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US Bank launched a new premium credit card today called the Altitude Reserve that comes with an new kind of reward currency called an Altitude point. The Altitude Reserve comes with 50,000 bonus Altitude points after making $4,500 in purchases in the first 3 months the account is open.

It’s pretty obvious US Bank wants this card to compete with other premium travel rewards card like the Sapphire Reserve, Citi Prestige, and American Express Platinum. Do you think it does? Continue reading to find out.

Quick Facts

  • Sign Up Bonus: 50,000 Altitude Points after $4,500 in spending
  • Value of Altitude Points: 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel through the US Bank Rewards Center, 1 cent each when redeemed for cash back
  • Category Bonuses: 3x on travel and mobile wallet spending, 1x everywhere else
  • Travel Statement Credits$325 per year (year based on card membership, not calendar)
  • Free Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes: 12 per year
  • Global Entry or TSA Precheck: $100 application fee credit
  • Lounge access: Priority Pass good for four free visits and four free guess passes per year
  • Global Acceptance: Chip technology and no foreign transaction fees
  • Annual Fee: $400 not waived
  • Eligibility: You have to be a US Bank customer to get this card.

The card is made of stainless steel. Benefits listed above will typically be the most valuable.

Sign Up Bonus

The headline sign up bonus is 50,000 Altitude points after spending $4,500 in the first three months on the card. Those 50,000 points equal:

  • $750 in travel expenses–i.e. flights, hotels, car rentals–purchased through US Bank’s booking portal called the US Bank Rewards Center
  • $500 in statement credits when redeemed for cash back

The other big three premium rewards cards earn points that you can squeeze outsized value from by transferring to airline partners and booking expensive premium cabin tickets that otherwise would cost a ton of cash. Altitude points are different in that they have no airline or hotel partners, only a fixed value depending on whether you redeem them for travel purchases (1.5 cents each) or cash back (1 cent each). This means you’ll want to redeem Altitude points on cheap flights, hotel rooms, or car rentals that you otherwise wouldn’t want to redeem traditional airline miles for due to a lack of value–much like Arrival miles earned by the Barclaycard Arrival Plus, except these miles must be redeemed through a specific travel portal while Arrival miles can be applied to almost any travel purchase over $100 in value.

Altitude points can only be redeemed at the value of 1.5 cents if it’s for travel booked through US Bank’s Rewards Center.

Category Bonuses

  • Earn 3x points on travel purchases
  • Earn 3x points on mobile wallet purchases

How does US Bank define the travel category?

In the terms of the card, they give the following examples as categorizing as travel: Airlines, hotels, car rentals, taxicabs, limousines, passenger trains and cruise line companies.

Note that the 3x points on travel is worth at least 4.5% back toward travel booked through US Bank’s portal since points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed this way. That’s a great return on spending.

What are mobile wallet purchases?

From the terms: “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 ApplePay®, Samsung Pay, Android Pay™, Microsoft Wallet.

3x on mobile wallet purchases is probably the most unique benefit of this card.

If I make a travel purchase through a Mobile Wallet, will I earn 6x points?

No. Also from the terms: If the transaction is an eligible mobile wallet transaction and an eligible travel category transaction, additional Points will only be awarded for one of the transaction types (Points will be applied as mobile wallet, not travel).

Air Travel Credit

Every year of card membership, you get a $325 air travel credit to offset airline fees. Airline fees include airfare itself:

All the other premium cards also have travel credits, but base the benefit off of the calendar year, making it easy to bank off the benefit twice in the first year of card membership as long as you don’t get the card at the very end of December or beginning of January. Unfortunately that’s not the case with the Altitude Reserve, since you get once per card membership year.

Lounge Access

The Priority Pass Select membership that comes with this card is limited to four free lounge visits for the cardholder and four free lounge visits for guests per year. After those, each lounge visit will cost $27.

Sala VIP Pau Casals at Barcelona Airport, in the Priority Pass Lounge network
Sala VIP Pau Casals at Barcelona Airport, in the Priority Pass Lounge network

Priority Pass is the world’s largest independent airport lounge access program. I downloaded the Priority Pass app on my phone, so I can search for participating lounges by airport while I travel. I seem to find one or more options at most international airports and tons of domestic airports.

You can access Priority Pass lounges no matter which airline you’re flying.

Lounge access usually costs $50 per visit, so four visits + four guest visits = $400 of value. You also save on about half the normal cost for any lounge visit past the initial four free visits. Not as good as other premium cards that come with Priority Pass memberships that give at least the card holder unlimited lounge access, but not too shabby either.

Global Entry Fee Credit

Altitude Reserve card holders are entitled to a $100 statement credit when they pay the $100 Global Entry enrollment fee with their cards. Global Entry membership is valid for five years from your next birthday. The benefit entitles you to reimbursement for it every five years.

Global Entry is a United States Customs and Border Patrol program designed to let trusted travelers skip the immigrations and customs queues when arriving in the United States. Instead of spending time in line and talking to an agent, you tap a few buttons at a kiosk and get to the curb in a few minutes. Global Entry also lets you skip immigration queues in Australia and New Zealand, and lets you use TSA Precheck lines in the US, even on domestic itineraries.

I would pay the $100 in a heartbeat for Global Entry even if I only traveled abroad once a year. When you can get it for free, it’s a no-brainer. How and Why Scott Got Global Entry.

If you already have Global Entry, you can use the credit to pay someone else’s $100 fee (either give them your credit card number to pay the fee or give them a Citi Virtual Account Number with a $100 limit.)

Chip and No Foreign Transaction Fees

It shouldn’t surprise you that a card very clearly designed for travelers comes with chip technology for global acceptance and zero foreign transaction fees. The only surprising thing is that not all cards have these basic features.

Other Benefits

  • 15% off the base rate of GroundLink Black Car service, and a one time coupon for $30 off your first ride
  • Discounts with Silvercar
  • Benefits at Relais & Châteaux Boutique Luxury Hotels
  • Rental car insurance and travel insurance

Annual Fee

The annual fee is $400 and not waived. That should be a deal breaker if you don’t use the benefits of the card, but it’s a fair price to pay if you are maximizing the card’s perks.

If you would already spend $325 on travel expenses (which, if you’re reading this blog, is very safe to say that you would) then you can get all of this and more for $75:

  • 50,000 Altitude points (worth $750 in travel expenses)
  • $100 credit for applying for Global Entry every five years
  • Four free visits to Priority Pass lounges + four free visits for guests
  • Up to a 4.5% return on travel/mobile wallet purchases

Those benefits pretty clearly dwarf the $400 annual fee. After testing out the card and seeing how much you actually use the benefits, you’ll have a better idea going forward whether to keep the card for $400 per year in return for the benefits package.

Eligibility

You must be a customer of US Bank to be eligible for the Altitude Reserve. This means you need to have a consumer checking, savings, mortgage, home equity loan, car loan or credit card with the bank. This factor will probably prevent applications more than any other, although if you don’t have an existing relationship all you need to do is open a US Bank checking account. Frequent Miler says it typically takes 5 days but can take as long as 35 days for a new bank relationship to be officially recognized.

Another factor to consider, according to Reddit, is US Bank’s sensitivity to recent inquiries. Apparently you need a pretty clean report from the last six months to get approved.

If you plan on applying for the Altitude Reserve, please share your experiences afterwards in the comments so we can get a perspective on how application are going for this card.

Bottom Line

US Bank just released a new premium credit card today that comes with 50,000 Altitude points after $4,500 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months, (limited) lounge access, $325 per card member year in travel credits, and more.

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening.

Just getting started in the world of points and miles? The Chase Sapphire Preferred is the best card for you to start with.

With a bonus of 60,000 points after $4,000 spend in the first 3 months, 5x points on travel booked through the Chase Travel Portal and 3x points on restaurants, streaming services, and online groceries (excluding Target, Walmart, and wholesale clubs), this card truly cannot be beat for getting started!


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