Google Pay working for some, but not others, for US Bank Altitude Reserve 3x mobile payments

32

Over the past couple of months, a number of readers have commented on the fact that Google Pay has not been coding properly as mobile payments to trigger the 3x bonus category on the US Bank Altitude Reserve card. Then, Miles Earn and Burn reported the same a couple of days ago. However, I hadn’t previously reported this despite reader comments simply because this doesn’t appear to be universal: I’ve been receiving 3x everywhere I’ve shopped in-person when tapping my phone to pay with Google Pay. Ultimately, I’m not really sure what’s up, but it seemed worth reporting so that readers can check their own rewards history and follow up with US Bank of something is awry with their rewards.

a wallet with a card in it

The problem seems to only affect Google Pay, not Apple Pay or Samsung Pay

a screen shot of a phone

The US Bank Altitude Reserve card is special because it offers 3 points per dollar spent for mobile wallet purchases, which has historically included Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay. That’s a fantastic return when you consider that those mobile payment options are fairly ubiquitous these days and when you consider that Altitude Reserve points can then be redeemed at a value of 1.5c per point either when redeeming for travel via the US Bank Travel portal or when you book anywhere and use US Bank Real-time mobile rewards for qualifying purchases. Those things combine for an effective base earning rate of 4.5% for any purchases where you can tap to pay with your phone or smartwatch, making the Altitude Reserve the best option for paying for purchases in-person at warehouse clubs like Costco or anywhere else where you pay in-person.

According to multiple reader data points, the problem here has only affected those using Google Pay, not those users with Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. The problem is that many Google Pay users are reporting only having gotten one point per dollar for what otherwise should have been qualifying Google Pay purchases for 3x points.

To be clear, I’m not talking about using Google Pay to pay for purchases on a website. Those purchases have almost universally coded at 1x for me, although at least one reader reported still getting 3x when using their phone to hit the Google Pay button to pay where it is accepted on a website or in an app. The inconsistency there has been long-standing.

The current issue has been affecting some users for all in-person mobile wallet payments since either December 2023 or January 2024. We’ve had readers report that they were receiving 3x as expected on those in-person payments when tapping to pay with their phones or smartwatches until 2024, when purchases inexplicably began coding at 1x.

Several readers have reported that US Bank phone agents appear to be familiar with the problem, so there is a chance that this will all get fixed retroactively later, but it’s hard to say for sure if and when that will happen.

My Google Pay in-person purchases have coded at 3x as expected throughout 2024

What has confused me here is that all of my in-person Google Pay transactions have been coding at 3x as expected.

For instance, I made a purchase at the Lego Store in New York City just a few days ago and got 3x when tapping with my phone at checkout just as I would expect.

And that’s not a one-off situation. I’ve had plenty of other tap-to-pay purchases over the past couple of months. I almost exclusively use my phone to pay when traveling since I know it always codes at 3x. Here were a bunch of purchases I made during a span of a few days in February, all at 3x.

I don’t know why this is functioning as expected for me and not for other people.

If I were to guess, my first question is whether this could be affecting certain versions of Google Pay. As pointed out by Miles Earn and Burn, Google has rebranded their tap-to-pay wallet from Google Pay to Google Wallet and back to Google Pay (the app on my phone is Gpay, which is separate from Google Wallet on my phone). I wonder if updates have happened on different timelines with different phones and whether that has been the root cause of the issue with how purchases are coding.

That’s just a guess, and not a particularly well-informed one — I’m just shooting from the hip there. I use a Google Pixel 7 Pro. Presumably I get Google-related updates ahead of other Android phones, but ironically I would think that would make me more likely to experience a problem than have no problem at all. It’s hard to say what’s at play here.

Bottom line

The truth is that I have no idea what’s up with Google Wallet purchases and why some are coding at 3x for in-person Google Pay purchases (which has been my experience) and 1x for all purchases for others. This is a weird situation for sure. Since this doesn’t seem to be affecting all cardholders the same way, I actually think that it’s somewhat likely that US Bank will eventually be able to figure this out and retroactively credit rewards that should have been earned, but I have no idea what kind of a timeline there might be for that, nor can I guarantee that it will happen. If you’ve been using your Altitude Reserve for in-person Google Pay transactions, it is probably worth checking your rewards history (simply click on “Rewards” when logged in to your US Bank account) and see whether you’re getting 3x as expected. If not, you may want to consider seeing if you can switch to Apple Pay or Samsung Pay.

Want to learn more about miles and points? Subscribe to email updates or check out our podcast on your favorite podcast platform.
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

32 Comments
newest
oldest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Jim Worrall

The problem is with Google Pay. Like all Google services, customer service is terrible.

jack

for me, problem started in 2024, apple pay.
contacted usbank mid-jan, they’ve been working on it ever since.
shouldn’t be that difficult to fix?!

Last edited 12 days ago by jack
Megan

All things look good for mobile payments. Samsung S20+ mainly using the app still called gPay.

I did notice two transactions that did have Travel merchant coding did not earn 3x (mobile wallet not involved).

[…] 3x mobile wallet earning: I heard from a few readers that Google Pay works for them at 3x, and Nick at FM said the same. At this point I think the criteria for whether or not it works is a combination of […]

Dugroz Reports

It’s def. not just Google — I had the entire month of January coding 1x until I removed and re-added the card. Lots of folks telling me they were impacted. Seems random who it impacts.
I’ve got 3 videos on the issue on my YT channel.

RCP

I second.

CJA

Have this issue using apple pay since January 2, 2024

I removed card and added back to apple pay, issue fixed

However, i have placed a research inquiry with US Bank requesting my missing points

Vijay

At Office Depot I was not able to use Apple Pay for buying gift cards. Did anyone had success in buying both open and closed gift cards using Apple Pay? I tested it one time with only gift cards and second time with a gift card and extra item. For first case it failed and for second it only accepted extra item and failed to accept Gift card. When I called USB customer support, they said they don’t see any transaction being sent to their server. Any insights on what is going on? However I had to manually swipe US Bank AR to buy those gift cards

ranova

getting 3x on both samsung pay and google pay. I only use my altitude with those mobile wallets and the points activity page shows 3x for all transactions the past few months

Mark W

It’s definitely broken for Apple Pay (for some people) too. I had this issue starting around January 1 on my iPhone, MacBook, and wife’s iPhone. Removing the card and re-adding it seems to have resolved the issue. I called US Bank about this and they said they’re aware of the issue and will be retroactively adjusting points earnings, but couldn’t commit to when that will happen. It’s anyone’s guess how accurate the algorithm they’ll use for adjustment will be.

Lrdx

I assume the Apple Pay on the MacBook means online pay. That is not eligible for 3x, not receiving is normal.

You’re only supposed to get 3x for in-person payments with the phone’s NFC. (Same thing applies for Google Play/Wallet.)

Mark W

“Supposed to” or not, Apple Pay on Macs has always worked to trigger 3x on USBAR for years. Tons of DPs to support this. Greg and Nick even discussed it on a recent FM podcast episode. In any case, removing the card and re-adding it to my MacBook resolved it and Apple Pay purchases from my MacBook are once again earning 3x.

YoniPDX

SAMSUNG PAY DP 1X also

I have S22U I actually checked randomly rewaed earnings earlier this and was shocked that also since January only have been earning 1X – was planning on post on FB as I hadn’t seen the other DP about the Gpay issue.

At first I was thinking it was because I was using ourside the US for more than half that time. I guess we will have to follow up.

Miles

I’ve only been getting 1x on Apple Pay lately.

Steve

It’s not been x3 for me on Apple Pay all 2024. Only for a travel purchase.

Alan

I have Google Wallet on my Samsung phone. Looked thru my last few statements and it stopped giving me 3X Mobile Rewards beginning in January, so something has definitely changed. I called US Bank and the rep was clueless, filed a case, hopefully will get resolved.

Yen

My experience, the way US bank code this is a “Mobile” wallet purchase probably by checking if it’s originated from Google Pay mobile App OR any other mobile App. If you just use a browser to make the payment, even if you open that browser on your mobile device, It will be treated as a “Web” payment….

Yen

Right. In that case, from DOC people say try “delete the card from Google pay app and then add it back again” might fix the issue.