollar spent). That’s because there’s an opportunity cost to paying with this card: I could’ve earned 3 points per dollar spent by using my Chase Sapphire Reserve. Every travel purchase charged to this card results in 6 cents of rewards for every dollar spent. Hence, for every dollar of JetBlue purchases I charge to my JetBlue Plus Card, I’m getting an additional 1.8 cents of value over the next best alternative.
Over the last year, I spent $646.30 on JetBlue purchases, giving me a total additional value of $11.63.
10% of My Redeemed Points Back
Another fantastic perk of the JetBlue Plus Card is the fact that on every award ticket you book, you’ll get 10% of those points back as a credit to your TrueBlue account. While the FAQs indicate that this will take 4-6 weeks, I typically see the rebate post to my account within a week of completing the trip. Here’s a list of how many points I got back during this past year of cardmembership:
- September 2018: Orlando (MCO) to Boston (BOS): 2,080 points
- October 2018: West Palm Beach (PBI) to New York-JFK: 1,200 points
- March 2019: Orlando (MCO) to Washington-National (DCA): 1,180 points
If you do the math, I’ve kept 4,460 points in my account simply by carrying this card at the time of redemption, a savings of $57.98.
What makes this benefit even better is that it doesn’t matter who is actually flying; anytime points are redeemed out of the TrueBlue account of the primary card holder, the bonus will apply. In addition, since I am also the primary TrueBlue member in a pooled family account, all of the points I spend (including those contributed by my wife and four-year-old daughter) are eligible for this rebate.
Free Checked Bag on Blue Fares
Another key benefit on the JetBlue Plus Card is a free checked bag for you and up to three companions on the same reservation. JetBlue used to offer a free checked bag on all flights, but this changed when the carrier shifted to a new fare structure in mid-2015. The cheapest “Blue” fare no longer includes a checked bag; to get one bundled in your ticket, you’d need to purchase a “Blue Plus” fare. When it was first introduced, these Blue Plus tickets typically had a ~$15 premium over the regular Blue fare, though now that has increased to $28 each way. Your other option is to pay $30 during the check-in process after JetBlue raised checked bag fees in 2018.
However, for the sake of this analysis, I’ll assume that I would’ve planned ahead and booked a Blue Plus ticket for trips where I needed a checked bag:
- September 2018, round-trip flight from MCO-BOS: One checked bag ($56 savings)
- October 2018, one-way flight from PBI-JFK: One checked bag ($28 savings)
With these flights, we managed to save $84 on checked baggage, simply by holding the card.
50% Discount on Inflight Purchases
The fourth and final benefit that helps me keep the JetBlue Plus Card is the 50% discount it offers on inflight purchases, including alcoholic drinks and Eat Up snack boxes. This discount is applied automatically, generally on the day the charge posts to your card account. I used this perk three times during the first year of card membership:
- September 2018, round-trip flight from MCO-BOS: Three glasses of wine each for me and my wife ($24 savings)
- December 2018, one-way flight from PBI-EWR: One glass of sparkling wine and an Eat Up box ($9 savings)
So given this activity, here are the totals for my past year of card membership:
- Bonuses: $76.63
- 10% points back: $57.98
- Checked bag: $84
- Inflight discounts: $33
When you add these together, I’ve enjoyed $251.61 of value in this past year alone, simply by carrying the card in my wallet. When you consider that the annual fee is just $99, it’s clear that I’m getting my money’s worth.
While the numbers make the card a no-brainer for me, it’s important to note that this analysis may not be as simple for others. For starters, I have many options for flying on JetBlue, with dozens of nonstop destinations from three different airports within 90 minutes of my house. Readers in New York, Boston, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale or even Long Beach, CA have a comparably extensive route map.
However, many other airports have much more limited service, including the following hubs of other major carriers:
- Atlanta (ATL): 4 nonstop destinations
- Charlotte (CLT): 2 nonstop destinations
- Chicago-O’Hare (ORD): 3 nonstop destinations
- Denver (DEN): 2 nonstop destinations
- Houston (IAH): 2 nonstop destinations
- Seattle (SEA): 3 nonstop destinations
If you live in any of these cities, the card may not present such a strong value proposition.
Every travel rewards credit card appeals to different profiles of travelers, and to me, the JetBlue Plus Card is one that has given me tremendous value year in and year out. Based on my calculations, it is well worth my while to keep the card in my wallet for the long-run, barring any additional devaluations, that is. While this card may not be the best one for you, hopefully this post has given you a framework to use as you evaluate whether to keep other cards beyond the first year.
Featured image courtesy of Joe Raedle via Getty Images.
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