If you're among the select few to whom an annual fee of $400 or more seems both reasonable and affordable, there's a new premium travel-rewards credit card that you'll want to consider adding to your collection.
Like the American Express Platinum card, the Chase Sapphire Reserve Visa card, the Citi / AAdvantage Executive World Elite Mastercard, the Delta Reserve Credit Card, and the United Mileage Plus Club Card, the new U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite card attempts to make the case that its high annual fee, $400, is more than offset by the value of its bundled perks. (Disclosure: Citi is an Airfarewatchdog advertiser.)
The card's headline perk is one-time only: a 50,000-point sign-up bonus after charging $4,500 within the first 90 days.
Among the card's ongoing benefits:
- Annual $325 credit for travel charged to the card
- Triple points on travel and mobile-wallet purchases
- 12 complimentary Gogo Wi-Fi sessions per year
- A $100 statement credit for purchase of TSA PreCheck or Global Entry
- A Priority Pass Select membership (four free visits per year; subsequent visits are $27 each)
- Primary collision damage waiver coverage on car rentals
When redeemed for travel on the U.S. Bank travel portal, points are worth 1.5 cents apiece. So the sign-up bonus alone is worth $750, if the points are used for travel. But again, that's a one-time bonus.
Over the long term, the combination of the $325 travel credit, the $85 TSA PreCheck credit, the Priority Pass membership, and the free Wi-Fi sessions easily covers the annual fee, and then some. But as always with such feature-rich cards, the published benefits only have value if they're actually used.
One distinguishing wrinkle of the Altitude card: For now, it's only available to consumers who have a pre-established relationship with U.S. Bank: "Checking or Savings account, Certificate of Deposit, Mortgage, Home Equity Loan, Home Equity Line of Credit, Auto/Boat/RV Loan, Personal Loans and Lines, Private Banking account or Consumer Credit Card issued by U.S. Bank." With so many options, that's a low hurdle.
The new Altitude Reserve card competes most directly with the longtime category leader, the American Express Platinum card ($550 annual fee), and the more recent contender, the Chase Sapphire Reserve card ($450 annual fee).
All are pricey, feature-rich cards, although there are both similarities and differences in their respective feature sets.
All offer an annual travel credit, a credit for PreCheck or Global Entry, and some degree of airport-lounge access. All are free of foreign-transaction fees. And while the details can change month-to-month, all three tend to offer hefty sign-up bonuses for new cardholders.
The most notable difference among them is that the points earned with the American Express and Chase cards are convertible; they can be converted into points or miles in a range of airline and hotel loyalty programs. The Altitude card's points, by contrast, offer no such flexibility; they can only be redeemed for awards within the U.S. Bank ecosystem.
On the upside, the Altitude card is the only one of the three that awards three points per $1 on mobile-wallet purchases. For anyone who regularly uses Apple Pay, Microsoft Wallet, or the like, that generous payout, an effective rebate of 4.5 cents on the dollar, could be a difference-maker.
The new Altitude card may or may not be the right card for you. What it is, either way, is a direct challenge to the other two premium travel-rewards cards, which should go a long way toward keeping the category competitive. That's good for consumers, whatever brand of plastic they keep in their wallets.
Editor's Note: This content is not provided by any bank, credit card issuer, airline, or hotel chain. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed here are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by the aforementioned entities.