Chase, Amex, JetBlue, and You

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I was having coffee with a friend and colleague at the City Bakery on 18th St. If you have not been there, and had a shot of their hot chocolate (more than that will make you shake), what the fuck are you waiting for? It’s delicious! Anyway, the talk turned to credit card rewards, because every conversation I have eventually turns to credit card rewards. I am a huge hit at parties.

He said he once had a Chase card for his business, but he found the Chase travel transfer partners not as useful as those found at American Express. In particular, he needed to fly JetBlue, so he charged his business expenses to his Amex Platinum and transfered the Membership Rewards points it earned.

I said whoaaaaa there, did I hear you say you were earning points on an Amex Platinum? That’s gonna hurt, because even though that card costs more, it still only gets you one point per buck spent, on everything, just like a lowly Green card. Whereas if you make 30 charges a month on the the $95/year Amex Everyday Preferred, you’ll get a minimum 1.5 points for everything. And though the Personal Rewards Gold and the Business Gold Rewards cards earn only one point most of the time, they at least earn 2-3 points for certain kinds of purchases. Plat, not so much.

But guess what? When purchasing JetBlue tickets, the JetBlue Plus card earns rewards better than everything else does, by a longshot. But if you only fly them once in a while, or want to keep your options open by earning general-purpose points, or you want to get JetBlue tickets using rewards from your other spending…it turns out that Amex cards aren’t as even as good for earning JetBlue travel as Chase cards. Even though you can transfer Amex Membership Rewards points to TrueBlue points! Chekkit:

When you transfer from Amex, you get 0.8 TrueBlue points per Membership Rewards point. And TrueBlue award tickets are pretty much pinned to the cash price of the ticket, with each point being worth about 1.4 cents. So if you use the Everyday Preferred card to earn your Amex points, then 1.5 x 0.8 x 1.4 x 100 = about $1.68 worth of JetBlue tickets earned per $100 spent.

That’s ok, I guess. But check out the Chase version. You earn at least 1.5 points per dollar spent with the $150/year Sapphire Reserve + Freedom Unlimited combo. You can’t transfer those to TrueBlue points, but you can buy a JetBlue ticket with them, and when you do, each Ultimate Reward point is worth 1.5 cents. 1.5 x 1.5 x 100 = about $2.25 worth of JetBlue tickets earned per $100 spent. 2.25% is more than 1.68%, amirite?

Plus, because you’re purchasing a ticket, rather than redeeming an award, you earn 3 TrueBlue points per dollar spent; even if you purchase it with Ultimate Rewards points, a $500 ticket gets you 1500 TrueBlue points, which is worth $21 towards a future TrueBlue award ticket, and it helps you earn your way towards Mosaic (JetBlue elite) status.

Are you ready for the catch? There’s always a catch. JetBlue flights don’t show up, at all, when you search for flights on the Chase web site. But according to this post at Milecards.com, you can book the flight by calling Chase’s travel booking line, at 1-866-951-6592. PITA, to be sure, but, whatevs, I’ve heard of worse. Be sure to give them your TrueBlue number, and check at Jetblue.com after it’s booked so you can add it yourself if necessary.

Also, who knows how much longer you’ll even be able to transfer Membership Rewards points to JetBlue at all — Amex used to issue the JetBlue card, but those days are now past, so who knows what that portends.

You also might consider, at least for your JetBlue purchases, the $29/year JetBlue Plus or JetBlue Business card. (It’s really $99, but you get 5,000 points every year, which is worth $70 in tickets.) You’ll earn 6 TrueBlue points per dollar spent when you buy JetBlue tickets, so if you really wanted to optimize, use it to buy JetBlue tickets, which will earn nearly 17% back towards future travel on JetBlue (8.4% from the card, 4.2% for buying at Jetblue.com, 4.2% for actually flying). Meanwhile, you can save your Ultimate Rewards points for other, and possibly more lucrative, redemptions.

TrueBlue points don’t expire, either, so you don’t have to even fly JetBlue much more than once per year to justify the JetBlue Plus or Business card; you’ll eventually get that award ticket. Also, if you have this card, you’ll get 10% points back whenever you redeem. Pretty good for an airline card! But it’s hard to justify putting non-JetBlue spending on this card if you also have the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Freedom Unlimited. Which of course you should.

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