The exact value of CNB Crystal Visa Infinite Points

The CNB Crystal Visa Infinite card may be the single best rewards card available (for details, see: The amazing CNB Crystal Visa Infinite Card. A deep dive).  But, until now, it was tough to pinpoint the value of CNB points.  It has long been the case that points were best used to book travel (flights in particular), but the per point value varied depending upon the flight details.  Fortunately, it seems that CNB has changed to a predictable formula…

Grant, from the blog Travel with Grant, recently signed up for the CNB card and he found that point values were completely predictable.  In all cases (flights, hotels, car rentals, activities), he found that the per point value was 1.35 cents.  See: CNB City National Rewards Points Now Worth 1.35 Cents Per Point (CPP) Toward Flights, Hotels, Rental Cars & Activities.

If Grant’s finding was the whole story, this would be a short post.  Unfortunately, it’s not that simple.  Grant calculated the 1.35 cents per point values based on the cash and point prices that CNB displayed in their rewards portal.  CNB used to display accurate prices in this portal, at least for flights.  Now, though, the prices are inflated.  When I compared CNB prices to real world prices, I found that flights were consistently a little more expensive through CNB.  Hotel prices were way more expensive.  I didn’t check car rentals or activities.  I’m pretty sure that airfare remains the best way to get good value from CNB points.

Formula Hunting

I guessed that there was a formula that would predict CNB’s price increase over real world airfare prices.  If I could figure out that formula, I could figure out the real value of CNB points.  So, I checked a whole bunch (sorry for the scientific lingo) 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…

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.  Given the above formula, and given Grant’s 1.35 cents per point finding, we can accurately determine CNB point values:

CNB Point Value for Airfare = Actual Fare * 1.35 / (Actual Fare * 1.03 + $15)

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
$50 1.02
$100 1.14
$150 1.19
$200 1.22
$300 1.25
$500 1.27
$1,000 1.29
$5,000 1.31
$10,000 1.31

As you can see above, the point value rises dramatically as you increase from $50 to $100, but then the point value starts to level off.  1.31 cents per point appears to be the practical top end value.  For the purpose of this blog, though, we’ll use 1.25 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 $100 flight, don’t use your points for that flight.  If you plan to purchase a $500 flight, though, you can see above that you’ll get 1.27 cents per point value by redeeming CNB points.  That’s pretty good.

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.
Regarding comments: Comments posted at the bottom of Frequent Miler pages and posts are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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René
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René

Was told by concierge fixed value at 1.3 cents each if booking a cruise. As a frequent floater this is real value when I can earn them at 3x

Chris
Guest
Chris

Great write-up. I would be interested in their reasoning for such a complicated form of pricing. Have you had any success getting them to comment on this craziness?

Matt
Guest
Matt

The formula looks pretty basic to me. They charge $15 per ticket and a 3% surcharge. The $15 i’m sure is to cover admin costs, I am curious why there is an extra 3%, travel portal licensing costs maybe…? How does that compair to other CC travel portals I wonder. I know US Banks portal pricing is different than booking sites or hotels sites, but I’ve never taken the time to figure out by exactly how much.

FMFan
Guest
FMFan

Another post demonstrating why you are the best! Thanks very much for this.

HoKo
Guest
HoKo

Agreed, great content Greg

Grant
Guest
Grant

Great post Greg. If only CNB priced their flights the same as what the airlines price their flights at, we wouldn’t have such a complicated sliding scale. Thanks for the deep dive!

random
Guest
random

See my comment above which addresses this.

Al
Guest
Al

Thanks!
All I gotta say is:
My two fave travel bloggers’ names start w G
Both are in this post

Happy holiday season guys!

random
Guest
random

Concierge is 1.3 with exact price as booking direct (at least with airline).

They book through their system or direct with airline if you need something special. It gets charged to card (so you actually earn 3X as well) and then you get a statement credit for the amount.

HoKo
Guest
HoKo

This is an incredibly helpful comment. How many times have you done this? Do you need to escalate to a supervisor? Any pushback or they are happy to do this at the 1.3CPM rate?

Sam
Guest
Sam

I love this card. Great customer service too. Thank you for your analysis.

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[…] The exact value of CNB Crystal Visa Infinite Points by Frequent Miler. The more expensive a flight gets, the better value you get because you’re paying a fixed $15 fee. I don’t think booking hotels ever makes sense, even if the prices aren’t inflated remember it’s very easy to get bigger discounts elsewhere. […]

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[…] The exact value of CNB Crystal Visa Infinite Points by Frequent Miler. The more expensive a flight gets, the better value you get because you’re paying a fixed $15 fee. I don’t think booking hotels ever makes sense, even if the prices aren’t inflated remember it’s very easy to get bigger discounts elsewhere. […]

Marc
Guest
Marc

great analysis, now get to work on hotels 🙂
in the past i have used them for hotels in orlando for some great redemptions.
8/18 towne place was $579 for 5 nights (per Marriott site) for total 34,445 CNB points = 1.68
8/17 hyatt place was $522 for 4 nights (per Hyatt site) for total 30,376 CNB points = 1.72

they changed there travel site recently and i think the redemptions for hotels have gone down and is consistent across properties

PiratePharmD
Guest
PiratePharmD

Skip Experiences. I went down a rabbit hole yesterday to try to find out the cash value of a half day spa certificate, which I was thinking of getting my wife for Christmas. Cost is 52k CNB. I called CNB, who couldn’t tell me what the cash value limit was, then called the spa who had no idea what I was talking about, then called Great American Days, who sort of knew what I was talking about but not really. Eventually I got an answer that a half day cert is worth up to $300 and a full day is up to $500. That means 52k CNB for $300, or just under 0.58cpp. A full day is 85300 CNB for $500, or just under 0.6cpp. So, definitely skip the Experiences section.

Yuri
Guest
Yuri

I don’t see any reason using this card, when there is Altitude Reserve with 1.5cpp. I just cycle through airlines credit on CNB every year.

Jeremy
Guest
Jeremy

Well, the AR has a $400 AF – $325 credit for an actual cost of $75. This one has an AF of $400 – $250 airline credit per card up to 4 cards, so your net AF could be -$600. 1.5 cpp is greater than 1.3 cpp, and if you have a Samsung Pay phone you could get potentially get it almost everywhere. However, CNB has a broader range of 3x at grocery stores airline, hotel, taxi, limousine, rental car, train, bus, gas, restaurant, fast food and takeout food dining establishments. So it adds grocery and dining, which may not be a huge deal to you. It also has free AU vs. $75 each. Priority Pass is unlimited. If we look at the spending difference of $675/.002 = $337,500. At 50k, CNB also gives $550 lounge club credit too. Not to mention the $100 airfare discount.

If you do business spend at Sam’s/Costco you may be better off with AR, but CNB could be a good ONLY card if you want.

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[…] $25 booking fee using the Cruises and Tours department. You can see how that affects airfare prices here, it will be similar with cruises and […]

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[…] Travel With Grant posted that points were now worth 1.35¢ each only to have this debunked by Frequent Miler. There is actually a relatively easy way to get a true 1.3¢ per point in […]

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[…] Travel With Grant posted that points were now worth 1.35¢ each only to have this debunked by Frequent Miler. There is actually a relatively easy way to get a true 1.3¢ per point in […]