I’ve been around long enough to know about some of the lesser-known cards. These are the credit cards that might not be highly publicized but are the ones that punch way above their weight. If you’re into fantasy sports, these are the players you pick up at a bargain price and deliver for you week after week. The football player who gets 80 yds a week or the hockey player with 1-2 assists a game but doesn’t score many goals.
There are credit cards that fall into this category. I’d consider them 2nd or 3rd tier cards but for some people, these cards can be a core part of their strategy. Unfortunately, some of these cards can be difficult to acquire. To be honest, the fact that they limit the number of people able to get their cards may be why they’re able to provide above-average benefits.
My first experience with trying to get a difficult to acquire card was the CNB Crystal Infinite. The benefits of the card approached legendary. If you were able to get one and had several authorized users, it was possible to earn hundreds of dollars each year from the card before you even used it. It was to the point where I was in New York City just blocks from a branch and ready to walk in to apply for a card. The only thing that stopped me was an even better upgrade offer for the AMEX Bonvoy Brilliant card.
In retrospect, this was a truly fortuitous experience. Not only because we were able to score a large value from the Marriott card, but also because not long after this CNB bank massively devalued their Crystal Visa card.
So I wasn’t surprised when I lost the signal on another card on my radar. According to Doctor of Credit and Frequent Miler, the US Bank Altitude Reserve card is no longer open to new applications. There’s a rumor that the card will be relaunched with a new look (and possibly new benefits) but that’s all the news at this time.
Like all cards that fly under the radar, the Altitude Reserve had one killer app, the thing that makes it different from every other card. It offered 3x points for all mobile payments (Google Pay, Apple Pay). So if you shopped at Costco and paid with your phone using your Altitude Reserve card, you’d earn 3x points. Same for charges at your car repair shop, hairdresser, doctor or anywhere else that takes mobile payments.
The hitch for the card was that US Bank would only approve applications from current customers of the bank. That meant you either had to have another US Bank credit card or have a banking relationship with them (savings or checking account.).
Besides the Radisson Rewards credit card, there weren’t any other US bank cards I’d want and the value of that card disappeared when they did away with the free night on award bookings. As for a banking relationship, I live in Florida. For those who live in the upper Midwest, US Bank is a major player and there’s a good chance you already deal with them. I’d have to go out of my way to open an account, fund it, and keep it active, just for the chance to open a credit card.
I just didn’t think it was worth it for the chance to apply for the Altitude Reserve.
I’m sure there are those of you out there who think I’m crazy because I didn’t want to take some time to get a great card. At the same time, there’s a group of people who think the first group of people are insane.
As far as I’m concerned, I understand both sides of this argument. For people who have the time and knowledge to put the effort into getting the card and maximizing its benefits, I’m in awe of your dedication. For those who think this is all crazy, I get how seeing what those on the obsessive side are willing to do to maximize points earnings just is inconceivable.
I place myself firmly in the space between both camps. I know the value of the card but I’m unwilling to make the effort required to get the card and maximize the possible value. I’ve made peace with I’m not going to earn EVERY MILE that’s out there. I might only get 2x cashback instead of 3x points and that’s OK.
But that’s me. Your Mileage May Vary.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary