Sometimes the most painful part of switching loyalty from one airline to another isn’t the loss of status but starting from scratch with an empty account balance. JetBlue is offering to match the number of Elevate points you currently hold with Virgin America, 1-to-1, up to a maximum of 75,000 TrueBlue points. You must act by July 4 to take advantage of this deal. There are also ways to exploit the opportunity even if you don’t have any points with either program right now.
There has been some skepticism about the price that Alaska Airlines paid for Virgin America, but it’s generally agreed that the motivation was to keep the carrier out of the hands of JetBlue. Some Virgin America fans are disappointed. So it’s no surprise that JetBlue is trying to capitalize on this opportunity to poach customers before the acquisition is finalized.
Match Your Elevate Account Balance
Here are the basic elements of the TrueBlue match program. If you don’t already have Elevate points available to match, read the next section.
- Take a screenshot of your Virgin America Elevate account balance and send it by email (along with your TrueBlue account number) to email@example.com by July 4, 2016. The screenshot should include your name.
- JetBlue will respond to your email with confirmation of your eligibility.
- After receiving confirmation, you’ll need to book and fly a round-trip flight with JetBlue by August 31, 2016. This must be a paid, revenue ticket — not an award redemption. Existing reservations do not qualify.
Points will be matched roughly 1-to-1, although there are several thresholds. That means if you are just over a threshold you could earn many more points than if you are just under a threshold. The best value is if you have 50,001 Elevate points, which provides 75,000 TrueBlue points. More information about the offer, including complete terms and conditions, are available on the JetBlue website.
Transfer Opportunities for More Points
You don’t need to be a frequent flyer with Virgin America or JetBlue to maximize this offer. It’s possible to transfer points into a Virgin America Elevate account and then use this brand new balance to receive a match from JetBlue. Maybe the Elevate points didn’t seem very valuable to you at first, so you wouldn’t have made a transfer for them alone. This promotion effectively makes transfers a 2-for-1 deal and much more attractive.
There are three main options for transferring Elevate points:
First, you can move 100,000 points from Membership Rewards at a 2-to-1 ratio to obtain 50,000 Elevate points. Also expect to pay a fee of 0.06 cents per Membership Rewards point (maximum $99). I do not recommend this option.
Second, you could transfer 100,000 points from Citi ThankYou Rewards, also at a rate of 2-to-1 for 50,000 Elevate points. I do not recommend this option.
Finally, you can move points from Starwood Preferred Guest at a 1-to-1 ratio but with a 5,000-point bonus when you move 20,000 at once. That means 50,000 Elevate points will require 40,000 Starpoints.
Any of these options will yield 50,000 Elevate points and can be matched to 50,000 TrueBlue points. Transferring other amounts may result in a different match. But In order to maximize this match offer you will need to have 50,001 Elevate points, enough to receive 75,000 TrueBlue points. That one extra Elevate point will mean an extra 25,000 TrueBlue points. Unless you already have some Elevate points in your account, you will need to transfer an additional 1 Starpoint (40,001 total).
How Much Are the Points Worth?
Both JetBlue and Virgin America operate revenue-based programs, meaning points are redeemed like cash according to the value of the ticket. More expensive tickets (in dollars) also require more points. Expect to get about 2 to 2.1 cents per point for Virgin America Elevate points and about 1.4 cents per point for JetBlue TrueBlue points. TrueBlue points have a much broader range in value.
50,001 Elevate points and 75,000 TrueBlue are each worth about $1,000 — a total value of $2,000 for transferring just 40,001 Starpoints. Whereas I typically value Starpoints at about 2.2 cents each, this loyalty program alchemy increases that drastically to 5 cents each.
What Will You Do with the Points?
There’s not much sense in transferring points and applying for a match if you aren’t going to use them. An argument in favor of a Virgin America/JetBlue merger (instead of Alaska) was that the two carriers are dominant on opposite coasts. Some people on the West Coast will find it difficult to book a JetBlue flight that qualifies to complete the match. Even after that, some people will find it difficult to redeem the points if Virgin America or JetBlue don’t offer many options from their home city.
One solution is to book a positioning flight. Fly to a city that is served and book your award ticket from there. Just be sure to have enough time to allow for potential delays or cancellations.
Another solution is to redeem your points on a partner airline. Virgin America partners with Singapore Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, and Emirates. (Fuel surcharges may apply for international flights.) JetBlue also has a few partners, but only Hawaiian Airlines is a redemption partner — others merely allow earning more TrueBlue points.
A third solution, at least in the case of Virgin America, is to wait out the acquisition by Alaska Airlines and eventual merger of their two loyalty programs. However, this may not happen for a year or longer, and no one is really sure what the rate will be when points are converted.
TrueBlue Match: Yea or Nay?
I am not convinced by the JetBlue match offer. I don’t deny that it offers significant potential value when implemented well, and many other bloggers have come out strongly in favor. My hesitance is largely for personal reasons that may not apply to you. But I think, realistically, this match offer is going to be most favorable to travelers in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York markets where the two carriers have the most overlap.
The greatest issue is that I do not want to make an unnecessary connection for a domestic flight. I’ll do it when traveling internationally, but on Alaska Airlines (and, when that’s not an option, United Airlines), I can reach almost place I need to go in North America with a single flight from Seattle. Virgin America and JetBlue do not add any new non-stop options.
I could use the points for travel on partner airlines instead. Both carriers are partners with Hawaiian Airlines, which is also the most attractive option because of the lack of extra fees. Hawaiian has some of the best service to the islands, and this would be a way to book with them.
Ultimately I just don’t see a lot to get excited about. I’d have to give up some Starpoints that I’d rather use for a free stay. I’d have to book a ticket on JetBlue that I don’t really need (all my summer travel plans are made). I’d end up with points in two loyalty programs that, although valuable on paper, are not part of my usual redemption strategy. It seems like a big hassle. Hopefully you can make better use of it than I can.