JetBlue customers can now choose a new option to pay for flights. The company’s TrueBlue loyalty program introduced a Cash & Points offering today, allowing members to redeem points for a partial value of the fare, paying the remaining balance with money. In announcing the new redemption option JetBlue highlights the likelihood that “members have been less likely to earn loyalty points but are ready to travel again.”
With TrueBlue, we’re always looking to offer as many options as possible and further reward members. Cash + Points gives customers with at least 500 points the option to save money by redeeming points for their JetBlue flight purchases.– Don Uselmann, vice president, loyalty and personalization
Given that the program is revenue-based for both earning and redemption the transition to a Cash & Points offering makes a lot of sense. There is little harm to the business in allowing program members to split the payment method in this manner. And JetBlue also mostly made smart decisions with respect to how these fares work for new accruals.
The cash portion of the fare will continue to earn fully based on the fare type purchased (JetBlue has different earning rates by fare class and fare type). In addition, the cash portion continues to count towards the Mosaic-qualifying base points requirement for the member’s program year. But for TrueBlue members that earn based on a combination of spend and segments flown the C&P fares do not count towards the qualifying flights portion of the equation. Similarly, Cash & Points bookings will not qualify towards Take 3, Lucky 7 or Go Long bonuses in the TrueBlue program.
But is it a good deal??
As with all changes to loyalty program offerings, it is useful to dig a bit deeper into the valuations being applied. And since TrueBlue already operates with revenue-based redemptions the comparisons are relatively easy. Spot-checking a few routes and fares it appears that the offering is reasonable, but errs in favor of the airline.
Generally speaking TrueBlue points are worth 1-1.5 cents each on a points-only (plus taxes & fees in cash) redemption. There are occasional outliers on very cheap or very expensive fares, but the bulk of redemptions fit that range. The Cash & Points data I reviewed suggests the program values the points at 0.9 cents each for these rewards. The numbers are pretty consistent, regardless of how many points are used (BA Executive Club varies the value depending on points used, as a counter-example). So it is not a great deal for consumers. The first 500 points seem to be worth slightly more for domestic itineraries, but still generally less than the points overall would be in a pure reward booking.
That’s not the best news for program members, but paying off some of the ticket with points could still be a good deal, even with the diminished points value. That’s especially true in cases where the points are otherwise orphaned and the balance is unlikely to increase. Cashing out a program balance might be worthwhile, even with the discounted points value.