40: US Bank Altitude Reserve Review and Approval


Thanks for joining me for episode 40 — US Bank Altitude Reserve Review and Approval. I’ll review the amazing US Bank Altitude Reserve card and explain how I got approved.

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Show notes:

US Bank Altitude Reserve card:


Freeze ARS and Sagestream:


Episode 38: Are points and miles worth the effort?

Episode 35: Chase 5/24 rule – how long to wait?

Episode 34: Verizon Visa credit card review:


Episode 30: Easily establish a US Bank relationship:


Episode 15: Popular cards to avoid:


Episode 3: Focus on signup bonuses, not categories


Rough Transcript:

You’re listening to the Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast. I’m your host, Justin Vacula, here to help you travel the world at next to no cost through credit card points, miles, benefits, and rewards. Make money, save money, and take advantage of great deals!

Visit my website at HurdyGurdyTravel.com to contact me, find me on social media, read episode transcripts, and support the show through Patreon, SubscribeStar, and referral links! More information at the end of the show…

Thanks for joining me for episode 40 — US Bank Altitude Reserve Review and Approval. I’ll review the amazing US Bank Altitude Reserve card and explain how I got approved.

Finally, the day has come! After waiting six months of no hard inquiries and lots of patience, I was approved for the US Bank Altitude Reserve card! I think this is one of the best credit cards on the market. Frequent travelers will really benefit from this card, but even those who are semi-frequent travelers can greatly benefit.

In July of 2020, the offer gives a bonus 50,000 points worth $750 on travel after spending $4500 in the first 90 days. Notable other features include an annual $325 travel credit which, until the end of 2020, also applies to dining purchases; a $100 credit for TSA Precheck or Global Entry; 12 complimentary Gogo in-flight wi-fi passes per year; and 12 months of Priority Pass Select membership for airport lounge access.

Even when accounting for the $400 annual fee, it’s a huge win in year one even for those who won’t use the TSA Pre or Global Entry credit, GoGo wi-fi credits, or lounge access. The $750 signup bonus plus the $325 travel credit minus the $400 annual fee is a win of $675 and that’s not considering other benefits I mentioned and additional value coming from the three times points on travel and mobile wallet purchases. Through 2020, the Altitude Reserve card is also offering three times points on dining purchases for even more possible value.

Frequent listeners of the show know I don’t focus much on return from category spending because most of the value in the credit card game comes from big signup bonuses and benefits. High spenders like me may benefit from the increased return from category bonuses, but even then I’m mostly focused on signup bonuses and benefits. For a deeper explanation, listen to episode 3 of the podcast. The 3x on mobile wallet spend, though, has great potential as transactions with Apple Pay and Google Pay, made in person or online, can make a difference. Low spenders, though, even without much mobile wallet spending, will still be ahead in year one and will likely keep the card past year one.

What are the points worth, you ask? Well, since America loves math, US Bank gave a quick calculation with the signup bonus and those at home can divide to see that points are worth 1.5 cents each when used for qualifying travel purchases like car rentals, flights, and hotel stays. One can also redeem points at 1 cent each as a statement credit or to effectively erase certain purchases, but I wouldn’t suggest this. One can also use the US Bank travel portal to redeem points, but may not get 1.5 cents per point, so it may be best to avoid although it can be worth looking at.

Another great feature of the card, relating to points, is the real-time mobile rewards functionality. When enrolling, I got a bonus 500 points and confirmed my mobile phone number with US Bank. Shortly after, when I made an online transaction for $199.99, US Bank sent me a text message asking if I wanted to use 19,900 points I gained through transfer from another card. I didn’t respond as I wasn’t getting 1.5 cents per point, but I appreciated the transparency and option.

For me, I plan on redeeming points when I visit off-brand hotels – those that aren’t Hilton or Hyatt. I have many points with both programs and can use those instead of points on my Altitude Reserve card. I can also redeem points if I find great cash rates for flights rather than using many points I have with Delta and Jet Blue. Car rentals can be a good option too although I don’t often rent cars. One must have a minimum charge of $250 to use points for car rentals and in all points redemption cases, one must have enough points to fully cover the purchase. A hotel charge must be $500 in order to use points and the minimum charge required for flights is $10.

I really like the versatility and ease of real-time mobile rewards. Rather than having to look through many websites and portals, although I’d recommend shopping around before travel, this feature is really flexible and one won’t be limited by availability which can be a limitation of award travel. Those who are averse to having multiple cards and points with many programs may especially enjoy real-time mobile rewards.

For me, US Bank Altitude Reserve should be a keeper card meaning that I don’t intend on canceling after year one. I’ll happily pay the $400 annual fee to get the $325 travel credit and use GoGo wi-fi passes. I have Priority Pass membership and Global Entry membership originating with other credit cards, but even without valuing these benefits including the GoGo wi-fi, the breakeven point here is $75, so $1670 in yearly spend with three times points from the travel and mobile wallet categories will offset the annual fee and surely the real-time mobile rewards feature will add additional flexibility and value. Be warned, though, that heavy or even minor types of mobile wallet or even physical card manufactured spend like obviously buying prepaid debit cards with the Altitude Reserve at a place like Staples may lead to account shutdown – US Bank is far more strict than other issuers with this, so avoid the banhammer! Earn points in other ways…

Those with other cards may have bonus categories for travel, but not the mobile wallet category giving an effective 4.5% back. Other cards like the American Express Blue Business Plus give two times points on all spend up to $50,000 in a calendar year, so that’s an effective 3% back if valuing Membership Rewards at 1.5 cents per point…so those not maximizing the $50,000 spend will get 1.5% more, so one will need to spend $5000 in a year to break even, but again this isn’t considering other benefits. US Bank may also offer retention offers for keeping the card when annual fees are due, so that’s an added bonus. Those who can’t justify paying the annual fee in years two and beyond may also be able to product change to various no annual fee cards with US Bank.

One question I often get is how one card compares to another card, but I think this question misses the point in many cases because the answer can be a resounding both or all of the above! Altitude Reserve can be great as a standalone card and is also great in conjunction with other cards. I tend to think of cards individually, though, rather than buying into unnecessary hype associated with confusing limiting misleading terms like ‘trifecta’ or ‘quadfecta.’ For those averse to having multiple cards for some reason, Altitude Reserve can certainly be in a top-five list, but it depends on many lifestyle factors. For tailored recommendations, whether or not you’re considering Altitude Reserve, visit my website at HurdyGurdyTravel.com to complete my credit card questionnaire.

Finally, to wrap up the review: some additional minor points. I like that the Altitude Reserve card is metal and has a really nice design. I’ll mostly use it with mobile payments, though, but will keep the card on-hand in case cashiers ask to see a physical card in conjunction with mobile payments. It can also help to use the physical card when mobile readers aren’t present and when I can get three times points on travel purchases. The card also came in a fancy box as you see in the podcast image also with next-day delivery. Customer service was also great as the phone rep helped me set up the real-time mobile rewards feature and transfer points from my Flexperks card – much better than other banks who would have had me manually manage the card on my end.

Next, I’ll talk about tips for card approval as not talking about this would be a great disservice to listeners especially because US Bank is often strict with approvals. One needs a relationship with US Bank in order to get the Altitude Reserve. Those without local US Bank locations will almost certainly not be able to successfully keep a checking account or even get approved for one, so you’ll need to consider other options. Personally, I think opening a self-directed investment account with US Bank is the best option. A checking account can be a good option for those who can get one with a welcome bonus, but without the bonus, well, why not instead open a different account which will give you $200 or $300 for your business? I deposited $300 into my US Bank brokerage account which was really easy to open online and I bought one share of VOO. For more on the brokerage account, listen to episode 30 of this podcast.

Having a US Bank relationship isn’t a guarantee of approval because US Bank is often inquiry sensitive meaning that frequent action on your credit report in the last six months will almost certainly result in a denial. The optimal strategy here is to have zero inquiries in the last six months on the credit bureau US Bank will pull. US Bank appears to randomly pull bureaus, but it seems they have a slight bias towards Transunion. One may freeze one or two busy bureaus and hope US Bank pulls the cleaner bureau, but if they pull a frozen bureau, you’ll have to wait another 30 days to try again.

This advanced tactic should save you some time rather than waiting six months of no inquiries on Transunion, Equifax, and Experian. It’s easy to freeze and unfreeze bureaus online although some eventually get error messages requiring additional verification to freeze and unfreeze. One should also freeze the Sagestream and ARS credit monitoring services because US Bank may gain additional information about your credit history which can lead to a denial – it’s certainly not a positive for them to use ARS and Sagestream, details in the show notes!

Might the US Bank Altitude Reserve card be worth a 5/24 slot? For those who don’t know, Chase will, in most scenarios, there are rare exceptions, will decline people for credit cards if they’ve opened five or more cards in the last 24 months appearing on personal credit reports. Because of this and because Chase cards have the potential to offer great value, I very often suggest prioritizing Chase early on in this credit card hobby. In many cases, as with so many other personal cards, I’d suggest waiting until after 5/24 to get Altitude Reserve.

It’s mostly about opportunity cost and that depends, of course, on your situation – if you’ve recently gone six months without inquiries, now may be a great time to apply rather than going on an application spree and then waiting another six months. One can fill in gaps with business cards particularly those with American Express which won’t be hard credit pulls and even other business cards not appearing on Transunion. Since Altitude Reserve is such a strong card, it may be worth a 5/24 slot! For more on 5/24, especially on how long you should wait, if at all, to be under 5/24, listen to podcast episode 35.

There you have it – I give the Altitude Reserve a very high rating, so high that I signed up for it and even dedicated an episode to it without getting anything in return from US Bank. Sadly, there’s no referral link for the card, but I’m happy to give credit where it is due unlike the terrible Apple Card and various other overrated popular cards like the Wells Fargo Propel and Chase Amazon Visa I discussed in episode 15. I also reviewed the Verizon Visa card in episode 34 and will avoid that card like the current pandemic. There’s lots of value to be had from credit cards and the Altitude Reserve card can be part of the puzzle for you. The barrier to entry is the biggest complaint I have about the card, but some patience and easy steps should heighten approval chances. As I explained in episode 38, there’s some effort required to excel not only in the credit card hobby, but also in many other areas of life.

Again, feel free to complete my credit card questionnaire form at hurdygurdytravel.com for a personalized recommendation based on your situation and subscribe on Patreon or SubscribeStar for more personalized support including phone calls!

Thanks for listening and stay tuned for more content!

Visit my website at HurdyGurdyTravel.com where you can contact me, read episode transcripts, complete a free credit card questionnaire to receive tailored recommendations, follow me on social media, listen to past episodes, and subscribe to my mailing list.

Support my work through PayPal, the Cash App, and using referral links by visiting the donate tab on my website. Subscribe on my Patreon and SubscribeStar pages to receive perks including special one-on-one private consultations, a custom podcast episode, and the ability to ask podcast guests your questions!

Subscribe on YouTube at Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast; like my Hurdy Gurdy Travel Podcast Facebook page; follow HGtravelpodcast on Twitter, and follow Justin Vacula on Instagram.

Stay tuned to my website for announcements of upcoming YouTube livestreams – the next one will be July 28th at 9PM Eastern!

Schedule a free 15-minute consultation with full-time business coach and YouTuber Cakeologi who can help you formally establish your business, build business credit, and get premium business credit cards. When you select from various paid services after the free consultation, I will receive credit for referring you. Listen to Cakeologi on episode twelve of my podcast. Visit his websites at cakeologi.com – that’s c-a-k-e-o-l-o-g-i and burstbiz.com – b-u-r-s-t-b-i-z and tell him I sent you. E-mail him youtube@cakeologi.com

Visit my other podcast at stoicsolutionspodcast.com where you can find practical wisdom for everyday life inspired by the ancient philosophers of Greece and Rome.

Thanks to generous patrons and fans of this podcast who help support my work. Have a great day!

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