As of today JetBlue TrueBlue points no longer expire, which is pretty big news. The last airline to make a similar move was Delta, which in February 2011 eliminated mileage expiration. Unfortunately for SkyMiles members, they’ve done everything they possibly can to make active miles as valuable as expired ones, so I’m not sure what to make of that.
What’s interesting about JetBlue is that they’re going from having one of the most strict points expiration policies to not having them expire at all. Previously JetBlue points expired after 12 months of “inactivity,” with activity strictly being defined as a JetBlue flight or a purchase with their co-branded American Express credit card. That’s extremely strict, given that most other miles expire after 18-36 months of inactivity, with a much more liberal interpretation of what qualifies as “activity.”
Look, this is obviously good news and a positive move, though to be honest I don’t get why they’re doing this. I think their policy was too strict. I think points shouldn’t have expired within 12 months, and they should have counted partner activity as any activity.
But there’s a cost to loyalty programs of not having points expire, especially for a revenue based frequent flyer program like JetBlue’s, where there are no hoops you have to jump through to redeem points. I assume there’s some serious liability on their books for unredeemed points, and when miles never expire, who knows how many outstanding points are for accounts of people that have since passed.
In the press release their director of loyalty marketing says:
“Customers can still be loyal even if they’re not traveling every year.” says Dave Canty, JetBlue’s director of loyalty marketing. “Loyalty shouldn’t have an expiration date, and neither should your points.”
And while perhaps there’s some truth to it, could the same be said if the points expiration policy was 24 months and included all partner activity? Could you really still consider that person “loyal?”
So let me be clear, this is an extremely positive and customer friendly change. But there’s a cost to providing it, and I would have rather seen new benefits in other places for at least semi-loyal customers (maybe more TrueBlue points per dollar spent on airfare, for example). If they instead changed the policy to 24 months and included more activity, they’d be giving people the best of both worlds, in my opinion. I’d also be willing to bet that soon enough both Delta and JetBlue will introduce mileage expiration policies, or at the very least mileage inactivity policies.
Am I off base? What do you guys think?