Surprising details about the US Bank Altitude Reserve

It is now official.  The US Bank Altitude Reserve card is real, it’s cool, and it’s coming soon (May 1).  You can learn all about the card via our new resource page: US Bank Altitude Reserve Complete Guide.

Altitude Reserve

As I pored over official source materials (more about that in a future post), a number of surprising things jumped out at me about this card — both good and bad.  Here’s what I found…

Travel means two different things

When earning points or travel credits, travel means “airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains and cruise lines.”  This definition of travel is broad, but not nearly as broad as defined by other cards, such as the Sapphire Reserve.  For example, given this definition, you would not get 3X or travel credits for online travel agency charges, Uber/Lyft, Plastiq rent, etc.  And you certainly won’t get 3X for timeshares or fortune tellers.

When redeeming points at a value of 1.5 cents each, travel means only “airfare, hotel stays, and car rentals booked through US Bank’s Rewards Center.”  I believe this means that we need to book travel through the same interface used for the FlexPerks card.  And that’s not good.  See: FlexPerks nerfs online first class and multi-city flight awards).  That said, it should be possible to call to redeem points for the flight you want.  Notably, this definition does not include cruises or excursions (both of which the Sapphire Reserve card does include).

Mobile Wallet means more than I thought

Altitude Reserve card earns 3X points per dollar when it is used with a mobile device to pay through Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, or Microsoft Wallet.  Interestingly in-store, in-app, and online purchases are included.

From the Rewards Program Rules:

“Mobile Wallet” is defined as the method of paying for a transaction by use of a mobile device (in-store, in-app, or online) and includes Apple Pay, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and Microsoft Wallet.

Off-hand, I’m not sure how many wonderful things can be bought online with Apple Pay, etc., but my guess is many.  Readers, please comment below with suggestions!

You can’t double dip with travel and mobile at once

OK, this isn’t surprising at all, but I know some of you were wondering.  The Rewards Program Rules document makes it clear that travel purchases made through a mobile wallet get only 2 bonus points per dollar (1 base point + 2 bonus points), not four.

Priority Pass Select membership only includes 4 free visits

What?! This is shocking for a $400 per year card (even given the $325 travel rebate).  Each Priority Pass membership year, you get 4 free visits to Priority Pass lounges plus 4 free individual guest visits.  After that you pay $27 per person.  Ouch.

Authorized users cost $75 each, and they don’t get their own Priority Pass Select membership

Wait… You mean that you’ll charge the same $75 that Chase charges for Sapphire Reserve authorized users and give them much less?  Seriously?

No Visa Infinite Discount Air Benefit

The CNB Crystal Visa Infinite and Chase Ritz Carlton Visa Infinite cards offer this perk.  With this perk, you get $100 off domestic round trip flights for 2 or 3 passengers, and it can be used an unlimited number of times.  Neither the US Bank Altitude Reserve nor the Chase Sapphire Reserve offer this benefit.

Points transfer from FlexPerks, but not vice versa

While I would have loved the vice versa part, I’m still pretty geeked about this.  While FlexPerks points are worth up to 2 cents each towards flights, they’re worth only up to 1.5 cents each towards hotels and up to 1.25 cents each towards car rentals.  It is the “up to” part that is key here.  By transferring points to the Altitude Reserve, you get a fixed 1.5 cents per point value.  If you prefer to use points for hotels or car rentals, or for flights that aren’t near the top of a FlexPerks award band, this is the way to go.

I’ll also note that this feature effectively expands the category bonuses beyond travel and mobile wallet purchases.  For example, you can earn:

  • 3X at restaurants and 2X at gas stations (and airlines) with the FlexPerks Gold Amex Card ($85 annual fee)
  • 2X for cell phone charges; 3X for charitable contributions; 2X gas, grocery, or airline purchases (whichever is most each month) with the FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa Signature Card ($49 per year)
  • 2X for cell phone charges; 3X for charitable contributions; 2X gas, office supply, or airline purchases (whichever is most each month) with the FlexPerks Business Edge Travel Rewards Visa Card ($55 per year)
  • 3X travel and mobile wallet with the Altitude Reserve ($400 per year)

I’m not suggesting that anyone should get all four cards, but rather that people who spend a lot in some of the bonus categories may do well by adding a FlexPerks card or two to their wallet in addition to the Altitude Reserve.

Questions?

Please see: US Bank Altitude Reserve Complete Guide.  Many of your questions are probably already answered there.  If not, ask away via comments and when appropriate we’ll add the answers to the complete guide.

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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Pingbacks

  1. […] For review, the US Bank Altitude Reserve card (to be released in May) will offer 3X points for travel and mobile wallet payments.  Points will be worth 1 cent each when redeemed for cash, or 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel.  This makes the 3X categories worth either 3 cents or 4.5 cents per dollar, depending upon how the points are used.  See also: Surprising details about the US Bank Altitude Reserve. […]

Comments

  1. Lots of merchants on Etsy take ApplePay. That’s a nice way to get bonus points on a site that doesn’t often appear on shopping portals.

  2. If you intend to pay with Apple Pay in an app on your phone, forget about affiliate links from TopCashBank and the like.

  3. So, if I already have the flex perk Credit card, it would be considered to be US bank account holder/customer? Satisfy that requirement?

  4. Very few non-B&M merchants take any sort of mobile wallet payment. Android Pay lists a few apps (maybe a few dozen, of which most are junk). The mobile wallet category seems of very limited usefulness (perhaps why adoption rates of mobile wallets have been so dismal)

    This card has so many limitations that it isn’t a serious player in the premium card market.

    • Out of curiosity, where would you like Android Pay to be accepted that it isn’t currently accepted? I don’t mean that sarcastically at all – just curious what you have in mind.

      I think the ability to earn 3X at Newegg and B&H Photo will be great. Surely, the usefulness is very subjective as everyone shops at different places, but I see a decent number of popular stores on the list. Also note that the lists available here:

      https://www.android.com/pay/where-to-use/

      are not all-inclusive. For example, Rite Aid pharmacies take Android Pay, but they aren’t on that list:

      https://www.riteaid.com/shop/info/payments

      I know you’re talking about non-B&M merchants. My point here is that I wouldn’t be surprised if there are more non-B&M merchants that take android pay that aren’t on that list.

    • I agree that the 3x for mobile payment is not as great as it seems unless someone figures out a way to churn through reloads. Most of the merchants that accept mobile payments are already covered by the CSR/Ink (travel/dining/office) or AmexEverydayPreferred (Grocery/Gas). Only the retail shopping stores have potential to earn 3x via mobile payment, but I’d rather shop through a portal and potentially earn more versatile points. Sounded good initially, but I think i’ll pass.

  5. I would like to point out that Raise app is on android pay to get bonus category. Raise sells various giftcards at a discount which then you could go further and use a shopping portal for and whole they normally exclude gift cards in my experience if you put even a $0.01 on a credit card along with the gift card it works :).

  6. Both Airbnb and Uber utilize Apple Pay for payments. Does this mean they’ll be covered under mobile wallet purchases?

    CSR also has an effective annual fee of $150 instead of $75 for the altitude reserve. This is about $1,666 in purchases to make up for…

    Apart from missing out on the cash back on restaurants (covered on other cards), unlimited lounge visits (less time at the airport the better), where does the CSR really excel?

    Is it more difficult to get cash back for flights on this card via flexperks? Again, I don’t really see (at least for my situation) how the CSR is any better, if not much worse.

    • Just a follow up to my previous post. We ended up just calling US Bank for info after getting excited to learn about the card.

      With the altitude reserve you can now just spend your points directly, not in tiers or any other weird format like with flexpoints, and as Greg mentioned the minimum is only $15 to redeem for travel. While I wouldn’t recommend it, you can also buy points for $15 per 500 points if you’re in a pinch.

      Airbnb, Uber, Lyft, etc., which all accept in-app mobile wallet as a payment option, are also eligible for the cash back under the mobile wallet category. Literally anything is acceptable. Buying pizza with dominos, buying apps in the app store or any in-app purchases all qualify. The mobile wallet description is extremely far-reaching.

      This card is insane.

      • When spending your points, keep in mind that you’ll only get 1 cent per point value unless you use your points to book travel through US Bank’s travel rewards site (or over the phone for flights).

        But yes, I agree, that for earning points the mobile wallet thing is amazing. I don’t know how long they’ll be able to sustain that perk, but while they do it will be a great point earning card and should just get better as more and more places accept mobile wallet payments.

        As to where the CSR is better, there are a number of areas:
        * Ability to transfer points to airline and hotel programs
        * 3X for dining
        * Ability to redeem points at 1.5 cents per point value for cruises, excursions, etc. (With US Bank you can only get 1.5 cents for airfare, hotels, and car rentals)

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