Good news: Chase added JetBlue Airways’ TrueBlue as a new Ultimate Rewards Points transfer partner, replacing lately departed Korean Air SkyPass. Bad news: there is limited value in the program for Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred cardholders.
There are some decent returns, however, particularly on JetBlue’s routes to Latin America.
JetBlue’s TrueBlue frequent flyer program operates a sort-of-fixed rate conversion point redemptions. For a given fare type, TrueBlue points are applied at a given rate against the fare. Sort-of.
This is the same type of reward point redemption that Chase already offers through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal, except Chase actually offers a static rate, whereas JetBlue TrueBlue rates seem to fluctuate based on fare class, destination and sometimes for seemingly any reason at all.
For those unfamiliar, you can search pretty much all domestic U.S. flights (sans Southwest Airlines) through the travel portal by accessing your Ultimate Rewards profile on the Chase website and clicking “Travel”.
The Ugly: U.S. Domestic Flights, Particularly Transcontinental Flights
A quick comparison between TrueBlue reward rates and Ultimate Reward Travel Portal rates for the same flights next month offers a very underwhelming result. At best, JetBlue offers the same rate as Chase for these flights, then tacks on the Sept. 11 fees.
For Chase Sapphire Reserve cardholders, these JetBlue flights price out less when redeemed through Ultimate Rewards, and without the additional taxes and fees.
The depreciation is even worse on Mint fares, which were wholly 10,000 points cheaper and free of additional fees when booked through Chase instead of JetBlue TrueBlue.
Aside from the difference in points redeemed, flights booked through the Ultimate Rewards portal earn TrueBlue points — those booked through TrueBlue do not.
Chase Sapphire Preferred and Ink Preferred Cardholders Can Do Better
Given that Chase’s other two points transfer cards, the Ink Business Preferred and Sapphire Preferred, offer a lower 1.25 cent-per-point redemption rate, JetBlue’s TrueBlue redemptions are more likely to come out ahead in a direct comparison.
On the economy fare above, Preferred cardholders would save 1,856 points by transferring to JetBlue instead of booking through Chase, but would lose out on 900 TrueBlue points. The convenience of booking through Chase might be reason alone to nix a points transfer.
For someone needing to get to Los Angeles in economy on these dates, TrueBlue may be the cheapest direct option.
Still, Sapphire Preferred and Ink Preferred cardholders can do better than JetBlue, particularly on business class fares. On dates when United makes Saver Awards available on this route, one can cut the points bill by more than half by booking through United instead. Even when only Everyday Awards are open, United is still a cheaper option in business class.
Even better, British Airways Executive Club offers lower points rates for American Airlines extremely private First Class service.
The Good: Flights Overseas to Latin America
At best, JetBlue can offer good but not great value — okay, fine, meh — for Ultimate Rewards members. JetBlue recently expanded Mint Business Class service to Latin America, as well, and has had some incredible fare promotions that would translate to very attractive TrueBlue redemption rates.
Generally, barring heavily discounted JetBlue flights, the cheapest reliable points redemption for Caribbean, Central and northern South America destinations is through British Airways Executive Club. Flights on American, LAN, LATAM and others cost 12,500 points each way.
In lieu of saver availability, and when JetBlue fares are incredibly low, TrueBlue can be an equally attractive option (with more comfortable seating, to boot).
JetBlue actually appears to offer higher redemption rates for TrueBlue members to fly to international destinations than domestic destinations. TrueBlue handily beat the Sapphire Reserve travel portal’s rate for flights between New York and Quito, Ecuador in September.
That’s not to say there aren’t still attractive options available through the Ultimate Rewards Travel Portal, including a very quick Copa Airlines flight connecting in Panama.
The Obvious: TrueBlue Members
All this math aside, there may be obvious value for anyone with some TrueBlue points to use a few Ultimate Rewards points and top up now and again.
As with Southwest Airlines, a small Chase transfer can help complete an otherwise out-of-reach TrueBlue vacation. I would never advise anyone with a good opportunity and a stash of TrueBlue points against this very sensible strategy.
Chase Ultimate Rewards Members: Choose JetBlue TrueBlue very carefully, and always compare the prices you’re seeing in the travel portal before deciding to move any points to Chase’s newest transfer partner.
That said, there may be some opportunities, particularly involving flights to South American, where JetBlue is a solid option.