About U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card

By J.R. Duren
HighYa Staff Published on: May 2, 2017

U.S. Bank shook up the luxury travel card world when it announced the launch of the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite, a $400-a-year credit card designed to compete with the Chase Sapphire Reserve, American Express Platinum, and other luxury competitors.

At the time of publishing, the card was only available to U.S. Bank customers. However, that didn’t stop credit card enthusiasts from hyping the card in the days leading up to its release.

In fact, popular credit-card rewards site The Points Guy did an unboxing of the card, filming the whole episode with a drone that was hovering above one of the site’s writers when he opened the box for the all-metal card.

If this sounds like a circus, it is. And, in a certain sense, you can thank the Chase Sapphire Reserve for that. When the card was announced in late 2016, it set off an unintended viral tidal wave of interest that made luxury credit cards relevant again.

The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve is the first luxury card to launch since the Sapphire Reserve, which means the buzz about luxury cards is still pretty strong.

Over the course of this review, we’ll go through the various points of interest that we normally cover in our credit card reviews: Short-term benefits, long-term benefits, rates/fees and reviews.

We’ll also spend some time comparing this card to other cards in the luxury category, namely the:

  • American Express Platinum
  • Chase Sapphire Reserve
  • Citi Prestige
  • Mastercard Black

By the end of this review, you’ll have a good idea of what the card offers and how it stacks up against the competition.

The Short-Term Benefits of the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve

A credit card’s short-term rewards are bonuses that you get within the first year of owning the card that don’t carry on past the end of the first year.

For example, Discover will match any cash back earned the first year on its Discover it Cash card.

Another short-term benefit that most travel rewards cards have is an initial free-miles bonus if you can spend a certain amount of money in the first 90 days of owning the card.

The Altitude Reserve gives you two short-term rewards: free miles and free airport lounge access.

Bonus Miles

At its core, the Altitude Reserve is a travel rewards card, which means you get a bonus every time you make a purchase. Sometimes that bonus is cash, other times its points or miles. Either way, the bonus almost always has a cash value of 1 point per $100.

If you can spend $4,500 in the first 90 days of owning this card, then U.S. Bank will deposit 50,000 bonus points to your account.

Those points are worth $500 cash if you want those points applied as a credit to your Altitude Reserve statement, but you can also use them to book travel through the U.S. Bank travel booking portal.

You can also use U.S. Bank’s real-time redemption tool, which lets you choose specific purchases to which you want your bonus points to apply.

According to the Altitude Reserve’s fine print, you can use the points for nearly every purchase you make except in the following categories: gas stations, restaurants, and travel.

If you choose to use your bonus points to book travel through the U.S. Bank site, then your points will be worth 50% more.

So, you can use your 50,000 points to book a $750 plane ticket, whereas using the same points for a statement credit would get you $500.

Is there an advantage to choosing a travel booking over points? In our opinion, that has a lot to do with how much airline fares and hotel prices are on U.S. Bank’s travel portal.

When we researched this facet of the Chase Ultimate Rewards program, we found that you could most likely get better rates directly from the airline than you could from the travel portal.

Pro tip: These miles can’t be transferred to airline frequent flier programs.

Priority Pass Select

The second short-term perk you get with the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Card is a one-year membership to Priority Pass, a worldwide network of airport lounges with more than 1,000 locations around the world.

There are several levels of membership in Priority Pass and each one is based on how much you pay for your visits to their lounges:

  • Standard: $99/year, $27 visits
  • Standard Plus: $249/year, first 10 visits free, rest $27/visit.
  • Prestige: $399/year, all visits free

The Select membership is given exclusively to credit card customers and is similar to the Prestige membership in that you get free entrance, according to airport-rewards experts Lounge Buddy.

Another benefit to Priority Pass Select? You can add additional memberships to your account for as little as $175 for three cardholders, the site says.

At this point, we should note that the Chase Sapphire Preferred, Citi Prestige and American Express Platinum grant you a Priority Pass Select membership for the entire time you own their cards, not just the first year.

The AmEx Platinum also gives you access to American Express’ Centurion lounges, Delta’s SkyClubs and Airspace, a smaller network of airport lounges.

The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve’s Long-Term Benefits

The short-term benefits of a credit card are usually big and attractive, but it’s the long-term perks that make you want to stay with the card for longer than just one year.

Luxury credit cards have a particularly amazing set of long-term benefits, and rightly so – they carry yearly fees of between $400 and $495.

Points Bonuses on Travel and Mobile Purchases

Whenever you use your Altitude card to make travel purchases, you’ll earn 3 points for every dollar you spend. You’ll also get the triple bonus when you use mobile wallet apps like Android Pay, ApplePay, Samsung Pay and Microsoft Wallet.

$325 Yearly Travel Credit

The Altitude Reserve offers the most generous travel credit out of all the luxury cards. The card’s fine print says that you’ll get automatic statement credits on travel purchases made directly from:

  • Airlines
  • Hotels
  • Car rental companies
  • Taxis
  • Limousines
  • Passenger trains
  • Cruise lines

One thing to keep in mind is that U.S. Bank says their travel credit is good based on your membership calendar, not the yearly calendar.

So, if U.S. Bank approves you for the Altitude Reserve on August 1, then your travel credit is applied for all travel purchases up to $325 from August 1 to July 31 the following year.

This is a bit different than the Chase Sapphire Preferred, whose yearly travel credit of $300 on airline purchases follows the calendar year.

Travel hackers saw the loophole here for the first year – an August membership, for example, meant that you could get the travel credit from August to December, then from January to the end of July ($600 total in one year).

Transportation Discounts

Your card gets you a series of discounts and complimentary upgrades with a pair of luxury transportation companies: GroundLink (15% off) and Silvercar (30% off).

Both of these perks are part of the Visa Infinite program, a suite of benefits given to anyone with a Visa Infinite credit card like the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve or the Chase Sapphire Preferred.

Relais & Chateaux Hotel Freebies

Your Altitude card gets you free breakfast and a VIP welcome at all Relais & Chateaux hotel bookings that are made at least 72 hours in advance of your stay.

According to the card’s fine print, the complimentary breakfast is good for each morning up to a seven-night stay.

Global Entry/PreCheck

Your card entitles you to reimbursement every four years for the application fees for the PreCheck ($85) and the Global Entry ($100) programs.

Remember, the reimbursements will be given regardless of whether or not you’re accepted into the program, and will take about 6 to 8 weeks to show up in your account.

Visa Infinite Purchase and Travel Benefits

Your Altitude Reserve card also carries with it a series of insurance-style purchase and travel protections which cover purchases made with your card.

These benefits include purchase protection, extended warranties, trip cancellation/interruption insurance, rental insurance and several other programs outlined in the member benefits guide you get when you’re approved for the card.

Pro tip: Your Altitude card gets you zero fraud liability, which means you aren’t responsible for any fraudulent charges made to your account.

The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card’s Rates and Fees

The Altitude Reserve has pretty straightforward rates and fees:

  • APR: 16.49% on purchases and balance transfers
  • Annual fee: $400
  • Additional card: $75
  • Late fee: Up to $38
  • Penalty APR: None
  • Foreign transaction fee: None

The Altitude’s APR is within 1.2% of luxury APR leaders Citi Prestige and Mastercard Black (15.24%). The Chase Sapphire Preferred comes in at 16.74% on the low end and 24.74% on the high end.

As you can see, the Altitude Reserve is just about in the middle of the pack with its 16.49% APR.

Reviews of the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Card

At the time of publishing, the Altitude Reserve was one day old, so there weren’t any consumer reviews available.

However, the card was a hot topic among credit card experts other than HighYa. Here’s a sampling of their opinions:

One Mile at a Time

One Mile at A Time’s review of the Altitude reserve was pretty tepid, but it did point out that the card’s mobile payment bonuses are unique.

“There’s no denying that US Bank is introducing a unique product into the premium card market. While it’s somewhat similar to what other issuers have introduced, it has a unique bonus category that I think a lot of consumers will like,” the site said. “Given the $400 annual fee and $325 annual travel credit, it’s not an especially expensive card to hold onto either.”

Forbes

Forbes contributor Geoffrey Morrison penned the website’s review of the Altitude Reserve, framing his article as a comparison of the card to the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Here’s his conclusion about the newly-minted Altitude:

“I think I could see that for some people the Altitude Reserve is as good, especially if you use mobile payments. Not being able to transfer your points to a bunch of airlines is a big negative in my book, but maybe not for some people,” Morrison wrote. “Same with the airport lounge access, which is more of a secondary bonus than a real perk with the Altitude.”

The Points Guy

The Points Guy interviewed U.S. Bank SVP of Retail Payment Solutions Bob Daly, who explained the card to the site.

“It’s clear that U.S. Bank is targeting frequent travelers with this card, a point that Daly reinforced several times during the call,” the website wrote. “According to Daly, the goal was to create a product that elevates the travel experience every step of the way, from your arrival at the airport to your hotel stay — and perhaps even your drive back home.”

Our Final Thoughts About the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Card

The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve credit card is the first new luxury card on the market since the Chase Sapphire Reserve appeared late this past year.

The card’s 50,000-point bonus is on par with the bonuses you get with the Sapphire Reserve, the American Express Platinum, and the Citi Prestige, but it’s limiting because you can’t transfer the points to travel partners like you can with the three cards we mentioned.

The Priority Pass Select membership is a nice first-year perk, but, unfortunately, doesn’t quite compare to the complimentary, permanent lounge memberships you get with the Chase, AmEx, Citi and Mastercard Black.

In terms of long-term benefits, the Altitude Reserve has the best yearly travel credit not only because it’s the biggest reimbursement ($400 vs. $300, $250, $200 and $100), but it also gives you the most flexible ways to spend.

We also like how the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve gives you 3x points bonuses on mobile payments in addition to travel purchases. It’s not quite as high as the AmEx Platinum’s 5x bonus on travel purchases, but it’s a decent perk on par with the Sapphire Reserve and Citi Prestige.

We also appreciate how the Altitude Reserve has the lowest annual fee of the luxury cards we’ve reviewed: $400 vs. $450 and $495.

In all, the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve is an interesting newcomer to the luxury card landscape. Its industry-leading travel reimbursement and lowest annual fee make it an “economical” choice among the other cards.

We think the card is limited by the fact that you can’t transfer your points to a travel partner, a trait it shares with the Mastercard Black.

At this point, the Altitude Reserve is only available to U.S. Bank customers, but if it becomes available to the general public, it can certainly give the AmEx, Chase, and Citi cards a run for their money.

If you want an in-depth comparison of the luxury cards we mentioned here, head to our Best Luxury Credit Card of 2017 guide. We rate each card by eight different categories and choose a winner based on overall performance.

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