The card has a $400 annual fee, but comes with an easy to use $325 travel credit and offers many other benefits to justify the annual fee such as: 3x points on mobile wallet or travel purchases, trip-delay protection, primary rental car insurance, Go-Go Airline Wi-Fi passes, a Priority Pass membership, and a Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check credit.
Plus, the Altitude Reserve comes with a nice bonus of 50,000 points, equal to $750 towards travel to get you started on your next trip.
Altitude Reserve Information
Application Link: U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve
- The application requires a U.S. Bank checking or savings account.
Current Sign Up Bonus: 50,000 points for $4,500 in spending within the first 90 days, which is equal to $750 in travel.
Recommended Bonus: This card has always had a 50,000 point bonus, so it is unlikely that the bonus will be higher.
Annual Fee: $400.
Rewards: 3x points on travel and mobile wallet purchases (Samsung Pay, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and LG Pay); 1x points on all other spending.
- Points are worth 1.5 cents per point, so 3x points is equivalent to 4.5% cash back.
Altitude Reserve Benefits
The Altitude Reserve has many benefits to justify the $400 annual fee:
- $325 travel credit each calendar year. This credit is easy to use and automatic. Just purchase $325 in travel-related purchases and you will be refunded.
- 12 Go-Go In-Flight Wi-Fi passes each year. Go-Go passes work well on most Delta, United, Alaska, and Air Canada flights, but if you regularly fly American or Southwest, this benefit will have less value.
- Priority Pass Lounge Access. Priority Pass is a collection of 1,300+ airport lounges and restaurants. Most cards that offer Priority Pass offer unlimited visits, but the Altitude Reserve’s only offers four free visits with four free guest visits every 12 months. Every visit after that will cost you $27. However, one advantage of the Altitude Reserve’s version of Priority Pass is you can use it at airport restaurants, whereas American Express’s version is limited to only airport lounges.
- Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check Credit. You get a $100 statement credit once every four years towards Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check. If you already have one of them, you could pay for someone else to get it.
- 6-Hour Trip Delay Insurance. If your flight is delayed 6+ hours or required an overnight stay, you can seek reimbursement up to $500 in expenses per ticket for yourself, spouse, and children under 22 years of age. The one major disadvantage of this coverage is that award trips are not covered, unlike many other cards. (Award trips are flights you book with airline points. If you book with Altitude Reserve points, you are still covered under trip delay insurance.)
- Primary Rental Car Insurance. This coverage will cover any damage to your rental car, but it does not cover any damage to other cars, people, or property. However, any rentals using car rental points are not covered.
- Lost Luggage Reimbursement. This coverage reimburses you up to $3,000 per trip for any lost luggage due to theft or misdirection by airline.
- Trip Cancellation Insurance. This coverage reimburses up to $2,000 in expenses for the death, injury, disease, or physical illness of the cardholder or immediate family member. It also covers you if your common carrier (airline, cruise, etc.) goes bankrupt. For this coverage to work, you need to purchase both your common carrier ticket and any other expenses like hotels on the card.
- Purchase Protection. This coverage covers you up to $10,000 per claim (and up to $50,000 in claims per year) on items you purchased with your Altitude Reserve card that become damaged or lost within the first 90-days. For example, U.S. Bank would reimburse you for your purchase if your new cell phone or laptop was stolen or damaged within the first 90-days.
- Return Protection. This coverage will reimburse you for a cost of an item that you are unable to return to the store within 90-days of purchase, up to $300 per item and $1,000 per year. For example, some stores do not all you to return air mattresses, but you could use return protection within 90 days to make a claim.
- Extended Warranty. This coverage adds an additional year on items with an orginial warranty of 3 years or less.
- Other Benefits- Travel accident insurance, emergency evacuation insurance (up to $10,000) personal identity theft insurance, special benefits at Relais & Chateaux hotels, Visa Infinite Concierge, and Silver Car discounts (with code vinfinited).
Other Notes: You need to use your card to qualify for the travel or purchase protections above. Travel using airline, hotel, or rental car points is not covered even if you use your Altitude Reserve to pay part of the trip.
Annual Fee vs. Card Benefits Calculator
Below is a customizable table to see if the $400 annual fee is justified by the Altitude Reserve Benefits.
Just click inside the grey boxes with money values, customize your value, and hit enter.
- We suggest you leave the travel credit at $325 since it’s fairly easy to use.
- If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve, you may want to consider lower values for Priority Pass, trip delay insurance, and rental car insurance since the Reserve’s version of those benefits is superior.
- We assigned $30 to 3x mobile wallet points, which represents the value of the 2x extra points you receive from spending $1,000. Add $15 for each $500 you spend more or less using your mobile wallet.
Using Altitude Reserve Points
Each Altitude Reserve point is worth a flat rate of 1.5 cents per point. For example, a $150 flight would cost 10,000 Altitude Reserve points.
Using your Altitude Reserve points is easy. Just make a travel purchase with your Altitude Reserve the way you normally book flights, hotels, etc.
You can redeem your points for any flight, but there is a minimum purchase of $500 for hotels and $250 for rental cars. (I don’t understand why U.S. Bank has that policy, so it’s best to use the points for flights.)
Shortly after your travel purchase, you should receive an automatic text message from U.S. Bank (if you have enough points) asking if you would like to apply those points to your purchase.
Advantages of the Altitude Reserve
3x Points on Mobile Wallet– The Altitude Reserve is one of the only cards that offers extra points on mobile wallet purchases, which is equivalent to 4.5% cash-back towards travel. I use my Altitude Reserve frequently with Samsung Pay at Costco and grocery stores, which also makes it one of the best cards for grocery store purchases.
Easy to Use Points- Altitude Reserve points are super easy to use, and you don’t have to use a travel portal like other cards that might not have the best price. Just use your card, and reply “Yes” to the U.S. Bank automated text asking if you would like to apply your points to your travel purchase.
Easy to Use Travel Credit- The Altitude Reserve’s travel credit is super easy to use like the Chase Sapphire Reserve’s travel credit. This is much better than the American Express Platinum’s $200 travel credit that can only be used on airline incidentals (seats, bags, etc.)
Nice Sign-Up Bonus- The 50,000 point sign-up bonus is worth $750 towards travel, which makes it one of the best card bonuses out there.
Neutral Aspects of Altitude Reserve
Limited Trip-Delay Insurance- The trip delay insurance with the Altitude Reserve limits you to reimbursement of $500 per ticket in total, whereas other cards allow for $500 per day per ticket in the event of multi-day delays. Hopefully that long of a delay never happens to you, but it is possible.
No Transfer Partners- One of the nice benefits of the Chase Sapphire Reserve is the fact that you can redeem points for 1.5 cents or transfer to airline or hotel points program to give you added value. However, Altitude Reserve points can only be used at a fixed value. It would be great to have transfer partners, but it is nice to be able to use the points to book cheap economy tickets.
Disadvantages of the Altitude Reserve
No Travel Protections on Award Travel- Most cards that offer travel protections, such as trip delay or primary rental car insurance, allow you to be covered on trips when you use points as long as you pay the taxes and fees. However, the Altitude Reserve requires you to purchase the entire amount of the travel purchase using the card to have those travel protections.
Difficult Card Approval- Getting approved for the Altitude Reserve is pretty difficult compared to other cards. You need to have a U.S. Bank checking or savings account, and you also need to be a good U.S. Bank customer. I was approved for the Altitude Reserve after having an account for only a few months, but many people struggle to get approved.