Reviews U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card review
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card review

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card review

Published: May 30, 2017
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Ratings Policy
Rewards Rating:
3.8 rating
3.8 rating
3.8 / 5
Rewards Value: 3.8
Annual Percentage Rate: 3.6
Rewards Flexibility: 3.6
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

Packed with lucrative benefits, the new U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card offers more than enough value to make up for the card’s $400 annual fee – especially if you don’t mind using your phone to make many of your purchases.

Rewards Rate

  • 3:1 qualifying travel purchases
  • 1:1 general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,500 in the card’s first 90 days

Annual Fee
$400 a year; $75 a year for additional cards

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$368

APR
16.49% (variable)

Pros:

  • Points don’t expire
  • No blackout dates
  • No limit on the number of points you can earn
  • Wide variety of redemption options, including travel, gift cards, merchandise, entertainment, cash back and magazines
  • Pay annual fee with 35,000 rewards points

Cons:

  • Must redeem travel rewards through U.S. Bank portal
  • Can’t transfer points to other travel loyalty programs or other U.S. Bank card accounts (this may change eventually)

Other Notable Features: $325 travel credit, $100 fee credit for TSA PreCheck/Global Entry, 50% bonus on travel redemptions, no foreign transaction fee, 12 free inflight GoGo WiFi access passes, discounts on Ground Link Black car service, ticket presales and discounts for the James Beard celebrity chef tour, discounts on NatJets Private Aviation, Priority Pass Select membership, Relais and Chateaux Boutique luxury hotel benefits, discount on Silver Car rentals, Visa Infinite Luxury hotel benefits, car rental insurance, emergency evacuation and transportation, lost luggage reimbursement, purchase security, return protection, travel and emergency assistance, trip cancellation/interruption protection, trip delay protection, extended warranty

Travel Rating:
3.6 rating
3.6 rating
3.6 / 5
Rewards Value: 3.3
Annual Percentage Rate: 3.6
Rewards Flexibility: 3.6
Features: 5.0

In a nutshell:

For frequent travelers looking for an elite travel card to add some luxury to their journeys, the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card offers a good value for a lower fee, though it falls short on lounge access and the ability to transfer points.

Rewards Rate

  • 3:1 qualifying travel purchases
  • 1:1 general purchases

Sign-up Bonus
50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,500 in the card’s first 90 days

Annual Fee
$400 a year; $75 a year for additional cards

Average Yearly Rewards Value ($1,325 monthly spend)
$368

APR
16.49% (variable)

Pros:

  • Points don’t expire
  • No blackout dates
  • No limit on the number of points you can earn
  • Wide variety of redemption options, including travel, gift cards, merchandise, entertainment, cash back and magazines
  • Pay annual fee with 35,000 rewards points

Cons:

  • Must redeem travel rewards through U.S. Bank portal
  • Can’t transfer points to other travel loyalty programs or other U.S. Bank card accounts (this may change eventually)

Other Notable Features: $325 travel credit, $100 fee credit for TSA PreCheck/Global Entry, 50% bonus on travel redemptions, no foreign transaction fee, 12 free inflight GoGo WiFi access passes, discounts on Ground Link Black car service, ticket presales and discounts for the James Beard celebrity chef tour, discounts on NatJets Private Aviation, Priority Pass Select membership, Relais and Chateaux Boutique luxury hotel benefits, discount on Silver Car rentals, Visa Infinite Luxury hotel benefits, car rental insurance, emergency evacuation and transportation, lost luggage reimbursement, purchase security, return protection, travel and emergency assistance, trip cancellation/interruption protection, trip delay protection, extended warranty

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If you’re willing to pay a $400 annual fee in exchange for generous travel benefits and ample points for frequent travelers and mobile wallet users, the brand-new U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card is worth a look. This super premium card has already caused waves in travel card circles thanks to its ultrapremium perks – including a $325 annual fee credit, a 50 percent redemption bonus for travel purchases and a solid, 50,000-point sign up bonus. The card also comes with a unique, mobile-centric points program that amply rewards cardholders who use their phones for purchases.

The new U.S. Bank card doesn’t offer nearly as many traditional earning opportunities as its premium card competitors. For example, cardholders get bonus points for travel purchases, but don’t earn bonuses on restaurant spending or entertainment. But if you live in an urban area where a large number of businesses accept mobile payments, you could potentially supersize your rewards earnings by using your phone for all or most of your purchases.

Tech savvy rewards
The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card sets itself apart from its competitors by offering an unprecedented three points for every dollar spent on mobile purchases. If you frequently use your phone for everyday payments, such as dining and groceries or for major expenses, such as rent, you could easily stockpile a substantial number of points just by going about your typical day.

U.S. Bank doesn’t limit the number of points you can earn either, so if you use your phone frequently, you may be surprised by how much you collect. You can earn the triple point bonus on any in-store, online or app transaction using a mobile wallet such as Apple Pay, Android Pay or Samsung Pay.

Extra points for travel
The Altitude Reserve card also awards three points for every dollar spent on airfare, car rental purchases and hotel stays. So, if you’re frequently on the road or traveling by air, this is a good card to use for those purchases.

Unfortunately, the point bonus is only awarded to reservations booked directly with the airline, car rental service or hotel, though, so if you like searching for deals on third-party websites, you’re out of luck. On the plus side, the Altitude Reserve card also awards a 50 percent rewards point bonus when you redeem your points for travel, so the points you earn could go a lot farther than with other cards.

Competitive sign-up bonus
If you can afford to spend $4,500 in the card’s first three months, you won’t be disappointed by the Altitude Reserve card’s sign-up bonus. Valued at 50,000 bonus points, the sign-up bonus isn’t as eye-popping as the 100,000-point sign-up bonus that caused an application frenzy when the Chase Sapphire Reserve card first debuted.  But it’s equal to the 50,000-point sign up bonus now offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve card and more valuable than the 40,000-point sign-up bonus offered by the Citi Prestige card.

If you take into account the Altitude Reserve card’s 50 percent redemption bonus on travel purchases, its promotional offer even beats the American Express Platinum card’s 60,000-point sign up bonus.

Generous travel credits
In addition, the Altitude Reserve card offers a $325 annual travel credit you can use for a wide variety of purchases, effectively lowering the card’s annual fee to $75. Considering that the Altitude Reserve card’s annual fee is already significantly less expensive than the annual fees charged by its closest competitors, the annual travel credit and other freebies make this card an exceptionally good value.

Cardholders can use the travel credit for airfare purchased directly from an airline or for airline fees, inflight food or beverages, car rental purchases, hotel stays, train trips, cruises and even taxis. U.S. Bank also treats Altitude Reserve cardholders to 12 free inflight Gogo WiFi access passes every year – effectively ensuring access to free inflight WiFi for all but the most frequent travelers – and a $100 application fee credit for faster security screening. If you use your card abroad, U.S. Bank will also cover the cost of processing your foreign transactions.

Tons of premium perks
The Altitude Reserve card’s generous travel credits alone help cancel out the card’s pricey annual fee. But in addition to several hundred dollars worth of travel credits, the Altitude Reserve card also showers customers with a wide range of discounts and freebies, including luxury hotel discounts, free breakfast and room upgrades when available, discounts on private jet travel and black car service, ticket presales on premier events such as the James Beard Celebrity Chef tour and more.

In addition, like most premium credit cards, the Altitude Reserve card offers a number of premium travel benefits, including lost luggage reimbursement, trip cancellation protection and trip delay protection.

Lounge access is subpar
Cardholders are also promised access to thousands of airport lounges through the Priority Pass Select program. Unfortunately, the lounge offering isn’t as grand as it sounds and is one area where the Altitude Reserve card falls short of other premium cards. While most premium cards offer unlimited access to Priority Pass lounges, the Altitude Reserve only offers four lounge passes a year. These passes grant you and a guest free access to a Priority Pass lounge. Once you’ve used up all these passes, you’ll have to pay a fee to gain access.

If free lounge access is an important feature for you, you are probably better off going with a premium card that grants unlimited Priority Pass access.

Less flexible than other cards
In terms of sheer value, the new U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card offers some of the richest rewards and benefits on the market. But it also comes with a number of limitations that could turn off some potential cardholders. For example, it doesn’t allow you to transfer your points to other airline or hotel loyalty programs, which is a huge loss for frequent travelers who like to pool their points.

It also limits the amount of value you can get on travel purchases by requiring you to book your reservations directly with a hotel, airline or car rental company in order to take advantage of the card’s rewards bonus and travel credit.

You also have to be a U.S. Bank customer to even get the card. To be eligible for an Altitude Reserve card, you must have a U.S. Bank savings or checking account or own some other U.S. Bank product, such as a mortgage or credit card.

Reasons to get it:

  • You’re already a U.S. Bank customer and want a premium card from the same bank.
  • You frequently use your mobile phone to make payments or don’t mind changing your payment method in order to take advantage of the card’s triple-point bonus.
  • You spend a lot on travel every year and will benefit from the card’s extensive travel perks.
  • You can afford to spend $400 a year for a card and have a large enough budget to spend $4,500 in the card’s first three months.

How to use it:

  • Maximize your rewards earnings by linking it to your mobile wallet and paying with your phone as much as possible.
  • Use your card for all your travel purchases in order to maximize your earning rate and take advantage of the card’s travel benefits.
  • Protect your savings and eliminate interest payments by paying your bill in full each month.

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