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Whether you don’t have enough TrueBlue points to cover the cost of your full itinerary, or you’d rather pay some in cash to save your points for a future trip, JetBlue’s Cash + Points redemption option is tantalizing for travelers looking for flexibility in booking.
As of summer 2020, JetBlue Airways allows customers to book with a combination of cash and TrueBlue points, a payment option that’s fairly common in the hotel industry but not so much among airlines. Here's what you need to know about how and when to use it.
How to book with Cash + Points
The Cash + Points redemption option applies to fare classes that are also eligible for traditional points redemptions (all JetBlue flights in the Blue or higher fare, including flights in Mint business class). That means Blue Basic, which is essentially JetBlue’s version of basic economy, is not available for booking with Cash + Points.
To book with JetBlue’s Cash + Points option, search for a flight as usual and select “TrueBlue points” as your payment option. Upon selecting your flight, a scale will appear with a slider that you can drag to select how many points versus how much cash you want to spend.
You’ll pay the remaining cash balance at checkout as usual.
The Cash + Points option is available on any JetBlue-operated flight with no blackout dates. You’ll earn TrueBlue points for the cash portion of your Cash + Points fare.
Is booking with Cash + Points a good deal?
JetBlue is a bit of an outlier when it comes to its frequent flyer program. That’s because JetBlue’s TrueBlue points are typically "fixed" to the value of the airline's cash fares; we value them at 1.5 cents each.
This means you likely won’t see a big difference in value when opting to book with cash versus points, the way you might find incredible point redemptions one day or dirt-cheap cash fare deals another day when booking with other airlines.
We looked at dozens of sample flights and found that more often than not, booking with a combo of Cash + Points ends up costing slightly more in overall value than it would had you purchased entirely in points or entirely in cash.
For example, we ran the numbers on a flight from Rhode Island to Florida for the holidays.
What happens if you pay with cash
A ticket in the Blue fare class, which is the lowest fare class you can book if you want to book with points, would cost $326 in cash.
What happens if you pay in points
Pay in points and you’ll owe 30,100 points (plus $5.60 cash for taxes and fees). Since we value JetBlue’s TrueBlue points at 1.5 cents each, that flight costs roughly the same whether you book in points ($336) or cash ($326).
What happens if you pay with Cash + Points
In another example, we plunked down 9,000 points for a $354.70 flight between Boston and Puerto Rico. Thus, we still owe $273.70 on the original flight. The value of those 9,000 points plus the cash fare comes out to $372.
In most cases (like this sample flight to Puerto Rico), we found that the Cash + Points option often worked out to "cost" slightly more than booking entirely in cash or entirely in points, if you're using our consistent point value. But the difference isn’t huge in the scheme of your overall travel costs.
Our suggestion? Don’t put a ton of time into comparing whether it’s better to book in cash versus points here, as you’ll generally see only a small difference in the price of your airfare. Unless you’re meticulously counting your pennies, the currency (or currency combo) you opt for won’t make a large difference in your overall budget.
When should you book with Cash + Points?
There are a couple situations in which it absolutely makes sense to book with the Cash + Points option:
You prefer smaller discounts on more flights. The Cash + Points option tends to be most valuable for people who prefer a discount on their next flight rather than saving up points and using them to cover the entire cost of a later flight (aside from taxes and fees, of course), which can also be mentally satisfying.
You don’t want to sit on airline points. It’s a great option if the thought of hoarding airline miles makes you queasy. With so many travel restrictions in place, you may find sitting on a stash of points to be especially unsettling. In a pre-COVID world, you might have wanted to save up your points for a JetBlue flight to London. Now, spending those points in smaller batches (even if you have to pay partial fares in cash) might make sense.
After all, paying less cash for a flight via a Cash + Points booking is still often better than paying all cash for one flight while hoarding your points for a flight you might never end up taking. And remember, points are always valuable if they get you where you want to go at a price you like.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card