U.S. Bank Debuts Mid-Tier Travel Rewards Card

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U.S. Bank launched a new travel rewards card Monday, giving consumers another way to earn rewards as they start traveling again. 

The new U.S. Bank Altitude Connect Visa Signature Card offers extra points on a variety of travel purchases as well as on some everyday purchase categories such as gas and groceries. The card also offers a statement credit—money credited back to your card account—for streaming service purchases (up to $30 each year) and TSA Precheck or Global Entry application fees (up to $100 every four years). 

The Altitude Connect card, for which there’s no annual fee the first year and a $95 per-year fee thereafter, is the mid-tier card in U.S. Bank’s Altitude suite. It was preceded by the no-annual-fee Altitude Go Visa Signature Card and the more premium Altitude Reserve Visa Infinite Card, which charges a $400 annual fee. The new Altitude card is also the latest travel rewards card to feed into a trend The Balance noted last year: many extra ways to earn points beyond travel purchases.

“Card issuers are offering reward multipliers on all these other purchases because they know that will lead to additional purchases later,” said David Shipper, a senior analyst focused on payment cards for market research firm Aite Group.

The new U.S. Bank Altitude Connect card is a competitive addition to the travel rewards card market. Here’s how the rewards earning rates look:

  • 5 points per $1 spent on hotels and rental cars booked through the U.S. Bank Altitude Rewards Center
  • 4 points per $1 spent on travel and gas station purchases
  • 2 points per $1 spent on groceries (in stores and delivery), dining (including takeout and delivery), and eligible streaming service expenses
  • 1 point per $1 spent on all other eligible purchases

The Altitude Connect rewards program is similar to the more expensive Altitude Reserve card, but gives cardholders more ways to earn rewards day-to-day. It’s also comparable to another new middle-of-the-road travel rewards card, the United Quest Card from Chase. The new Altitude Connect card offers more ways to earn rewards than the established Chase Sapphire Preferred card, too, which also charges a $95 annual fee. The Sapphire Preferred card doesn’t offer the same TSA Precheck/Global Entry statement credit benefit, either.

After a year filled with changes in consumer spending and travel, cards like the Altitude Connect offer more long-term value even when the future remains uncertain, according to Shipper. “We may be seeing growth in middle-of-the-road card programs that reward you for everything because the card industry might not be so sure where things are headed,” he said. “Banks may want to offer a one-size-fits-all card to make sure you can always get something from it, no matter what you do with it.”

Points earned with the Altitude Connect card don’t expire, and, like most flexible travel rewards cards, there are several ways to use the points, including travel and cash-back redemptions.

U.S. Bank is now accepting online applications for the new card. Currently, consumers can earn 50,000 bonus points by spending $3,000 within 120 days of opening an account.

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