US Bank Altitude Reserve card is one of the most under-appreciated cards in its category. If you use the card tactically, you will pay zero annual fees and get most of the benefits of other cards in its categories such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Capital One Venture X, and the Amex Platinum.
1. US Bank Altitude Reserve card has a $400 fee. You can get $325 reimbursed annually for dining purchases, which makes the effective annual fee $75. But US Bank is very generous with retention offers. You can easily get 7,500 ($75) to 10,000 points ($100) in retention offers. With the dining credit and the retention offer, your annual fee can be zero.
2. The card offers a 50,000 sign-up bonus. The sign-up bonus has been stable for many years. US Bank doesn’t promote this card much.
3. US Bank Altitude Reserve gives you 4.5% cashback (3% cashback, can be redeemed at 1.5x if used for travel) on mobile wallet purchases such as Apple Pay and Google Pay. Many places such as Costco (in-store and at the gas pump), restaurants, and even grocery stores allow you to pay with a mobile wallet.
4. US Bank has no travel partners. So you cannot transfer points to an airline or a hotel like you can with Chase or Amex cards.
5. Altitude Reserve’s definition of travel is very restrictive. Airport transfers, travel agencies, OTAs such as Expedia or Travelocity, and even some foreign airlines are not coded as travel and won’t earn 3x rewards.
6. US Bank’s travel portal is not very useful. Flight and hotel prices are the same or higher than booking them directly. When you book directly, you get airline and hotel rewards and can still redeem Altitude Reserve points at 1.5x (RTR)
7. You can redeem your spending on travel with Real Time Rewards (RTR). But to use RTR, you must be certain of spending limits.
- Minimum spend for hotels – $500
- Minimum spend for car rental – $250
- Flight tickets – no minimum spend
After you book a hotel, car rental, or flight ticket, you will get a text message asking you if you would like to use your RTR.
8. Car rental coverage is primary and is limited to 15 days in the US and 31 days outside the US. For comparison, Chase Sapphire Preferred offers 31 days of coverage domestically and outside the US.
9. Priority Pass benefits are limited to four visits for you and one guest per year. This is less generous than the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which allows unlimited visits for the cardholder and two guests. But the Altitude Reserve’s Priority Pass benefits include restaurant credits, which makes this card better than Amex Platinum.
10. To get trip cancellation coverage, you must charge 100% of the trip charges to the card. Trip cancellation coverage is limited compared to similar cards in its category. Trip cancellation coverage is limited to $2000 per person and only covers
- The death, Accidental Bodily Injury, disease, or physical illness of You or an Immediate Family Member of the Insured person
- Default of the Common Carrier resulting from financial insolvency.
11. US Bank will close your account if you abuse it by purchasing gift cards. Some people bought many gift cards using mobile wallets with the hope of getting 4.5% cashback or meeting their minimum spending requirement but their accounts got shut down quickly.
12. Getting approved for the US Bank Altitude Reserve can be challenging. Though the bank doesn’t require an existing relationship before you apply, it helps if you have a relationship with a US bank. . You can apply for a checking account first if you have no other US Bank relationship. To be approved for the card, you need to be 0/6 (no new cards in 6 months) and 2/12 (2 cards in 12 months) or less.
13. Popular travel cards such as Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum give bloggers affiliate commissions. So the blogs have an incentive to promote those cards. But US Bank doesn’t provide affiliate commissions and so the bloggers write less about it.