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The City National Bank Crystal® Visa Infinite® Credit Card is a super high-end credit card designed for frequent travelers who like to jet in style – and expect to be rewarded in due course. It’s a perennial contender for inclusion on our lists of the best travel rewards credit cards and best cash back credit cards.
Its rewards program accelerates earnings – unlimited 3 points per $1 spent – in several broad spending categories, including gasoline, groceries, travel, and dining out. You can redeem points for pretty much anything, though airfare is often the best deal (and comes with a cushy discount when you buy for multiple passengers).
That’s just the beginning though. City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite has an outstanding lineup of value-added benefits, including complimentary airport lounge membership that offers access to more than 1,000 lounges worldwide, a generous airline fee credit, and a slew of discounts and special perks at luxury hotels, car rental companies, and other travel vendors. With ample use, these benefits more than offset the $400 annual fee.
One big drawback of this card is a convoluted application and sign-up process. Technically, you need to apply in person at a City National Bank branch. That’s problematic for the majority of Americans who don’t live within CNB’s trade area, which covers downstate New York, Delaware, Tennessee, Georgia, Nevada, and California, and includes only a smattering of branches within each of those states or regions.
You can complete your application by phone or mail, though that’s a more complicated and time-consuming route. In any event, there’s no way to apply online.
Keep reading to determine whether this card’s features and benefits are worth the trouble.
When you spend at least $5,000 within the first 3 months, you get 50,000 City National Rewards bonus points. That’s worth up to $500.
This card earns unlimited 3 points per $1 spent on gasoline, grocery, airline, hotel, taxi, limousine, rental car, train, bus, restaurant, fast food, takeout food, and dining purchases, and unlimited 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.
You can redeem your accumulated points for airfare (with no blackout dates), general merchandise, gift cards, and other items. Notably, you can’t redeem for cash. The minimum redemption threshold starts at 1,000 points.
Points are generally worth $0.01 or less at redemption, though airfare redemptions may ascribe higher values to points. If you don’t have enough points to pay for an entire one-way or round-trip flight, you can use what points you have and cover the difference with your City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite Credit Card.
Priority Pass Select Membership
As a City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite cardholder, you’re entitled to two complimentary Priority Pass Select memberships – one for you and one for an authorized user, if you have one. Both members enjoy complimentary access to more than 1,000 participating airport lounges worldwide, notwithstanding capacity constraints. Most lounges permit guest access as well, often for a fee ($27 per guest is common).
Each airport lounge is different, but common benefits include complimentary food and beverages, free WiFi and entertainment, and on-site business centers.
Priority Pass Select membership is valued at $399 per person, per year, so this benefit more than pays for City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite’s $400 annual fee.
Airport Lounge Fee Credit
When you spend at least $50,000 in a calendar year, you earn a stipend of up to $550 to apply to the airport lounge club membership of your choice. You can choose from any available airport lounge club, including major U.S.-based options such as United Club and Delta Sky Club. Partaking in this benefit doesn’t preclude you from complimentary access to Priority Pass Select lounges.
Airline Fee Credit
Every year your account remains open and in good standing, you receive an airline fee credit worth up to $250. You can apply this credit piecemeal against incidental expenses, such as baggage fees. The credit is doled out as a statement credit in the month you incurred the qualifying expenses.
Global Entry Application Fee Credit
This card includes a $100 Global Entry application fee credit, redeemable as a statement credit when you use your City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite Credit Card to pay the application fee.
Complimentary GoGo WiFi
This card comes with complimentary GoGo WiFi membership, which entitles you to free in-flight WiFi on thousands of domestic flights. You can use this benefit up to 12 times per year.
Crystal Card Concierge Service
This card comes with 24/7, bespoke concierge service. Designed exclusively for City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite cardholders, it’s useful for “customized assistance with airline, hotel and restaurant reservations and virtually any personal or business requests.”
The Broadway League
This unusual benefit is catnip for theatre lovers. With your complimentary Broadway League membership, you can purchase house and premium seats at select Broadway and off-Broadway theatrical productions, including sold out shows. Additional opportunities include backstage meet-and-greets and set tours.
Visa Infinite Airfare Booking Discount
When you book domestic airfare for 2 to 5 people through the Visa Infinite booking portal, you get a $100 discount on the final fare. There’s no limit to how many times you can invoke this benefit or the total value you can extract from it. However, some restrictions apply – for instance, not all carriers are available through the portal.
Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection
The Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection features dozens of high-end properties around the world, including super-luxe chains, such as the Peninsula, and independent boutique hotels. As a CNB cardholder, you enjoy a “premium collection of benefits, including a best available rate guarantee, complimentary continental breakfast daily, complimentary in-room WiFi and VIP amenities when available, VIP Guest status, and much more,” with your stays.
Relais & Chateaux Hotel Benefits
This is an equally luxurious collection of about 500 hotels worldwide. As a CNB cardholder, you’re entitled to potentially valuable benefits, such as free breakfast and welcome gifts at Relais & Chateaux properties, at no additional charge.
Visa Infinite Car Rental Privileges
Visa partners with major car rental companies, including Avis and National, to deliver game-changing privileges for renters: rental discounts, upgrades, priority service, and more.
Troon Rewards & Troon Prive
If you’re an avid golfer, you’ll love these complementary benefits. Troon Rewards entitles you to savings on tee times, merchandise, and lessons at select courses and clubs around the United States. Troon Prive entitles you to exclusive access to private golf clubs that don’t normally accept non-members.
Additional Travel Benefits
This card’s additional Visa- and CNB-backed benefits include:
- Lost luggage insurance
- Trip cancellation and interruption coverage
- Loss and damage coverage for rental cars paid in full with the card
- Travel accident insurance (not a suitable replacement for comprehensive travel insurance)
- Trip delay insurance
- Roadside assistance and emergency dispatch
Additional Non-Travel Benefits
This card’s non-travel benefits include:
- Price protection (reimbursement of the difference when a lower price is found) on select items paid in full with the card
- Purchase security (reimbursement for certain lost and stolen purchases)
- Return protection on certain purchased items that the original vendor will not accept in return
- Identity theft protection
Check with Visa Infinite for a complete rendering of this card’s perks and benefits.
The annual fee is $400. There is no foreign transaction fee. The cash advance fee is the greater of $5 or 3%. The late payment fee is $15. The returned payment fee is $20.
City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite requires excellent credit. There’s also a stringent income verification process. Ideal candidates pull in upwards of $100,000 per year (singly or jointly with their partners or spouses), but you may qualify with a lower annual income.
- Solid Rate of Return on Travel, Dining, Gas, Groceries, and More. City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite offers an excellent rate of return – 3 points per $1 spent – in a wide range of spending categories, including gas, groceries, dining out, and travel. If you plan to use this card for more than just travel spending, that’s great news.
- Complimentary Airport Lounge Access for Two Cardholders and Guests. This is City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite’s most valuable benefit, worth nearly $800 annually. As long as you remain a cardholder in good standing, you enjoy complimentary access to more than 1,000 airport lounges worldwide – quiet oases amid the hustle and bustle of the airport, not to mention bastions of free food, drink, and Internet service.
- $550 Airport Lounge Club Stipend for Heavy Spenders. When you spend at least $50,000 in a calendar year, you get a $550 stipend to apply to any airport lounge club membership. This is great news for frequent flyers who tend to stick with the same airline.
- Generous Airline Fee Credit ($250 Annually). This card’s annual airline fee credit is worth up to $250 annually. If you travel frequently, you’ll no doubt find ample opportunity to offset pesky charges (such as checked baggage fees and preferred seat fees) with this generous allowance.
- Sign-up Bonus Worth $500. This card has a solid sign-up bonus: 50,000 bonus points when you spend at least $5,000 in 3 months. That’s worth up to $500, depending on how you redeem.
- $100 Discount on Bulk Airfare Bookings. If you regularly travel domestically with a companion (or the whole family), this unlimited benefit could save you hundreds of dollars each year. All you have to do is book your airfare through the Visa Infinite travel portal and watch the savings roll in. And you don’t even have to redeem points to make it happen.
- Outstanding Hotel Benefits. Between the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection and Relais & Chateaux benefits, this card offers tangible, valuable benefits at hundreds of 4- and 5-star hotels. With frequent use, these perks alone can save you hundreds of dollars per year – enough to offset this card’s annual fee before accounting for the Priority Pass Select membership, airline fee credit, and Global Entry application fee credit.
- Potentially Valuable Fringe Benefits. On top of everything else, this card comes with a nice lineup of potentially valuable fringe benefits, including the Broadway League, Crystal Experiences, Visa Infinite car rental privileges, and more. No matter where your travels take you or what you’d like to do once you’re there, this card is certain to open the door to new opportunities – at a surprisingly affordable price.
- Free WiFi on Thousands of Flights. Thanks to the complimentary GoGo WiFi perk, this card entitles you to free WiFi on thousands of domestic flights, up to 12 times per year. It’s nice that you don’t have to cut into your airline fee credit allowance to offset annoyingly high in-flight WiFi fees.
- No Foreign Transaction Fee. This card has no foreign transaction fee. That’s welcome news for frequent international travelers, for whom the standard 3% foreign transaction fee would greatly reduce (or eliminate) this card’s return on spending.
- $400 Annual Fee. City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite has a $400 annual fee. That’s very steep for infrequent travelers and those who simply don’t have much use for Crystal Visa Infinite’s considerable benefits. For a more reasonably priced alternative with still-decent fringe benefits and above-average rewards, check out the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or the Citi ThankYou Prestige Card.
- Application Process Has Some Hoops. This card is technically available only to City National Bank deposit account customers. Given CNB’s extremely thin branch distribution, this excludes the majority of American consumers. You can apply by phone and mail, but that’s a more involved process that requires diligence and fortitude. Most competing cards, including The Platinum Card from American Express (and The Business Platinum Card from American Express, the commercial alternative that routinely makes our list of the best small business credit cards), make signing up easier.
- Low Baseline Earning Rate. This card has a low baseline earning rate – just 1 point per $1 spent on purchases not included in the 3x categories. The good news is that those 3x categories are quite broad, but this is still a letdown for consumers with far-reaching spending needs. If you’re looking for a true general-spending card with travel benefits, check out the Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card, which earns 2 miles per $1 spent on all purchases.
- Inconsistent Sign-Up Bonus. City National Bank Crystal Visa Infinite’s sign-up bonus history has been spotty. At times, applicants have qualified for bonuses of 100,000 points – a value of $1,000 or more. Other times, they’ve gotten nothing at all. Some competing cards, including American Express Gold, offer quasi-permanent sign-up bonuses worth hundreds of dollars.
- Can’t Redeem Points for Cash. You can’t redeem your CNB-earned points for cash. That’s a glaring omission – most high-end travel cards offer cash redemption options.
- No Redemption Boost. When it’s time to redeem your accumulated points, what you see is what you get. You’re not entitled to any rebates at redemption, nor any boost to the value of your redeemed points. This is a big drawback relative to some other high-end travel rewards cards. For instance, Chase Sapphire Reserve Card’s points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel.
The City National Bank Crystal® Visa Infinite® Credit Card is not for everyone. Like The Platinum Card from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Card, the Delta Reserve Credit Card from American Express, and any number of other high-end travel cards with eye-popping annual fees, it’s designed for a select group of discerning travelers who have the means and occasion to take full advantage of its generous benefits.
Used to the fullest, these benefits more than offset the $400 annual fee. Used sparingly, they could prove to be a gilded mirage – a distant opportunity that upon closer inspection resolves into so much dust.