If you are an avid traveler, you’ve probably spent countless hours accumulating travel points and finding ways to maximize their redemption value. The U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite Card is a premium travel rewards card that aims to simplify the process of maximizing your rewards while providing substantial value in return. Although it comes with a steep annual fee of $400, this card offsets most of the cost through a host of benefits.
One of the first things you may notice about the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve is its luxurious construction. However, its true value lies in the benefits it offers to cardholders.
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Review Summary
The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve™ may not be as well-known as some of its competitors, but it offers compelling rewards and perks that make it a contender in the high-end travel credit card market. While it does come with a substantial annual fee, its benefits, such as a generous $325 travel credit and elevated rewards for travel spending, make up for some of the costs. The card is primarily marketed toward travelers, but it can be a great everyday credit card if you are comfortable using Apple Pay, Google Pay, or Samsung Pay for purchases.
Though the card’s rewards structure favors certain types of travel expenses, such as prepaid hotels and car rentals, it may not be as beneficial for those who prefer Airbnb, online travel agencies, or rideshare services. Note that the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card has some limitations, including a lack of travel transfer partners, limited airport lounge access, and a minimum redemption amount requirement for hotels and rental cars. These factors may be worth considering when evaluating the card’s overall value.
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Review Highlights
Generous Welcome Bonus
With the Altitude credit card, you’ll earn a welcome bonus of 50,000 bonus points if you spend $4,500 in the first 90 days of account opening. That’s roughly $1,500 per month, which is a higher spending requirement than other beginner-friendly credit cards like the Chase Freedom Flex. However, you can redeem the points for up to $750 in travel, making it a more attractive offer as you can erase the cost of the fee through travel credits.
Lucrative Rewards Structure
With the Altitude Reserve card, you can expect to earn:
- 5X points per $1 on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center
- 3X points per $1 on eligible travel purchases (including hotels, airlines, car rentals, taxis, limousines, passenger trains, and cruise line companies) and mobile wallet spending (including Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay)
- 1X point per $1 spent on all other eligible net purchases
But unlike most travel credit cards, where 1 point/mile is worth 1 cent, the points for the Altitude card are worth 1.5 cents per point when redeemed through the U.S. Bank online portal for travel expenses. That means the bonus rate may end up being roughly:
- 7.5% on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center
- 4.5% on eligible travel and mobile spending
- 1.5% on everything else
You can also redeem points for cash back, gift cards, merchandise, entertainment, and magazines, but at a lower rate.
Pay close attention to the 3X points on mobile wallet spending. Since the card is a Visa card, if you frequently shop at Costco, you can earn 3x points, which is higher than what the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card offers. Additionally, if you prefer Airbnb to hotels, you can download the Airbnb app and pay on your phone using your mobile wallet to still get 3X points.
Rich Travel Benefits
The card offers various travel-focused benefits that make traveling less stressful. One of its standout features is its annual travel statement credit of up to $325. This credit is automatically applied to a range of travel expenses, such as travel, takeout, dining, and food delivery. However, the credit isn’t available for purchases made through travel agencies like Expedia.
If you want to skip the lines at the airport, you can get up to $100 in statement credit to reimburse your application fee for TSA PreCheck or Global Entry once every 4 years when you pay with this card. Additionally, you will receive a 12-month complimentary Priority Pass Select membership to select airport VIP lounges. With this membership, you get 4 lounge entries for yourself and up to 4 guests. After you use up all your free visits, you’ll need to pay $32 per person per visit.
Notable Secondary Benefits
Purchase Security and Return Protection
You’ll have access to fraud monitoring, shopping protection, and complementary ID Navigator Powered by NortonLifeLock. The purchase security applies for items stolen or damaged within the first 90 days of purchase. With return protection, you can extend the eligibility window to return items or potentially get a refund even if the seller doesn’t accept returns. But, the purchase must be made entirely using this card to qualify for the benefit.
Auto-Rental Collision Damage Waiver
When you rent a car using the card, it comes with an auto rental collision damage waiver that reimburses you for damages caused by theft or collision. However, certain vehicles, such as exotic or expensive cars, are not covered.
Trip Cancellation, Delay, and Interruption Coverage
Sometimes, unexpected incidents may happen, and your travel arrangements get canceled, delayed, or interrupted. You are eligible for trip cancellation and interruption benefits for certain events, such as the loss of a loved one. Additionally, if your flight gets delayed, you can get reimbursed for a maximum of $500 per purchased ticket for reasonable additional expenses incurred.
Travel and Emergency Assistance
You have access to around-the-clock toll-free emergency assistance and referral services in emergencies. By reaching out to the benefits administrator, you gain access to a comprehensive range of services, such as the ability to send urgent messages to your family, receive guidance on local emergency resources, obtain referrals to medical professionals, and receive assistance with lost luggage, among other forms of support. However, while the emergency assistance itself is free, any expenses incurred as a result, such as medical bills, are your responsibility.
Lost Luggage Reimbursement
You and your immediate family members are eligible for luggage reimbursement of up to $3,000 if your checked luggage or carry-on is lost due to theft or misdirection by a common carrier. This benefit serves as a supplement to any other reimbursement policies you may have in place.
Emergency Evacuation and Transportation Coverage
With emergency evacuation and transportation coverage, you can get reimbursed for evacuation costs and medical care during transportation to the nearest hospital if you or a family member get into an accident. You will need to contact a benefits administrator first when you need assistance to confirm the arrangements.
Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection and Concierge Perks
Since the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve is a Visa Infinite card, you will have access to the Visa Infinite Hotel Collection and Visa Infinite Concierge. You’ll get access to benefits like VIP status, free room upgrades (when available), and complimentary breakfast daily. You’ll also get 24/7 personalized assistance for travel planning, including dinner reservations, entertainment tickets, and more.
Relais & Châteaux Hotel Collection Benefits
You get elite status at more than 140 Relais & Châteaux Hotels globally, which includes a VIP welcome and complimentary breakfast. To receive the benefits, you must book the hotel stays at least 72 hours in advance through the Visa Infinite Concierge.
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Review Drawbacks
Comes at a Premium Price
The U.S. Bank Altitude competes with high-end travel credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and The Platinum Card from American Express, which all come with hefty annual fees. The price of the Altitude card may deter you if you are fee-adverse. However, the fee is on the lower end of the high-end market as the Sapphire Reserve comes with a $550 price tag, while The Platinum Card has a $695 annual fee.
Minimum Redemption Amount For Car Rental and Hotel Awards
The minimum redemption amount for car rentals and hotels may be difficult for budget-conscious consumers to meet. Previously, the threshold was at least $250 in car charges and at least $500 in hotel charges. However, the threshold was recently lowered to $150 for both.
Must Be a U.S. Bank Customer
Unlike other premium travel cards in the market, the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® card is exclusive to U.S. Bank customers. In other words, you can only apply for the card if you already have an account with U.S. Bank. While it’s not difficult to fulfill this requirement if you want to apply for this card, it is an additional step you may need to take.
No Points-Transfer Options
One of the card’s main flaws is that it doesn’t have any travel partners to which you can transfer your points. Several other cards in this price range allow you to send your points to airline or hotel loyalty programs, which can potentially get redeemed at a higher value. If you are a high-frequency traveler who is used to strategically transferring rewards points to maximize their value, this may be a big drawback for you.
Fees and Rates
The card has a variable APR of 21.99% – 28.99% depending on your creditworthiness, which is roughly on par with the national average of 24.14%, according to Forbes (as of May 2023).
Balance Transfer and Cash Advance Fees
There is a balance transfer fee of 3% of each transfer amount, with a $5 minimum. For cash advances, there is a fee of 5% of each advance amount, with a $10 minimum.
Foreign Transaction Fees
There are no foreign transaction fees. If you travel abroad or make purchases from international merchants, you will not get charged an additional fee.
Other Details to Consider
Rewards Redemption Details
There are several ways you can redeem your points: travel, statement credits (cash back), gift cards, or merchandise. Rewards redeemed through the Altitude Rewards Center are worth 1.5 cents per point, which is 50% more valuable on all eligible travel redemption. There are no blackout dates or capacity restrictions nor are you restricted to specific airlines or hotels. However, their booking engine has strict terms and conditions, so read them carefully before booking.
When you redeem your points toward statement credits, they are worth 1 cent per point. Statement credits typically appear in 2-3 business days and do not count as a payment on your balance. Instead, it will just lower your card balance.
Once activated, you can receive real-time mobile rewards on your account. U.S. Bank will text your linked mobile phone number whenever you make a qualifying purchase and allow you to redeem your points to cover the cost.
All gift card redemptions are worth 1 cent per point, which is the same value you would get from a statement credit. You can also shop for select merchandise or event tickets, though reward points are usually worth less than a penny per point.
How to Maximize Your Rewards
To make the most of the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® card, you should first get a mobile wallet if you do not already have one. It is free to use and will allow you to access your credit cards via your phone and use them as payment whenever possible. Doing this allows you to earn 3 points per dollar on all wallet purchases, even if they are not for travel-related expenses.
Before getting the card, make sure you can meet the minimum spending threshold within the designated timeframe. This move can earn you up to $750 in rewards points. Additionally, redeem your points for travel instead of statement credits or gift cards, as they are worth 50% that way.
Who This Card Is For
The U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® is best for travelers who want a premium travel rewards card with simple rewards redemptions. With this card, you do not have to worry about transferring your points or dealing with frequent flyer programs. You can also enjoy complimentary visits to Priority Pass airport lounges if you enjoy arriving at airports early.
The card is also geared toward those who are more tech-savvy. If you are comfortable making the bulk of your purchases via your mobile wallet, you can rack up a significant amount of points for everyday purchases.
However, if you are not a U.S. Bank customer and are not willing to become one, this may be a dealbreaker for you. Or, if you travel more than 4 times a year and enjoy spending time at different airport lounges, you may want to look for a card that gives you better perks for airport lounge access.
How Does the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Credit Card Compare to Other Similar Cards?
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card vs. The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express sets a high bar for travel credit cards. At a price tag of $695, the card offers:
- 5X points on flights booked directly with airlines or through American Express, on up to $500,000 per year
- 5X points on prepaid hotels booked on AmexTravel.com
- 1X points on all other purchases
While the Platinum Card comes with a much higher price tag than the Altitude Reserve card, it also comes with premium benefits, including:
- $200 back in statement credits annually on select prepaid hotel bookings through American Express Travel
- $240 each year on eligible purchases of digital entertainment, such as Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ ($20 per month)
- $155 Walmart+ per year to pay for a monthly Walmart+ membership
- Access to the American Express Global Lounge Collection
- $200 in Uber Cash annually ($15 per month) for Uber and Uber Eats
- $200 in airline fee credit each year
- Free credit for Global Entry or TSA Precheck
If you want to get the most out of your travel credit card, the rewards and benefits of the Platinum Card outperform that of the Altitude card, even with the higher annual fee.
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Card vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve
The Chase Sapphire Reserve® is another luxury travel card that comes with a wide range of benefits and perks. While the card has a slightly higher annual fee of $550, you can expect to earn:
- 5X points on flights purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 10X points on hotels and car rentals purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards
- 3X points on other travel expenses
- 10X points on Chase Dining purchases with Ultimate Rewards
- 3X points on another dining at restaurants, including eligible delivery services, takeout, and dining out
- 1X point per dollar spent on all other purchases
Note that you will need to spend $300 on travel purchases first each year before you can start earning the travel points.
You can earn a sign-up bonus of 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. When redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards, the points are worth $900!
Additionally, the card comes with additional perks, including:
- Complimentary Priority Pass Select, which gives you airport lounge access to 1,300+ VIP lounges
- Statement credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck or NEXUS
- Access to the Luxury Hotel and Resort Collection Program
- 2-year complimentary Lyft Pink All Access membership
- $10 monthly Gopuff statement credit
- 12 months of complimentary DashPass from DoorDash
- 12 months of complimentary Instacart+ membership
While the Chase Sapphire Reserve has a broader definition of travel than the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card and multiple transfer partners, you can earn more on everyday purchases via mobile payment purchases on the Altitude card.
While the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card doesn’t receive as much attention as other luxury travel cards like the Sapphire Reserve, it still has unique benefits. Its low profile may be because the card is exclusively available to U.S. Bank customers and does not allow for the transfer of rewards to airline miles or hotel points. However, it offers a surprising value proposition with points worth 1.5 cents each.
Although the card’s $400 annual fee might initially deter potential applicants, the $325 in annual travel statement credits effectively reduces the net cost of the card to $75.
What sets the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve apart is its earning potential. With 3x points on travel and mobile wallet purchases (which may not qualify for other bonus categories), you can effectively achieve a 4.5% rate of return. This high rate of return makes it an attractive option for those who frequently spend on travel and use mobile wallets.
The Bottom Line
While the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card carries an annual fee, its comprehensive suite of benefits and rewards makes it a compelling choice for frequent travelers seeking a hassle-free experience. With its focus on simplicity, value, and exceptional rewards, this card has firmly positioned itself as a contender in the realm of premium travel credit cards.