Brocker.Org: U.S. Bank’s New Altitude Reserve Visa Credit Card Debuts May 1

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Is the brand-new U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite credit card right for you? Well, do you never carry a balance and always pay your credit card bills on time? Do you make at least $1,500 a month in credit card purchases? Do you value travel rewards above all other types of credit card rewards? If so, then it might be right up your alley. (For more, see Do Your Card’s Travel Benefits Make the Grade?)

Drawbacks of the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Credit Card

This card has lots of perks, but you should know about its two major drawbacks up front: The first is a whopping $400 annual fee, and the second is that it’s only available if you’re a U.S. Bank customer. You can become one by opening a checking or savings account or even another credit card account; you’ll then be required to wait one month before applying for the new card. It’s an extra hoop to jump through that competing cards don’t require. That’s probably because the ultimate goal of high-end credit cards isn’t to lavish rewards points on consumers but to gain them as customers for other financial products, such as bank accounts, wealth-management services, mortgages and other loans.

Benefits

Now for the perks: You’ll earn 50,000 bonus points after making $4,500 in purchases within 90 days of opening your credit card account. You’ll also earn three points per $1 on travel purchases and one point per $1 on all other purchases. Balance transfers, cash advances, gambling transactions, interest and fees, including the annual fee, generally don’t count as purchases for credit card rewards. Purchases made directly from airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limos, trains and cruise ships count as travel purchases.

Points can be redeemed to offset travel purchases at a value of one cent per point, but they’re most valuable when redeemed for travel through the U.S. Bank travel portal, which increases their value by 50%. That makes the 50,000-point sign-up bonus worth $750 in travel, more than offsetting the card’s $400 annual fee. You’ll come out ahead even further if you use the card for travel expenses such as checked-bag fees and in-flight cocktails, because U.S. Bank will give you an annual statement credit of up to $325 for such purchases.

Competitors

This card’s main competitors are the Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card and the American Express Platinum credit card. The following chart shows how they compare.

Card

Annual Fee

Sign-Up Bonus

Ongoing Rewards

Redemption Bonus

Annual Statement Credit for Travel

Availability

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite

$400

50,000 bonus points after making $4,500 in purchases within 90 days of account opening

3 points per $1 on travel, 3 points per $1 on mobile purchases, 1 point per $1 on all other purchases

50% point value increase on redemptions through U.S. Bank travel portal

(50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel)

$325 plus Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre✓®($85)

Must have or open another U.S. Bank account; one-month waiting period to apply for new bank customers

Chase Sapphire Reserve

$450

50,000 bonus points after making $4,000 in purchases within 90 days of account opening

3 points per $1 on travel and restaurants, 1 point per $1 on all other purchases

50% point value increase when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards

(50,000 points are worth $750 toward travel)

$300 plus Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre✓®($85)

Bonus not available to current card members or previous card members who received a new-card-member bonus for this credit card within the last 24 months

American Express Platinum

$550

60,000 bonus points
after making $5,000 in purchases within 90 days of account opening

5 points per $1 on flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel, 5 points per $1 on eligible hotels booked on amextravel.com, 1 point per $1 on all other purchases

n/a

$200 on a single airline, plus Global Entry ($100) or TSA Pre✓®($85)

Bonus not available to applicants who have or have had this product

How It Stands Out

The standout feature for the Altitude Reserve card is the triple-point bonus on mobile-wallet purchases, whether they’re made in person, through an app or online, making it a good choice for consumers who can do a significant percentage of their regular spending through a mobile device. Consumers will need to pay through Android Pay, Apple Pay, Microsoft Wallet or Samsung Pay to earn the bonus points. It also offers the lowest annual fee of the bunch and a travel redemption bonus on par with the Chase card.

A Threat to Chase and American Express?

U.S. Bancorp’s card is a new rival for Chase and American Express. The incumbents may need to revamp their offerings to win market share from U.S. Bank, or they may not, for two reasons.

One, they don’t have the existing-customer requirement that U.S. Bank does, which might be a turnoff for some consumers. In fact, we wonder if U.S. Bank might eventually drop that requirement for this very reason.

Two, the target market for the Altitude Reserve card includes a demographic that likes to get its hands on every high-reward credit card it can. Being an existing Chase Sapphire Reserve or AmEx platinum cardholder won’t necessarily be a deterrent to becoming a U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve cardholder, at least not for the first year. That said, with an ongoing annual fee and no offsetting bonus in year two and beyond, most customers will probably only find long-term value in holding one of these cards – or they might cancel them altogether in pursuit of the next big sign-up bonus or a no-annual-fee card with more-modest ongoing rewards.

The Bottom Line

More competition in the credit card market can only be good for consumers, and now those with very good to excellent credit have another option to rack up travel rewards. U.S. Bank’s Altitude Reserve Visa credit card offers top-tier travel rewards for consumers who are willing to pay its $400 annual fee. (For more, see Best Credit Cards for 2017.)

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