The premium travel credit card market has turned into a competitive battlefield where the largest banks are fighting for customers’ loyalty and attention. U.S. Bank and UBS are the two latest banks to offer new potentially lucrative cards to the market: the Altitude Reserve and Visa Infinite credit cards. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Both cards offer numerous rewards to people who lead a highly mobile lifestyle, from sign-up bonus points redeemable for travel to other extras like annual travel credit and concierge services. Not everything is peachy, though; both cards also come with a high annual fee. But they are worth considering to see if they might be a good fit for you.
U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve
The U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite is a luxury credit card that offers a variety of perks for frequent travelers. You must have a banking or credit card account with U.S. Bank to be able to apply for this card. Most types of bank accounts will work, but if you have only a business account with them, you should apply with the help of your banker or your application will likely be denied. If you don’t have a U.S. Bank account, you can open one to quality for the Altitude Reserve Card, but there is a waiting period of five to 35 days for your relationship to be recognized.
There are a lot of things to like about this new U.S. Bank credit card, and a few things not so much.
Here are the details:
- 50,000 points sign-up bonus (redeemable for $750 to spend on hotels, flights, and car rentals) after spending $4,500 on eligible purchases in the first 90 days
- Points are worth 1.5X when you redeem them for travel
- $325 in travel credits (authorized users other than the cardmember do not get travel credits)
- Earn unlimited 3X points per dollar on travel and mobile wallet purchases (mobile wallet includes Microsoft Wallet, Samsung, Apple, and Android Pay) and 1 point per $1 on regular purchases
- 35,000 points can be used to cover the $400 annual fee
- 12 Gogo in-flight Wi-Fi passes annually
- 4 visits per year to the airport lounge with Priority Pass Select
- No foreign transaction fees
- Silvercard and GroundLink Black Car Service discounts
- TSA Pre or Global Entry fee credit
- Comprehensive travel insurance coverage
- You can transfer FlexPerks points to Altitude Reserve (up to 20,000 points a year)
- You can transfer points to other Altitude card members (up to 20,000 points a year)
U.S. Bank doesn’t have any mile transfer partners, so your sign-up bonus works in a very straightforward way – it’s either $500 for cashback or $750 for travel-related purchases. This is a nice bonus, although the $4,500 spending requirement is a bit high.
The $325 annual travel credit is a real travel credit. It covers most of the travel expenses and not just incidental fees. If you travel a lot, you can easily justify the $400 annual fee, which is lower than most of the others at $450.
Another plus is 3X for mobile wallet purchases. More and more merchants accept mobile wallets nowadays, and this is an excellent way to earn points to cover your travel. Basically, if you maximize your point-earning with mobile wallet, you will be making 4.5X in travel money (with 1.5X on travel redemptions), which is an unheard of ratio for a reward card.
However, the Priority Pass Select membership that comes with Altitude Reserve is probably the weakest among all premium credit cards, since it only covers four lounge visits.
UBS Visa Infinite Credit Card
The UBS Visa Infinite card is another luxury card designed for people on the go since it provides a number of travel-related benefits and features.
Here are the details:
- 50,000 sign-up bonus points after spending $3,000 in the first three months
- $250 in travel credits
- 35,000 points covers the $495 annual fee
- 3X points per dollar on airfare and airline purchases, 2X points on groceries and gas, and 1X points on other purchases
- $100 discount on two or more air tickets within the U.S.
- 12 complimentary GoGo Wi-Fi passes (worth up to $19 each)
- $500 credit for airport lounge membership or day passes after spending 50,000 a year
- $100 Global Entry or TSA Pre Check fee credit
- Premium benefits and VIP amenities at a number of participating hotels in Visa Infinite Luxury Hotel Collection
- Comprehensive travel insurance benefits, shopping protection benefits, and fraud protection
- UBS Dining Program with special benefits for Infinite cardholders
Like the U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve card, the UBS card doesn’t have any point-transfer partners either. Instead, it has a redemption structure that is a bit convoluted – you get an up-to-$350 airfare ticket for 25,000 points or an up-to-$900 ticket for 50,0000 points. Apparently, a $900 ticket would be the ultimate redemption for this card, but if it’s even slightly more, you can’t use points plus cash to redeem your award. You must pay 5,000 points for an additional cost of up to $50. For example, both a $901 ticket and $950 ticket would cost you the same 55,000 points.
The $100 Visa Infinite discount for air tickets for two people or more is a great and rare benefit, and not all Visa Infinite cards carry it (the much-lauded Chase Sapphire Reserve doesn’t). Unfortunately, the $250 annual travel credit is pretty restrictive and covers only incidental air travel fees, such as baggage, cancellation fees, lounge access, and upgrades.
Then, there is an additional $500 credit toward airport lounge use, which would be a great addition for those airports that don’t feature Priority Pass lounges. Unfortunately, with the $50,000 annual spending requirement it probably won’t be of interest to most cardholders.
The UBS Visa Infinite card also offers an excellent travel insurance coverage suite such as we’ve come to expect from a premium credit card.
It’s great news that the U.S. premium credit card market is heating up. Consumers always win when more players compete for their money. The UBS Visa Infinite card arrival is especially interesting, since UBS is a Swiss bank and probably the first foreign bank that’s arrived on American soil with a major travel credit card in tow.