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The U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card aims to compete in a crowded luxury credit card space, going up against cards like The Platinum Card® from American Express, the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, and the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card.
The major difference between the Altitude Reserve and its competitors is that U.S. Bank doesn't have transfer partners and therefore its points can't be transferred to loyalty programs. While the card is designed for travelers, it's especially well-suited for those who want to earn cash back on their spending or redeem points in U.S. Bank's travel portal. As a Visa Infinite card, it also offers a whole slew of perks and benefits.
Other standout features include annual statement credits for dining and travel, airport lounge access, and credits for your Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee. How does the Altitude Reserve stack up to the competition? Let's take a closer look.
- Altitude Reserve Pros
- Altitude Reserve Cons
- Altitude Reserve Welcome Offer
- Altitude Reserve Benefits
- Altitude Reserve Earning Rates
- Redeeming Points With the Altitude Reserve
- Application Restrictions and Strategy
- Cards That Compete With the Altitude Reserve
- Final Thoughts
Altitude Reserve Pros
- Unique earning category provides 3X on mobile wallet purchases.
- $325 in annual statement credits largely offset the annual fee.
- Ability to redeem points in real time for a variety of purchases.
Altitude Reserve Cons
- $400 annual fee.
- Lack of transfer partners for outsized redemptions.
- Lounge access is limited to eight visits per year, while other cards provide unlimited visits.
Altitude Reserve Welcome Offer
If you apply for the Altitude Reserve, you can earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,500 in the first 90 days of account opening.
When redeemed toward travel in the Altitude Rewards Center, points are worth 1.5¢ apiece, which would make this bonus worth $750. When redeemed in other ways, points are worth 1¢ each, making the bonus worth $500. It's also possible to redeem points at 1.14¢ apiece toward the annual fee. We'll discuss all of these redemption options in the redemption section below.
Altitude Reserve Benefits
$325 in yearly travel and dining credits
Each year, you can receive up to $325 in statement credits for travel and dining purchases. This includes not just flights and hotels but also taxis, cruises, and trains, plus fast food and bars. These credits are based on your cardmember year (not the calendar year), and they apply automatically to eligible purchases. You should receive credits within three business days of eligible purchases. You can use the AwardWallet Merchant Category Lookup Tool to see how a merchant will code on your credit card; this will help you maximize your purchases and credits.
Priority Pass membership
Cardholders can enroll for a Priority Pass Select Membership with a waived enrollment fee for one cardmember per account. It includes eight free lounge visits per year. After the eight complimentary visits, members will be charged up to $32 per person, per visit, depending on individual lounge policies.
Global Entry or TSA PreCheck credit
Use your Altitude Reserve card to pay for a Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee and receive up to $100 in statement credits to offset this fee. This perk is available once every four years.
Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection perks
Receive a $25 food and beverage credit, free continental breakfast, and room upgrades (when available) at hotels participating in the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection. Plus, receive complimentary daily breakfast and a VIP welcome at participating Relais & Châteaux properties.
Your Altitude Reserve also provides several protections at home and on vacation. These include primary rental car collision damage waiver, up to $500,000 of travel accident insurance, trip cancellation and interruption insurance, trip delay reimbursement, emergency evacuation and transportation, repatriation of remains, lost luggage reimbursement, insurance for accidental loss of life or limb, and travel and emergency assistance services to coordinate aid during emergencies.
You also can take advantage of purchase security, return protection, extended warranty protection, and identity theft protection to protect your purchases. The full benefits guide is here (warning: PDF).
Altitude Reserve Earning Rates
With the Altitude Reserve, you'll earn 5X points prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center, 3X on eligible travel purchases and mobile wallet spending, and 1X on all other purchases.
The mobile wallet category merits attention. If you can pay a merchant using a mobile wallet, this can increase your rewards from 1X to 3X on everyday spending. That could add thousands of extra points to your account each year, and it's an uncommon bonus category in the credit card rewards space.
Redeeming Points With the Altitude Reserve
U.S. Bank travel portal
Points are worth 1.5¢ each when redeemed for travel in the Altitude Rewards Center. This allows you to book travel as you like, such as boutique hotels that don't participate in a rewards program or flights from international airlines without good mileage redemption options. Plus, paying with points this way means you'll earn miles on flights, as these are considered paid tickets.
The negative here is that hotels aren't likely to recognize your elite status (or give you credit for the stay) when you don't book directly with them. Consider if this matters when you're redeeming points.
U.S. Bank Real-Time Rewards
You can redeem points from the Altitude Reserve via U.S. Bank's Real-Time Mobile Rewards, which allows you to redeem points at 1.5¢ per point towards travel, no matter where you made the purchase. Other U.S. Bank cards lack this feature of the bank's premium credit card.
Additionally, you can use these fixed-value points toward your other purchases — in real time. You'll use points at 1¢ each on these redemptions, including gift cards, merchandise, recent purchases, and more. Because you'll always get one cent per point at redemption, you don't have to worry about learning complicated strategies to redeem for maximum value. There are no better or worse ways to redeem your points. Unfortunately, this also means you won't get outsized value like you could with American Express or Chase transfer partners, for example.
You'll need to register your card for Real Time Rewards before making redemptions. Once enrolled, each time you make a purchase, U.S. Bank will send you a text message asking if you would like to use points to cover the cost. To redeem, reply with the word “Redeem.” This is a time-saving, convenient feature.
Redeeming toward the annual fee
Altitude Reserve cardholders can redeem 35,000 points toward the card's $400 annual fee. That's a redemption rate of 1.14¢ per point — less than you get on travel redemptions but better than redemptions in other categories.
Application Restrictions and Strategy
U.S. Bank, which issues the Altitude Reserve, tends to be very sensitive about the number of new accounts and recent inquiries showing on your credit report. This applies to accounts opened across all banks.
Additionally, the card's terms say that you need a good or excellent credit score to be approved. These same terms used to say “Exclusive to U.S. Bank customers,” though this verbiage comes and goes from the application page. If you don't have a banking relationship with U.S. Bank, it's unlikely you'll be approved for this card.
Lastly, you'll see this in the terms:
“The bonus is not available to Cardmembers who currently have, or had, a U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card account.”
If you previously held an Altitude Reserve card, you may not receive the welcome bonus here. Factor this into your application strategy.
Cards That Compete With the Altitude Reserve
- If you want U.S. Bank rewards but a lower annual fee, check out the U.S. Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card. This card has a $95 annual fee after the first year and can be used with Real-Time Mobile Rewards, plus its travel earning (outside the U.S. Bank portal) is higher, though it lacks the 1.5¢ redemption option. Check out our full review of the Altitude Connect.
- If you want 1.5¢ redemptions and statement credits plus extras, look at the Chase Sapphire Reserve®. For a $550 annual fee, you'll get unlimited Priority Pass lounge visits, up to $300 in annual travel credits, and access to transfer partners that can provide outsized redemption value. You'll also get 1.5¢-per-point redemptions in Chase's travel portal. Check out our full review of the Sapphire Reserve.
- If you don't want limits on lounge visits, consider the The Platinum Card® from American Express. While it comes with a $695 annual fee (Rates & Fees), it also has the widest scope of lounge access across premium credit cards. This includes Amex Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass, some Lufthansa lounges, Amex international lounges, and more. Check out our full review of the Amex Platinum.
This is a good travel card because it offers a number of valuable perks and benefits that can be useful when traveling — and even used in real time. The 3X earning on mobile wallet transactions offers a huge advantage and brings a whole slew of small everyday purchases into your overall points tally. Unfortunately, the points you earn with this card cannot be transferred to loyalty programs for award redemptions that potentially hold higher per-point valuations. However, if you can use the $325 travel and dining credit, the effective annual fee is only $75 — not bad for a card with great travel protections and a few lounge visits.
For rates and fees of the cards mentioned in this post, please visit the following links: The Platinum Card® from American Express (Rates & Fees)
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