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Credit Cards

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve review: The ultimate contactless payment credit card

This card's easy-to-use travel and dining credit helps offset its annual fee.

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The U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card is a premium credit card with a solid set of benefits. These make it easy for you to justify paying the annual fee, and few cards are as rewarding for mobile wallet purchases. However, it lacks a few key perks (like unlimited airport lounge access) which keep the Altitude Reserve from soaring to the top of our list of premium cards.

Still, if those perks aren't ones you particularly care about, then this card is definitely worth serious consideration. Below, CNBC Select shares the details on the Altitude Reserve's intro bonus, benefits and rewards structure to help you decide if it's right for you.

U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

Information about the U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card has been collected independently by Select and has not been reviewed or provided by the issuer of the card prior to publication.
  • Rewards

    5X points on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center, 3X points on every $1 on eligible travel and mobile wallet spending on Apple Pay®, Google Pay™ and Samsung Pay

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $750 on travel) after spending $4,500 in your first 90 days of account opening

  • Annual fee

    $400

  • Intro APR

    N/A

  • Regular APR

    22.24% to 29.24% (Variable)

  • Balance transfer fee

    3% of the amount of each transfer or $5 minimum

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Good/Excellent

See rates and fees, terms apply.

Pros

  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck application fee credit
  • Up to $325 in travel and dining credits per year
  • Great return on mobile wallet purchases

Cons

  • $400 annual fee
  • Airport lounge access isn't unlimited

U.S Bank Altitude Reserve review

Welcome bonus

Earn 50,000 bonus points (worth $750 in travel) after spending $4,500 in your first 90 days of account opening.

Benefits and perks

The Altitude Reserve card's most valuable benefit is its annual travel and dining credit of up to $325. Using this credit is as easy as charging eligible travel or dining purchases — including takeout and restaurant delivery — to the card.

You'll also have access to these perks and protections:

How to earn and use Altitude Reserve points

Earning

The U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve earns:

  • 5X points on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center
  • 3X points on eligible travel and mobile wallet spending on Apple Pay®, Google Pay™ and Samsung Pay
  • 1X points on all other purchases

Redeeming

With the Altitude Reserve card, you can redeem each point for 1.5 cents worth of value when you book travel expenses through the Altitude Rewards Center. You can also use points in a variety of ways at a value of one cent each, including cash back, gift cards, Amazon and Paypal. Cardholders have the option of paying the $400 annual fee with 35,000 points (roughly 1.14 cents per point value).

You can also easily redeem points through U.S. Bank's Real-Time Rewards, which allows you to use points for any qualifying purchase, as long as you have enough points to offset the purchase. Once you're enrolled in Real-Time Rewards, you'll receive a text anytime you make an eligible transaction, you can respond with "REDEEM" and your points will automatically be used to pay for the purchase.

With Real-Time Rewards you can set the categories of purchases you want to be alerted for and you can set a minimum redemption amount. One big advantage of Real-Time Rewards is that it allows you to redeem your points for travel purchases made outside of the Altitude Rewards Center. This means you have more options to get the most value (1.5 cents) from each point.

Rates and fees

The U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve charges a $400 annual fee. The APR for purchases and balance transfers is a variable 22.24% to 29.24%. A balance transfer fee of 3% of the amount transferred (minimum $5) applies. There is a late payment fee and a returned payment fee of up to $41. This card has no foreign transaction fees.

Alternatives to the Altitude Reserve card

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve®

Chase Sapphire Reserve®

On Chase’s secure site
  • Rewards

    Earn 5X total points on flights and 10X total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3X points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases plus, 10X points on Lyft rides through March 2025

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

  • Annual fee

    $550

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    22.49% - 29.49% variable

  • Balance transfer fee

    5%, minimum $5

  • Foreign transaction fee

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

  • Terms apply.

 

Compared to the Altitude Reserve, the Chase Sapphire Reserve® has a larger annual fee ($550) and a smaller annual travel credit of up to $300. However, those numbers don't tell the whole story.

That's because the Sapphire Reserve earns transferrable Chase Ultimate Rewards points, which can be redeemed for exceptional value. For example, you could transfer 30,000-45,000 points to Hyatt and book a night at the Park Hyatt Maldives Hadahaa. Rooms there can easily cost $1,000 or more, which nets you a value of 2.22-3.33 cents per point.

Chase points also transfer to excellent airline programs such as Singapore Krisflyer, United MileagePlus and Air Canada Aeroplan. And Sapphire Reserve cardholders receive a Priority Pass membership with unlimited lounge visits.

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve vs. Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

  • Rewards

    10 Miles per dollar on hotels and rental cars, 5 Miles per dollar on flights when booked via Capital One Travel; unlimited 2X miles on all other eligible purchases

  • Welcome bonus

    Earn 75,000 bonus miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first 3 months from account opening

  • Annual fee

    $395

  • Intro APR

    None

  • Regular APR

    19.99% - 29.99% variable APR

  • Balance transfer fee

    $0 at the Transfer APR, 4% of the amount of each transferred balance that posts to your account at a promotional APR that Capital One may offer to you

  • Foreign transaction fees

    None

  • Credit needed

    Excellent

  • See rates and fees. Terms apply.

The Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card (see rates and fees) has an annual $300 travel credit for booking through Capital One Travel and a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus (worth $100 in travel). With just these two benefits, you'll more than offset the Venture X's $395 annual fee. This makes the Capital One Venture X a potentially more affordable option than the Altitude Reserve.

Cardholders also receive unlimited lounge access to Capital One lounges and Priority Pass lounge locations. Capital One miles are also easy to redeem for travel purchases. After you make a travel purchase, you can use miles to cover the charge at any time within 90 days.

While that's a more flexible option than what the Altitude Reserve offers, Capital One miles are only worth one cent per point toward travel (compared to 1.5 cents per each for Altitude Reserve points). But what makes Capital One miles ultimately more valuable is the ability to transfer them to airlines such as Emirates, Air Canada, Turkish Airlines and others. You could transfer 70,000 miles to Aeroplan and book a one-way business-class flight from North America to Europe (under a 6,000-mile distance) and add on a stopover in a connecting city for only 5,000 additional miles. This type of flight could easily cost several thousand dollars.

Is the Altitude Reserve card right for you?

The Altitude Reserve has a lot going for it. However, it lacks the punch of the best luxury credit cards. It doesn't earn transferrable rewards and its lounge access isn't unlimited. It has an expensive annual fee ($400), but its annual $325 travel and dining credit is incredibly easy to use. If you spend around $27 a month on dining and travel, you'll max out the $325 credit and effectively only pay $75 of the annual fee.

It's better to think of it as an excellent mid-tier travel credit card because for $75 you're getting basic airport lounge access. That's a perk you rarely find on a card with a sub-$100 annual fee. On top of that, you can earn 3X points on mobile wallet purchases. Each Altitude Reserve point is worth 1.5 cents in travel giving these transactions a 4.5% return toward travel expenses. The Altitude Reserve also has better insurance coverage than most mid-tier cards.

It's easy to justify getting and keeping this card, just don't expect to receive all the best aspects of a top-tier rewards credit card.

Bottom line

The U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card is a solid all-around travel credit card with valuable perks and a healthy welcome bonus. But if you're interested in transferrable rewards or unlimited lounge access, you'll need a card such as the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card or Chase Sapphire Reserve®.

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Why trust CNBC Select?

At CNBC Select, our mission is to provide our readers with high-quality service journalism and comprehensive consumer advice so they can make informed decisions with their money. Every business card review is based on rigorous reporting by our team of expert writers and editors with extensive knowledge of credit card products. While CNBC Select earns a commission from affiliate partners on many offers and links, we create all our content without input from our commercial team or any outside third parties, and we pride ourselves on our journalistic standards and ethics. See our methodology for more information on how we choose the best credit cards.

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Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
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