The exact value of CNB Crystal Visa Infinite Points

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Points earned with the CNB Crystal Visa Infinite card used to be great for purchasing expensive flights.  With expensive flights, it was possible to get up to 1.31 cents per point value.  Sadly, that’s no longer the case.  As pointed out by Danny the Deal Guru, 1.2 cents per point is now the best you can get.  Unfortunately, the CNB website adds an automatic booking fee (explained below), so the real maximum value is 1.16 cents per point.  Most flights will get less value.

So, how much are points worth usually?  To figure this out, I first identified the CNB formula and then calculated point values for various flight prices…

Formula Hunting

I checked a whole bunch of real world flight prices ranging from less than $100 to over $10K and compared them to CNB prices.  Thanks to a little spreadsheet magic, I found the formula.  It seems that CNB adds on a booking fee of 3% the actual fare plus $15.  Here’s the formula with the booking fee:

  • CNB Airfare Price = Actual Fare x 1.03 + $15

I found a couple of exceptions to the above rule, but it held perfectly across the vast majority of flights that I looked at.  Flights on Spirit were notably even more expensive with CNB, so don’t plan to use points on Spirit.  That way, we can ignore that outlier in our formula.  Given the above, we can accurately determine CNB point values:

In general, points are worth: Actual Fare / Points Required.  For example, many other bank rewards programs charge 10,000 points for $100 of airfare.  In those cases, points are worth $100 / 10,000 = $0.01 each (e.g. 1 cent each).

So, let’s start with the formula for the number of points required for CNB award flights:

  • CNB Airfare Points Required = (Actual Fare x 1.03 + $15) / .012

For example, with an actual $100 fare, CNB adds a $18 booking fee and charges the following number of points: $118 / .012 = 9,833 points.

So, now we know how to calculate point values:

  • CNB Point Value for Airfare =  Actual Fare / ((Actual Fare * 1.03 + $15) / .012)

Formula details

I found that the formula works under all of these conditions:

  • one-way and round-trip fares
  • basic economy, regular economy, and business class fares
  • domestic and international fares

When adding additional passengers, the formula must be calculated separately for each passenger (i.e. the $15 surcharge is assessed per passenger).

Using the formula

I realize that the point value formula isn’t very useful on its own for most readers, so here’s a chart that will help:

Actual Airfare (not CNB’s price) Predicted CNB Point Value (cents per point value)
$50 0.90
$100 1.02
$150 1.06
$200 1.09
$300 1.11
$500 1.13
$1,000 1.15
$5,000 1.16
$10,000 1.16

As you can see above, the point value rises with increased airfare prices.  1.16 cents per point appears to be the theoretical best you can do.  For the purpose of this blog, we’ll use 1.11 as the Reasonable Redemption Value for CNB points since $300 is close to the average for domestic airfare.

How to get the best value from your CNB points

It’s pretty clear that the best way to get good value from your CNB points is to redeem for expensive airfare.  If you plan to purchase a $50 flight, don’t use your points for that flight since you’ll get less than 1 cent per point value.  If you plan to purchase a $500 flight, though, you can see above that you’ll get 1.13 cents per point value by redeeming CNB points.  That’s much better.

Additional tips:

  • Booking round-trip will result in better value than two one-way tickets
  • Booking additional passengers has no effect on the point value.
  • Avoid using points to book Spirit since CNB apparently charges a larger booking fee with Spirit.
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