US Bank Altitude Reserve card is a “super premium” card released this year. The high-level benefits are known; for example, see this review by Frequent Miler. However, when it comes to some important details, it was challenging for me to find the information before having the card and benefits guide in my hands and enough points in my account. For example, does Trip Delay coverage include award tickets? (the answer is No, except bookings made entirely with Altitude Reserve points). Does it cover family members who aren’t authorized users, when traveling without the primary cardholder? (the answer is No, except spouses and children under 22). I only found these out after reading the benefits guide, which wasn’t available online.
Altitude Reserve points earned from the signup bonus and everyday spend are worth 50% more when redeemed for travel in the US Bank travel portal. I had heard the portal isn’t very good, but there’s one negative aspect I didn’t realize until I had points for a hotel redemption. It turns out there’s a mandatory $25 fee (imposed by the portal) to cancel ANY hotel booking, even if the actual hotel’s policy is fully refundable. For flight booking, the fee is $30. Car rentals cannot be changed at all.
Now, I don’t use bank travel portals much, so I’m not 100% sure about their fees, but I believe charging a portal cancellation fee on top of any hotel/airline-imposed fee, is NOT the norm. And the worst part? US Bank portal doesn’t tell you what the actual hotel’s cancellation/change policy is. On the booking page, you get a generic 100-page policy that start with this:
Change & Cancellation Policy
– Flight bookings: Itinerary changes, if permitted for the Supplier, may have a $30.00 USD service fee charged by travel provider. Airline change and cancellation fees may also apply.
– Hotel bookings: Itinerary changes, if permitted for the Supplier, may have a $25.00 USD service fee charged by travel provider. Hotel change and cancellation fees may also apply.
– Car rental bookings: Due to program restrictions, bookings are non-refundable and non-changeable.
– Please see below travel provider terms and conditions regarding change and cancellation policy.
It then goes through countless generic verbiage, and you finally reach the Hotel section on page 8. Here’s the most relevant part:
Hotel cancellations may be subject to hotel policy. Itinerary changes, if permitted for the Hotel (Supplier), may have a service fee charged by Travel Provider. Hotel change and cancellation fees may also apply. Additional hotel Supplier terms and conditions may apply.
Due to various hotel rules, date restrictions over high-demand periods, and other special circumstances, hotel cancellation terms are subject to change at any time prior to purchase and may include non-refundable rates. For more information on individual room types and amenities based on room type selections, please contact the hotel directly.
Some hotel properties may not apply payment until time of checkout. In the case that a hotel property does not correctly apply reward point payment, please contact Travel Provider for payment reconciliation.
Fee of at least one-night room charges may be assessed for any cancellation or change made less than 72 hours before check-in date with the exception of the Disney hotels, Las Vegas hotels and National Parks. Cancellation Fee of at least one night stay may be assessed for any cancellation or change made less than 5 days before check-in date at a Las Vegas or Disney hotel, or 21 days before check-in date at a National Park. Fee of full amount paid (NO REFUND) may be assessed for no shows without cancellation or changes made less than 24 hrs prior to hotel check-in date and time.
So basically, there is a bunch of penalties that may be assessed, and everything is subject to hotel policy. But nowhere in this 8,000-word terms does it tell you what the hotel policy is.
I called the portal just to make sure I wasn’t crazy, and indeed, even the agent saw the same generic terms. Even after he checked with a “specialist”, he could only relay what they “thought” (that the hotel cancellation policy is 24 hours). I pointed out that the generic verbiage said 72 hours. He shrugged and said to follow that then. I also checked another hotel just to make sure it wasn’t a one-off dud. It wasn’t.
This means when you book a hotel on the portal, you have no way of knowing what the actual cancellation deadline is. At least, not without calling and escalating.
In a Nutshell
That a “super premium” card with $400 annual fee would impose a cancellation fee for fully refundable bookings seems egregious. That it doesn’t even show the actual cancellation policy/deadline is… speechless. Basically, forget speculative booking for fully refundable hotels using Altitude points.