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Should I Cheat on Southwest with Jet Blue?

Jet Blue is a niche airline that doesn’t get as much attention as the other big carriers. And it’s a shame because the program can be terrific for many folks looking to maximize miles and points on economy flights. Sure, the US coverage is not as good as that on Southwest, but if you live on the east coast and plan to fly to Caribbean, you should definitely pay attention to it. I’m talking to myself here.

So, few weeks ago I wrote a post on how we plan to fly to Jamaica for Spring Break. I’ve said that I paid 10,000 Rapid Rewards points roundtrip (plus taxes) per person, and that it’s as good of a price as you can expect in high season. Wrong. My reader Audrey emailed me recently and mentioned that Jet Blue may actually be a better option. I checked and she was right:

The taxes are identical, and you can fly for 4,000 Jet Blue points roundtrip if you purchase Blue fare. Wow! Let’s check cash prices:

If we deduct taxes, we get over 2 cents per point in value toward flights. That’s incredible. Let’s see what prices are like from New York, which is a major Jet Blue hub:

Once again, it’s a very good deal during high season, especially compared to award prices on American legacy carriers (17,500 miles one-way).

But what about restrictions on fares? After all, Southwest lets you check two bags for free, plus you can redeposit your points and pay no penalty. This is where  I deliver the bad news. The lowest Blue fare is quite restrictive:

You can change the ticket for $90 ($50 for same day changes) and you would have to pay for the checked bag. But still, for those who are looking to stretch their points, it might be worth the gamble. You can always utilize travel insurance if you are super worried.

Let’s say you need to check 2 bags (usually the case with us). You can just redeem points on 2 Blue Plus fare  tickets and 2 Blue tickets. Obviously, Blue Flex is the least restrictive fare and one that mirrors Southwest model. However, the price isn’t competitive in this case. After all, Southwest charges 10,000 points compared to 19,000 points on Jet Blue.

So, it does come down to how much flexibility you want to have. Personally, I would take a chance on a more restrictive fare in order to save the points. There is also a matter of convenience. The flight departure time from Orlando to Montego Bay is much better on Jet Blue than it is on Southwest. As it stands, we will have to fly out at 10:30 AM, and MCO airport is quite far from our house.

I won’t be canceling my Southwest flights because I don’t have any flexible points that transfer to Jet Blue (more on that later). But if I did, I would probably be tempted to go that route. Of course, as I’ve mentioned in my post, I used Southwest gift cards to pay taxes, and those  have an expiration date when you cancel the flight. So, I’m kind of stuck with Southwest at this point, but it’s OK.

Jet Blue coverage

As I’ve mentioned at the beginning of the post, Jet Blue will be the best fit for folks who live on the east coast, especially those who reside near their hubs. I’m talking about cities like Boston, New York and Fort Lauderdale. Look at this page in order to see all the routes served by Jet Blue.

Here is an example for Orlando, airport we frequently fly from/to:

Destinations with non-stop routes are highlighted in green. That’s quite a few places, and you can even fly to Salt Lake City. If you want to visit Anchorage (Alaska), you can connect through Portland or Seattle. You can get to San Jose, Cancun, Bogota and many Caribbean islands via non-stop flight. I definitely think it’s a terrific program for Floridans and I can’t believe I haven’t been paying more attention to it.

Jet Blue vs. Southwest

To me, Jet Blue falls somewhere between Spirit and Southwest. They don’t have peak/off-peak pricing, but rather base award prices on cash cost. They also have unbundled  fares in order to give people the option of paying for bags and agreeing to more restrictive tickets in order to save cash or points. So, prices can be crazy cheap, like the one from Orlando to Montego Bay I just highlighted.

You have the option of buying Southwest-esqe fare, but it will cost you more. Which one is  a better fit for your family will depend on where you live as well as your level of flexibility. The good news is that you don’t have to pick one or the other. You can utilize both depending on your goals.

The value you’ll get per Jet Blue point will vary. Domestic routes aren’t usually as good as international ones. Very often you’ll get only 1.1 cents per point, which is mediocre. In that case you’ll be better off with Southwest “Wanna Get Away” fare where you’ll get 1.6 cents. Plus, your bags will fly free etc. But it does vary according to destination, so it’s always important to compare apples to apples.

How you can get Jet Blue points

1) Transfer Membership Rewards 

The ratio is 250 Membership Rewards points = 200 TrueBlue Points, but if the fare is good, it may very well be worth it to part with your MR stash. I would only have to transfer 2,500 MR points in order to book one-way ticket to Jamaica. That’s dirt cheap! Watch for transfer bonuses to Jet Blue which occur now and again.

You can apply for any MR-earning card, but make sure you are getting the highest offer available, since you can only get the bonus once. The easiest one for me to recommend to new readers is Amex Premier Rewards Gold (read about it here) Check CardMatch tool to see if you are targeted for 50,000 points’ offer after spending $1,000 in 3 months.

2) Transfer Citi Thank You points

You can convert 1,000 Thank You Points  to 800 Jet Blue TrueBlue points (ratio identical to MR program). You would have to have Citi Thank You Premier card or Citi Prestige in order to perform the transfer. Read about both cards here

3) Apply for Jet Blue co-branded credit card

I recommend Jet Blue Plus version (pays us commission if you apply through this site). Even though the annual fee is not waived, the sign-up bonus more than makes up for it. Primary cardholder also gets a free checked bag on Jet Blue operated flights.

Here are the details:

  • Earn 30,000 bonus points after you spend $1,000 on purchases within the first 90 days
  • Earn 6 points per $1 on JetBlue purchases, 2 points per $1 at restaurants and grocery stores and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases
  • No blackout dates on JetBlue-operated flights & redeem for any seat, any time on JetBlue-operated flights. Points required for an Award Flight will vary based on the published base fare at the time of booking
  • Points awarded in your TrueBlue account don’t expire
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points every year after your account anniversary
  • 50% savings on eligible inflight purchases like cocktails and food & the primary cardmember’s first checked bag is free on JetBlue-operated flights
  • You get a 10% rebate on points redemptions.
  • Enjoy TrueBlue Mosaic benefits for one year after you spend $50,000 or more on purchases each calendar year with your card
  • Enjoy a $100 statement credit after purchasing a JetBlue Vacations package of $100 or more with your JetBlue Plus Card
  • The $99 annual fee is not waived.

Those 30,000 points can cover a lot of flights to Jamaica! If Jet Blue doesn’t serve your home airport, you could consider flying to Orlando for few days for Disney fix, and then continue on to explore an island in the Caribbean. See this post where I rank all the best Barclaycard offers for family travel.

4) Start making all of your Amazon purchases through Jet Blue portal.

You’ll earn 3 points per dollar, which over time will surely add up.

Bottom line

Jet Blue is a terrific program for families and in some cases, can be superior to Southwest. I’m still very much in LUV with the latter, but I’m seriously considering an affair when it comes to  flights to Caribbean and Central America.

Readers, have you had any experience with Jet Blue program? What’s your take on it?

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Author: Leana

Leana is the owner and founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.

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14 thoughts on “Should I Cheat on Southwest with Jet Blue?

  1. Nice post Leana, and thanks for the mention! As I remarked to you, it irks me how many blogs value the value of jetblue points at 0.97 to a MAX of 1.89 cents (based on an analysis done by Wandering Aramean). While the average redemption may indeed be around 1.5 cents, I have seen redemption values as high as nearly 5 cpp (flights to Cuba $54 or 1000 points + $5.60). I often get more than, or at least close to, 2 cpp.
    In truth, I can’t understand the points pricing algorithm at all, as it does not seem to consistently tie to cash price but rather almost be random.
    Also, minimum redemption values are often listed at 3500 miles, but I’ve seen them as low as 800 miles.
    The credit card offers unlimited 10% of redeemed miles back (as opposed to American, capped at 10K miles back annually). Also, 2x points grocery and dining (though there can be better options certainly). And I think the 5000 mile anniversary bonus pretty much covers the fee.
    Wow, this really sounds like I work for – someone – but I’m just a homeschooling/travelling mom of two…though admittedly, one who doesn’t check bags.:)

    • @Audrey I’ve seen those super cheap fares to Cuba! I figured it was a fluke or a marketing gimmick to lure people into flying this new route. I agree with you, there is no logic or consistency behind pricing. That’s why it pays to check all of your options.
      I actually had some MR points that I could have converted to Jet Blue, but I transferred them to Plenti. If I saw MCO-MBJ flights on Jet Blue, I would have probably saved my Southwest stash/gift cards and just use Jet Blue points. But oh well, you can’t win them all! Either way, thank you so much for the heads up. Maybe next time. Oh, and I agree, Jet Blue credit card is a decent option to hang on to long-term for those who fly Jet Blue often.

  2. Also I forgot to mention that there are some destinations (not prime vacation ones, but still) to which a Blue Fare includes one free checked bag. Cartagena, Colombia, where in fact we frequently go, is one such place.

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    • @Lisa Thanks for your feedback. I’m kind of kicking myself for not paying more attention to Jet Blue because it’s a great option for Floridians. I plan on getting Jet Blue credit card at some point, so maybe I’ll become a Jet Blue convert too!

      • Don’t be too hard on yourself, Leana. Despite jb flying many routes I fly, the cash prices always seemed just ho hum, if not outright pricey. It was not until I started noting the possibilities with points (sometimes, not always) that I got more excited. And to be fair, I’m basically a discretionary traveler – I can follow the deals. Many families probably don’t have that flexibility, which can be key.

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