It pays to go mobile: U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card review

Nov 1, 2019

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The U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card is a premium travel-rewards card that’s all about earning rewards you can redeem quickly, easily and for strong value. Although it comes with a pricey annual fee, it delivers enough statement credits to make up for most of its cost. The information for the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer. Card Rating*: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

*Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG’s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.

Longtime award-travel enthusiasts know the drill: Accumulate airline miles or flexible rewards points and then hunt to get maximum redemption value out of them. Often this means traveling at odd times, making additional stopovers or taking a circuitous route to your destination just for the chance to use your miles. (And don’t get me started about the need to avoid outrageous airline fuel surcharges imposed on many award bookings.)
The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card is a premium travel-rewards card. It’s all about earning rewards that you can redeem quickly and easily and for strong value. It comes with a pricey annual fee, but it delivers enough statement credits to largely make up for its cost.

In This Post

Who is this card for?

This is the ideal card for those who want a premium travel-rewards card without having to sweat about transferring rewards to airline miles and dealing with complicated frequent flyer programs. Instead, you simply redeem your points for flights, hotels, car rentals and more at a rate of 1.5 cents each.

It’s also a great card for people who use the Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay mobile-wallet apps, because that’s where this card offers the most competitive rewards, especially on purchases that wouldn’t otherwise qualify for a bonus on any other card.

As with all credit cards that only let you redeem your rewards for a fixed value, however, you’ll likely come out behind when you have your heart set on premium-class international flights. With other travel-rewards cards, you can get a round-trip, business-class flight to Europe or South America that’s usually worth between $4,000 and $6,000 for just 100,000-150,000 miles. In contrast, 100,000 U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve points will only give you $1,500 worth of airfare, which won’t get you to another continent and back in business class.

Therefore, this card is ideal for those who want to use their travel rewards for discounted flights, along with good deals on rental cars, hotels and transit. And since it lets you redeem your points for statement credits toward travel purchases, it also makes sense for those who want to stay in independent hotels and fly lesser-known or discount carriers. Because you’re purchasing travel the way you normally would, you’ll also earn points and miles for your flights and hotels and enjoy any elite status perks you may have coming.

Sign-up bonus: 50,000 points

You earn 50,000 bonus points, worth $750 in travel statement credits, after you spend $4,500 on purchases within 90 days of account opening. This compares favorably to other cards like the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card, which offers 50,000 miles, worth $500 in travel statement credits, after spending $3,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. Or the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which offers 60,000 points, worth $750 in travel reservations booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards after spending $4,000 on new purchases within three months of account opening. The Altitude card has a $400 annual fee.

Main benefits and perks

A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 taxis at LaGuardia Airport on Sept. 7, 2016. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images)
Use your U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card’s $325 annual travel credit to book a flight on Southwest Airlines. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Getty Images.)

This card has many valuable benefits, but the most easily used is a statement credit of $325 for travel each year that automatically applies to purchases from airlines, hotels, car rentals, taxicabs, limousines, trains and cruise lines. Like many cards, you also get up to $100 in statement credits every four years to cover the application fee for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.

You receive a limited 12-month membership to Priority Pass Select that offers you four lounge entries or restaurant credits for yourself, plus four for guests. You also receive 12 complimentary Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi passes that are valid for 12 months from the date you register your card for this benefit.

Other benefits include trip cancellation and interruption coverage, trip-delay reimbursement, lost-luggage reimbursement and even emergency evacuation and transportation coverage. You get a 30% discount on Silvercar rentals using the code VInfinited when you book.

How to earn points

 

apple card
You’ll earn more points on the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card when you use Apple Pay. (Photo courtesy of Apple.)

The points-earning structure on this card is simple. You earn an unlimited 3x points on all purchases made with the Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay mobile-wallet systems and on all eligible travel purchases. Qualifying mobile-app purchases can be made in a store, in-app or online. Eligible travel purchases include those made directly with airlines, hotels, car rentals, taxicabs, limousines, trains and cruise lines. You earn one point per dollar spent on all other purchases.

But that’s just part of the story, since the points are worth a strong 1.5 cents each, not the one cent per point/mile that many loyalty programs offer.

How to redeem points

Points are worth 1.5 cents each (according to TPG valuations) toward travel purchases, including those made directly from airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, trains and cruise lines. When you redeem your points, you’ll receive a statement credit toward your credit card purchases. You can also redeem your points in the U.S. Bank app in real time. 

Little-known facts about the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images.)
  1. There’s a minimum redemption amount for car rental and hotel awards. In order to redeem your points for a car rental, the rental charge must be at least $250. To use your points for a hotel charge, it must be at least $500. It’s unclear what the rationale is behind this restriction and it isn’t very friendly for weekend and/or budget travelers. However, if you’re close to the minimum at a hotel, you may be able to circumvent this by purchasing a gift card at the hotel to boost your spending above $500 and then using the card later. There’s no minimum for other kinds of travel purchases such as cruises and transit.
  2. You must be a U.S. Bank customer to apply for this card. You can only apply if you already have an account with U.S. Bank, but they do have free checking and savings accounts (some with monthly minimums).
  3. This card is great for Costco. Because this card is a Visa and Costco accepts mobile payments, it’s a good card to use there.  As with all other mobile-payment system purchases, you’ll earn 3x points, which are worth 4.5% of what you spend. This is double what I earn now with a Costco card combo of 1.5% cash back (or 1.5x points) with the Chase Freedom Unlimited that can then be combined with my Chase Sapphire Reserve account where they’re worth 1.5 cents each and book travel reservations directly through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel center.
  4. You get elite status with the Relais & Châteaux hotel chain. To receive the benefits, you must book it at least 72 hours in advance through the Visa Infinite Concierge and pay for it with your card. You’ll then enjoy perks like complimentary breakfast on stays of up to seven consecutive nights. This benefit is only available at select Relais & Châteaux properties; you can see the list here. This was formerly a benefit of the Chase Sapphire Reserve.
  5. Get a credit for a black car ride. Another benefit is a one-time $30 credit and 15% off the base rate for GroundLink® Black Car Service. The $30 credit might not be quite enough for a free ride, but it’s certainly valuable, especially in cities where shared ride services don’t operate.

Bottom line

Compared to some competing cards like the Sapphire Reserve, the U.S. Altitude Reserve card has a low profile. Perhaps that’s because it’s only available to existing U.S. Bank customers and it doesn’t allow you to transfer rewards to airline miles or hotel points. And most people probably don’t realize that its points are worth 1.5 cents each. It’s also easy to be put off by the card’s $400 annual fee — until you realize it also comes with $325 a year in annual travel statement credits.

When you’re able to earn 3x, effectively a 4.5% rate of return, on travel and all mobile-wallet purchases that might not qualify for any other bonus, then you have a strong rate of return. And for trips that are hard to take by redeeming airline miles or hotel points, the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve can be invaluable.

Featured image by John Gribben/ The Points Guy

2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

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More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.74% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.