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New US Bank Altitude Reserve Card – How Does It Compare to Premium Cards?

Thanks to the debut of the Chase Sapphire Reserve last year, everyone and their mother walks around with a premium travel card these days. American Express rebutted, upping the stakes and updating the benefits of the Platinum Card. While I was expecting to see an update come from the Citi Prestige, looks like we’ve got a new player entering the ring.

 

The Scoop

US Bank is throwing its hat in the premium card game – they announced their new card, the Altitude Reserve, available May 1, which offers a slew of travel benefits to compete with the American Express Platinum card and the Chase Sapphire Reserve card. Like its competitors, it comes in a sleek metal card design (guess this is the norm these days), and a roster of benefits:

  • Bonus Categories –
    • 3x points per $1 spent on eligible mobile wallet purchases using Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Android Pay or Microsoft Wallet
    • 3X points per $1 spent on eligible travel purchases made directly with airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains and cruise line companies
  • Annual Travel Credit – $325 each cardmember year
  • Lounge Access – Priority Pass membership (primary cardholder only)
  • Reimbursement for application fee for TSA PreCheck® or Global Entry
  • Travel Perks – 
    • No foreign transaction fees
    • 12 Gogo Wifi Passes per year
    • Complimentary membership to Andrew Harper Travel Club – Access to travel planners for unique experiences
    • Access to Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection – with benefits like complimentary breakfast, room upgrade when available, $25 food or beverage credit
  • Bonus Points – 50,000 bonus enrollment points when cardmembers spend $4,500 within the first 90 days
  • Annual Fee – $400

They’ve got some pretty competitive benefits, I’d say . Here’s the catch: for now, the card is available only to customers with U.S. Bank accounts. If you plan on opening one just for the card, you’ll need to have your account for 35 days before applying.

 

The Takeaway

So how does it compare? See for yourself – we’ve compared some of the major points between the four cards to see who comes out on top.

 US Bank Altitude ReserveChase Sapphire Reserve American Express PlatinumCiti Prestige
Introductory Bonus50k points*50k points*60k points*40k points*
Annual Fee$400$450$550$450
Annual Travel Credit$325$300$200$250
Bonus Categories3x on purchases made with travel merchants, 3x on mobile wallet purchases3x on travel and dining purchases5x on airline purchases, and hotel reservations made with Amex Travel3x on airfare and hotels , 2x on dining
Priority Pass Access1 membership per account, 4 visits per year, 4 guests per visit1 membership per card, unlimited visits, unlimited guests1 membership per card, unlimited visits, 2 guests per visit1 membership per card, unlimited visits, 2 guests per visit
Other Lounge AccessNoNoAmerican Express Lounges (including Centurion Lounges), Delta Sky ClubNo
Hotel Perk ProgramVisa Infinite CollectionLuxury Hotels & ResortsFine Hotels & ResortsN/A
Other Travel BenefitsAccess to Luxury Andrew Harper travel agency, 12 Gogo Wifi passes per yearElite hotel benefits at REeais & Chateaux propertiesInternational Airline Program Complimentary 4th night free at hotels when booking through Citi

*Bonus points promotion at time of writing

 

So you’ll see that each card has its strong suites. When it comes to bonus points, while the Platinum card offers the most bonus points (5x vs 3x), they also offer it in the most limited categories (Airline Merchants and Amex Travel for hotels only). The Altitude and Reserve card have a bit more flexibility in terms of bonus merchant categories. I’d say it comes out as a tie between the two – while dining is an easy category to rack up points, the mobile pay option can possibly get you across multiple spending categories). Same thing goes on the redemption category – both the Altitude and Sapphire value your points at a rate of 1.5x when redeeming through their travel portals. I’d say it’s a tie between the two cards for this one.

When it comes to lounge access, the Platinum card is the clear winner – not only do card holders have Priority Pass lounge access (which face it, everyone does these days), they also have access to the Centurion lounges and Delta lounges. If you’re a big fan of the Priority Pass lounges (or tend to travel in groups), the Reserve card would be most beneficial – the card doesn’t limit the number of guests you can bring in for free (though the lounge has the right to at their discretion). The Altitude comes in last here – very limited Priority Pass lounge access, with limited guest access as well.

With Hotel Collection benefits, the Platinum card comes out on top with the most robust perks – booking via Fine Hotels & Resorts offers  complimentary breakfast for two, noon check in, guaranteed 4pm check out, and a local amenity such as $100 credit towards meals or spa services at the hotel. The Sapphire Reserve’s Luxury Hotels & Resorts are offer similar perks, though late check out is not guaranteed, and the amenity value varies. Rooms booked through the Altitude’s Visa Infinite Collection get you complimentary continental breakfast, room upgrade when available, and a $25 food or beverage credit.

In terms of perks, I’d say the American Express Platinum card is the winner here – but when it comes to point value, I’d say the Altitude or the Reserve offers more value – depending on your spending habits. Personally, I put most of my travel spending on the Sapphire Reserve card (yes, despite the 5x on airline miles via the Platinum Card thanks to the much better insurance associated with the Sapphire), and while I love the benefits I get with the Platinum, I don’t charge too many things on the card. Considering the similarities between the Sapphire Reserve (which I already have) and the US Bank Altitude, I don’t think I’ll be opening up an Altitude card. Even so, I do think this card offers solid benefits and good value, especially if you don’t already have a Sapphire Reserve card.

 

Will you be applying for the US Bank Altitude card? 

 

 

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