Posted by William Charles on May 16, 2018
Credit Cards

Published on May 16th, 2018 | by William Charles

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U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve – Keep, Downgrade or Cancel?

The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card launched a little over a year ago, meaning that many readers are now having the annual fee on that card post. Given that the annual fee is $400, a lot of readers want to know if they should keep the card, cancel the card or downgrade it to another U.S. Bank card. I thought having a dedicated post on this would be useful. Before we get started let’s take a quick overlook at the card.

  • Annual fee of $400 for the primary cardholder. Authorized users can be added for $75 each.
  • $325 in annual travel credits. This is based on a card member year, rather than calendar year.
  • Card earns at the following rates:
    • 3x on mobile payments (including LoopPay/MST transactions)
    • 3x on travel purchases made directly with airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains and cruise line companies
    • 1x on all other purchases
  • Use real time rewards on travel purchases to get 1.5¢ per point.
  • Priority Pass Select Membership (first four visits and four accompanying guests are free, then $27 per visit).
  • 12 Complimentary Gogo Wi-Fi Passes

Keep in mind that U.S. Bank will refund your annual fee if you cancel or downgrade within 30 days of it posting to your account. I’d also recommend calling retention to see if they will offer you any sort of bonus for keeping the card. According to some comments people are being offered up to 10,000 points.

Keep The Card

The annual fee of $400 on this card is partially offset by the $325 travel credit. I never value travel credits as cash, as cash is infinitely more flexible but you need to decide how much you value this travel credit. At best even with this travel credit you’re paying an annual fee of $75 and if the card benefits outweigh that annual fee (or the difference between your value of the travel credit and the annual fee).

The priority pass membership this card is weak compared to other premium credit cards as you’re limited to 4 visits and 4 guest visits. If you already have better priority pass access through another card then this benefit is effectively worth $0. That being said if you only travel infrequently for leisure then 4 visits annually might be more than enough for your travel needs. I also don’t put a lot of value on the Gogo inflight Wi-Fi passes, but this will again depend on your own valuation.

The real benefit of keeping this card long term will be the fact it earns 3x on mobile payments and travel purchases and then those points are worth 1.5¢ each. This effectively makes it 4.5% back on some categories. Unfortunately U.S. Bank is quite strict when it comes to purchases, especially mobile payments so taking advantage of this is difficult (more on that here). My personal opinion is that keeping the card long term doesn’t make a lot of sense, I’d prefer to just cycle through other premium credit cards to take advantage of benefits such as lounge access rather than keeping one card long term. Your own situation will be different, so add up how much you value each benefit and then see if that is higher or lower than the $400 annual fee. You should also take into account any retention bonus you’re offered for keeping the card.

Downgrade The Card

Update: There is at least one report of it not being possible to downgrade this card.

U.S. Bank does allow product downgrades/product changes, the only real rule they have is that you can’t product change to a branded product (e.g you couldn’t product change this to a Radisson Rewards card). The best downgrade option in my opinion is the U.S. Bank Cash+, as this card lets you choose two categories to earn 5% in (maximum of $2,000 in combined spend per quarter). Categories are:

  • Ground Transportation
  • Select Clothing Stores
  • Cell Phones
  • Electronics Stores
  • Car Rentals
  • Gyms/Fitness Centers
  • Home Utilities
  • Fast Food
  • Sporting Goods Stores
  • Department Stores
  • Furniture Stores
  • Movie Theaters

Cancel The Card

In my opinion there is no advantage to cancelling your card over downgrading it. Downgrading the card will give you access to another 5% card and you’ll keep your account’s history (e.g it’ll show the same opening date and help to improve your average age of accounts, a scoring factor for FICO).

F.A.Q’s

My account anniversary has past, I haven’t been charged the annual fee yet. Can I get a second $325 travel credit and then cancel/downgrade before the annual fee hits?

Honestly this is what most readers want the answer to. From what I’ve seen the travel credit hasn’t posted for anybody in their second year yet (regardless of whether they paid the annual fee or not). Would love to see some more datapoints regarding this. This datapoint suggests it’s possible.

Our Verdict

This card could be worth keeping for some people and it would be worth keeping for even more people if they weren’t so strict on purchases earning 3%. I think the majority of readers will be best downgrading this card to the Cash+ and cycling through other premium cards available to get benefits such as lounge access. The card is still definitely worth getting in the first year though due to the 50,000 point sign up bonus. Feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comments below.



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Is there any retention offer? I am on the fence, keep or downgrade.

You have 60 days from annual fee posted to decide.

I called about any retention offers and they offered me 10k points with no spend requirement so worth a call

What kind of spend did you put on the card?

After meeting minimum spend for bonus, around $100 for the rest of the year

Aditya Shrivastava
Aditya Shrivastava

Did you just call the number on the back of your card? After or before the annual fee posted?

Called number on the back of the card about a month before annual fee to post

Aditya Shrivastava
Aditya Shrivastava

The same worked out for me too! Thanks a lot!

I called the number on the back of the card and told the rep that I am thinking of cancelling the card, but I was offered nothing. Did you guys talk to a different department or something?

Aditya Shrivastava
Aditya Shrivastava

No, just called the number on the back. Both Kid and I did not abuse mobile wallet cashback. Maybe they take that into account. I am guessing they lose money each time you make a mobile wallet transaction…
Or, maybe it’s just random!

According to https://support.google.com/pay/merchants/answer/6288971?hl=en Google Pay does not add anything over network fees

Aditya Shrivastava
Aditya Shrivastava

Google doesn’t charge for using Google Pay, Apple doesn’t charge for using Apple Pay, Samsung doesn’t charge for using Samsung Pay and so on but that does not mean that Visa, Mastercard and Amex aren’t charging anything.
What I am saying is that while we get 4.5% back for using mobile wallet, most merchants are paying less than that in fees and US Bank is the one subsidizing your purchase.
US Bank probably did not know about Smasung’s MST and that it will work EVERYWHERE.

I was hoping for the travel credit double dip, but not looking good so far.
Annual Fee posted 5/2
Travel Expense posted 5/7
….no credit to date.
I plan to downgrade next week.

Two travel credits were applied for me 4 days after my travel expense posted.

Is it possible to downgrade to a second Cash+ if I already have one?

I’m also curious about this, as I already have a Cash+ but would enjoy another one

I’ve never had this card but a few days ago I downgraded a different USB card to my 2nd Cash+ so it should be possible.

What happens to the points if I haven’t used all of them if I downgrade to the U.S. Bank Cash+?

Same question as well…

Me too…

I downgraded a different USB card to a Cash+ recently and was told that the points would be converted to cash (ie 1200 FlexPerks equals $12.00).

No way I’m canceling a 4.5% almost everything card.
I’ll keep it until I get shut down.

I exclusively use this cars for apple pay purchases. I do not buy gift cards at stores, but I do buy gift cards at Raise. I spend over 10k on raise with apple pay and I have had no issue. (Mostly uber cards at 10% off for work). I am curious if people will share their best way for Raise purchases, as this is the best I have so far. The only time I do not use this card is when I go through a portal for raise purchase, when I do this I cant use apple pay. I only do this when portals offer spend bonuses.
On top of that, I use this card whenever I see apple pay but don’t have a 5x card to use. I just got a statemnt with over 2k in value of points earned in my first year. I think US Bank is only sensitive to large supermarket and drugstore purchases. I do have a history with them with their 5% category card, so mayby that helps, buy I abused the crap out of that card also.

Thanks for the info

Thanks for confirming that Raise is indeed safe to use.

I just had my travel credit post today! I disagree with your take on cancelling. I plan to cancel because USB is stingy with approving new cards for many people, including me, and I’d like to see if this card is churnable.

Jack can you give more info on how many days it took and on how long this was after your annual fee posted?

5 days, 13 days after AF

Does Delta GC work for the travel credit?

Even an Uber ride works. This is not AmEx-style travel incidentals credit, but any payment in the travel category.

Has anyone confirmed that you can actually downgrade this card to the US Bank Cash+? I contacted Customer Service and they told me there were no downgrade options for the Altitude Reserve. Anybody hear something different?

They gave me the same answer. No downgrade option for AR

Tried calling them today as well and the CSR said it was a premium card and they’re unable to downgrade/product change.

I also was unable to downgrade the card

I don’t get what you mean by “Unfortunately U.S. Bank is quite strict when it comes to purchases”. Are they not giving the 3x on travel and mobile payments?

I just had my travel credits post for my 2nd year.

May 1st – Annual fee posted.

May 7th – I bought $80 in luggage add-ons during my check in for an Aeromexico flight.

May 11th – My travel credit posted from the 7th.

May 12th – I checked into another Aeromexico flight and added $80 of luggage.

May 16 – My travel credit from the 12th posted.

Now I just need to figure out what else to buy before the end of the month so I can downgrade my card.

just buy a gift card..thats what I do..I have too many southwest gc’s for me to last another 2-3 years 😛

when you downgrade the card, do they subtract the travel credit from your af refund?

WTF never knew you could downgrade… damn, I canceled it like a year ago smh.

I’m keeping. I was planning on cancelling because I found it to be a hassle to redeem points through the Travel Center, but with real time rewards it’s so much easier to redeem and because I don’t have to go through the portal and lose other benefits, I feel like I’m getting closer to a true 4.5% on 3x categories.

Real time rewards?

You can sign up for their “Real Time Rewards” program and when you make an eligible charge you get a text message offering to redeem points at 1.5 cents/pt (if for travel related expenses) as soon as the authorization hits.

I was able to double dip on this on a car rental. The rental charge authorization hit with an extra $200 security deposit. Got instant text message and redeemed points for a statement credit. When the actual charge posted, it was credited in full by the annual travel credit.

Here’s a write up on it: https://www.doctorofcredit.com/u-s-bank-adds-real-time-mobile-rewards-get-1-5%C2%A2-per-point-travel-purchases-no-need-use-travel-portal/

I used my card for Uber on May 7th and travel credits posted two days later. Annual fee was not charged yet.

Hey Will,

Say you have a Samsung Pay phone. Then you can get 4.5% back on almost anything in person (sadly it doesn’t seem to work at many restaurants for me). If you spend at least $3000 a year in purchases in person where Samsung Pay works, then you will earn enough to offset the $75 net AF, even when considering the opportunity cost of a 2% card.

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