Altitude Reserve IS Really Good

Altitude Reserve (AR) is one of those gems that don’t get talked about. A blogger won’t talk about it because affiliates don’t pay for this card and a casual churner won’t talk about it because bloggers aren’t talking about it. The good portion of the remaining churning community get scared away by denial and shutdown stories. But for those who can see past that, AR is one of the best card in the market today, period.

Cheapest Premium Travel Card

The net $75 annual fee ($400-$325) on this credit card is the lowest you’ll find in a premium travel card (think $350-550 range). I would go as far as to say that the only other premium travel card that falls in this low net annual fee range is the Prestige card which can have a net $100 annual fee ($350-$250).

Note that I say $75 net annual fee because the annual travel credit of $325 has a very broad category and can easily be consumed through real travel or typical book/refund trickery.

Automatic statement credit(s) totaling up to $325 will be applied to your Account when a Card is used for purchases made directly from airlines, hotels, car rental companies, taxis, limousines, passenger trains and cruise lines.

Unmatched 3-4.5% Almost Everywhere!

The real gem of this card is the fact that it earns 3X points for every $1 on eligible net travel purchases and mobile wallet spending. At a first glance it doesn’t seem all that special since mobile payment isn’t accepted everywhere, well, except it can be.

Samsung pay, all thanks to looppay, is accepted almost everywhere a card can be swiped. This obviously requires a Samsung device but there are plenty of cheap ones out there.

As a result you’re practially earning 3% cashback on nearly all purchase where you would normally swipe your card. Let this sink in for a bit. Can you think of another publicly available non-restrictive (geographically or occupationally) card like AR that gives 3% cashback every year?

But wait, it gets better – instead of cashing out the points, you can choose to hold on to them and redeem for travel at 1.5 cent per point (cpp). In other words, you’re now earning a whooping 4.5% on more or less every single day-to-day purchases. Again, can you think of another card that gives flat 4.5% without having to deal with travel partners and optimizing cent per points?

Low Breakeven Threshold

Because the net annual fee is very low ($75) and because you can earn 3x almost everywhere you can swipe your card, AR ends up having the lowest breakeven threshold of a premium card. The chart below shows that the breakeven threashold against a typical 2% card ranges from $3k-7.5k.

compare with AR CPP breakeven at
none 1.0 cpp aka 3% $2500
none 1.5 cpp aka 4.5% $1666.66
2% card 1.0 cpp aka 3% $7500
2% card 1.5 cpp aka 4.5% $3000
2.5% card 1.0 cpp aka 3% $15000
2.5% card 1.5 cpp aka 4.5% $3750

special case: high spend cash back user – pay $400 AF with 35k points

this scenario assumes that your spend is enough to generate 35k points per cardmember year and you use 35k points to pay off the annual fee.

In order to earn 35k, you want to spend $11666.66. But when you do that the $325 annual credit becomes your annual freebie.

Again, if you were to put $1166.66 on a 2% credit card then you would earn $233.33. As such, at $1166.66 spend, AR is annually giving you 325-233.33 = $91.67 than a 2% card would.

The Haters

Some people give this card a bad rep because the priority pass (PP) that comes with this card only reimburses 10 visits but if you’re one of those people then you’re reading the wrong blog, brother. The amount of credit cards that provide free PP is borderline hysterical to a point that I don’t factor in PP benefit when cancelling or renewing a card.

Another downside of this card is that manufacture spending in this card may lead to a shutdown. But I want to emphasize the likelihood that there are likely some forms of MS that does not get you in trouble. The reality is anyone who has figured out a safe MS method is probably going to keep their mouth shut and will MS his/her way to a nice vacation.

That said, I’m not going to be one of those people who’ll complain that the bank isn’t handing out $30-$45 for every $1k I MS. Don’t get me wrong, I won’t hate on the free money but let’s be reasonable about how much a bank is willing to handout for free.

Overall Thought

This is a card I would recommend to a Samsung fanatic who happens to be one of those those (normal) person who consistently use one credit card.

As for churners, I would recommend it to those who’re in a position to get it (read: low recent inquires and almost no new accounts in past 6 months). If you can’t get it, then go ahead and find an excuse to hate on the card.

5 comments

  1. Oh, I get why the card is good, and I’ll probably pick it up sometime – but it’s absurd that they shut people down for buying one gift card, even a 3rd party retail gift card. I’m guessing they’re going to have a lot of really angry customers come Christmas.

    • I personally think non-churners casually buying retail gift cards are not getting shutdown.

      I also think that gift card purchase can trigger a manual review. To a human eye that is looking, it is super duper easy to spot a churner. Once that is spotted, it is bye bye AR.

      Also pretty much all DPs that mention getting shutdown after purchase of retail gift cards also admit to buying cash-equivalent giftcards (ex VGC). It seems like they’re getting reviewed for one but shutdown for another.

    • My story is different. When meeting the spent, I purchased 4 x $500 Simon GC. That was in May or June. I use this card as my primary card (outside of certain purchases i.e. Gas, etc) and here and there buy discounted GCs such as Whole Foods, Rockport, Pepboys, etc. I find those shut down stories a bit absurd to be sincere…

  2. how do u even get this card if ur live in texas. i tried to open their bank account and rejected bcz i dont live near a branch. I heard u need to have an existing account to get this card. i dont have any other usbank cc either.

    • is “existing relationship” still a thing for this card? oh wow. Anyway, personal (not business) credit cards qualify as “existing relationship” so you can try opening one of those. A flexperk card (try Flexperk Gold as the rest should see increased bonus in 2018 Olympics) might be a decent pickup.

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