Dumping my CNB Crystal Visa Infinite.

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CNB Crystal Visa Infinite

The CNB Crystal Visa Infinite Card used to be awesome.  In addition to offering nice perks and great bonus categories, it offered $250 in airline fee reimbursements per card.  As a result, with free authorized users added to the account, it was possible to rack up $1,000 or more in reimbursements each year.  That was obviously a great deal for a $400 per year card.  Unfortunately, as of January 1, 2020, that’s all changing.  Here’s a summary of the changes:

  • Airline incidental fees capped at $350 per year per account (not per card)
  • Priority Pass membership now charges you for guests.  You can still enroll two people into Priority Pass for free.  Each Priority Pass member can get in for free, but guests will be charged $32 each.
  • The Visa Infinite Discount Air Benefit is being discontinued.  No more $100 discount on round-trip domestic flights for 2 or 3 people.
  • No more 3X rewards for gas or grocery purchases.  3X for travel & dining remains.
  • Authorized user cards will cost $95 each.  Accounts opened before 1/1/20 will be assessed this new fee on their next account anniversary after 1/1/20.

Given the above changes, I decided that the CNB card was no longer a keeper for me (for help in deciding yourself, see: Which Ultra Premium Cards are Keepers?).

Urgent action required

After looking through my past credit card statements, I found that I was last charged the annual fee at the end of November 2018.  And multiple readers have told me that once the $400 charge hits your account, CNB won’t refund the fee even if you cancel right away.  I imagine that it’s possible to get a refund with enough calls and letters, but I really don’t want to have to deal with that. So, I want to cancel my account before the end of the month.

Of course, it’s not the end of the world if I keep the card for another year.  I’d pay $400 and get $350 back in airline fee credits.  Still, it would mean at least $50 wasted plus the headache of having to manufacture airline incidental fees to be reimbursed.  I’d rather cancel now.

What about the downgrade option?

In many cases, an alternative to cancelling a card is to product change it to a fee-free version.  CNB does offer a couple of fee free cards that earn the same City National Rewards points (found here), so this option would be ideal.  If I could downgrade, I could keep the points I’ve earned to-date until I’m ready to spend them.

I called the customer service number on the back of my card to ask about product change options.  Customer service told me that only my relationship manager could answer this for me.  So, I found out from customer service who my relationship manager was and eventually got on a call with the backup relationship manager assigned to my account.  She told me that my account was not eligible for a product change.  I would have to apply new for a fee-free card.  She followed up with an email and repeated the information as follows:

We are unable to downgrade your Crystal Visa Infinite at this time, if you would like a card with no annual fee, you must close the Crystal Visa Infinite card and apply for a no fee card.

No thanks.

Cancellation Prep

Before cancelling my card I wanted to make sure that I had made full use of points I had accumulated and any perks that the card offered.  I also needed to have a plan for replacing my Priority Pass memberships.  Here are the items I tackled:

  • $250 airline fee credits per card: Fortunately I had used up most of this credit earlier in the year.  I quickly finished off my credits by booking a Southwest international award which had fees of just over $50.
  • Gogo Wifi Passes: Via this website, I entered in the card numbers for all four of my CNB cards (my own plus my 3 AU cards).  I found one card in which I hadn’t yet claimed the 12 Gogo passes.  So I claimed them.  Done.  That was easy.
  • Priority Pass: I don’t know whether or not the Priority Pass memberships from my CNB account will end abruptly when I cancel my CNB card, but I didn’t want to chance it.  And I didn’t need to.  I already have the Chase Ritz card which offers Priority Pass with unlimited guests to all cardholders.  And Ritz AU cards are free.  I couldn’t find the Priority Pass card issued automatically to me, so I contacted Chase through Secure Message to ask for a replacement Priority Pass card for myself.  I then added my wife as an authorized user to my Ritz account and then sent a Secure Message to Chase asking them to issue her a Priority Pass card.  Done.
  • Visa Infinite Discount Air Benefit: This benefit offers a $100 discount on round trip domestic awards booked for 2 or 3 people.  I have the Ritz card which has the same feature, so there was no rush to use this perk.
  • Spending down my points: This proved to be the most difficult hurdle.  See the next section for details.

Note that some of my above contingencies were possible thanks to having a Ritz card.  That card is no longer available new, but it is still possible to get one through a product change from a Chase Bonvoy consumer card.  Travel with Grant reports success in doing so earlier this week.

Spending down rewards

I had about 29,000 City National Rewards points that I wanted to spend down.  As I’ve reported before, the best value use of points is for travel where you can get about 1.1 cents per point value.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have a flight in mind where it made sense to use my points.  For example, a couple of my planned flights were booked with airline miles and would have been much more expensive if booked with CNB points.  And, unfortunately, I found that CNB’s prices for hotels and car rentals were inflated, at least for the situations where I could have used them.  Most Activities were overpriced as well.

I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to hunt down the perfect way to spend down my 29,000 points.  Part of my effort was due to me wanting the get the most value from my points.  Part of the effort was in the hope that I’d find a gem that I could share with readers.  I didn’t find that gem, but I did settle on advice…

My advice: Try to find airfare costing $200 or more that meets your needs.  Even better, find airfare where you can use the Visa Infinite Discount Air Benefit with your points.  Failing that, just cash in for gift cards at .9 cents per point value or for cash at .83 cents per point value.  It is not worth your time to do as I did to try to eek out a tiny bit more value.  I should have just redeemed my whole stash for Amazon gift cards and called it a day.

For those interested, here’s how I ended up spending down my points:

  • Round trip private airport transportation: 7,124 Points for two.  Taxi rides would likely be around $35 each way (~$70 total), so I got a value of about 1 cent per point.
  • Foodie and sightseeing tour: 17,726 Points for two.  I later found out that the same tour can be booked with cash for $89 per person, so I got a point value of: $89 x 2 / 17,726 = 1 cent per point
  • $25 cash back: 3,000 points.  I picked this because there were no Amazon gift cards available for less than 5,000 points (I had 4,400 points remaining when I chose this).  Point value: $25 / 3,000 = 0.83 cents per point.
  • Two gift bags: 800 points + 600 points.  These were the only items I could find to cash out my remaining 1,400 points.

Again, if you can’t easily find airfare that offers good value, I recommend simply redeeming points for Amazon (or other) gift cards.  I wasted almost two full days to find the above options which were only marginally better value than gift cards.

 

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35 Comments
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Josh

FYI to those wondering, I just called the number on the back of my card to cancel. Relatively painless. They said that they ‘put in the request’ to be canceled, and they are not sure how long that takes. However, they said the account’s effective close date is today’s date. I would just advise that others give enough lead time to ensure the account gets closed properly before the annual fee hits.

Frank

I hope someone is still reading this thread. My card is up for renewal at the end of this month. I just called City National’s (800) number and they told me that none of the changes will take effect until the cardholder’s first renewal after January 1, 2020. In other words, if I renew at the end of the month, I will continue to receive all of the existing benefits for essentially another year, which completely changes my calculus on renewing the card and worrying about spending down all of my current points. I was wondering if anyone else had received this same information, and if there is any way to firm this down.

Josh

My interpretation is that the benefits change January 1st, and the part about not taking effect until the cardholder’s first renewal after January 1, 2020 would be the annual fee and authorized user fee.

Marc

On the end of my last statement it explains the changes effective January 1, 2020 to the airline incidental credit, priority pass and infinite discount air benefit. I received a letter for the change to the annual fee charge for additional cards which also goes into effect January 1, 2020. In my situation my primary card annual fee will hit at end of November. I did not set up my additional cards until February so the annual fee for those cards will hit in February if I do not cancel. I’m canceling everything in the next few days. I would not trust what they told you. Get it in writing. That bank is really annoying to deal with.

[…] was until I read posts on Frequent Miler and Miles to Memories about how the card is going to gut many of the benefits I’d be signing […]

Henry

Is there any card that has the Visa Discount Air benefit and is accepting applications? That discount is the biggest loss for me.

Grant

You would need to get a JPMorgan Chase Ritz Carlton Visa Infinite CC. That card is no longer available for new applicants, but you can upgrade from a Chase Marriott Bonvoy CC. I wrote about the process a few days ago: https://travelwithgrant.boardingarea.com/2019/11/12/why-did-i-upgrade-my-chase-marriott-bonvoy-boundless-visa-signature-to-jpmorgan-chase-ritz-carlton-visa-infinite/