U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve: The Next Credit Card I Have My Eye On
If you’ve followed this site for any length of time, you’ve seen my interest in credit cards grow significantly. Over the past five years, the amount of plastic (and metal) in my wallet has slowly swelled — and yet, with each new card I get, I pronounce that it’s likely the last. With that, right on cue, a credit card that’s not new but has previously escaped me has now caught my attention in a big way: the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve.
Counterintuitively, let me start with the downsides of this card, as I think they may have been the reason I’ve overlooked this card in the past. First, it has a $400 annual fee. While that’s not quite Amex Platinum $695 territory, it’s definitely significant. Second, the card is only available to U.S. Bank customers. Seeing as I’m not one, that would partially explain the lack of exposure I’ve had to this card until now.
Onto the good part, remember that $400 annual fee? Well, it’s heavily offset by a $325 annual credit. What’s more, while said credit was previously only triggered by travel purchases, U.S. Bank has since made a pandemic-era change permanent by extending it to dining, delivery, and take-out purchases as well. In other words, this $325 should be extremely easy to use during each of your cardholder years. This stands in contrast to things like Amex’s airline incidentals credit that have numerous restrictions or their brand-specific offers like Equinox that some customers just have no use for. Meanwhile, another benefit that caught my eye was the 12 complimentary Gogo inflight Wi-Fi passes per year, which could come in handy when we fly Delta. Elsewhere, perks that don’t move the needle for me personally but might for someone else include complimentary 12-month Priority Pass Select membership, $100 in statement credits for TSA Pre or Global Entry fees once every four years, and more.
As for rewards, the star for me is the 3x category. Not only does the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve earn 3x on the broad “eligible travel purchases” category but also on all mobile wallet spending. This means that, when you use the card through Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, or LG Pay, you’ll earn 3x points. Ironically, that’s better than what the Apple Card itself offers. Plus, with the acceptance of mobile wallets growing, I could see myself earning 3x at a lot of places. Oh yeah, there’s also a 5x category — prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center — but I don’t foresee using that too often considering my other options.
However, there’s another superpower the Altitude Reserve has that I’ve failed to mention: points earned are actually worth 1.5¢ each when redeemed for travel purchases. In other words, that already outstanding 3x I’d be getting could amount to 4.5% back assuming I use those points toward travel. Now, there are some restrictions and minimums at play here, but it’s still a significant perk regardless. And, even if you don’t want to use your points for these purposes, you can still get the typical 1¢ per point when redeeming for statement credits.
So, with all of these nice things I have to say about the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve, what’s holding me back from getting it? Well, the first is that I’m still hesitant to take on too many cards and spread myself thin. On top of that, while I could cover the annual fee and then some thanks to the credit and rewards, paying another $400 upfront in addition to the $550 (soon to be $695 after this next renewal) I’m paying for the Amex Platinum and $250 for the Amex Gold sounds intimidating. Also, while it should be pretty easy and I could have any applicable fees waived by becoming a credit card customer, I would need to open a U.S. Bank account before applying for the card.
Another factor is that the current welcome bonus is only okay by today’s standards. Right now, you can get 50,000 bonus points after spending $4,500 within the first three months. If you were paying attention, you know that this equates to up to $750 if redeemed for travel. While this isn’t a bad offer, it also pales in comparison to the 100,000 points we just got for opening the $95 annual fee Chase Sapphire Preferred card. That $4,500 minimum spend would be a bit of a stretch for us as well. I should also mention that, from what I’ve seen, this offer seems to be the standard for the card, so I’d sure love it if I could take advantage of some sort of enhanced promotion.
Per usual, I’ll probably stew on this for a while before eventually caving and putting in an application. But, before that happens, I need to run some actual numbers and ensure that this card will really make sense based on our spending — not to mention our travel, once that finally comes back. In the meantime, I’ll be keeping a closer eye on the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve and other cards that have flown under my radar.