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Monday, January 04, 2010

Singing the JetBlue not-so-TrueBlue Blues

Maybe this will serve as a cautionary tale for those who are considering enrolling in an airline frequent-flyer and affinity credit card program. In my case, it's JetBlue's TrueBlue program and the American Express JetBlue Card.

I originally enrolled in TrueBlue because JetBlue had direct flights from Boston to Phoenix (where my family now lives) and admittedly, because my family and I really liked the airline. I also got a American Express JetBlue card in order to increase the number of points in my account. One of main selling points of the card was that the points would never expire or so I thought...

I turns out that the terms of the card were very misleading--whether purposely misleading or not I can't say. You see, my TrueBlue account was credited with points when I paid for items using the card. When the account reached 100 points, the points were automatically converted to TruePasses. Each TruePass can be used to purchase a one-way flight on JetBlue. And there's the rub. It turns out that although the points don't expire, the TruePasses expire after 1 year! There was no mention of this when I signed up for the card. This made no sense. If the points automatically convert to passes (there's no way to opt out of this) and the passes expire, then how can they say that the points never expire? It seems to me that the passes are just another way to represent a certain number of points in the same way that a $20 bill represents the same amount as twenty $1 bills. Naturally, I contacted JetBlue. But, as you can see from this email thread with their customer service department, they weren't interested in the concerns of a loyal customer. You'll also see from the email thread that I am not the first to run into this problem.

In my opinion, the terms of the TrueBlue program (recently changed, perhaps because of similar complaints) and the JetBlue American Express Card are misleading. Whether or not they were purposely structured that way really doesn't matter. So, as promised, I am going to file a complaint with the Consumer Protection Department of the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office.

I'll keep you all apprised.

First !!
I contacted Amex about this. They explained to me that under the new program, "points never expire". I pointed out this is the same fraudlent promise that induced me to join the program in 2007.

To add insult to injury, when you call JetBlue to redeem your soon-to-expire awards as instructed by their website, you have to endure a recording directing you to the website to redeem the awards. The JetBlue agent confirmed the old awards can only be redeemed via phone. Also, since you can't check for reward travel availability online, you must call and wait 20 minutes to find out no award seats are available.

I have written to both Jerry Brown and Andrew Cuomo seeking relief as this anti-consumer policy change is just over the top.
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