I was approved for the US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite card today, on my second attempt. Sign-up bonus is 50,000 points, worth $750 when redeemed for travel (1.5 cents per point), for $4,500 minimum spend within 90 days. Earning includes 3x points for payments made using a mobile wallet and for travel. Annual fee is $400, but the card comes with an annual travel credit of $325. I’m looking forward to experimenting with earning and redeeming points using the Altitude Reserve, and I’ll report back on Middle Age Miles.
Basics of the US Bank Altitude Reserve
The US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite card competes in the “premium” card category, described as a competitor to the popular Chase Sapphire Reserve. Basics of the card and key benefits include:
- Annual fee: $400
- Annual travel credit: $325
- Sign-up bonus: 50,000 points (for $4,500 minimum spend within 90 days)
- Bonus categories: 3x points on travel purchases and mobile wallet spending
- Point redemption value: 1.5 cents per point for travel (statement credit); 1 cent per point when redeemed for cash or other statement credits
- Real-time mobile redemptions via text message
- 12 complimentary Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi passes per year
- $100 Global Entry credit once every four years
For me, the main impetus to get the Altitude Reserve (beyond the valuable sign-up bonus) was the ability to earn 3x points on mobile wallet spending, coupled with the introduction of real-time mobile rewards in early 2018 that allowed redemptions on a broad range of travel expenses (and not just bookings made through the US Bank online travel portal. This results in effectively a 4.5% return on spend in the bonus categories (assuming that you have travel expenses on which you can redeem your points).
In addition, on our recent trip to Italy, I became further convinced that this card could be extremely valuable. Virtually every card terminal in Italy accepts mobile wallet payments (and to my memory, the same was true in the other places we’ve visited in Europe within the past couple of years). I’m guessing that mobile wallet payments are the wave of the future, and we will see them become much more widely available in the US soon.
Applying for the Altitude Reserve – Take One – Rejection
One quirk of the Altitude Reserve card is that you must be an existing US Bank customer to be eligible for the card. In the words of US Bank, you must have an “eligible U.S. Bank account relationship open and active a minimum of 5 business days prior to submitting an application.” An “eligible U.S. Bank account relationship” is broadly defined and includes bank accounts, CDs, mortgage and other loans (including business loans), and credit card accounts.
I was not an existing US Bank customer, and I don’t even live in a state where US Bank has branches. This complicated things a bit. However, I was able to open a US Bank “Easy Checking” account as of March 7, 2018. This took a fair bit of time and effort:
- The first hurdle was that US Bank only allowed a maximum of $50 for initial funding. There was no option for credit card funding of the account (apparently, US Bank used to allow credit card funding, but that is no longer the case). I funded the initial $50 from my personal checking account with another bank. It took one full week, until March 14, for this initial funding to go through.
- I wasn’t sure whether my clock of being a US Bank customer for at least 5 business days started as of March 7, or as of March 14, so I decided to wait out the longer period.
- Also, the Easy Checking account requires an average account balance of at least $1,500 (or monthly direct deposits of at least $1,000; not an option for me) for service fees to be waived. This took a fair bit of additional time and effort to reach due to limitations in the US Bank system
- Mobile check deposits were limited to $200/day and $400/week
- “Pull” transfers by US Bank from an external personal checking account were limited to $500
- “Push” transfers to US Bank by an external checking account required verification by confirming micro deposit amounts. I used this method, and it took 2 business days to complete the verification process, and 2 more business days for the transfer to go through.
All said, it took a full 2 weeks and multiple touches on my part to get the account set up and fee-free.
On March 27, 2018, I submitted my first application for the Altitude Reserve. The sign-up offer was the same as the one for which I was ultimately approved – 50,000 points for $4,500 spend within 90 days.
My status at the time of this first application was:
- 11/24 (+1 AU card = 12/24?)
- 6/12 (+1 AU card = 7/12?)
- Credit Score: 789 TransUnion / 806 Equifax
- Most Recent Application & Approval: March 7, 2018 (Citi AA Platinum) (20 days)
Before submitting my application, I first checked the US Bank website for pre-qualified offers. I was not pre-qualified for the Altitude Reserve, only 2 cash-back cards.
I completed the application, and it went “pending.” US Bank said it would notify me of its decision by U.S. Mail within 7-10 business days. There was also an option to be notified by email, which I opted into.
I received an Experian email notification confirming the US Bank hard-pull inquiry about 20-30 minutes after submitting my application.
A few days later, I received a letter from US Bank denying my application based on “Credit bureau report contains a number of recently opened trade lines” (this letter was dated March 28, the day after I submitted my application) I never received an email notification of the denial, despite opting in to that service.
After doing a bit of research, I decided to do a recon call with US Bank. I talked to a customer service rep who reiterated the reasons in the letter. I had a good discussion with her – explained how excited I was to apply for the card and hopefully get it, how I’d set up the US Bank checking account to establish a good relationship with US Bank, and so forth. The US Bank rep could see my history, and she specifically pointed out that one of the things US Bank would be most concerned about was the fact that I’d gotten a card from Citi very recently, and US Bank would want to see how I handled that new account. I explained that I’ve had credit cards for more than 30 years with not a single late payment on my credit report. She also mentioned my number of new accounts within the past year.
To her credit, she listened closely to what I said, she even put me on hold for a couple of minutes (presumably to speak with someone about my application and explanations), and she ultimately said that she would put my application back into underwriting for a second review.
Unfortunately, the end result was that my application was still denied. I received the denial letter in the mail about a week after my recon call. It contained the same explanation as my original denial letter.
What to Do Next?
I really wanted the Altitude Reserve card, so I undertook a strategy that I thought would maximize my chances of approval, within reason. I had 3 new accounts during April/May 2017, which would drop off my “x/12” stats if I waited until June to re-apply, and the US Bank rep had specifically mentioned the number of accounts within the past year on my recon call. So I decided the best course of action would be to re-apply in June and to not apply for any new credit cards before then.
Applying for the Altitude Reserve – Take Two – Success!
On Friday, June 1, 2018, I submitted my second application for the Altitude Reserve. The sign-up offer had not changed – 50,000 points for $4,500 spend within 90 days.
My status at the time of this second application was now:
- 10/24 (+1 AU card = 11/24?)
- 3/12 (+1 AU card = 4/12?)
- Credit Score: 808 TransUnion / 821 Equifax / 788 Experian
- Most Recent Application: March 27, 2018 (US Bank Altitude Reserve) (denied) (66 days)
- Most Recent Approval/Account: March 7, 2018 (Citi AA Platinum) (86 days)
As you can see, the most notable change in my status was the drop from 6/12 (7/12 if the AU card counts) to 3/12 (4/12 if the AU card counts). The second most important change was that it had now been 86 days since my most recent new account (with on-time payments), as opposed to 20 days on my first application. In addition, my x/24 and x/6 counts had both dropped by 1 from the prior application, and my credit score was slightly higher, although probably not materially higher.
Again, before applying I checked the US Bank website for pre-qualified offers, and I was not pre-qualified for the Altitude Reserve.
I completed the application, exactly as before (with a minor updated change to my annual income number). Once again, my application went “pending,” and US Bank said it would notify me of its decision by U.S. Mail within 7-10 business days.
The US Bank hard-pull inquiry showed up immediately on my Experian report.
This time, however, the results were different. On Monday, June 4, I received an email confirming that my Altitude Reserve application was approved. Woo hoo!
What Happens Now?
The approval email indicates that I should receive my new account information (and presumably my new card) within 7-10 days. I’ll track to hit minimum spend well in advance of 90 days from the date of approval, which is September 2, 2018.
I’m looking forward to experimenting with earnings and redemptions on the card, and I’ll share my data points on Middle Age Miles.
Obviously, the earnings part will come first, and I’ll look forward to seeing what falls within the 3x mobile wallet category and what doesn’t. I am aware of data points (especially about a year ago when the card was first released) of US Bank having a quick trigger finger on shutdowns for early-spend gift card purchases using a mobile wallet, so I’ll try to not run so far afoul that I get shut down.
In moving forward with using the card, I’m also appreciative of a series of articles by Greg the Frequent Miler, who I believe has put more effort into evaluating the Altitude Reserve and experimenting with it than any other blogger to date. Here are links to some Frequent Miler articles if you’re interested in reading further.
- US Bank Altitude Reserve Complete Guide (note that this guide is somewhat superseded by the following articles)
- US Bank makes Real-Time Mobile Rewards awesome
- A second look at US Bank’s Altitude Reserve
- My bumbling experiments with US Bank’s Real-Time Mobile Rewards
Do you have the Altitude Reserve? If so, what are your experiences with earning and redemption? If not, what’s your reasoning on why you’d like to get the card or why you haven’t?