This is the nineteenth post in a monthlong series that started here. Each post will take about two minutes to read and may include an action item that takes the reader another two minutes to complete. I am writing this for an audience of people who know nothing about frequent flyer miles, and my goal is that by the end, you know enough to fly for free anywhere you want to go.
I’ve covered how to earn miles and the redemption options for miles. Now I’m giving the basics on several major airline programs where you can quickly collect miles for amazing trips. Today: the Southwest Rapid Rewards, JetBlue TrueBlue, and Virgin America Elevate programs. I’m taking all three together because they are similar programs.
Why Collect Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America Points?
All three types of airline points can save you big on your next domestic trip or near international trip.
All three types of points can access every flight on their respective airlines with no blackouts.
- What airlines can you fly with Rapid Rewards, TrueBlue points, and Elevate points?
- What are the special features of each program?
- How can you book Rapid Rewards, TrueBlue, and Elevate awards?
Points Price of Awards
Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America have fixed value award programs. You can book any flight on the respective airlines with your points and you pay a number of points based on the cash price of the ticket you want.
Southwest charges 70 points for every dollar of the base fare of the ticket you want. That means Rapid Rewards are worth about 1.4 cents each.
JetBlue points are worth about 1.5 cents each toward a ticket.
Virgin America points are worth 1.7 to 2.2 cents each toward a ticket.
This type of fixed value or quasi-fixed value contrasts sharply with all the other miles I’ve talked about so far where the miles required for a ticket had to do with where you were flying and not the price of an equivalent cash ticket.
Southwest points can only be used on Southwest and AirTran flights.
JetBlue points can be used on JetBlue and Hawaiian flights.
Virgin America points can be used on Virgin America, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, Singapore, Emirates, and Hawaiian flights.
Southwest’s program has a workaround to cap awards at 19,200 points roundtrip.
JetBlue’s program has really good redemption opportunities for Mint Class, the best business class inside the continental United States with a fully enclosed suite.
Virgin America has award charts for its partners, and the Hawaiian Airlines chart in particular has some gems like 20,000 miles roundtrip between the continental United States and Hawaii.
All awards require the payment of government taxes associated with your trip. Taxes start at $5.60 one way within the United States and range up to $100 or more for international awards.
How to Book Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America Awards
To book these airlines with their points, head to their respective websites. To book their partners, you need to call the airline whose points you are using.
Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America (other than for its partners) all have fixed value award programs that let you fly an flight with no blackouts.
The advantages of these programs are the ease with which you can turn points into flights and the fact that I think all three offer a better domestic flying experience than legacy carriers.
The disadvantage is that a lack of an award chart makes it impossible to get outsized value from the points by booking flights that are cheap on a chart but expensive with cash.
These programs should be a complementary part of your points strategy if the airlines fly where you live and want to go.
Any questions? What did I leave out?