U.S. Bank, which is a subsidiary of U.S. Bancorp, is one of the largest banks in the U.S. With its fully-integrated suite of services, including banking, investment, mortgage, trust, and payment services, U.S. Bank has cemented itself as one of the largest legacy financial institutions out there.
So how does U.S. Bank’s loyalty program stack up to its major competitors? Compared to Citibank, Chase, and American Express, U.S. Bank has a more straightforward rewards program.
It can often be difficult to keep up with transferable partnerships, points valuations, and other nuances of your credit card rewards, but this is where U.S. Bank excels. For most of us out there, it’s too much work to optimize for premium cabin travel — instead, having cash-back rewards or points that can be used towards travel bookings are much more appealing.
In this guide, we’ll be examining U.S. Bank’s major rewards currency: Altitude points. We’ll be looking at what types of rewards are possible with Altitude points, what credit cards offer Altitude points, and the best ways to redeem your Altitude points.
Let’s get started!
What are U.S. Bank Altitude Points?
U.S. Bank has a couple of rewards currencies, including FlexPerks, which is a program that has been reduced over the past couple of years in favor of U.S. Bank’s most popular rewards system: Altitude points.
U.S. Bank Altitude points is U.S. Bank’s travel-based rewards system, traditionally restricted to its most valued credit card clients.
Altitude points are phenomenal to accrue when using mobile payments. Your points don’t expire as long as you have an active account in good standing, and you can earn an unlimited number of points.
Let’s talk about all the credit cards you can use to earn U.S. Bank Altitude points!
U.S. Bank Altitude Credit Cards
Traditionally, it’s been difficult to earn U.S. Bank Altitude points because of the lack of card options. This is slowly changing as U.S. Bank slowly expands its portfolio of U.S. Bank Altitude cards.
You can open U.S. Bank credit cards anywhere in the U.S. — you won’t be restricted by your specific geographic location, though U.S. Bank is most prominent in the Midwest and West Coast.
U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card
The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card is not only the flagship U.S. Bank credit card, but also the ultra-premium Altitude points credit card.
The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card made a splash in 2017 when it was released. U.S. Bank was known mostly as a second-tier bank for credit cards, and the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card has since drawn a lot of positive attention.
To apply for the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card, you must first be an existing U.S. Bank customer. What does that mean? As long as you have a checking, savings, credit card, auto loan, investment, certificate of deposit, mortgage loan, or other existing relationship with U.S. Bank, you will be eligible for this card.
The easiest way to qualify is to open a fee-free checking or savings account. Once you open a U.S. Bank account, you must wait approximately a month to apply for the credit card. You might be able to get this timeframe reduced by contacting the underwriting and credit operations department, but it’s better to wait a month if you can.
Once you have this card in-hand, you’ll immediately have access to tons of perks:
- 5 Altitude points per $1 spent on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center
- 3 Altitude points per $1 spent on eligible travel purchases and mobile wallet spending
- 1 Altitude point per $1 spent on everything else
This card offers an incredible way to earn bonus points just by using mobile payments, regardless of which merchant you’re transacting with! As long as you’re using a mobile wallet app like Apple Pay, Google Pay, Samsung Pay, or LG Pay, you’ll earn 3 Altitude points per $1 no matter where you’re shopping.
So how much are Altitude points worth? When you redeem them through the U.S. Bank online portal for travel, Altitude points are worth 1.5 cents each. For other redemptions, you’ll see a rate of 1 cent per point of value.
So with 5 points per $1, you can earn 7.5% on prepaid hotels and car rentals booked directly in the Altitude Rewards Center, 4.5% on travel and mobile wallet spending, and 1.5% everywhere else.
Hot Tip: The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi only earns 2% on in-store or Costco.com purchases. If you use mobile payments with the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card at Costco, you will earn a whopping 4.5%, which is more than double what you get with the Costco Anywhere card!
Additional Benefits of the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Card
This ultra-premium credit card comes with a $400 annual fee (and $75 per authorized user), but it offers you some phenomenal benefits.
- Welcome bonus of 50,000 points (worth $750 on travel) after spending $4,500 in the first 90 days of account opening
- $325 in annual travel credits per cardmember year — use on airfare, hotel stays, car rentals, taxicabs, limousines, trains, and cruise lines
- Complimentary Priority Pass Select membership* — 4 lounge entries or restaurant credits for yourself, plus 4 extra for guests every year (then $27 per person per visit)
- Global Entry or TSA PreCheck $100 statement credit every 4 years
- 12 complimentary passes for Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi* per cardmember year
- Primary car rental insurance when you charge the entire rental amount to your card and decline the rental agency’s collision insurance (not offered in Israel, Jamaica, the Republic of Ireland, or North Ireland)
- Trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance, travel accident insurance, emergency roadside assistance, lost luggage insurance, trip delay reimbursement, and much more
- A one-time $30 GroundLink credit, plus 15% off the base rate for reservations booked and paid with your card
- Elite status at select Relais & Châteaux properties that affords you a VIP Welcome and complimentary breakfast for each guest (terms and conditions apply)
- No foreign transaction fees
*You must enroll in perks like Priority Pass Select and Gogo to receive them.
Bottom Line: Overall, the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card is one of the best travel rewards credit cards out there. It’s the crown jewel of U.S. Bank’s credit card portfolio, and it’s easy to see why. The card is jam-packed with perks, and despite a hefty $400 annual fee, there are tons of ways to get way more value from it.
The U.S. Bank Altitude Connect card is one of U.S. Bank’s Altitude newest cards!
Additional Benefits of the U.S. Bank Altitude Connect Card
The card will have a $95 annual fee that is waived for the first year ($95 thereafter) and features the following additional benefits:
- Up to $100 in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry application fee statement reimbursements every 4 years
- Cell phone protection insurance policy — Up to $600 per claim with a $100 deductible for a maximum of 1 claim per year
- $30 statement credit for streaming services per 12-month period applied to your account following 11 consecutive calendar months of eligible streaming service purchases
Here are the eligible streaming providers so far:
- Amazon Music
- Apple Music
- AT&T TV Now
- Google Music
- Slacker Radio
- Sling TV
- YouTube Music
- YouTube TV
U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Visa Signature® Card
The U.S. Bank Altitude Go card debuted in the summer of 2020, and the card is effectively one of the most impressive rewards credit cards with no annual fee, particularly for dining.
The U.S. Bank Altitude Go card is intended to be the no annual fee option in the overall Altitude card line-up — but in many ways, it reigns superior to the more premium options. You do not need an existing U.S. Bank relationship to apply for this card.
This credit card offers:
- 4 Altitude points per $1 spent on takeout, food delivery, and dining
- 2 Altitude points per $1 spent at grocery stores, grocery delivery, streaming services, and gas stations
- 1 Altitude point per $1 spent elsewhere
Keep in mind that just like the U.S. Bank Altitude Connect card, these points are worth 1 cent each, unlike the Altitude points from the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card. Also, the minimum redemption amount is 2,500 points.
Additional Benefits of the U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card
- Welcome bonus of ~20,000 points
- 0% introductory APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 billing cycles (balance transfers must be performed within 60 days from account opening)
- $15 streaming credit per 12-month period applied to your account following 11 consecutive calendar months of eligible streaming service purchases
Bottom Line: The U.S. Bank Altitude Go card is one of the best no annual fee cards for dining rewards in the world. With the ability to earn 4 points per $1 (4% back) on dining with a no annual fee card, this product is one of the best in its class, if not the best in its class!
How to Redeem U.S. Bank Altitude Points
U.S. Bank Altitude points can be used for a variety of purposes. As you will discover, the value you get from your U.S. Bank points can fluctuate by up to 50%, depending on the credit card you redeem points from and what you’re redeeming your points for.
Let’s take a look at all the great ways to redeem U.S. Bank Altitude points.
Real-Time Mobile Rewards
All 3 Altitude cards are capable of using Real-Time Mobile Rewards. Real-Time Mobile Rewards is a U.S. Bank feature that allows you to redeem points on travel purchases without having to use the U.S. Bank Travel Portal. This is only available with U.S. merchants.
This feature must be activated using the following steps:
- Visit U.S. Bank’s website
- Log in using your user ID and password.
- Once logged in, click My Rewards
- Click on Redeem Rewards & Access Card Benefits
- Click on Card Benefits
- Click on Real-Time Mobile Rewards
- Click on Activate
- Choose the categories you want to use Real-Time Mobile Rewards with
- If you want to make sure you get 1.5 cents per point in value with the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve, you should only enable travel categories
- Every time you make a purchase that qualifies based on the categories you selected, you’ll get a text message asking you if you’d like to redeem points for it
Using Real-Time Mobile Rewards is much easier because you can make purchases and transactions without having to go through the U.S. Bank Travel Portal. You can shop around for the best price, use discounts and coupons, and even utilize a shopping portal to get the best value possible. Then, you will simply use your rewards via text message.
However, there is a minimum of $500 on lodging and $250 on car rentals to redeem points.
You will receive 1.5 cents per point in value with the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card on travel and a flat 1 cent per point in value with the U.S. Bank Altitude Connect card and U.S. Bank Altitude Go card.
Book Travel Via the U.S. Bank Travel Portal
Another way for U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve cardholders-only to redeem their Altitude points is to use the U.S. Bank Travel Portal. Given the capabilities of Real-Time Mobile Rewards we described above, there aren’t a whole lot of situations in which you should use the U.S. Bank Travel Portal.
Also, the U.S. Bank Travel Portal has incredibly strict terms and conditions. For example, once you book travel through this portal using your Altitude points, you cannot get them back. You might be able to cancel the reservation and get a travel voucher, but you will not get your points back. Additionally, all rental car reservations are non-refundable and can’t be changed at all. In all other situations, the U.S. Bank Travel Portal will follow the governing rules of the airline, hotel, or other travel company.
Here’s how to book travel using the U.S. Bank Travel Portal:
- Visit U.S. Bank’s website
- Log into your U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card account
- Click the button that says My Rewards under the My Accounts tab
- Click Redeem Rewards & Access Card Benefits
- From the top menu bar, click Travel
- Select the type of travel you’d like to search and perform a search
- On the Payment Options screen, you can choose to make purchases using all points, a mix of points and cash, or all cash
- Complete the checkout process
Bottom Line: The only time it would make sense to use the U.S. Bank Travel Portal is if your points redemption falls under the minimum Real-Time Mobile Rewards redemption of $500 for lodging and $250 for car rentals. However, you run the risk of not getting the best price and not being able to stack coupons or discounts to your travel.
Get Cash Back
The next best thing to do is just to get straight cash-back. There are 2 ways to get cash-back:
- Statement credit to your credit card account
- Deposit made to your U.S. Bank savings or checking account
You’d want to use the statement credit option if you have transactions you want to redeem points for.
If you just have a bunch of points on a credit card account that you don’t use often, then you can pick the deposit option.
Buy Gift Cards
You can redeem your Altitude points for gift cards as well with a flat 1 cent per point value. You’ll receive 1 cent per point regardless of which U.S. Bank Altitude card you have.
To do this, log into your online account, visit the Rewards Center homepage, and click Redeem Rewards on the Rewards Details page.
You can choose from lots of different merchants like Amazon, Best Buy, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Macy’s.
The last (and least preferred) way to redeem Altitude points is to purchase merchandise. You’ll receive the worst value of around 0.9 to 1 cent per point using this method.
It’s best to just use Real-Time Mobile Rewards or at the very least to redeem the points as a statement credit after you make your shopping purchase.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about the U.S. Bank Altitude Rewards system. There used to only be 1 way to earn Altitude points, but there are now 2, with the third card option coming soon.
Interestingly, these cards each have their strong suits, including unique bonus categories. Therefore, it might make sense to add all 3 of these cards to create a comprehensive U.S. Bank Altitude points-earning portfolio machine.
Altitude points from the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card can be redeemed for up to 1.5 cents per point on travel purchases either via the Real-Time Mobile Rewards or through the U.S. Bank Travel Portal. The other 2 cards will be redeemed at a value of 1 cent per point, except for merchandise.
There are also a lot of perks associated with each credit card beyond the bonus categories, so be sure to look into all of them in-depth!
The information regarding the U.S. Bank Altitude™ Reserve Visa Infinite® Card was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.