What are JetBlue TrueBlue points worth?

JetBlue’s award pricing has long been a mystery to me.  I’ve heard of people getting good value (more than 1.5 cents per point, for example), but when I look to use my points I usually see something closer to 1 cent per point — not good at all.  What drives JetBlue’s point values, and how can you maximize your points?

Over the years, Wandering Aramean has analyzed JetBlue’s award prices vs. paid prices several times.  The earliest post of his I found was in 2011 (here), and the most recent was in October 2015 (here).  In that latest post, with “more than 1100 data points across 50 city pairs and multiple travel dates,” Seth found that JetBlue TrueBlue point values ranged from as low as 0.88 cents per point to as high as 3.76 cents per point.  And, he noted that point values were highest with the cheapest seats.  Overall, though, his analyses didn’t shed light on the formula JetBlue may have used to assign award prices.

The observation that cheaper flights tend to lead to higher point values is not unique to JetBlue.  The same pattern is evident with Southwest.  Even though Southwest charges a fixed 78 points per dollar compared to paid rates for the same flights, cheaper flights lead to higher point values.  This is true because some taxes and fees are waived with awards and are not part of the formula.  So, when taxes & fees make up a bigger portion of the fare (which is usually true with cheap fares), the value of using points increases.  In the post “The new true value of Southwest points, 2018 edition,” I showed examples where Southwest points can be worth up to 1.9 cents per dollar for cheap flights with high taxes.

Is it possible that JetBlue determines point prices in exactly the same way as Southwest?  Could the fluctuation in point values be due entirely to taxes & fees that are waived on award flights?  I set out to answer this question.

Pictured above is the fare breakdown of a JetBlue flight from Orlando to Mexico city. Here, the base fare is only $47. Two of the four taxes & fees are not passed on to those paying with points: U.S. Transportation Tax and US Passenger Facility Charge. On this ticket, these fees, which total to $22.80, are nearly 50% of the base fare. This is why some cheaper flights offer better value for your points.

Initial Observations

I picked a somewhat random date in January and used the JetBlue website to record point prices vs. cash prices on a number of different routes.  With each route, I calculated points per dollar using the core fare (the price without taxes & fees) for the denominator.  At first, it looked like the “JetBlue is like Southwest” hypothesis was exactly right.  My first four observations, and 12 of the first 13 observations showed that the JetBlue award price was exactly 80 points per dollar based on the core ticket price.  That’s remarkably similar to Southwest’s 78 points per dollar. Importantly, I found the same values regardless of fare type.  That is, JetBlue charged 80 points per dollar for Blue, Blue Plus, and Blue Flex fares.

I couldn’t yet account for the one outlier which was priced at 77 points per dollar (a Blue Flex fare) but I figured that I was very close to wrapping up the JetBlue award pricing algorithm in a neat bow.  Then, I added additional routes to my analysis and the pattern crumbled to dust.  Fort Lauderdale to Grand Cayman was priced more attractively at 74 and 75 points per dollar.  With LAX to JFK, only the Blue fare came in at 80 points per dollar.  Blue Plus was 84, Blue Flex was 82, and Mint was 83.  And Orlando to Mexico City was priced most attractively at 75 points per dollar across the board.

Overall, I found it surprising that most award prices seemed to be determined by a simple formula (80 points per dollar compared to the core ticket price), but others varied.  More surprising to me was that when I calculated the JetBlue point value compared to the full ticket price, the values ranged from 1.3 cents per point to 2 cents per point.  This surprised me because I clearly remember seeing 1 cent per point value, or less, on flights that I had hoped to book in the past.  Why wasn’t I finding those poor point values now?

Peak Pricing

One thing that was different between my experimental observations and my real world past observations is that my real world observations were usually for family travel during holidays.  In other words, I’ve tended to look to JetBlue when planes were full and prices were high.

I decided to re-do my observations with a peak flight date.  I chose to look at one-way flights for the Saturday before Christmas (December 22nd 2018).  This changed the results completely.  Using the same flights but the new peak flying date, point values were much worse.  Now, the points per core ticket price ranged from 90 to 118 points per dollar (vs. 74 to 84 points per dollar in the previous analysis).  This meant that the point value range (previously 1.3 cents per point to 2 cents per point) dropped to 0.85 to 1.1.

What’s going on?

I think that JetBlue uses fare classes to decide how many points per dollar to charge.  Fare classes are different from JetBlue’s fare types of Blue, Blue Plus, Blue Flex, Mint.  JetBlue doesn’t show fare class on the screen when booking flights (but I think that it can be found in your ticket receipt).  Travel Codex has a nice overview of fare classes here.

My guess, based on my observations so far, is that the cheapest fare classes are assigned the fewest points per dollar. It’s very hard to test this hypothesis, though, since JetBlue doesn’t display fare class on their search results screen.

If my hypothesis is true, it means that JetBlue points are worth more when cheaper fares are available.  So, you’re more likely to find good point value at off-peak travel dates when the cheapest fare classes are available.  And, don’t forget that JetBlue points are also more valuable on cheaper flights due to taxes & fees (some of which are not charged on awards) being a higher percentage of the overall fare.  These two points lead to the following summary:

The best JetBlue TrueBlue value can be found on the cheapest flights on off-peak dates

So, what are JetBlue TrueBlue points worth?

For the purpose of computing a JetBlue Reasonable Redemption Value (see: Reasonable Redemption Values), I think it’s reasonable to assume that one could cherry-pick flights where JetBlue charges 80 points per dollar based on the core ticket price.  And, if we take the average $361 round-trip fare I previously used to calculate RRVs for other programs, we can derive the Reasonable Redemption Value for JetBlue:

  • One-way fare: $361/2 = $180.50
  • Core one-way ticket price = $180.50 – TSA Fee ($5.60) – Flight Segment Tax ($4.10) – Facility Charge ($4.50) – Transportation Tax (7.5% of core)
  • Core one-way ticket price = $166.30 – Transportation Tax (7.5% of core)
    • Core x 1.075 = $166.30
    • Core = $166.30 / 1.075 = $155
  • JetBlue one-way award price at 80 points per dollar = 155 x 80 = 12,400 points
  • JetBlue round-trip award price at 80 points per dollar = 12,400 x 2 = 24,800
  • JetBlue point value compared to full price = ($361 – $5.60) / 24,800 = 1.43 cents per point

This derived value (1.43 cents per point) is remarkably close to Wandering Aramean’s 2015 median observed point value of 1.46 cents per point for Blue and Blue Plus fares.  I’ve been using that 1.46 cents per point value for our JetBlue Reasonable Redemption Value for quite a while, but now I’ll lower the value to 1.43 based on this new analysis.

As a reminder, Reasonable Redemption Values are point estimates with which it is reasonable to expect to get that much value or more.  It’s always possible to get worse value, though.  You can avoid that fate by using points only for the cheapest flights.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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Mary Jane
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Mary Jane

Hi Greg, good article even if I don’t use my points for Jet Blue redemptions. Quick question though, what airline FF program shows the most availability for reward redemptions of their partner airlines. I haven’t had any luck with BA Avios trying to find business class for some time now.

Mark
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Mark

Awesome stuff Greg. Would searching JetBlue flights via ExpertFlyer work to get fare class? This is really good stuff and if we could just definitively map redemption rates to fare class it would help allow anyone to definitely get the best value possible from redemptions or at least know when they are getting screwed without doing math.

Cohagan
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Cohagan

Shouldn’t you factor in the opportunity cost of not earning miles when paying with miles? That could be around 10-15% with JetBlue

Interested
Guest
Interested

Then there is also the 10% (or more) points rebate to consider if you have the Jet Blue credit card(s).

Cohagan
Guest
Cohagan

but then you have to factor in the fee for the card…

iahphx
Guest
iahphx

Their regular card has no fee.

Nick Reyes
Editor

We don’t factor in the opportunity cost of not earning miles with any of our Reasonable Redemption Values as it is so highly variable (depends on the airline / fare class / where you credit the flight / what your status is / etc). There isn’t a meaningful way to calculate that for every airline, so we instead do not include that opportunity cost in RRVs (nor do we do so with hotels).

iahphx
Guest
iahphx

Thanks for the analysis. Your findings are OK for me because I use my JetBlue points opportunistically when they have a lowball fare: I generally only fly them when I find a crazy fare with them, and their award pricing mechanism then gives me the maximum value for my points when I use my points to buy those tickets.

That said, I am curious when folks say they use their JetBlue points for things OTHER than flying JetBlue. Is there a way to get more than 1.43 cents value out of that?

Nick Reyes
Editor

For one thing, you can book partner flights. The rates aren’t anything special, but if you’re flying in premium cabins and comparing against cash costs, you might consider it better than 1.43c (though not usually good enough to transfer to JetBlue over other partners if you’re transferring points).

iahphx
Guest
iahphx

Thanks. It sure doesn’t sound like I’m missing anything!

TravelinDandy
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TravelinDandy

Wait…you can transfer JB points to partners??? I thought that wasn’t possible. Or is this only with Hawaiian? Because I’d totally transfer to Aer Lingus.

Nick Reyes
Editor

No, you can’t transfer miles/points from one airline to another (not directly, anyway….and indirectly isn’t worth it). You can use airline miles from Airline A to fly on Partner B. In JetBlue’s case, I think that Hawaiian is actually the only airline that you can use for partner awards.

Another potentially use could be for vacation packages, though I haven’t looked far into it myself.

Parker
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Parker

The sweet spot for JetBlue points is definitely on flights to and from Bermuda, and short-haul. I’ve seen them worth as much as 2 cents per point to Bermuda.

Sophia
Guest
Sophia

Love jetblue points. I go to Haiti often from Miami. Flights are usually $500 roundtrip, which is ridiculous since the flight is <2h. I often find 5k jetblue points roundtrip for the same flights though. What a steal!

losingtrader
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losingtrader

I love Jet Blue, and MINT in particular. I too was looking at low values for points travel using MINT, regardless of the MINT fare. A $499 one way from Vegas had the same point valuation as a $999 fare. My recollection was around 1.1 cents.

Honestly, Delta One’s hard and soft products on that route aren’t as good, and using points works out to about the same terrible valuation.

MINT is one experience for which I don’t mind paying.

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Bee
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Bee

Greg, If one lives in a JB Hub City and Has their CC i think its a no brainer as between the 10% Back on Award, (20% if u have the Personnel & Business Card) 5k Renewl Bonus, 15k Mosaic Bonus, Family Pooling, and having Award Booking option avail. as long as there is a seat to me is extremely valuable

I’m a Mosaic thru CC Spend and saved myself close to 50k in Points for the Free changes i made for 4 award tickets when pricing dropped a few days before my recent family trip

Having said that if u dont have the JB points in your account and having a CSR its obviously a better return when booking using UR @ 1.5 cents per Dollar and u earn some TB points too but for myself being a Mosaic its not a good value due to giving up on the free change/cancellation fees

Josh
Guest
Josh

“dropped to 0.85 to 1.1.” is that supposed to be to .85 from 1.1?

Nick Reyes
Editor

No, I think he meant from something like it dropped from 1.95 cents to 1.1 cents — a decrease of 0.85.