US Bank Altitude Reserve Guide

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The Altitude Reserve card is US Bank’s challenge to the Chase Sapphire Reserve.  Like the Sapphire Reserve, the Altitude Reserve is a Visa Infinite card that offers 3X on travel; and points can be used to purchase travel for 1.5 cents value per point.  Unfortunately, unlike the Chase card, the Altitude Reserve’s points cannot be transferred to loyalty programs.

Overview

The Altitude Reserve Card is an ultra-premium travel rewards card that offers an excellent return on spend within its bonus categories and very good travel protections.  This card’s killer feature is that it offers 3X rewards for travel and mobile wallet payments.  The latter part is key: anywhere you can pay in-person with Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, or LG Pay you’ll earn 3X doing so.  And with points worth 1.5 cents each, that’s like getting a 4.5% rebate nearly everywhere.

Even though the annual fee is quite high ($400), it is very easy to earn the card’s annual $325 travel & dining credits and so the net fee after rebates is very reasonable.  If you value the rebates at full face value, your annual net cost is only $75.  That’s less than most decent rewards cards (many charge about $95 per year) and yet it has better earning power and travel protections than most.

The Altitude Reserve card’s Achilles heel, in my opinion, is the fact that points are not transferrable to airline or hotel loyalty programs.  Unlike with transferable points programs where it’s possible to seek out high value rewards through transfer partners, with the Altitude Reserve there is no way to get more than 1.5 cents per point value.

Here is everything you need to know…

Dining Offer (Through 6/30/21)

US Bank is offering this temporary pandemic inspired enhancement to the Altitude Reserve card.  This is valid until 6/30/21:

  • Earn 3X points per $1 on takeout, food delivery and dining purchases.
  • No registration required.

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Summary

  • Standard Signup Bonus: 50,000 points after $4,500 spend in 90 days
  • $400 Annual Fee
  • Cardholders may redeem 35,000 points to cover the annual fee
  • $325 in annual travel/dining credits automatically applied to account for travel & dining (including take-out and delivery) purchases charged to card. In this context, “annual” means the cardmember’s membership year.
  • Points worth 1.5 cents each when used to purchase travel through the Altitude Rewards Center (flights, hotels, car rentals)
  • Real Time Mobile Rewards: Redeem points for 1.5 cents each for travel purchased directly with the US merchants.  See: US Bank Real-Time Mobile Rewards. What works where?
  • Earn 3X points per dollar for travel and mobile wallet spend; 5X points per dollar on prepaid hotels & car rentals booked through the Altitude Rewards Center; 1X elsewhere
  • There is no cap on 3X earnings
  • Airport Lounge Access via Priority Pass Select (4 free visits per year)
  • 12 complimentary Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes per year
  • Travel coverage: Emergency Evacuation and Transportation Coverage; Trip delay and trip cancellation reimbursement.
  • Primary car rental collision damage waiver (No benefit is provided for vehicles rented in Israel, Jamaica, the Republic of Ireland, or Northern Ireland)
  • Rental car benefits:
    • National Rental Car Emerald Club Executive membership and “and save up to 25% when you rent with National® Car Rental”
    • Avis Preferred Plus membership + save up to 30% on qualifying rentals with Avis®
    • Hertz: “Enjoy special savings, faster service, extra hours on returns and Hertz Gold Plus Rewards® bonus points.”
    • Silvercar: Save up to 30% (register at silvercar.com/partners/vinfinite )
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre Fee Credit
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Free authorized user cards: US Bank used to charge $75 per authorized user, but they dropped that charge early in 2021.
  • Issued as Visa Infinite
  • Card composition: Engraved stainless steel
  • Guide to benefits: found here.

Key perks not supported by this card

  • Priority Pass Select membership covers only 4 free cardholder visits and 4 free individual guest visits per year.  After those 4 visits, you must pay $32 per person for lounge access.
  • No ability to transfer points to loyalty programs

altitude-reserve-infinite-card-art

Getting the card

Card Offer
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card
50K points
50K after $4.5K spend in 90 days

$400 Annual Fee

  • You must be a US Bank customer to get the card.  Many types of US Bank accounts qualify including checking and savings, credit cards, auto loans, investment relationships, CDs, mortgages, etc.
  • Can I open a US Bank account today so that I can apply?  Yes, but you must wait until your banking relationship is recognized before applying for the Altitude Reserve. Banking relationships are usually recognized in less than 5 days, but may occasionally take as long as 35 days.
  • Can I expedite the process of becoming a US Bank customer so that I can apply right away? Yes, if you apply through a US Bank banker, they can contact underwriting to ensure that your application for the card is not declined.
  • You can sign up online or in-branch

Earning the 50,000 point signup bonus

  • You must spend $4,500 within 90 days in order to earn the signup bonus
  • When does the clock start? Upon approval.
  • Does the $400 annual fee count towards the minimum spend requirement? No! In general, fees imposed by your credit card do not count towards spend bonuses.
  • Can I buy gift cards to meet the spend bonus? It is not recommended.  Some have had their accounts shut down when using mobile wallet payments to buy gift cards.
  • Do you have advice on how to meet the spend requirements? Yes, please see: Manufactured Spending Complete Guide.
  • What about the $325 travel credit? Will that increase the spend requirement? Suppose you spend exactly $4,500 within 3 months and receive $325 in travel credits (because some of your spend was on travel expenses). Will you then have to spend $325 more to meet the spend requirements?  I don’t know for certain.  I recommend spending $325 more just in case.

“Travel” Defined

It’s important to note that US Bank has two different definitions for travel.  To earn up to $325 in statement credits for travel purchases and to earn 3X points, they use one definition.  To get 1.5 cents per point value, they use another.

Earning 3X; up to $325 in travel credits; and redeeming via Real Time Mobile Rewards (“travel” defined)

For these purposes, travel is defined as: airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains and cruise lines.

For practical info about which types of purchases work with Real Time Mobile Rewards, see: US Bank Real-Time Mobile Rewards. What works where?

Redeeming points for travel at 1.5 cents per point value (“travel” defined)

For this purpose, travel is defined as airfare, hotel stays, and car rentals booked through US Bank’s Rewards Center.

Mobile Wallet Defined

The Altitude Reserve card earns 3X points for mobile wallet purchases. Specifically, the card earns 3X points when it is used with a mobile device to pay through Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, and LG Pay.

Also note that Samsung Pay MST (AKA LoopPay) payments will earn 3X rewards.

Info about Authorized User cards

  • Annual fee: None
  • $325 travel & dining credit? Authorized users do not get their own credits. Travel & dining purchases made on authorized user cards do get reimbursed but it comes out of the same $325 per year bucket as the primary card.
  • Airport Lounge Access? Authorized users will not get their own Priority Pass membership.
  • Gogo Wifi Passes?  I do not think that authorized users get their own Gogo Wifi Passes (but please correct me if I’m wrong!).
  • Primary car rental collision damage waiver? Yes

Details About Altitude Reserve Points

Redeem points for flights, hotels, and car rentals in order to get 1.5 cents per point value.  Points can be redeemed for cash, but only at 1 cent per point value.  You can also redeem 35,000 points for the card’s annual fee, but that only results in 1.14 cents per point value.

Points can be transferred to other Altitude Reserve cardmembers for no fee.  There is a 20,000 point cap per year on such transfers.

Points are not transferable to any airline or hotel programs.

You can buy Altitude Reserve points for 3 cents each, but I’m not sure why you would want to.

Card Perk Details

Points worth 1.5 cents each towards travel

With most bank programs, points are worth 1 cents each. For example, usually a $300 car rental would cost 30,000 points. With the Altitude Reserve card, though, points are worth 50% more when used to purchase travel through the Altitude Rewards Center (flights, hotels, car rentals) or when you pay for travel directly and use Real Time Mobile Rewards. So, a $300 car rental would cost only 20,000 points.

In general, there are big advantages to buying travel directly and redeeming points via Real Time Mobile Rewards.  For one, you can then book directly with the travel provider and so when things go wrong, you won’t have to deal with two different companies pointing fingers at each other.  On the other hand, when purchasing travel through the Altitude Rewards Center, you have the advantage of being able to pay partially with points and partially with credit. If you don’t have enough points for the entire purchase, you can use the points you do have and pay with your credit card for the rest.  Also, the portal doesn’t have minimum transaction requirements the way Real Time Mobile Rewards does.

Real Time Mobile Rewards

Enroll in US Bank’s Real Time Mobile Rewards program in order to redeem points for purchases made directly with merchants. When paying for travel this way, you get the full 1.5 cents value per point.  Keep in mind these restrictions:

  • Works only with US merchants
  • Minimum hotel charge: $500
  • Minimum car rental charge: $250
  • Minimum for other types of travel (airfare, Uber, etc): $10
  • You must have enough points in your account to cover the charge to be eligible to pay with points.

See also: US Bank Real-Time Mobile Rewards. What works where?

$325 in travel/dining credits per year

  • $325 in travel or dining credits is available each cardmember year.
  • Authorized user travel & dining charges are reimbursed, but they count towards the same $325 credit per account. In other words, you cannot get more than $325 back in total by adding authorized users.
  • Any charge that codes as travel or dining will be automatically reimbursed (up to $325 per cardmember year, total).  See “Travel” Defined, above.
  • Both large and small travel purchases count. Small purchases will be reimbursed until a total of $325 has been reimbursed in a calendar year. Large purchases will be reimbursed up to $325.

Global Entry or TSA Pre Fee Credit

  • Simply pay the $100 Global Entry application fee or $85 TSA Pre application fee with the Altitude Reserve card and the fee will be automatically reimbursed.
  • You can get reimbursed once every 4 years
  • You can gift the once per 4 year fee credit to another person, but they would have to be an authorized user on your account, or you would have to let them use your credit card number to pay for their application.

Airport Lounge Access

  • Cardholders are granted membership to Priority Pass Select.
  • This membership covers only 4 free cardholder visits and 4 free individual guest visits per year.
  • After the 4 free visits within your Priority Pass Select membership year (not cardmember year), cardholders must pay $32 per person for lounge access.

Rental car privileges and discounts

  • Primary auto rental collision damage waiver
  • National Rental Car Emerald Club Executive membership and “and save up to 25% when you rent with National® Car Rental”
  • Avis Preferred Plus membership + save up to 30% on qualifying rentals with Avis®
  • Hertz: “Enjoy special savings, faster service, extra hours on returns and Hertz Gold Plus Rewards® bonus points.”
  • Silvercar: Up to 30% off rentals of 2 days or more

Travel Protections

As detailed in our Ultra-Premium Credit Card Travel Insurance Benefits page, the Altitude Reserve card’s travel protections are pretty good, but not as good as those that come with the Chase Sapphire Reserve or Chase Ritz cards.  Travel protection details can be found in the Altitude Reserve Guide to Benefits here.

  • Primary Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver. Coverage does not apply to rental cars in Israel, Jamaica, Republic of Ireland, or Northern Ireland.
  • Trip Cancellation & Interruption (up to $2K per trip).  You are covered if you pay with the credit card or with points from your card.  It is OK to pay partially with “redeemable certificates, vouchers, or coupons.”
  • Trip Delay: Covers delays of 6 hours or more (max $500 per claim). Coverage requires paying a portion or the entire cost of Your Common Carrier fare with your card or with points from your card.
  • Lost Luggage Reimbursement: Coverage requires paying a portion or the entire cost of the Covered Trip with your card or with points from your card.
  • Travel Accident Insurance: Coverage requires paying the entire common carrier fare with your card (the guide doesn’t explicitly allow for paying with Altitude Reserve points, but this is probably covered as well in my opinion)
  • Emergency Evacuation & Transportation: Up to $10,000. Coverage requires paying a portion of your covered trip with your card or with your Altitude Reserve points.

Purchase Protections

Purchase protection details can be found in the Altitude Reserve Guide to Benefits here.

  • Return Protection: 90 Days, $300 Per Item.
    “If You are disappointed with an item, within ninety (90) days from the date of purchase, and the retailer will not accept a return, You can be reimbursed for the purchase price, up to three hundred dollars ($300.00) per item of personal property, and an annual maximum of one thousand dollars ($1,000.00), per Account.”
  • Extended Warranty Protection: 1 Year Extra Protection.
    “Your warranty coverage can be extended by one (1) additional year on eligible warranties of three (3) years or less.”

Personal Identity Theft

“Personal Identity Theft provides reimbursement up to $10,000 for covered expenses You incur to restore Your identity as a result of a Covered Stolen Identity Event.”

Coverage includes:

Costs to re-file applications for loans, grants, or other credit or debt instruments that were originally rejected by the lender solely on the basis of incorrect information the lender received as a result of a Covered Stolen Identity Event

Costs to report a Covered Stolen Identity Event or to amend or correct records with Your true name or identity as a result of a Covered Stolen Identity Event: including costs incurred for notarizing affidavits or other similar documents, costs for PERSONAL IDENTITY THEFT long-distance telephone calls, and costs for postage

Costs for maximum of four (4) credit reports requested as a result of a Covered Stolen Identity Event from any entity approved by the Benefits Administrator

Actual lost wages for Your time away from Your work premises solely as part of Your efforts to amend or rectify records as to Your true name or identity as a result of a Covered Stolen Identity Event

Reasonable fees for an attorney appointed by the Benefits Administrator and related court fees approved by the Benefits Administrator for suits brought against You by a creditor or collection agency or similar entity acting on behalf of a creditor for nonpayment of goods or services or default on a loan as a result of a Covered Stolen Identity Event

Visa Infinite Benefits

US Bank lists the following Visa benefits:

  • ID Navigator
  • Concierge
  • Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection
  • Food & Wine experiences
  • Visa Infinite Golf Benefit by Troon (access high-end, private clubs around the country and join Troon Rewards ® to receive 15% off golf fees and merchandise at over 95 courses)
  • Silvercar Car Rental Discount
  • Hertz, Avis, and National Car Rental Discounts
  • Relais & Chateaux Benefits (VIP welcome and complimentary breakfast daily)
  • NetJets private jet travel
  • Visa Offers

Details about the above can be found here.

Questions?

Have questions about the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve? Please comment below.

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