Both new and established U.S. Bank Altitude cards are offering solid sign-up bonuses and impressive ongoing rewards. See which offers you the most value.
Both cards offer respectable ongoing rewards and a relatively generous welcome bonus: Through Aug. 9, 2020, the Altitude Go comes with 20,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days, while the Altitude Reserve offers 50,000 points when you spend $4,500 in the first 90 days.
But which is best for you? The choice should become clear based on your lifestyle and spending habits. Here’s a quick look at how these cards stack up, how much you stand to earn with each and how to decide if you should apply.
See related: U.S. Bank launches new Altitude Go card
Comparing U.S. Bank rewards credit cards
While the Altitude Go and Altitude Reserve cards are part of the same U.S. Bank rewards program, they are geared toward different cardholders and vary considerably in their bonus rewards categories, annual fees and luxury perks. Still, both cards offer a competitive sign-up bonus and solid first-year value.
U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card
|Sign-up bonus||20,000 points when you spend $1,000 in the first 90 days||50,000 points when you spend $4,500 in the first 90 days|
|Estimated earnings in first year ($15,900 spend)||$489||$970|
Sign-up bonus value, rewards rate and annual fees
As you can see, the Altitude Reserve card is geared toward frequent travelers and people on the go, offering outsized rewards on hotel bookings, car rentals, mobile wallet purchases and other travel purchases, while the Altitude Go card is better suited to everyday spending.
According to our estimates, purchases like dining, groceries and gas make up a big chunk of most consumers’ budgets, giving the Altitude Go card a very impressive average rewards rate of 1.82 points per dollar. The Altitude Reserve card’s average rewards rate, on the other hand, is just 1.24 points per dollar.
This gives the Altitude Go card great value in the first year and beyond. At a value of 1 cent per point, we estimate the average consumer stands to earn around $290 in rewards per year via card spend with the Altitude Go.
That said, Altitude Reserve points are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel; the Altitude Go’s points are worth a flat 1 cent per point, however you redeem them. This helps the Altitude Reserve overtake the Altitude Go in terms of annual rewards earnings. Assuming they redeem points for travel, we estimate that the average consumer will earn $295 per year via card spend with the Altitude Reserve.
When you take into account its $400 annual fee and tack on the card’s sign-up bonus (worth $750 when redeemed for travel) and $325 annual travel credit, the Altitude Reserve should get you around $970 in net rewards in your first year. Meanwhile, the Altitude Go card comes in at a respectable $489 in total first-year value, thanks to its $0 annual fee and 20,000-point sign-up bonus (worth $200).
Other bonuses and perks
Unlike the Altitude Reserve, the Altitude Go’s value lies primarily in its rewards earning potential, not its cardholder perks. Indeed, the Altitude Go card offers very little in the way of benefits, with its most notable perk being a $15 annual streaming credit available after you make 11 consecutive monthly streaming service purchases. On the other hand, you won’t have to worry about an annual fee cutting into your rewards.
In contrast, the Altitude Reserve offers a number of valuable perks for frequent travelers that may help offset its annual fee.
Along with its $325 annual travel credit, the card comes with a 12-month Priority Pass Select membership, which gets you four complimentary passes to Priority Pass lounges. You’ll also get up to a $100 credit for a TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fee and 12 Complimentary Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi passes per year (a $228 value).
Whether these perks make the Altitude Reserve card’s annual fee worth it will depend on your travel habits and penchant for luxury benefits.
Who is eligible for the sign-up bonus?
These bonuses are only available to new cardholders. Since the Altitude Go is a brand-new card, anyone who applies should be eligible. The Altitude Reserve, on the other hand, has been around for a while, so if you currently or previously had an account, you’re no longer eligible for the bonus. Additionally, these cards are designed for cardholders with excellent credit.
Best ways to spend 50,000 Altitude points
By far the best way to use the Altitude Reserve’s 50,000-point bonus is for travel, as your points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed in the Altitude Rewards travel portal. You can use points to book travel directly with airlines, hotels, cruise lines, car rental companies and other transit services like taxis and limousines. Just keep in mind that a minimum purchase of $250 is required for car rental redemptions and $500 for lodging redemptions.
Cash back redemptions with the Altitude Reserve will force you to sacrifice point value, garnering just 1 cent per point. Though this isn’t a terrible value, it certainly won’t do as much to make up the card’s $400 annual fee.
The Altitude Go’s 20,000-point bonus, on the other hand, is worth $200, however you redeem your points. You can book travel, get a statement credit or opt for gift cards or merchandise, all at a flat value of 1 cent per point.
Should you apply for the Altitude Go or the Altitude Reserve?
Both the Altitude Go and Altitude Reserve will give you a chance to secure a relatively large sign-up bonus and could offer good long-term value if you fit their ideal user profile. But the differences between the two options are pretty clear cut.
If luxury travel is your priority, the Altitude Reserve card is worth a look – thanks to its generous sign-up bonus and inflated point value when you redeem for travel through the Altitude Rewards portal. Its annual travel credits and other perks should also help offset its large annual fee. Then again, $400 may be hard for frugal cardholders to stomach, regardless.
Most cardholders will likely find a better fit with the Altitude Go card. It charges no annual fee and offers a terrific average rewards rate, with bonus points in some of the most popular everyday spending categories. The 20,000-point bonus is not too shabby either, beating out plenty of comparable no-annual-fee rewards cards.