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Compared to other travel rewards cards, U.S. Bank credit cards fly under the radar. Their flagship Altitude Points can’t be transferred or converted to other travel partners and instead accumulate at a fixed value. Don’t let that steer you away, though. While points may be limited, there are no finicky nuances to keep track of. More importantly, you can earn up to 4.5% back in select categories.
Above all else, U.S. Bank offers simplicity—in a good way. Points accumulate within their program at a fixed rate for later use toward booking travel or redeeming as cash back. They don’t tease you with restrictions, blackout dates or complicated redemption procedures. It’s solid earning rates with easy rewards that add up quickly. If that sounds like your kind of free travel, this is a program you’ll want to get familiar with.
How to Earn U.S. Bank Altitude Points
Earning U.S. Bank Altitude points is as straightforward as it gets: Just use your participating credit card to make a purchase. There are no alternate methods to earn points, though there are a few eligible cards to choose from.
Currently, only personal U.S. Bank credit cards earn Altitude points but there are three to choose from, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. They all keep earning and redeeming simple but the earning rates, bonus categories and annual fees differ by card so you can choose the product that fits your lifestyle best.
There are no caps on earning so cardholders will continue to earn points on every purchase. Points never expire, as long as your account remains open and in good standing.
Personal Credit Cards
The information for the U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card* has been collected independently by Forbes Advisor. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.
One caveat about this program is that you cannot combine rewards between the cards. This means you can’t earn rewards on the Altitude Go card, for example and then redeem them for 1.5 cents per point value via the Altitude Reserve card. This differs from other issuers, like Chase’s Ultimate Rewards and Citi’s ThankYou points, both of which allow you to pool your rewards.
How to Use U.S. Bank Altitude Points
There are four types of Altitude point redemptions: travel, statement credits (cash back), gift cards or merchandise. Points are worth between 0.4-1.5 cents per point, depending on which card you hold and the type of redemption you choose. Typically, merchandise redemptions fall on the low end of the range, while statement credits and gift cards work out to a flat 1 cent per point in value.
Travel redemptions are also offered at a flat rate, though the rate varies by card. Both the U.S. Bank Altitude Go and U.S. Bank Altitude Connect can redeem points toward travel at 1 cent per point. However, the premium U.S. Bank Altitude Reserve increases the value of your points when used for travel via the card site up to 1.5 cents per point. Altitude Reserve cardholders should take advantage of this option to get 50% more value on every eligible travel redemption.
When redeeming points for travel, there are no blackout dates or capacity restrictions to worry about.
Redeem for Cash Back
Unless you have the Altitude Reserve, most cardholders will be best off redeeming points toward statement credits for ultimate flexibility. When redeemed as statement credits toward your monthly bill, Altitude points are worth 1 cent each. Altitude Go and Altitude Connect have a minimum redemption requirement of 2,500 points ($25).
Statement credits usually show up in two to three business days and will lower your card balance but do not count as a payment on your account. You may still need to make a minimum payment toward your bill if there is a remaining balance.
If you have a U.S. Bank checking or savings account, you can alternately choose to deposit your rewards into your linked bank account. Customers at other banks will not have this option.
Redeem Points Toward Real-Time Mobile Rewards
For ultimate convenience, cardholders can activate real-time mobile rewards on their account. Then, U.S. Bank will text your linked mobile phone number any time you make a qualifying purchase and ask if you’d like to redeem points to cover the cost of the purchase. Rewards are offered at a flat rate of 1 cent per point or 1.5 cents per point for Altitude Reserve travel purchases.
Particularly for travel purchases, this option is fantastic for customers who prefer to complete their purchase transaction directly with the merchant. You won’t be limited to specific airlines or hotels so you can fully customize a trip to your travel preferences without worrying about rewards partners. It also means there are no black-out dates or other hassles to work around.
Cardholders must activate this feature before using it. The process is easily initiated in your online account under the “Card Benefits” section and will require you to link your mobile phone number and accept automated text messages. There is no obligation to redeem rewards for every qualifying purchase; you will be texted each time and can accept or decline as you wish.
Once you’ve set up the feature on your account, you can shop normally without having to make a separate stop on the U.S. Bank website as long as you pay with your U.S. Bank credit card. This allows you to apply discounts, coupons or vouchers that the merchant accepts and ensure you’re eligible for loyalty or membership benefits from booking directly with the brand.
Unfortunately, the real-time mobile rewards program requires a minimum of $500 transaction on lodging or $250 on rental cars to qualify. Airline purchases, including many incidental fees, typically trigger the reward process at any dollar amount.
Use the U.S. Bank Travel Portal
Cardholders should familiarize themselves with the dedicated travel portal whether or not you’re redeeming rewards. Both Altitude Connect and Altitude Reserve cardholders can earn 5 points per dollar spent (worth 5% to 7.5%) when booking eligible, prepaid reservations.
Redeeming points for travel through their booking engine is intuitive since their booking engine works similarly to popular online travel agencies you’ve likely used before. However, U.S. Bank has strict, inflexible terms and conditions. All rental cars, and many hotel or flight reservations, are nonrefundable: If you have to change or cancel your reservation, you’ll get a voucher at best (if you get anything at all). You won’t be able to refund your points if your plans change.
Because of this inflexibility, booking directly with the supplier and redeeming real-time mobile rewards is the better way to go. The only time a travel portal redemption should be considered is if you need a rental car under $250 or a hotel under $500—and are positive your plans won’t change.
Altitude Reserve cardholders will receive 1.5 cent per point in value when booking through the U.S. Bank travel portal while other cardholders will yield 1 cent per point.
Redeem for Gift Cards
U.S. Bank also offers gift card redemptions and partners with dozens of different gift card brands, including retailers and restaurants nationwide as well as everyday staples like gas stations and grocery stores. Most gift cards arrive by mail within two to three weeks after redemption.
All gift cards yield 1 cent per Altitude point, identical to the value you’d get from requesting a statement credit. Most cardholders will be better off buying a gift card from their preferred store to save on shipping timelines or brand limitations.
Shop for Merchandise
Like many other credit card reward programs, U.S. Bank allows you to redeem your points toward select merchandise or event tickets. However, reward values are typically less than a penny per point, making it a better deal to simply buy what you need and then redeem real-time mobile rewards or request a statement credit to offset the purchase.
Altitude points can’t be transferred to travel partners but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a solid use case. When used strategically, U.S. Bank cards can yield up to 4.5% in rewards, an outstanding rebate without worrying about the nuances of other programs or rules. The straightforward real-time redemptions and statement credits makes this rewards program a keeper for customers who want to keep things easy without sacrificing competitive earnings.