Questions and Answers About the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Card

Apr 24, 2017

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Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here: Chase Sapphire Reserve


Mark your calendars for May 1! This coming Monday, U.S. Bank is planning to launch a brand-new premium credit card, the Altitude Reserve Card. We’ve heard rumblings about this product throughout the month, but following details that leaked last week, U.S. Bank finally went on the record to discuss the new card, which carries a $400 annual fee.

To recap, here’s an abbreviated list of the card’s benefits:

  • Sign-up bonus of 50,000 points after you spend $4,500 on eligible purchases within 90 days of account opening
  • Up to $325 in annual travel credits — resets every cardmember year and applies to purchases made directly through airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains and cruise lines.
  • 12 complimentary Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes per year. Gogo sells 24-hour passes for $19 each, so this benefit alone could provide $228 in value.
  • A discount of 15% as well as $30 off your first ride with GroundLink Black Car Service.
  • Pre-sale access and $60 off per person per event with the James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour.
  • Ability to use points for flight time as well as flight time and aircraft upgrades with NetJets Private Aviation.
  • Priority Pass Select membership with no enrollment fee for one cardmember per account (including authorized users). The member will receive complimentary access to participating lounges for the first four visits as well as four individual guest visits. After the free visits are used, entry fees will apply.
  • Benefits at Relais & Chateaux Boutique Luxury Hotels including accelerated access to the Club 5C loyalty program after two nights stayed. Benefits of Club 5C include “room upgrades, personalized services and invitations to exceptional cultural and culinary experiences; and a complimentary breakfast daily at approximately 120 participating properties.”
  • Receive up to 30% off Silvercar rentals of two days or more when paying with the Altitude Reserve.
  • Up to $100 in a statement credit to enroll in either TSA PreCheck or Global Entry.
  • Complimentary continental breakfast, automatic room upgrade when available, $25 food or beverage credit and more when booking hotels that are part of the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection with the Altitude Reserve.

I chatted with Bob Daly, U.S. Bank’s SVP of Retail Payment Solutions. Daly oversees the FlexPerks card portfolio, and now the new Altitude Reserve Card. Given that U.S. Bank has yet to make an official announcement, we had a lot of questions for Daly, which he helped clear up earlier today.

It’s clear that U.S. Bank is targeting frequent travelers with this card, a point that Daly reinforced several times during the call. 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.

For example:

  • Departure: Priority Pass membership (four free visits, and four free guest passes)
  • Flight: 12 free Gogo sessions (worth at least $19 apiece)
  • Rental car: 30% off select rentals with Silvercar
  • Hotel: Access to the Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection (room upgrades, free breakfast, late checkout and more)
  • Return home: $100 Global Entry credit (once every four years)
  • Drive home: 15% off GroundLink Black Car Service (and $30 off your first ride)

As for what to do while you’re on vacation, the card comes equipped with a membership to travel planning service Andrew Harper, as well as the Visa Infinite concierge, both of which offer services designed to minimize the work required to plan a trip.

You probably still have many questions about this new product, though. Let’s dig in…

Question: Who will be able to apply for the Altitude Reserve card?

Answer: Initially, you need to be a U.S. Bank customer to apply. Fortunately, the listing of eligible accounts is broad — just about anyone with a consumer checking, savings, mortgage, home equity loan (HELOC), car loan or credit card should be able to apply.

Q: Does a cardholder need to be able to sign up with a minimum $10,000 credit limit (as this is a Visa Infinite card)?

A: No — in theory. It sounds like the underwriting department may have some leeway here, but there’s no question that U.S. Bank is targeting high-spend individuals with this product.

Q: Will the $100 Visa Infinite airfare discount apply?

A: Not at launch, but I wouldn’t rule it out entirely for the future.

Q: Does this card earn FlexPerks?

A: This card earns a new type of loyalty currency called “Altitude” points.

Q: How much is each point worth?

A: Points are worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for certain travel purchases, or 1 cent each when redeemed to offset other purchases.

Q: How can you redeem points at 1.5 cents each?

A: You’ll need to book flights, hotels or rental cards directly through the U.S. Bank “Rewards Center” (booking portal).

Q: What types of travel purchases earn 3x points?

A: The travel category is very broad, but purchases made directly with airlines, hotels, car rental agencies, taxis, limos and cruise lines are included.

Q: Are these the same categories that are covered by the $325 credit?

A: Yes.

Q: Is the $325 credit issued once each calendar year? 

A: The credit is issued once per cardmember year — so if you apply on May 1 your credit will be available until May of 2018. It won’t reset on January 1 or with your January statement period, as with other cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve.

Q: How often will the Global Entry fee credit be available? Every four years or five?

A: The credit is available once every four years.

Q: How does 3x earnings work for mobile wallet purchases?

A: Purchases made via Android Pay, Apple Pay, Microsoft Wallet and Samsung Pay will earn you 3 points per dollar spent. These purchases can be made in person, in an app or online, but they must be processed through a digital wallet.

Q: Are there any limits in place?

A: There’s no cap on the number of 3x points you can earn with travel or mobile wallet purchases, however there is some language in the terms that covers excessive purchases of “cash equivalents,” such as gift cards.

Q: What’s the fee to add an authorized user?

A: $75

Q: What authorized user benefits are included?

A: Authorized users have access to the $325 travel and (up to) $100 Global Entry/PreCheck credits, and earn at the same rates, but these cards do not include benefits of their own. In other words, AUs can simply spend against credits and earn points at the same rate. Without additional credits or a Priority Pass membership, it may be difficult to justify paying $75 per AU.

Q: Will there be an transfer partners?

A: None at launch, but transfer partners could be introduced in the future.

Q: Is car rental coverage an included benefit?

A: Yes, the card includes primary rental car coverage, in addition to the protections we outlined in this post.

Q: Will the Altitude Reserve be issued as a metal card?

A: Yes! The Altitude Reserve will be an engraved stainless steel card.

Q: Will there be a business version available?

A: Not at launch.

Q: When and where can you apply for the card?

A: Eligible U.S. Bank customers can apply on May 1 either in-branch or online. It sounds like the easiest way to apply is to first login to your existing online account and then click through to the application from there, either via a banner ad or through the credit cards page. There will also be a public sign-up page available, but your application will only be considered if you have an existing account with U.S. Bank. If you don’t currently have a U.S. Bank account, you’ll need to open an account and wait a month to apply for Altitude Reserve. As credit card accounts are eligible, your best bet may be to apply for another U.S. Bank card now, such as the Club Carlson Premier Rewards Visa Signature Card.

Bottom Line

Considering that there’s a good chance you recently added the Chase Sapphire Reserve card to your collection, another premium travel card may be a tough sell. But the Altitude Reserve offers tremendous value despite the high $400 annual fee. From the 50,000-point sign-up bonus (worth $750 toward travel redemptions) to the amazing benefits — including a $325 travel credit each year, 12 Gogo passes, 30% off Silvercar and much more — this latest Reserve card is certainly worth considering.

Will you be signing up on May 1? Feel free to share your questions below if we haven’t already addressed them above.

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.