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I want a single card for travel rewards. What card should I get?

You want travel rewards because you travel a few times a year, but you don’t want to juggle multiple credit cards—you want a single card that you can use everywhere. The U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card gives you generous rewards anywhere you can use a mobile wallet to pay and offers a 50% boost to the value you get when you use rewards for travel. Plus the card offers essential benefits like extended warranty and purchase protection.

This article is one of a series of articles that answers the most common question I receive: “What credit card should I get?”

Is this the right recommendation for you?

This article is right for you if:

  • You travel a few times a year and want to use your rewards for travel. To get the most rewards from our recommended card, you’ll need to redeem the points you earn for travel.
  • You only want one credit card to use everywhere. You could earn more rewards for travel by getting 2-4 credit cards for travel, but you prioritize simplicity.
  • You’re willing to pay an annual fee for perks and rewards. Our recommendation requires paying an annual fee. But if you’re traveling a few times a year, you’ll easily make up the annual fee in rewards and benefits.

Our recommendation: U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card card art
U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card

As a single card for travel rewards, it is hard to beat the U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card. The card carries a $400 annual fee, but if you travel, you’ll almost certainly get value well in excess of the annual fee through the card’s perks and rewards. Here are the highlights:

  • $325 travel and dining credit. Each year, you’ll get automatic statement credits of up to $325 when you use your card for travel purchases or dining purchases. If you’re spending at least $325 on travel and/or dining using your card, just using your card will get your the credit.
  • 8 Complimentary Priority Pass lounge visits. If you travel a few times a year through airports that have Priority Pass lounges, you can use your card’s included Priority Pass™ Select benefit to access a participating airport lounge 8 times for free.
  • 3x points on travel and mobile wallet purchases. You’ll earn 3x points on a wide variety of travel purchases, plus purchases you make through a mobile wallet like Apple Pay®, Google Pay™, or Samsung Pay.
  • 50% more value for your points when you use them for travel. You’ll get more value for your points when you use them for travel, either through the Altitude Reserve Travel Center or through Real Time Rewards.

How to use the Altitude Reserve card and redeem your rewards

By choosing to have only a single card in your wallet, you’ve already reduced a lot of complexity—you don’t have to pick which card to use for which category. But there are a few things you should know to earn the most points and get the most value out of the Altitude Reserve’s rewards.

Earning points: Always use your card with a mobile wallet to pay

The key to earning the most points with the U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card is using your card with a mobile wallet like Apple Pay®, Google Pay™, or Samsung Pay. If you always use your card with a mobile wallet, you’ll earn the most points possible. Here’s what you’ll earn with the Altitude Reserve.

  • Using a mobile wallet when you pay will earn you 3x points.
  • You’ll also earn 3x points in a wide variety of travel categories, without using a mobile wallet.
  • You’ll earn 5x points when you book prepaid hotels and car rentals directly in the Altitude Rewards Center.
  • If you don’t use a mobile wallet, in all other categories, you’ll earn 1x points on your purchases.

Fortunately, most places accept mobile wallet purchases in-store and websites increasingly accept mobile wallets as a form of payment. Here are a few examples of where you can earn 3x rewards using your mobile wallet:

  • Costco. Costco accepts Visa cards and tap-to-pay with all major mobile wallets in-store, plus Apple Pay at U.S. Costco gas stations and at Using your Altitude Reserve with a mobile wallet will earn you more rewards than the Costco credit card at Costco and, making it one of the best cards for Costco.
  • Target. The Target Circle™ Card gives you a 5% discount on most things you buy at Target. While the 3x points with the Altitude Reserve, you will benefit from an extended warranty and purchase protection benefit, which the Target card does not have.
  • Gas stations. You’ll earn 3x points at gas stations, which is competitive against cards in our list of the best cards for gas rewards.
  • Grocery stores. The market-leading cards for grocery store purchases earn up to 6% cash back at U.S. supermarkets. When you use your Altitude Reserve and use your points for travel, you’ll get 4.5% rewards. Not a bad return if you don’t want to pick up another card.

Redeeming points: Redeem your points for travel for 50% more value

We like that you can always redeem the points you earn with the U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card for cash back at 1 cent each. But when you redeem them for travel, you’ll get 1.5 cents of value—a 50% boost.

Like the Chase Sapphire Reserve®, another popular travel card, you’ll get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel booked in the bank’s travel portal. In U.S. Bank’s case, that portal is the Altitude Rewards Center. In our experience, the Altitude Rewards Center offers airfare on most airlines and hotel rates comparable to what you would get through another online travel agency like Expedia.

Real Time Rewards: Getting a cash back statement credit for your purchases

But booking travel through a portal isn’t the only way to get more value from your Altitude Reserve points. U.S. Bank offers an innovative way to redeem your points that it calls Real Time Rewards. When you enroll in U.S. Bank Real Time Rewards, you’ll get a text message when you make an eligible purchase. If a purchase is eligible for a reward redemptions with real time rewards, you can instantly redeem your rewards for a statement credit by replying to that text message.

When you use Real Time Rewards to redeem your points for statement credits against travel expenses, you’ll get the same 50% value boost as you would get if you redeemed your points for travel through U.S. Bank’s travel portal.

Where to learn more

Once you’ve picked up our recommended cards, come back to this page to learn about the cards’ benefits and features.

Bottom line

The U.S. Bank Altitude® Reserve Visa Infinite® Card is the best card if you want simple rewards that can be used for travel. Use your card with mobile wallet as often as you can and redeem your rewards for travel and you’ll earn 4.5% rewards value on the vast majority of your purchases.

About the author

  • Aaron Hurd

    Aaron Hurd is a credit card, travel rewards, and loyalty program expert. Over the past 15 years, he has authored over a thousand expert contributions published by leading outlets including WSJ, TIME, Newsweek, Forbes, NerdWallet, The Points Guy, Bankrate, CNET, and many others. He has also served in consulting roles for many of these same outlets, designing content strategy, hiring teams of teams of editors and contributors, developing thought-leadership pieces, and ghost-editing for senior editors. Aaron is well-known in the miles and points community and regularly presents about travel rewards at conferences like the Chicago Seminars and Minnebar. Aaron has enjoyed the game of optimizing credit card rewards since getting his first credit card shortly after he turned 18. He started learning about credit cards and travel rewards from the (now defunct) FatWallet Finance forums and FlyerTalk. He holds more than 40 open credit cards and has first-hand experience with almost every major credit card product.

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