5 Things to Know About the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Credit Card

You get high-flying rewards and perks with this card. But to apply, you need a relationship with U.S. Bank.

Gregory KarpJuly 9, 2020
5 Things to Know About the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Credit Card

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The U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card is not as well-known as some other high-end travel credit cards, but its lucrative rewards and perks make it a worthy contender, despite its hefty annual fee.

As a premium general travel card, it’s a fine choice. The card’s travel credit is huge, and rewards for travel spending are generous. It’s even great as your everyday credit card if you’re comfortable paying for purchases via a mobile wallet, such as Apple Pay or Google Pay.

Here are five things to know:

1. Only U.S. Bank customers can get it

We’ll detail the attractive features of this card, but there’s a significant catch: You must be a U.S. Bank customer to qualify for the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card. You can open an account to become eligible, but the account must be open for a minimum of five business days before you apply for the card.

Eligible accounts at U.S. Bank include checking or savings, certificate of deposit, mortgage, a range of loan products or a different U.S. Bank credit card.

Most credit card applications don’t require you to have an existing relationship with the issuer or brand — although all credit unions do, and some retailer credit cards require membership. Still, the customer requirement is a drawback for this card.

2. It’s a premium travel card at a premium price

This card competes with such high-end travel cards as the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, The Platinum Card® from American Express and the Citi Prestige® Card. They have annual fees of $550, $550 and $495, respectively.

The price of the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card is $400, plus $75 for each additional card on the account.

While that will not appeal to the fee-averse, the cost is less than cards it seeks to compete with.

3. The annual fee is mitigated by a huge travel credit, sign-up bonus

This card offers $325 in annual statement credit toward travel expenditures. Avid travel-card users who know they’ll fully use the credit will think of the card’s cost as the annual fee minus the $325 credit.

The credit is applied automatically to spending directly with such travel providers as airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains and cruise line companies. So if you use the card to buy a round-trip domestic ticket at American Airlines for $425, $325 of that amount will essentially be erased by the travel credit, costing you a net $100 for the ticket. (So you could consider it saving $325 on that ticket or saving $325 on the annual fee.) The credit isn't available for purchases made through a travel agency, such as Expedia or Priceline.

Nerd tip: Through the end of 2020, the card's $325 annual travel credit can also be applied toward dining purchases.

The annual fee is also easier to swallow because of the sign-up bonus: Earn an enrollment bonus of 50,000 points worth $750 on travel. Just spend $4,500 in the first 90 days of account opening. That essentially pays for nearly two years of annual fees. Or, looked at another way: If you can always fully use the travel credit, the bonus washes out the annual fee for a decade.

4. Its rewards program is lucrative

You can earn serious points using this card.

  • 5 points per dollar spent on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center.

  • 3 points per dollar spent on eligible travel and mobile wallet spending.

  • 1 point per dollar spent on everything else.

Nerd tip: Through the end of 2020, the card will also earn 3 points per $1 spent on dining purchases.

Pay special attention to the triple points on mobile wallet spending. That means if you can pay for your in-person or online purchase using Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay or LG Pay, you’re getting a terrific rewards rate on categories of spending that few other cards can match. That makes the card valuable for nontravel spending.

Rewards are earned in a U.S. Bank points currency. Points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed through the U.S. Bank online portal to buy travel, such as flight tickets and hotel stays. (Points can also be redeemed at a lower rate for cash back, gift cards, merchandise, entertainment and magazines.)

This high redemption rate is a big deal. That means that for every dollar you spend in the bonus categories, you earn 1.5x that if you redeem the points for travel through U.S. Bank. If you do that, the bonus rates translate to:

  • 7.5% on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center.

  • 4.5% on eligible travel and mobile wallet spending.

  • 1.5% on everything else.

Points do not expire.

One redemption drawback: You can’t transfer points to other travel programs, such as airline frequent flyer and hotel loyalty programs.

5. It comes with other travel goodies

Like many premium travel cards, the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card has a list of perks that goes on and on, and many of these benefits can be quite useful to travelers.

  • 12 complimentary Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi passes per year.

  • 12-month Priority Pass Select membership to more than 1,200 airport lounges worldwide.

  • TSA Precheck or Global Entry statement credit to reimburse you up to $100 every four years for the application fee.

  • GroundLink Black Car Service discount.

  • Silvercar special rental privileges and discounts.

  • Relais & Châteaux special privileges at the luxury hotel group.

  • No foreign transaction fees.

If you already have a relationship with U.S. Bank — or don’t mind starting one — applying for this premium travel card is a great idea, assuming you can use all it has to offer.

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