Selling frequent flyer miles to travelers is a big business for the airlines. And a very profitable one.
But buying miles at the prices typically charged by the airlines is generally a lousy deal for consumers—they're just too expensive. Which probably explains why so many airlines so routinely find it necessary to discount the price of their miles.
While not as lucrative as the 100 percent buy-miles bonuses we've seen from US Airways and Delta, JetBlue's current 50 percent bonus certainly trumps the 25 percent bonuses regularly on offer from other airlines. And it's the biggest bonus I've ever seen from JetBlue. So if ever there were a time to buy TrueBlue points, this is it.
Through May 31, members of JetBlue's TrueBlue program will receive a 50 percent bonus when purchasing TrueBlue points, either for their own accounts or as gifts for other TrueBlue members.
JetBlue is also waiving the normal transaction fee during the promotion period, although the 7.5 percent excise tax will still apply.
Deal or No Deal
TrueBlue points normally cost between 3 cents and 3.75 cents apiece, depending on the quantity purchased. With the bonus, the price drops to between 2 cents and 2.5 cents per point, with 1,500 points costing $37.63 and 45,000 points costing $886.88.
So, what's a TrueBlue point worth? Unlike a mile in the legacy carriers' programs, whose value varies according to the market value of the tickets they're redeemed for, TrueBlue points have a more or less set value, between around 1.1 and 1.3 cents apiece.
And that brings us to the selling proposition: Pay just over 2 cents each for points that are worth, on average, just over 1 cent each.
Although an argument might be made for buying small quantities of TrueBlue points to reach an award threshold, significant purchases just won't stand up to financial scrutiny—even with the bonus, you're much better served by buying a JetBlue ticket than by buying TrueBlue points.
Reader Reality Check
Have you ever purchased airline miles or points? Under what circumstances? Did you feel the money was well spent?
This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.