Premium Plastic Wars: U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve vs. Chase Sapphire Reserve vs. Amex’s Platinum

U.S. Bank's new travel card may make you think twice about applying for Chase Sapphire Reserve or American Express Platinum cards.

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U.S. Bank just launched a new premium travel card that joins the league of travel cards with big rewards and high annual fees. Available only to U.S. Bank customers, the Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite is for frequent travelers with disposable income who want spending incentives.

The Altitude Reserve’s design puts it in direct competition with the Chase Sapphire Reserve (see review here) and the Platinum Card from American Express (see review here). So how does the Altitude Reserve measure up to these premium kingpins? Here’s a closer look.

Earning & Redeeming Points

Each card rewards points for spending, but comes with its quirks. The Altitude Reserve earns three points for every dollar on travel purchases, including those made with mobile wallets. All other purchases earn one point per dollar. Right now, U.S. Bank is offering 50,000 bonus points (up to a $750 value) when you spend $4,500 in the first 90 days.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve earns three points for every dollar on travel and dining, and one point per dollar on all other purchases. Right now, Chase is offering 50,000 bonus points (up to a $750 value) when you spend $4,000 in the first three months.

The Platinum Card earns five points for every dollar on flights booked directly or through American Express and eligible hotels booked through Amextravel.com. You’ll get one point for every dollar on all other purchases. American Express is offering 60,000 points when you spend $5,000 in the first three months.

Each card offers a variety of ways to redeem points, including gift cards, travel and merchandise. Chase and U.S. Bank reserve the most valuable redemption options for travel purchases.

Travel Credits

Each card credits $85 to your TSA Pre-Check application or $100 to your Global Entry application. Beyond that, travel credits vary. The Altitude Reserve offers $325 in automatic statement credits when you make qualifying purchases on airlines, hotels, car rentals, cruises and taxis. The Chase Sapphire Reserve offers an annual $300 statement credit for similar purchases. The Platinum Card provides up to $200 in annual Uber savings and a $200 airline fee credit.

Other Travel Benefits

Each card touts a wealth of additional benefits, including airline, car rental and hotel perks.

The Altitude Reserve provides 12 Gogo Inflight Wi-Fi passes each year and a 12-month Priority Pass Select membership; members must pay $27 for subsequent visits. They’ll also receive a 15% discount and a one-time $30 credit at GroundLink Black Car Service. The card provides complimentary breakfast at Relais & Châteaux Boutique Luxury Hotels.

The Chase Sapphire Reserve comes with complimentary Priority Pass Select membership after a one-time activation. Cardholders will also receive perks like free Wi-Fi at The Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection properties.

The Platinum Card offers benefits at more than 975 properties worldwide. These include late checkout, free breakfast and Wi-Fi. Cardholders also have access to more than 1,000 airport lounges, room upgrades and car-rental privileges.

Each card offers its own concierge and protections, including car rental and trip cancellation insurance.

Annual Fees

The Altitude Reserve carries a $400 annual fee and its APR is a variable 16.49%. You’ll also need to be a U.S. Bank customer, although you can apply for the card 35 days after opening an account. The Chase Sapphire Reserve has an annual fee of $450 and a variable APR between 16.74% and 23.74%. The Platinum Card has an annual fee of $550. It has no APR, as it’s a charge card that requires members to pay their balance in full every month. None of these cards charge foreign transaction fees.

Should I Apply for One of These Travel Cards?

These cards are intended for frequent travelers with disposable income and require good-to-excellent credit. (You can view two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com.) If that’s not you, you should look elsewhere. You’ll also need to be comfortable with paying a $400-plus annual fee.

If you’re in the market for a premium travel card and are a U.S. Bank customer, the Altitude Reserve is an attractive option. If you’re not a U.S. Bank customer and have no need for another loan or bank account, another card may be better.

Remember, points that reward your spending habits offer the most value. For instance, the Altitude Reserve offers three points for mobile wallet purchases, but if you don’t use a mobile wallet, you may be better off with a card that rewards other types of transactions.

As the travel credits can earn back a good deal of the annual fee, you’ll want a card with travel credits you can fully exploit. If you don’t use services like Uber or incur many airline fees, American Express’ Platinum Card may not be the best option, even though its annual credits offer the greatest monetary value.

You’ll also want to look at the additional benefits that come with each card and decide if you’ll use them. Apply for the card that rewards your lifestyle and spending habits, rather than chasing benefits with the most monetary value.

Keep in mind, too, a rewards credit card, premium or otherwise, is only truly rewarding if you pay your balances off in full. Otherwise, you’re just losing perks to interest. If you’re prone to carrying a balance, you’re better off looking into a low-interest or balance transfer credit card. You can find some of a list of some of the best balance transfer credit cards right here.

At publishing time, the Platinum card from American Express is offered through Credit.com product pages, and Credit.com is compensated if our users apply and ultimately sign up for this card. However, this relationship does not result in any preferential editorial treatment. This content is not provided by the card issuer(s). Any opinions expressed are those of Credit.com alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the issuer(s).

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