US Bank’s Sapphire Reserve Killer

US Bank will apparently launch a legitimate Sapphire Reserve competitor May 1st.  We expected this from Amex or maybe Citibank, but US Bank?  Really?  Rumors of US Bank’s new card, the US Bank Altitude Reserve, began last week on Flyertalk.  And now Walla.by says that a “source close to the matter has reached out to us to confirm details and timelines.”  Walla.by even posted this grainy card image:

US Bank Altitude Reserve Grainy Image
Walla.by further posted that the card would have the following features:

  • 3X in travel and all mobile wallet purchases (such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay).
  • 50,000 point signup bonus after $4,500 spend within 90 days
  • $400 annual fee
  • $325 annual travel credit applied automatically
  • Points worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed through the U.S. Bank travel portal
  • 12 free Gogo Wifi passes per year
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • TSA PreCheck or Global Entry reimbursement
  • Black car and rental car service
  • Metal card
  • Visa Infinite perks

Other reported details:

  • The Altitude Reserve card will be available May 1, 2017.
  • You must be a current U.S. Bank member to apply for the card.

Reading between the lines (i.e. guessing the details)

While not all details have yet been released about this card, let’s make some assumptions / guesses:

  • $75 effective annual fee.  If this card’s travel credit is as easy to earn at the Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit, then it will effectively reduce the annual fee burden to only $75.  In other words, you would pay $400, but soon get $325 back after you spend that much or more on travel.  There is also a Reddit report that “Wealth clients” (I’m not 100% sure what that means) will pay only $299 per year for the annual fee which would make this card completely a no-brainer for those clients, if true.
  • Priority Pass Select lounge access. While Walla.by didn’t mention lounge access, the original Flyertalk post did.  A safe assumption is that they’ll offer Priority Pass Select with either 2 free guests (such as with the Amex Platinum cards) or unlimited free guests (as with the Sapphire Reserve).
  • 12 Gogo Wifi Passes per year, US & Canada only, and one segment only.  The US Bank FlexPerks card already offers 12 Gogo Wifi Passes.  And the CNB Crystal Visa Infinite card does too.  As far as I can tell, they are identical (I have both cards).  I expect that the Altitude Reserve passes will work the same way.  Note that the Amex Business Platinum card’s Gogo passes work for international travel, so they are more valuable than the passes expected from the US Bank card.
  • Black car and rental car service.  I’m totally guessing here, but based on other similar cards I’d bet this means discounts and elite status.  For example, you might get 20% off LimoLink car services, discounts with Avis, National, and Silvercar, Avis Preferred status (worthless in my opinion), and National Executive status (great to have).
  • Visa Infinite Perks.  This probably means access to the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection (get extra perks like free breakfast, room upgrades, VIP status, etc. when booking hotels in the collection).  And, hopefully, it also means access to the Visa Infinite Discount Air Benefit which offers $100 off any domestic round-trip flight booked for two or three people.  For more, see: Visa Infinite: a path to elite status for couples?
  • Point Transfers: None.  There hasn’t been any news as to whether US Bank will allow point transfers to airline or hotel programs.  I’d be willing to bet, though, that they will not offer that option.  Prove me wrong US Bank, please.

Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection

How the US Bank Altitude Reserve compares to the Chase Sapphire Reserve

Let’s see how the standard features of each card compare (note to email readers, tables like these are best viewed in your browser):

Feature Chase US Bank Which is better?
Signup Bonus 50K points after $4K spend 50K points after $4.5K spend Chase
(lower required spend, more flexible points)
Annual Fee $450 $400 US Bank
Travel Credits $300 $325 US Bank
Point Value 1.5 cents towards travel 1.5 cents towards travel Tie
Point Transfers Transfer 1 to 1 to airline and hotel programs None expected Chase
Category Bonuses 3X travel and dining 3X travel and mobile wallet US Bank. The mobile wallet bonus opens up huge opportunities.
Airport Lounge Access Priority Pass Select Priority Pass Select
(expected)
Tie
(unless US Bank limits to 2 free guests)
Rental Car Coverage Primary collision damage waiver Unknown Chase
(unless we learn otherwise)
In-flight Wifi None 12 Gogo passes per year US Bank
Airfare Discount None Visa Infinite Discount Air Benefit
(expected)
US Bank
Rental car privileges and discounts National Executive status, miscellaneous savings with Avis, National, Silvercar Expected to be similar to Chase’s offering Tie
Global Entry or TSA Pre Fee Credit $85 TSA-Pre; $100 Global Entry $85 TSA-Pre; $100 Global Entry
(expected)
Tie
Foreign Transaction Fees None None Tie
Authorized User Fee $75 Unknown Unknown
Card Type Metal, Visa Infinite Metal, Visa Infinite Tie

Final score (as if all features counted equally):

  • Chase: 3 points
  • US Bank: 5 points

US Bank wins!  OK, that’s not really fair.  For those who highly value transferable points, there’s still no contest between the two cards.  But, but, but…  this mobile wallet 3X feature is very interesting.  Mobile wallet should work at at many places where you can buy gift cards, at Toys R Us (where you can buy Gift of College gift cards), for paying rent, and much more.  Of course, I expect that US Bank will shutdown accounts of those who abuse the feature, but it should be awesome for moderate use.

See also

About Greg The Frequent Miler

Greg is the owner, founder, and primary author of the Frequent Miler. He earns millions of points and miles each year, mostly without flying, and dedicates this blog to teaching others how to do the same.

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  1. […] US Bank will apparently launch a legitimate Sapphire Reserve competitor May 1st. We expected this from Amex or maybe Citibank, but US Bank? Really? Rumors of US Bank’s new card, the US Bank Altitude Reserve, began last week on Flyertalk. And now Walla.by says that a “source close to the matter has reached out to us to confirm details and timelines.” Walla.by even posted this grainy card image: LEARN MORE! […]

Comments

  1. I’m not a member of US Bank, how do I join or position myself to be ready for this launch? I missed Chase Sapphire reserve for being over 5/24 but am close to being under now.

  2. There are some data points that suggest US Bank cards are more difficult to get lately. Used to be able to freeze smaller credit reports that would guarantee approval for their cards. What’s your guess as to how difficult it will be to get this card?

  3. I’m having a difficult time trying to figure out why this would be a “Reserve Killer!” 3X in travel and all mobile wallet purchases (such as Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay) in no way competes with 3X on ALL Airlines, Hotels and Restaurants!

    • Both cards offer 3X in travel so the difference is that the US Bank card offers 3X for mobile wallet purchases whereas the Chase card offers 3X dining. Many pay at the counter restaurants offer mobile wallet pay as an option, so with the US Bank card you’re not losing out on all dining 3X. On the other hand, if you shop at grocery stores, department stores, discount stores, or really any big box stores, you can usually use your mobile wallet to pay so you are getting close to 3X everywhere with US Bank. Even many small business use Square which now often supports mobile wallet.

      For the rest of your dining needs, there are many cards that bonus restaurants. See my roundup here: http://frequentmiler.boardingarea.com/best-card-category-bonuses/#Restaurants

      All that said, personally I don’t think I’d give up my Sapphire Reserve for this card. I highly value transferable points. I might get the US Bank card too (for mobile wallet purchases), but I don’t think I’d get rid of the Sapphire Reserve.

    • 3X on ALL Airlines, Hotels and mobile wallet purchases does compete with 3X on ALL Airlines, Hotels and restaurant purchases. When you consider that Samsung Pay can be used on pretty much any store with a credit card swipe it’s not hard to think of big ticket purchases where 4.5% there >>your restaurant spend.

  4. Are the points redeemable for cash? 1 cent per point i assume? Also can you link to where you discuss their travel portal and what you can redeem for (i.e. is it one where they have “exclusive travel deals for you” i.e. higher costs flights? and can you redeem for vrbo or just a small set of hotels? car rentals?)

    Re the BOA relationship, does having another BOA card (like Merrill or Alaska) count as being a ‘US Bank Member’ or do you need to have a checking/savings account with them?

      • oh and BTW, starting at 50k is a little lame. If they wanted to be a CSR killer they should have started at 100k, especially given that we all know CSR is going to go back up to 100k eventually.

        • I think it’s a safe bet that you can redeem points for a penny each (given how they run FlexPerks), but I don’t know that for sure. I certainly don’t know that CSR will go back to 100K. Maybe it will, but I bet that Chase has found demand to be high enough at 50K to keep apps rolling in.

    • This is a US Bank card, not Bank of America — those are two separate banks. So your Merrill or Alaska card won’t help your relationship with US Bank, unfortunately.

      As far as redeeming the points, we don’t yet know for sure.

  5. 75 effective annual fee. No. The annual fee is $400. Some people will forget/not use the annual credit. The annual fee that should have been in bold was $400, not $75. Or put both of them in bold, but don’t lead with the $75. It’s misleading.

    Already thinking of referral bonuses?

    • You have no business getting a card like this if you can’t use $325 in travel purchases in an entire year. You seem very angry about something else. I hope things work out.

    • I think that readers are smart enough to understand the difference between the actual annual fee and the stated “effective annual fee”. No, I don’t expect that this card will offer referral bonuses or affiliate commissions.

  6. Also, citi already has a rival to the CSR-their $400/year card that offers the 4th “free” hotel night. Whatever the name of that is.

  7. Keep in mind that there is a lot of problems using mobile pay at merchants. For instance, using Samsung pay usually gets denied more often than not if the amount is over $50. Because Samsung Pay emulates you swiping your card and this throws a wrench into the retailers system. With a chip inserted I can buy VGC at Kroger, Safeway, Wal-Mart, etc no problem. But when I try using a mobile device it prompts for supervisor approval (which creates holding up the line and extra scrutiny) and then it also has the effect of having the “know it all cashier” deciding that VGC are cash only. So it will be YMMV but expect a lot of hiccups.

  8. US Bank is the issuer of the Club Carlson CC which I have. I have never had any issues with them but I do remember tons of complaining on the blogs and on FT because people on an application binge were denied the Club Carlson card when it first came out. It’s like people complaining about Chase’s 5/24 rule when you are trying to game the system. Personally this card is not for me and I will stick with CSR but it always is nice to have other options. I do wonder what the points system will be like. 50k US Bank points might really not be worth much if the program is not good.

  9. Wealth Clients: US Bank has three levels; Private Client, Private Client Reserve, and Ascent Private Capital Management.
    Last time i looked they had minimums listed on their web site for each level, but today im not finding them. If i remember right private client was 100k or thereabouts, reserve was 5M, and ascent was 25M.
    They have always had pretty good credit cards for those groups, but this looks much better.

      • This is referring to anyone in their “wealth management” book. Basically you have to have an FA there and they have to have more than 250k typically in deposits, investments, and loans not including primary mortgage.

  10. Really need to know if the US Bank card will have trip delay/canx insurance. I’ve used this benefit twice on CSR and once on Citi Prestige.

  11. One of the main perks of the Chase Sapphire Reserve/Preferred is primary car insurance. Do you know if Visa Infinite perks cover primary car rental insurance in US? On the visa infinite website they list it as a benefit.

    • Yes, it is very much like the CNB card:
      Same annual fee ($400)
      3X travel (but then CNB gives 3X for groceries, gas, and dining vs. USB mobile payments)
      Same Gogo benefit

      The biggest differences that I see are:
      * Different 3X categories (see above)
      * USB points worth 1.5 cents each for travel (vs. about 1.15 with CNB for flights)
      * CNB travel credits are for each card (including AUs) and only for airline incidental fees. We don’t know yet how US Bank will handle these

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