US Bank Altitude Reserve Complete Guide

US Bank Altitude Reserve 3X Earnings

The Altitude Reserve Card is US Bank’s entry into the luxury card space, and it may be the single best challenge to-date to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. The card is targeted at “people who live life on the go and want to be rewarded generously for that lifestyle.”

Here is everything you need to know…

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 credits automatically applied to account for travel 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 (flights, hotels, car rentals)
  • Earn 3X points per dollar for travel and mobile wallet spend; 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
  • Primary car rental collision damage waiver (No benefit is provided for vehicles rented in Isreal, Jamaica, the Republic of Ireland, or Northern Ireland)
  • Travel coverage: Emergency Evacuation and Transportation Coverage; Trip delay and trip cancellation reimbursement.
  • Rental car discounts
  • Global Entry or TSA Pre Fee Credit
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • Points transferable from FlexPerks but not to FlexPerks.  You must call to transfer more than 20,000 points per calendar year from FlexPerks to Altitude Reserve.
  • Points are freely transferable to other Altitude Reserve cardmembers but with a cap of 20,000 points per calendar year.
  • Authorized User Fee: $75 per year (but if you pay points for the annual fee, authorized users are included at no extra charge)
  • Issued as Visa Infinite
  • Card composition: Engraved stainless steel

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 $27 per person for lounge access.
  • No ability to transfer points to loyalty programs
  • No Visa Infinite Discount Air Benefit.  This perk offers $100 off domestic round trip flights for 2 or 3 passengers and is found on CNB’s Crystal Visa Infinite and Chase’s Ritz Carlton cards.
  • No car rental elite membership.  A number of cards offer National Executive Club membership, which can be quite valuable, but this one does not.

altitude-reserve-infinite-card-art

Getting the card

  • The card will be available for signups beginning May 1, 2017.
  • Standard Signup Bonus: 50,000 points after $4,500 spend in 3 months.
  • 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.
  • What if I only have business accounts with US Bank? Currently, your application will be automatically declined, but if you apply through a US Bank banker, they can contact underwriting to ensure that your application for the card is not declined (see this Miles to Memories post for details).  US Bank says that they are working to fix this later this year.
  • 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 (see this Miles to Memories post for details).
  • 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? Yes
  • Will US Bank shut down my account if I buy $4,000 in gift cards? While I can’t predict what US Bank will do, I believe that is unlikely.  That said, it’s always a good idea to mix in regular spend.
  • 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? Tentative Answer: No. I expect that US Bank will count the $325 in travel purchases towards your minimum spend even if the $325 has been reimbursed.  I’ll update this section with an official answer once I get it.

“Travel” Defined

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

Earning 3X and up to $325 in travel credits (“travel” defined)

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

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.

I assume that this is the same booking site used by US Bank FlexPerks customers.  If so, that’s a problem for those wanting to book flights since the interface is seriously hobbled (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.

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, Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and 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.

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

Info about Authorized User cards

  • Annual fee: $75 per authorized user
  • No annual fee if you pay with points for the primary user’s annual fee
  • $325 travel credit? Authorized users do not get their own travel credits. Travel 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.
  • 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, and this includes all authorized user cards.  So, the more authorized user cards you have, the better the value of this redemption.

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 can be transferred from FlexPerks to the Altitude Reserve, but not the other way around.  Online, you will be able to transfer up to 20,000 points per year.  Via phone, there is no known cap.

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.

When redeeming points for travel, Hotels & cars must be paid in full with points. Airfare can be a combination of points and cash.  Only airline tickets may be booked over the phone.

Card Perk Details

Points worth 1.5 cents each when used to purchase flights, hotels, and car rentals

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. So, a $300 car rental would cost only 20,000 points.

$325 in travel credits per year

  • $325 in travel credits is available each cardmember year.
  • Authorized user travel charges are reimbursed, but they count towards the same $325 travel 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 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 $27 per person for lounge access.

Rental car privileges and discounts

  • Avis: Up to 30% off base rates
  • National: Save up to 25%
  • Silvercar: Up to 30% off rentals of 2 days or more
  • Primary auto rental collision damage waiver

Additional Perks

I’ll let the US Bank marketing team do the talking for these…

US Bank Altitude Reserve Car and Jet Benefits

US Bank Altitude Reserve Hotel and Chef Benefits  US Bank Altitude Reserve Concierge Services

A note regarding rental car coverage: No benefit is provided for vehicles rented in Isreal, Jamaica, the Republic of Ireland, or Northern Ireland.

Questions?

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

Comments

    • “Standard Signup Bonus: 50,000 Ultimate Rewards points”
      Need to fix that. 🙂
      Fabulous post-Now I have to decide if it’s worth delaying 5/25 for a month…Just wish it were a business card.

  1. Great post – and thanks for not hawking the card, unlike some other blogs out there!

    Btw I assume under, “Getting the Card” you mean 50,000 points, not UR points.

  2. Thanks for the detailed breakdown! As someone who has never used the FlexRewards travel booking interface, does it allow you to book any publicly advertised flight? Or are there limitations? E.g my wife and I are planning to fly (one-way) from Bali to Bangkok in Thai Air Business Class, which currently is posted on the Thai Air website for $850. Am I correct to infer that this flight should theoretically be bookable for 57k points? Or are you only able to book a limited population of airlines, destinations, etc using these points?

    • In theory, everything should be available. However, after receiving alerts about cheap airfare, I wasn’t able to locate some of the flights via FlexPerks portal. So, I don’t think all flights are available, but I was eventually able to find and book a sub-$400 German flight via the FP portal.

    • Based on my experience with FlexPerks, no. They will only book what their engine finds (mirrors most U.S. OTAs such as Expedia or Orbitz) and Southwest flights. I was unable to book LAN or Cathay Dragon flights at the rates offered on Chilean or Hong Kong airline sites or OTAs.

  3. Bonus is too low for this high of a fee. Using 35,000 points to pay the fee is geared toward paying the next year’s fee since points may not show up in time to pay the first year’s fee even if you spend the $4500 initial requirement to get the bonus. Therefore, count on this being $500 bonus minus $400 fee for a whopping $100 net gain (for those not interesting in travel). I have plenty of travel points so I don’t have to buy tickets or pay for hotels, so I’m more interested in cash back. At this point I spend my time with 5% cash back opportunities so not as interested in a 3x card, but this card is an okay option for those without a lot of 5% earning opportunities or those who want to add to it. Will wait to see if people get the travel credit on hotel gc purchases (I could resell them to get some cash back to offset the high fee in order to keep more of the bonus (that would make me more interested in this card for the first year only).

    • Why on earth would you expect to net Cash back off of a Premium Travel card… that’s not what it’s for. Just get a Cash+ or a Chase Freedom and be done with it

  4. Ed. Beyond the obvious Chase Freedom and Ink 5% cash back, what “opportunities” are you using to earn 5%?
    Thanks

  5. Greg — you should think about a mobile wallet tutorial. I have an iPhone, but I never use the mobile pay feature. I don’t really understand the way it works or where it can be use or how. How do you use it online for example?

    I know that many are dancing around the manufactured spend angle and I assume you’ll be circumspect here. But that’s not what I mean. Just a primer on how it all works would be nice.

  6. While I love the mobile payments and redemption rate, the lack of the Visa Infinite Domestic Flight benefit makes this a non-starter for me. :/ I am fine using points as cash at a 1.5% rate when I can accrue at 3x on quite a wide range of categories (especially since I would earn miles/status on those flights), but since a lot of my non-work travel involves flying with someone, saving $100/flight would be huge.

    • Yeah, that’s the deal breaker for me. I fully intended on getting this card to be the main spender for me & my wife. But $400+75-325=$150 annual fee, which while the other perks are nice, doesn’t justify “upgrading” from my FlexPerks account.

      Now, if we could save that $100 per flight… I’d be the first in line on May 1.

    • Under the “Key Perks” section near the top, you’ll see that there are no transfer partners for this program unfortunately. Points can be used for 1.5 cents each towards travel or for 1 cent each towards a statement credit/gift cards.

  7. ‘Any charge that codes as travel will be automatically reimbursed (up to $325 per cardmember year, total). See “Travel” Defined, above.”

    This would mean that it would *indeed* work for uber/lyft unlike what is claimed in “Surprising details about the US Bank Altitude Reserve”. MCC coding is up to Visa, not necessarily US Bank, and they expand by saying taxi/limo companies. Uber/Lyft would fit right into that.

    • Not really. There is no MCC coding for “travel”. Instead, US Bank will look for MCC codes for airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains and cruise lines.

      That said, in the other post someone pointed out that Uber and Lyft accept mobile wallet payments, so you can still get 3X that way.

      • I think there will be a wider range than anticipated. Chase never advertised Uber/Lyft or even something like a Parking Meter or a Travelzoo voucher (which works, BTW). And we all had a bunch of fun finding what else qualified for redemption on Barclay Arrivals points. While I understand you want to be conservative and not jump to conclusions, I’m pretty sure it’s going to work out in a similar way.

  8. So it looks like highway tolls will not count as travel? As someone who lives in a state with a lot of toll roads, one thing I loved about CSR was the ability to put my travel credit towards that. Definitely dampens my enthusiasm for the Altitude a bit if I have to come up with $325 of cash spending towards “real” travel.

  9. Thanks for the article. No way this is anywhere near the CSR, though I hope it will cause Chase to bring back that sweet 100k bonus. This is a flop unless they up the antee.

  10. Any idea what the trip insurance looks like?
    Wondering if it meets or beats what the Citi Prestige offers.
    Otherwise — aside from the 3x on mobile wallet payments — it seems that my $350/yr Prestige card has this Altitude Reserve beat by many, many miles.

  11. So comparing this card to the chase sapphire reserve in regard to the travel reimbursement- The US bank card would not count purchases made on third party sites (e.g. Expedia, Orbitz), where as the Chase Sapphire Reserve would?

  12. I am probably missing this, but in reading this it appears to be a great card if your primary use is reedming for travel? I see the 50,000 point signup as worth $750 in travel?? Also, isnt it correct if I buy at a store that allowed Apple Pay, wouldn’t I be getting 4.5x per dollar spent??

    • Yes, it’s an excellent card if you’ll use the points for travel.

      Regarding Apple Pay, the most you can get is 3X points, but points are worth 1.5 cents each towards travel, so yes you would get 4.5% back (towards travel) when paying with Apple Pay.

  13. If one already has the Sapphire Reserve, the main perks for this card seem to be the mobile wallet 3x and obviously the sign-on bonus. Given that 2% cards are commonplace these days, you’re spending $75 ($400 fee – $325 travel reimbursement) for the extra 1% cash back. So $7,500 in mobile wallet spend before breaking even. Is my math correct?

    Also, when using mobile wallet, do you have to give up portal cash back on online orders?

    Greg, I second the comment made by another poster that it would be helpful to see an article on the ins and outs of mobile wallet. Thanks!

    • Yes, I think your math is correct if your goal is to redeem points for cash back. If you’ll redeem points for travel, then the extra 1X over a 2% card is really about 2.5% (4.5% – 2%) and you would only have to spend $3K using Mobile Wallet to break even.

      That said, I’m not sure this is a great card to use in addition to CSR, but rather a legitimate alternative, especially for those who are not interested in transferring points to airline or hotel programs.

      Regarding wanting to know more about mobile wallets: I agree! Nick and I are learning too and will publish what we find.

  14. If able, can you ask if they’ll honor 1/2 Nexus memberships instead of Pre-Check/Global Entry?

    Along the same lines, do authorized user cards get seperate Pre-Check/Global Entry credit?

  15. I recently had an offer on my SPG to use Android pay for three $5 or more payments and get $5 back. Took me a while to figure it out, but online it is very easy to use. Using it as CVS was another matter, lol. Sure I would get the hang of it eventually.

    I think I read an article that if you use Samsung pay (I have access to that too) there is a way to use it at terminals that only use the magnetic strip on cards. If true, that would make the S-pay 3% bonus almost universal.

  16. BEWARE. Just booked four one-way flights (as itinerary was pretty basic, but too complex for booking engine). Within hours, decided to drive instead. Called to cancel and despite being well within 24 hour window to cancel with airline, travel supplier wants $120 ($30 ticket x 4) to cancel. I read terms and conditions – it said travel supplier MAY charge $30 for a change. I’ve never had a fee charged when canceling a flight within 24 hours. Between weak booking interface and policies like this, I’m pretty disappointed for a premium card product.

  17. If points and cash compatible with the $325 travel credit? I.e., say you want to purchase airline tickets that cost $1277. You spent $4500 on Mobile Pay so now have 63,500 points (50,000 plus 4500 x 3). Those are worth $952.50. Can you spend points and cash on these tickets where the cash portion would be $324.50 and get the $324.50 reimbursed via the $325 credit?

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