Earning Points in JetBlue’s Complicated New TrueBlue Program (Part 1)

While Southwest’s acquisition attempt of Frontier was getting all the press last week, JetBlue quietly started emailing their TrueBlue members about a relaunch of the program on September 27. When I spoke with CEO Dave Barger in March, he assured me that it would be “a best-in-class frequent flier program. It’s going to be very customer relevant.” Is he right? I’m not sure, but I do know that it’s really complicated.

I was planning on writing about the program in one post, but it started getting long and unruly. So, I’ve broken it down. Today I’m writing about the earning side of the program and tomorrow I’ll talk about the redemption side.

Let’s start with the old program. As a reminder, the last program gave you 2 points for a short haul trip, 4 points for a medium haul trip, and 6 points for a long haul trip. You got double points if you used jetblue.com and the only award was a free roundtrip ticket for 100 points. Pretty simple, yes, but pretty restrictive as well. Your points expired in 12 months regardless of your activity, and there were blackouts, inventory controls, and other restrictions.

The new program looks a lot like Virgin America’s in that it’s a spend-based program with varying redemption levels. You now earn 3 points for every $1 you spend on JetBlue or 6 points if you book at JetBlue.com. Well, sort of. It’s based on the amount of money you spend on the base fare, so taxes are excluded. Uh, well, some taxes are excluded. When you go to JetBlue.com, this is what you see:

JetBlue Availability Display

That number at left is $39 and that’s what they consider the base fare. Technically, that’s the base fare plus a federal 7.5% excise tax that you rarely see broken out, but JetBlue will use that to determine points. You’ll end up paying $49.60 for that ticket once all the other taxes and fees are added in, but the $39 is what the earning will be based on. That means you get 234 points if you book on their site or 117 if you book elsewhere.

That’s not too tough, right? But now we have to talk about the bonuses. When I was first doing the math, this didn’t seem to be even remotely generous but that’s when I noticed that they have two types of bonuses you can get.

First they have the Go Big Bonus. This one rewards those who spend a lot. Instead of trying to explain it, I’ll just show you the grid they put out:

JetBlue Go Big Bonus

There’s also the Go Long Bonus. If you take 5 long haul roundtrip flights (each segment must be over 2,000 miles) within 12 months, then you get a 10,000 point bonus. So this one is to reward those who fly long hauls a lot, regardless of how much they spend.

Oh, and by the way, if you use the JetBlue Amex card, then you earn 1 point for every dollar you spend, but you earn 2 points when you buy JetBlue flights. So if you use your JetBlue Amex to buy tickets at JetBlue.com, you earn 8 points per dollar. Whew. My head just exploded.

Do you see how ridiculously complicated this is? I like to pride myself on breaking things down into more manageable explanations, but I’m having a lot of trouble here. Heck, I’m having trouble just understanding it myself.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about the redemption side. We actually know very little about it so far, but I’m hoping I’ll be able to get some more info before the post goes live.

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