U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Card review: A cash back card in a travel card’s clothing
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U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Card Overview
On its surface, the U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Card* appears to offer good travel rewards points with bonuses in key everyday spending categories: Restaurants and dining, grocery stores, streaming services and gas stations. In truth, those “points” equate to various forms of cash back, redeemable through the U.S. Bank rewards center.
The points are redeemable at a flat rate and can be used for airfare, hotel rooms, gift cards or statement credits. However, despite these options, this rewards card is limited by a lack of redemption options like transfers to partnering airlines or hotel loyalty programs. While the card offers great value for those who already do their banking with U.S. Bank, it may not be the best option for frequent travelers who want to maximize earnings with their credit card rewards.
What are the advantages and disadvantages?
- The U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card does not offer bonus points for airfare purchases, hotel bookings or any other travel-related categories.
- The points can only be used through the U.S. Bank travel and shopping portal, meaning you can’t transfer them to your favorite frequent flyer or hotel programs.
- Points hold a flat value of 1 cent each, no matter how you redeem. If this isn’t one of your daily spending cards, you could be waiting a while to earn a free trip.
A deeper look into the current card offer
- Rewards rate: 4 points per $1 on dining, takeout, and restaurant delivery; 2 points per $1 at grocery stores, grocery delivery, streaming services, gas stations and EV charging stations; 1 point per $1 on all other eligible purchases
- Welcome offer: Earn 20,000 bonus points after spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of card opening
- Annual fee: $0
- Purchase intro APR: 0 percent for the first 12 billing cycles
- Balance transfer intro APR: 0 percent for the first 12 billing cycles
- Regular APR: 16.49 to 25.49 percent, based on creditworthiness
Current welcome offer
New qualifying cardholders can earn 20,000 bonus points when spending $1,000 in the first 90 days of account opening. With a fixed point value of 1 cent per point, that adds up to $200 in rewards usable for discount travel, purchasing gift cards or redeeming for cash back if you have a checking or savings account with U.S. Bank.
Compared to other cash back cards with no annual fee, the U.S. Bank Altitude Go card has a high spending requirement to earn the welcome bonus. Similar cards—including the SavorOne Rewards Card from CapitalOne and the Chase Freedom Flex℠ card—offer a $200 reward after spending only $500 in the first three months of account opening.
Perhaps the best benefit of the U.S. Bank Altitude Go card is the 4 points per $1 for dining and takeout purchases, which is one of the best benefits among cards with no annual fee. But that’s not the only way to earn points. You can earn bonus points through everyday spending or purchasing through the U.S. Bank Rewards Center Earn Mall.
How you earn
The biggest rewards category is dining. This includes eating in at restaurants or bars, ordering takeout from your favorite places or getting food delivered to you. You can earn 4 points per $1 spent on most dining or food delivery purchases. Your options aren’t limited to just sit-down locations. The bonus is applied to anywhere classified as a restaurant, fast-food restaurant or bar. Compared to other cards, the 4 points per $1 spent on bonus categories make the Altitude Go one of the best credit cards for restaurants and dining out.
In addition, you could earn 2 points per $1 spent in four everyday categories: Grocery stores, grocery delivery, streaming services and gas stations. While these bonus categories are popular among rewards credit cards, what makes the U.S. Bank Altitude Go card unique is the streaming service category.
Along with the boosted rewards rate for streaming services, you could earn a $15 credit annually after 11 consecutive months of purchases on up to 23 different services, including Apple TV+, AT&T TV Now, Disney+, Hulu and Netflix. Considering the average household subscribes to nearly nine streaming services, using this card just for streaming could net over 700 points per year (assuming a $350 annual spend on streaming services). Combine this with the $15 credit, which is essentially a free month for one of your services, and this makes it possibly one of the best cards for streaming services.
Like other rewards cards, the U.S. Bank Altitude Go card offers bonuses for shopping through the issuer’s online portal, aptly named the Rewards Center Earn Mall. Using your card on this portal gives you the opportunity to boost the rewards you earn depending on current offers from reputable retailers. While this could offer more points for your spend, it does require the additional effort to go to the online mall first instead of purchasing directly through the retailer. But you’ll want to keep the online portal in mind because you may get your dollar to earn you more on every purchase, in turn increasing the yearly value of your Altitude Go Card.
How to redeem
Points can be exchanged for merchandise, gift cards, rewards debit cards or redeemed for discounted travel. This makes the U.S. Bank Altitude Go more of a cash back credit card with travel perks and less of a travel rewards card.
Despite the multiple options that offer a one-to-one exchange rate, your best redemption option might be travel. Points can be used to book airfare with multiple major airlines, rooms at thousands of hotels, along with rental cars, cruises or activities categorized as travel. Additionally, because you are booking through the rewards portal, you could still earn points or qualifying nights towards elite status or rewards travel.
Even if you don’t have enough points for a reward, you can still use them to discount your next trip. U.S. Bank allows cardholders to shop with points and cash in the rewards portal, enabling you to reduce the cost of travel purchases and make up the rest with cash. There is also no limit on the number of points you can use, giving you the flexibility to use as little or as many points as you’d like to.
Finally, you can redeem your points immediately after making a purchase using your U.S. Bank Altitude Go card. With Real-Time Rewards, you can get notified on your mobile device when you have enough points to cover your spending. Simply reply with a confirmation and your points will be immediately applied to that purchase.
How much are the rewards worth?
Just like a cash back card, each point earned with the U.S. Bank Altitude Go card has a fixed value of 1 cent each. When you use your card for qualifying dining purchases, you effectively earn 4 cents back per $1 spent.
Although this makes it easy to calculate the value of your rewards, it also comes with some downsides as well. Because the card has no airline or hotel transfer partners, it’s impossible to get a value of over 1 cent per point. In addition, you can’t shop with points and cash on other rewards: If you want merchandise, a gift card or cash back in a U.S. Bank savings or checking account, you must have the correct amount of points for the redemption and you can’t make up the difference with cash.
If flexible travel is your ultimate goal for credit card rewards, the U.S. Bank Altitude Go card could offer fair value over time on redemptions. But if you want more control of how you use reward points, as well as the added flexibility and perks familiar to travel rewards cards, you may want to spend time investigating other types of rewards credit cards or travel cards to see if you could get a better return over time. This is especially the case for cardholders who want to boost the value of their earnings by transferring points to partnering airlines and hotels or who are looking for a wider redemption portfolio on their rewards card.
Other cardholder perks
While other travel cards make a point to tout their benefits, the U.S. Bank Altitude Go card is relatively simple. Instead of offering airport lounge access or elite benefits when booking hotels, most of the cardholder perks come from Visa Signature. The benefits include car rental discounts, luxury experiences and travel insurance benefits.
Car rental discounts
If your trip requires a rental car, you can access discounts through four different brands. U.S. Bank Altitude Go cardholders can get discounted rates from Enterprise, National and Alamo, all with brand-associated benefits. Those who are looking for something a little more luxurious can get up to a 15 percent discount on Silvercar by Audi in 25 U.S. cities.
Visa Signature luxury experiences, including the Signature Luxury Hotel Collection
Sometimes that special trip calls for a higher class of service. Because it’s a Visa Signature card, U.S. Bank Altitude Go cardholders can get access to the Visa Signature Luxury Hotel Collection, featuring a number of select properties around the world. Booking through the program guarantees the best available rate, automatic room upgrade, complimentary continental daily breakfast and a $25 daily food or beverage credit. Other benefits include Silver status with Troon Golf and special access to over 50 Sonoma County wineries.
Travel benefits when using your card
If you end up stranded on the road, your U.S. Bank Altitude Go card can help you get going again. With emergency roadside assistance, you can get help with a number of issues you may face on the road. For a set service price per call, you can get help with changing a tire, getting back in your car when you are locked out, fuel delivery and jump-starting. Plus, if you have an emergency abroad, the travel and emergency assistance benefit can help you get medical referrals, prescription assistance and more.
Rates and fees
One of the biggest attractions of the U.S. Bank Altitude Go card is the ability to earn rewards without an annual fee. But that’s not where the savings end—the card also offers an introductory APR on new purchases and balance transfers and comes with no fees for common travel-related spending.
- Annual Fee: Because the U.S. Bank Altitude Go card comes with no annual fee, you won’t have to worry about minimal spending limits to offset what the card costs to hold. Additionally, rewards points don’t expire for as long as you have the card and there is no cap on how much you can earn.
- Intro APR: Qualifying cardholders will get a 0 percent APR on purchases and balance transfers for the first 12 billing cycles (then 16.49 to 25.49 percent variable). With effectively 0 percent interest for the first year, the Altitude Go is among the best balance transfer credit cards available.
- Regular APR: Once the introductory period ends, your interest rate will be between 16.49 to 25.49 percent based on your creditworthiness when you open the card. This is in line with other cash back credit cards.
- Foreign transaction fee: Similar to a true travel card, this card comes with no foreign transaction fee. If you are using this card abroad, you will only be responsible for paying off the price of your purchase, saving you money every time you use it.
- Balance transfer fee: While your balance transfers will come with 0 percent APR for the first 12 billing cycles, you will still need to pay a fee to move your balance over. The balance transfer fee is $5 or 3 percent of the amount transferred, whichever is greater.
- Cash advance fee: No matter how you get cash—from an ATM, through a cash advance or via other cash equivalents—you will pay extra to borrow against your credit card. In addition to the greater of 5 percent or a $10 to $20 fee, your balance will be charged at a 27.49 percent APR.
How the U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card compares to other cash back rewards cards
Although the U.S. Bank Altitude Go card has a lot in common with other travel rewards cards, the best comparative value is against cash back rewards cards for three reasons:
- It is impossible to transfer points to other travel rewards programs (like airlines or hotels).
- Points can only be used for travel using the U.S. Bank rewards portal or as cash back via statement credits.
- Each point has a fixed cash value no matter how you redeem them.
That doesn’t mean it isn’t a good card for travel: With generous rewards categories and a fixed rate of return, there are a lot of positives for the card. Depending on where you spend the most and how you use your cards, there are alternatives that could offer bigger rewards over time.
U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Card vs. SavorOne Rewards from CapitalOne
The bonus categories are what differentiates the U.S. Bank Altitude Go from the SavorOne Rewards from CapitalOne. While you will earn between 2 and 4 points per dollar spent at restaurants, grocery stores and streaming services with the Altitude Go, the SavorOne Rewards from Capital One offers unlimited 3 percent cash back in all of those categories, plus “entertainment” purchases, such as movie theaters, tourist attractions, bowling alleys and more. Combined with a lower spend requirement for the same bonus value, the SavorOne Rewards card could offer more consistent rewards if you want a card to use for all of your food and fun purchases.
U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Card vs. Chase Freedom Flex℠ Card
The Chase Freedom cards are perennial favorites as a result of generous cash back categories with rewards that are remarkably flexible when paired with a card earning Chase Ultimate Rewards®. The Chase Freedom Flex℠ is no different. In addition to earning 5 percent cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter (with activation), this card offers 5 percent back on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards and 3 percent back on dining at restaurants, eligible delivery services and drugstores. If you are looking for a more well-rounded everyday spending card, the Chase Freedom Flex is possibly a better option than the U.S Bank Altitude Go card.
Best cards to pair with this card
If your ultimate goal for earning rewards is travel, you may be best served by pairing the U.S. Bank Altitude Go with one that earns cash back in categories not covered by the card or one that earns flexible points transferrable to other partners. You might consider a flat-rate cash back card that earns 2 percent on all purchases if you spend across a broad range of categories that might otherwise only earn you 1 point per $1 with the Altitude Go. Or, consider a high-earning cash back card that features rewards at U.S. supermarkets to supplement your rewards portfolio with high rates across several categories utilizing multiple cards.
Because the U.S. Bank Altitude Go earns only two points per $1 spent at grocery stores, you should consider pairing it with the Blue Cash Preferred® Card from American Express, which earns 6 percent back on purchases made at U.S. supermarkets. While the Blue Cash Preferred card does charge an annual fee of $95, the cost of the fee can easily be offset if you spend at least $1,590 each year with the card at U.S. supermarkets.
The Amex EveryDay® Credit Card is another option that offers flexible points instead of cash back with no annual fee. Instead of cash, your spending earns American Express Membership Rewards® points, which can be used to purchase airfare or book hotels through Amex Travel or transferred to 18 airline loyalty programs and three hotel loyalty programs.
Bankrate’s Take: Is the U.S. Bank Altitude Go Card worth it?
Although it is advertised as a travel rewards card, the U.S. Bank Altitude Go card is more accurately described as a cash back rewards card with a travel option. While it is an option to consider, other U.S. Bank cards may offer better overall returns. For example, the U.S. Bank Cash+® Visa Signature® Card offers two 5 percent cash back bonus categories, which you choose each quarter (for up to $2,000 in spending), and 2 percent cash back in the same categories that the Altitude Go card earns 2 points per $1 spent in—all with no annual fee. If you value cash back above all else, you may want to weigh these two cards against each other and consider your spending habits and potential redemption options to determine which one offers more value for you.
If your primary rewards goal is earning points toward travel at a discounted price, this card may not offer the best returns for your everyday spending. With a higher spending requirement to earn the bonus offer and fewer earning categories than other cards, this product only offers a valuable rewards proposition for a very narrow group of customers. If your goal is seeing the world, you could be better served by another rewards card that offers travel benefits as well as a wider range of redemption options.
*The information about U.S. Bank Altitude® Go Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.