What we know about U.S. Bank’s upcoming Altitude Reserve card (and what we don’t)

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A new player in the premium-travel-card game is about to make its debut. U.S. Bank (which never had a horse in the luxury-card race) will introduce its new Altitude Reserve card on May 1.

This card will combine some of the features of current premium cards with some of new ones. While we won’t know the full details until the card officially launches, there are enough rumored and confirmed details to construct a good preview.

What we know

  • U.S. Bank’s trademark filing for “U.S. Bank Altitude” was approved in March 2017, and a U.S. Bank memo confirms that employees are being trained for a May release of the card (via Doctor of Credit).
  • Annual fee will be $400.
  • Only current U.S. Bank members will be able to apply for the card, via Wallaby.
  • Rewards: 3X on travel, 1X on everything else.
  • Rewards will be worth 1.5 cents each when redeemed for travel via U.S. Bank’s online portal.
  • $325 annual travel credit, which, like the Sapphire Reserve’s, will be credited to you automatically.
  • The card will be offered with Visa Infinite-level benefits.
  • 12 free Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes per year
  • Global Entry/TSA PreCheck reimbursement
  • Card will be made of metal.
  • Sign-up bonus will be 50k points after $4,500 in spending in the first 90 days.
  • Black-car and rental-car service

What we don’t know

  • Whether the card’s Visa Infinite benefits will include the companion air ticket discount ($100 off when you book at least two domestic, coach tickets). Not all Visa Infinite cards include this benefit.
  • What kind of lounge access the card will provide. Priority Pass (like the Sapphire Reserve) seems most likely.
  • How the black-car service will work. Will it be complimentary up to a certain number of uses? Or will the card simply provide a more streamlined way of ordering a car?
  • Whether there will be transfer partners. The leaders in the premium-card sphere (the Platinum card from American Express [a CreditCardForum Advertising partne], the Chase Sapphire Reserve and the Citi Prestige) allow you to transfer points directly into partner hotel and airline programs. This is considered the “best” use of points (if you’re trying to get the highest value per point), and the Altitude Reserve would be at a disadvantage if it didn’t offer this capability.
  • Rewards currency. There’s some speculation that this card could be part of the FlexPerks program. This program is known for its tiered airfare redemptions, which can drastically vary the redemption value of your points.

What it means for the industry

Even just a year ago, there wasn’t much competition in the premium-cards field. The American Express Platinum, the Citi Prestige, the lackluster Luxury Cards from Barclaycard and a few airline-specific premium cards represented the long-standing (and rarely changing) lineup.

The Sapphire Reserve disrupted that status quo last year. In fact, it made such a big splash that the American Express Platinum card made some of the biggest changes it’s made in years. U.S. Bank deciding it’s going to play the premium-card game, too, signals that the field could get even more competitive.

Reddit’s Churning community, meanwhile, is already looking forward to the bargaining power that more competition will give those who hold expensive premium cards. After all, if you have other premium cards to consider, your current issuer might work harder to keep you — via retention bonuses, for example.

 
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