JetBlue introduces Cash + Points redemptions — but is it a good deal?
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with examples of redemption values with this new option.
Today, JetBlue is introducing a new way to redeem TrueBlue points: Cash + Points redemptions. This new redemption structure allows members of its TrueBlue loyalty program to pay for flights with a mixture of TrueBlue points and cash, starting at 500 points. All JetBlue flights in the Blue or higher fare class are eligible for points and cash redemptions, including flights in Mint business class. This means that Blue Basic, the carrier’s basic economy offering, is not available with this option.
You can book these awards starting today, June 23, 2020. Just search for a flight on the JetBlue website or mobile app and select the “TrueBlue points” as your payment option. After you select your flight, you can choose how many points you’d like to apply to your flight and the remaining portion to pay with cash.
Donny Uselmann, VP Loyalty & Personalization at JetBlue, told TPG that “Cash + Points offers even more value and flexibility for customers when they are ready to travel again.”
This added flexibility will be especially important for JetBlue as the airline recovers from the coronavirus outbreak — instead of needing to save enough points for a standard award ticket, members can now score a discount using a smaller number of points. This could accelerate bookings and lead to more revenue for JetBlue.
Unfortunately, our initial tests indicate that this is not the best way to redeem your TrueBlue points.
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A closer look at Cash + Points redemptions
While this feature may seem simple on paper, there are a few details that make the new redemption option a little bit more complicated — let’s take a look at the specifics.
You’ll redeem points at a set rate (for now)
According to Uselmann, Cash + Points bookings will offer fixed redemption rates at launch for all fares. This means that you’ll use points at the same value, no matter if you’re using miles to cover a ticket in the Blue, Blue Plus or Mint fare class. That said, Uselmann indicated JetBlue will “listen to customers and adjust as need be” — so we may see more variable pricing in the future.
Here’s an example of how this works. Let’s say that you wanted to fly from New York-JFK to Los Angeles (LAX) on Friday Nov. 6, and you were looking at Flight 2123, departing at 9 a.m. Here are the three award prices:
Based on the cash fares, here are the redemption values for each fare type:
- Blue: 1.33 cents per point
- Blue Extra: 1.32 cents per point
- Mint: 1 cent per point
If you elect to redeem exactly half of the required points for the Blue fare class, here’s what the breakdown is:
With a paid fare of $198.10, that means your 7,250 points are covering just $65.25 worth of the ticket — or a redemption value of just 0.9 cents per point. And it appears that this value is fixed. Using the slider to adjust the points you’re using results in that same redemption value.
As a revenue-based program, TrueBlue award tickets are priced based on the cash value of the flight, and most redemptions fall between 1.3 and 1.5 cents per point. That means this new option is notably lower.
Of course, some might argue that having the option to save at least some money is better than nothing, but make sure to assess the value of your Cash + Points redemption before you use the feature. Based on what we’re seeing, you’ll likely get more value by waiting to redeem your points to cover the full price of a flight — but if you’d rather save some cash now rather than later, that’s your choice.
You won’t earn Mosaic elite status on the points portion
Unlike standard award tickets, you’ll will earn elite-qualifying points toward Mosaic status along with redeemable TrueBlue points on the cash portion of your ticket. However, the points portion of your ticket isn’t eligible for earning, and flights booked as Cash + Points itineraries won’t count as Mosaic-qualifying segments.
The cash portion of your ticket will earn miles the same as any other paid fare, so Mosaic members paying with a JetBlue cobranded credit card could earn up to 12 points per dollar spent on the paid portion. Those without a credit card or Mosaic elite status will earn 6 points per dollar.
You can’t use Cash + Points towards Blue Basic fares
Uselmann told TPG that Cash + Points bookings are available for “Blue fares and higher” and that Blue Basic fares aren’t eligible for these redemptions. This is the same as standard award bookings with JetBlue.
On the bright side, Mint business-class fares were specifically included, so you can now apply some of your TrueBlue points to effectively score a discount on one of the best domestic business-class products in the sky.
Fare conditions and other restrictions don’t change
When you make a Cash and Points redemption, you’re subject to the same rules as a paid ticket. So if you cancel a ticket voluntarily, for example, you’ll get the cash portion of your ticket refunded to your Travel Bank balance with the points going back to your TrueBlue balance.
Likewise, Cash and Points fares are still covered by the same travel waivers as any other JetBlue ticket, which is important during the coronavirus outbreak. The airline is currently waiving change and cancellation fees for all flights booked through June 30.
The feature is rolling out for JetBlue Vacations “soon”
In the announcement, JetBlue noted that you’ll “soon” be able to use Cash + Points redemptions for JetBlue Vacations packages.
You can already use TrueBlue points to reduce the cost of one of these packages, but you can’t choose how many points you want to redeem towards a given package. It will be interesting to see how Cash + Points changes this process going forward.
We’re glad to see JetBlue roll-out more award redemption options that give travelers more flexibility in how they use their points. That said, always check whether or not one of these redemptions gives you the best value for your points. Our tests indicate that you’ll likely get more value by using your points to cover the entire flight, or it may make sense to simply pay for the ticket out of pocket.
Feature photo by EQRoy/Shutterstock
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