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.
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)
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|
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.
- Booking round-trip will result in better value than two one-way tickets
- Booking additional passengers has no effect on the point value.