Should you get Altitude Reserve card: By the numbers

This past weekend I wrote the basic details and initial thoughts on the U.S. Bank’s new Altitude Reserve card. With so many excellent credit cards on the market today I thought it would be helpful to run the actual numbers and help you (and me!) decide whether to get the Altitude Reserve.

I wanted to focus on five key questions that I am asking myself to make this decision?

  1. Does my amount of spend justify the annual fee?
  2. Do the perks justify the annual fee?
  3. Will I use the travel credit?
  4. What are my travel goals with points?
  5. Do I want another card to add to the rotation?

U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Card

Does my amount of spend justify the Altitude Reserve card annual fee?

Let’s start here and break it down since this is the biggest question. As a reminder the annual fee is $400 and there is a $325 travel credit. Therefore you have to decide how much you value the travel credit. I will provide scenarios for both $400 annual fee and $75 if you value the travel credit at face value (which I do).

As far as purchases I would put on the Altitude Reserve card, I have a few thoughts.  Personally I would rather put travel purchases on the Chase Sapphire Reserve where I also get 3x points. That’s because Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth 1.5 cents each OR you have the option to transfer your points to a partner, making them more valuable since the Altitude Reserve points can only be worth 1.5 cents.

That leaves us with 3x points on mobile wallet payments. Every persons ability to charge using Apple Pay, Android Pay, etc. is obviously dependent on their spending habits. I started by looking at the list of Android Pay merchants  to determine the value I personally would receive. Here are a few that caught my eye that are NOT places where you can get bonus points otherwise. Some I disregarded such as Uber since I already can get 3x with the Sapphire Reserve.

Small sampling of merchants that accept mobile wallet payments. There are way more of course! 

  • TONS of retail options: Macy’s, Crate & Barrel, Ulta, Express, etc.
  • Drugstores: Walgreens, CVS, etc.
  • Walt Disney World <- tickets only DO NOT count as a travel purchase per Mommy Points so for the families out here this is awesome!
  • 1-800 Contacts
  • Etsy
  • Eventbrite
  • Groupon
  • Ticketmaster
  • BevMo
  • Many Gas Stations
  • Many Grocery Stores

For me personally, I don’t spend a lot of money on shopping or concert tickets. The big gaps for me right now are Amazon and Target not accepting Android Pay. Since I already get bonus points on gas, groceries, dining, and travel with what I consider to be the perfect credit card trifecta, it’s tough to see that many purchases falling under the mobile payment umbrella. That being said, I’m going to start keeping my eyes open and pay attention to when I may be able to use mobile payments in my day to day life.

By running the numbers, as long as you use the travel credit, you need to spend the following:

  • You charge $1,667 in bonus categories annually x 3 = 5,000 points
  • 5,000 points are worth $75 when booking travel

To justify a $400 annual fee, if you do not value the travel credit at all, you must charge the following:

  • You charge $8,888 in bonus categories annually x 3 = 26,666 points
  • 26,666 points are worth $400 when booking travel

Do the perks justify the Altitude Reserve annual fee?

The perks on this card include:

  • Primary car rental coverage
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 4 Priority Pass visits per year
  • Travel coverage
  • and more, refer to Frequent Miler’s complete guide for more details

Frankly, these perks are all pretty standard for high end cards. None of these are too interesting for me considering the Chase Sapphire Reserve has the same, and much more generous in terms of a full Priority Pass membership. Therefore, the perks do not justify the annual fee in my opinion.

Will I use the Altitude Reserve travel credit?

The travel credit is very easy to use. Anything that counts as travel for bonus purposes will also count for the travel credit. The amount will also get automatically reimbursed. So this is an absolute no brainer for me. Yes, I will absolutely use the travel credit towards charges from an airline, hotel, taxi, etc.

What are my travel goals with points?

This is a very important distinction! And for me, a big consideration when deciding whether to the the Altitude Reserve. This card, and the Chase Sapphire Reserve, are the only two to get a guaranteed 1.5 cents per point on any travel booked.

The difference between this and for instance, my American Express Everyday Preferred is I can only get that level of value by transferring to partners. Transfer partners are great, but then you have to find award availability, which is tougher and tougher on airlines these days. So the idea of easily getting 1.5 cents per point when I need to book domestic travel is very appealing.

Even though I’m already getting bonus points on gas and grocery purchases this may be a reason to dump the Amex EDP and use the Altitude Reserve card instead since most gas and grocery purchases accept mobile wallet purchases.

YMMV of course. Decide for yourself whether your travel goals are easily able to book paid travel using points, or transferring to a partner for international first class travel.

Do I want another card to add to the rotation?

So this is the biggest debate. I’m super happy with my current trifecta of cards. This would mean adding a fourth card. Which, would mean quite a glare from my husband (I kid…mostly!). But also, I then am spreading the same amount of spend over 4 cards instead of 3. Which, based with annual fees means less of a return.

The Final Decision

I’ve decided to go ahead and get the Altitude Reserve credit card. The sign-up bonus is too lucrative not to. I’m really unsure if I can get enough value for it to be the 4th card in my wallet long term. However, I will have a year of putting spend on it before the second annual fee is due and can always run the numbers again and decide then.

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