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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 […]
Is there any card that has the Visa Discount Air benefit and is accepting applications? That discount is the biggest loss for me.
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/
I didn’t know about the option to stack $100 discount and use points. Got very excited as I have travel coming up that, with the discount, would almost exactly wipe out my balance. Only problem: called the concierge to do this and there is some sort of system upgrade where they cannot see our points and are unable to book points travel. They can transfer you to a travel desk for points only booking, but they won’t be able to apply the discount. Agent had no idea how long the system upgrade would last, she said maybe try again tomorrow. I’m starting to think they’re intentionally putting barriers up as everyone rushes to empty their accounts.
https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/31740956-post2931.html Looks like someone else confirms that concierge for redeeming points is dead
i will be leaving this card as well, so disappointing they didnt slowly remove the benefits, it was just so drastic and sudden. Anyone can clearly see the other premium travels cards (us bank altitude, chase sapphire and amex platinum) are now superior to this card.
Yes it was good while it lasted. Time for CNB to turn back into an unknown.
Boy u got that right I have seen the branches (closed by me) but had no idea who they were till this post. Their card I could get but why now ?
So, I have the issue where I cashed out my points but the Amazon cards are back ordered until December and my AF will be due soon. I decided to call CNB to ask 1) when is my AF up, 2) what happens if I close the account and the cards haven’t been issued yet. Here are the answers from the CSR: 1) They can’t tell me when my AF is due, 2) They don’t know. …… Not joking. The CSR could only tell me that because I opened the card in November 2018 (it was mid-November), then the AF will come “some time by end of November.” That doesn’t really make sense to me, as one would think that means the end of the 12th month is sometime in December, but anyway they should have some way of knowing what date that is. I mean, the computer knows when to bill me, right? Why don’t they? As to the other question, they said I would have to speak to an in-branch relationship manager as to what would happen to the gift card back order if I close my account. And that conversation, they said, could take up to two business days to arrange!
When I called CNB rewards centre, they told me the same thing about back-ordered. However, he said it does not matter if I cancel the card before I receive the Amazon GC. The only change would be that they will not be able to look into my account. This should not affect the GC as they have already been ordered and CNB points have been used.
Thanks for that news!
Has anyone actually received official notice from City National about these changes? My annual fee is due at the end of this month. Yesterday, I received a letter telling me that there would be a $95 fee for authorized users, but I do not believe I have received any notification from City National about these other changes; I also can’t find anything on their website about the changes. I have only read about them on blogs like this. I don’t understand how they can make these changes without proper notification to cardholders, especially if they know about the changes but don’t inform the cardholders before their annual renewal.
I haven’t received anything wrt the changes. Not even the $95 fee for AU. My annual fee will post on Dec 4.
Same question I was going to ask. Both me and my wife are CNB card holders and have received no notice from the bank.
I got a letter in the mail yesterday.
can you post a scan/pic of the letter?
I just cashed out 200k worth for $1600.00 cash, 175.00 AMZ gift card.
Amazon GC are back-ordered so you will be waiting till mid-December. Will you cancel your card before GC arrive?
No rush. My next AF hit April 2020. I will cancel my 3 AU before then, or maybe close the whole account all together.
do you email your relationship manager to cancel the authorize user or just call the back of the card?
Another option is to redeem CNB Points for products. They shipped fast from the midwest and I received the item in less than 1 week. I think they process the GCs there too. Not sure why they couldn’t just go to the store, but the GCs and mail them to customers.
What happens if you book a refundable fare with points or cancel within 24 hours?
Or an anytime Southwest fare that you can cancel at your leisure.
Reality sets in and it isn’t as simply as booking a round the world ticket with 29K points?
It is more difficult to have constraints and having to book flights to where u really want to go?
Lmao my annual fee posted 12/31/2018 last year – so close!! I have 89634. What about simply cashing out for cash (in lieu of the amazon gift card issues). I can get nearly $725-750 cash (depending if I’m able to get to an even 90k pts), compared to $800 in amazon. Assuming I buy Amazon Gc’s at office supply store with chase ink cash and value the pts at at least 1.5/cents each, it seems to be nearly a wash to just take the cash. Someone point out if my logic is wrong?
I am bummed to hear that a downgrade does not work to keep points alive. In my case, I have until July to avoid the next AF, so I have plenty of time to use up my 75K points in a hopefully-better-value way than cash/GCs. Or maybe by the time all y’all do a bunch of account closings, they will allow a downgrade before my AF hits.
Exactly same situ. My annual fee was gonna be November 23. I have already cancelled the card. Just before doing that I cashed out all points for hotel and car rental. I had about 159k. Not great value but not horrible either. The gift card game can be a nuisance. I figured it was better to spend the points on a hotel than get 30 $50 Amazon gift cards. I loved CNB. Gonna miss it. Now I really value Ritz which thanks to Greg’s savvy analysis I got in June 2018.
I had just paid my annual fee days before the news broke of the major gutting of benefits. I emailed my relationship manager afterwards and asked if I cancelled right away if my AF would be returned. I got an email confirmation that I will be getting my AF back. I cashed in all my points for a statement credit and cancelled. I should be getting a check in the mail for the balance from point conversion + the annual fee. If not, I have a pretty solid case for CFPB.
I cashed out all my points on Amazon gift cards just to find out afterward that they were out of stock and back ordered… to December 7. Now I have to worry if I cancel what might happen to the order, and if I don’t cancel will I risk getting hit by my AF.
I am in the same boat as you and will be charged the annual fee next week. When I ordered Amazon GC, I was told they are back-ordered and will be delivered after a month which is way after the annual fee is charged. However, my points are already taken out for the GC so I hope I will not lose them once I cancel the card.
Thx for the excellent summary. Fully agree. I find that airline incidentals don’t always post promptly and sometimes require me to make numerous calls over many months to get the credist posted. I will be closing before the AF posts.