US Bank’s President of Retail Payments Opens the Kimono on New Card To Compete With Amex Platinum and Sapphire Reserve

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Inside Flyer interviews the man behind the card that US Bank is introducing to the premium market: the Altitude Reserve Card.

Before all the details were out Frequent Miler called it the “Sapphire Reserve killer” though while an attractive value proposition I don’t think that’s quite right.

Randy Petersen interviewed John Steward, the president of Retail Payments at U.S. Bank, about the card and he pushed back bashfully on the comparison to Chase’s $450 premium Sapphire Reserve card as well.

I wouldn’t go as far to say that it’s the Sapphire Reserve Killer, but I will say that we are unapologetically entering the luxury card space. We strongly believe the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite® Card offers a more compelling value proposition than can be found anywhere else, so cardmembers can indulge in their specific traveling pleasures and get handsomely rewarded for doing so. I will also say the recent competition among luxury rewards cards is a very healthy and positive step for consumers.

Here are key details of the card:

  • 50,000 point signup bonus after $4,500 spend in 90 days
  • $400 Annual Fee
  • $325 Annual Travel Credit
  • Triple points on travel and mobile wallet purchases so anywhere you can use AndroidPay or ApplePay you’ll earn 3x.
  • Points don’t transfer to miles but are worth up to 1.5x when redeemed for travel
  • Priority Pass Select card with 4 visits per year not unlimited
  • Engraved stainless steel card
  • Authorized users are $75, and don’t get Priority Pass
  • You can transfer Flexperks points to this card (but not the other way around)

See Frequent Miler’s Complete Guide to the Altitude Reserve Card

Signups will be available May 1 but you must be a US Bank customer to apply. You can open a new account with US Bank, but then have to wait 35 days to apply for the card.

In the interview Steward dishes on who the card is targeted towards, and that they’ll be monitoring the 3 points per dollar on mobile wallet purchases — that’s probably the thing that sets the card apart, an effective 4.5% rebate towards travel for those who use it broadly. He says they haven’t rules out points transfers to miles, and that they considered naming the card Spectre like from James Bond.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Editorial note: any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer. Comments made in response to this post are not provided or commissioned nor have they been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any bank. It is not the responsibility of advertisers Citibank, Chase, American Express, Barclays, Capital One or any other advertiser to ensure that questions are answered, either. Terms and limitations apply to all offers.


  1. No transferable miles so there’s no way it’s a CSR killer. But at least it’s a compelling card for the first year. Is the $325 annual fee credit calendar or card year?

  2. As I have a U S Bank issued credit card, (my Club Carlson card) … I wonder if that will satisfy the “must be an account holder: requirement?

  3. I see it as a card where you are paying $75 AF for the ability to earn 3x on mobile wallet. That appears to be the only reason to have this card (apart from the initial 50k of course)
    US bank are a bit of a pain to deal with.

  4. I just finished gleaning $800 worth of free travel on Alaska via last years Flex Perks Olympic card. I don’t recall if it had an annual fee or not but the spend was less and it also came with 12 go go inflight internet access coupons.

    This card isn’t awful but it compares unfavorably to Sapphire Reserve on a first year basis. As we all know,Sapphire comes with unlimited priority pass usage rather than 4 visits. Also, the value of the sign up 100K points in $1,500 in travel rather than $750. Finally, one can “game” a profit on the two $300 per calendar year sign ups with Reserve while this one is on a card year basis. Accordingly, you can net $150 with Reserve the first year while here you can do no better than lose $75. One would have to value the Go Go coupons pretty hignly to even compare these cards.

  5. Yeah, I agree with Gary, I wouldn’t call this a Sapphire Reserve killer by any means. It’s kind of interesting, but the fact that you have to be a customer to apply for the card is like, huh? Isn’t the point of making a splash with a new card to draw new customers? Sorry, but I don’t see the point in opening 2 accounts with US Bank for the sake of getting a card that adds little to the benefit profile that a higher spender already gets with other cards. Definitely not worth the time and credit pulls for me. I understand the mobile wallet thing will be attractive to MS’ers, but I have a feeling they are going to walk back that benefit relatively soon after they start seeing how folks are using that benefit. Does anyone know which credit bureau they pull in NY btw?

  6. I have seen language from another site for this card that includes consumer credit cards as a qualifier for being a customer.

  7. @Mark

    +1. This “open the kimono” language is clearly offensive, both on a national origin and gender basis. Gary, I don’t believe you intend offense, but I would suggest that you please remove this relic of the 80s and avoid further usage.

  8. For the terms of this program, does mobile wallet mean only contactless payments in-store or does it include in-app mobile wallet payments made through the mobile wallets? Contactless payments have a flag in the transaction fields, but the in-app mobile wallet payments would look similar to any other mail order purchase.

  9. Anyone who is upset with the “open the kimono” phrase is just looking for reasons to be offended.

  10. why are people in this country so easily get offended? since childhood you are told you can be anything you want to be if you try, but you cannot get through a day if being offended in a way where no real physical harm or property loss ever occurs?

  11. @Gary — I just want to add that “open the kimono” is language that needs to be retired with other cultural/gender insensitive language that we’ve all — mercifully — seen go away in our lives.

    It’s not clever, it’s not needed to make a point, but the metaphor is especially unnecessary and thoughtless.

    That you have people defending this language because “anyone bothered has the problem” more or less tells you why you should remove it.

  12. Given that Gary values Chase UR points higher than 1.5 cents it isn’t clear why we should even be discussing this card when 3 UR > 4.5 cents. this is a mediocre offering from a bank that can’t be trusted (or have you forgotten the complete decimation of the Club Carlson card benefits?)

  13. Doesn’t stand a chance against the CSR.
    Non-transferable points are downright ridiculous if the idea is to create competition in the realm of high end cards.
    What’s possible with the CSR, or with the Amex Plat Cards is not even in sight for this card.
    John Steward … it’ll flop … let it go, or give us something real !

  14. I don’t get it at all. I can redeem flex perks points for about $.02 each at the thresholds, and the rest is white noise.

    Beyond that, JOHN STEWARD, I am a US Bank card holder, also a small business owner. And I am here to tell you, USB has the worst customer service I’ve ever experienced in this space, by a million miles. Even worse than Amex at their worst. Kid you not. I can’t even begin to describe the depth of incompetence throughout the customer facing part of the operation (although they are all trying to be nice on the phone, I will say that).

    Here’s a simple example: If you have a primary business card with them, and a couple of employees cards, those points should roll up into the primary account for easy access for booking travel online – just like Amex, Chase, Cap 1 and everyone else right? NOPE, not at US Bank. I’ve been fighting this for almost 3 years. They can’t get it set up like everyone else. You have to call to book anything, and then most of the time they can’t tell what kind of FlexPerks card you have, so they connect you to the wrong travel partner to make the booking, and of course then the partner can’t find your info in their system, so you start all over again. Do you know how many times I’ve been on the phone for 90 mins to 2 hrs just to make an airplane booking? At least half a dozen. And then I have to beg them to waive the $25 fee, even though they clearly understand I am unable to do my own booking online.

    When all this started, they told me, “appears to be there’s a software glitch, we’ll work on it” A year later it was, “there’s a software glitch we’re aware of it, but don’t have a projected date for a fix.” Now it’s just. “yeah there’s a glitch.” And this feedback comes only after you re-educate every front line CSR you talk to about what’s going on. Ask for a supervisor? Basically the answer you get is “I am a supervisor”. Then you go through all this crap, then you end up talking to a real supervisor who tells you, yes they know about the problem, etc. Nightmare!

    We had a USB individual card before this and the online booking worked okay, although inferior to everyone else in a few ways. But the business card setup has been a disaster. I used to have $50k spend a month with them, now it’s $0, and the only reason its not closed is that I still have 30k points left – but I just can’t bring myself to spend another hour on the phone with them to use them up. Be forewarned. The whole operation feels like its not ready for prime time, and this lame card offer is typical of that experience.

  15. i can’t wait for BoA to enter this premium travel award credit card arena with their transfer partners.

  16. The biggest downside is you can’t transfer points to miles (which is odd) BUT I applaud them for not caving and given LIMITED Priority Pass access. I have to think the feedback they’re getting from lounges of overcapacity not worth the fee they earn is a reaction to it. In the end, I do hope that Chase actually FOLLOWS them in limiting priority pass access. It’s now been multiple times that the LAX lounge has been closed due to overcapacity. If I want to be in a mess trying to struggle to find a seat, I can do that on the concourse; I don’t need to travel up a special elevator and get the exact same treatment. I know I’m a broken record, but unlimited lounge passes devalue the product. Lounges should listen up before the become an equal option to sitting near the gate. (Sorry, I know it’s a bit of a tangent, but it is in reference to a perk offered on this card!).

  17. It seems like this card is a $0.03 cash back on travel and mobile purchases with $0.01 on all other spend. When used in US Bank’s travel portal the cash value becomes $0.045 and $0.015 respectively.

    It feels like a better comparison is against the Capital One Venture and Arrival+ cards with $0.02 on all spending instead of the Chase, Citi, Amex programs.

  18. I made what I consider a valid travel purchase with a legitimate tour operator (not Expedia etc) and it does not seem to qualify as travel spend. CSR gives bonus but USBank doesn’t. Terrible non competitive card. Pass that on to Mr. Steward!

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