Travel Freedom with US Bank’s Real-Time Rewards
I have previously mentioned that I value travel freedom over brand loyalty. Given how much in this hobby is out of my control, it is important to control the aspects which I can. US Bank and their Real-Time Rewards program tend to line up with my travel philosophy. In my experience, US Bank’s currency provides a wide array of redemption options. Let’s dive in.
What Is US Bank’s Real-Time Rewards?
US Bank’s Real-Time Rewards program allows US Bank point-earning credit cardholders to instantly redeem their points via text for a variety of travel and non-travel purchases. I have enjoyed booking with my US Bank credit card to obtain all discounts available to cash-paying customers, then redeeming points on the back end. The list of travel-related redemption possibilities is quite impressive:
- Airlines: United, American, British Airways, Emirates, JetBlue, Southwest, Delta, Sun Country, etc.
- Car Rentals: Hertz, Budget, Alamo, Avis, National, Enterprise, etc.
- Lodging: Four Seasons, Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, Disney Resorts, Best Western, Wyndham, etc.
My personal favorites are Disney Resorts and Four Seasons. The above are just a few examples of how points can be redeemed; US Bank allows redemptions for many other travel-related companies. All travel-related redemptions can be redeemed with 50% more value (1.5 cents per point). All non-travel redemptions are valued at 1 cent per point.
The full list of redemption examples can be accessed by logging into your US Bank account. Here they are:
How Does Real-Time Rewards Work?
First, enroll in Real-Time Rewards here. Then, opt in to all participating redemption categories (why not?) or pick the categories you are interested in. Next, you will receive a text confirming your enrollment in the program. From that point on, you can make purchases with your US Bank-participating credit card, and you will receive a text asking if you would like to redeem points for the given purchase. There are two key limitations: car rental redemptions must be at least $250, and lodging redemptions must be at least $500. All other redemptions have a minimum purchase amount of $10.
What Does Real-Time Rewards Look Like?
I’ve routinely obtained great value for my US Bank points by redeeming for Disney Resort stay deposits via Real-Time Rewards. First, I booked my preferred rate on the Disney World website. Within a minute or two, I received a text from US Bank asking if I would like to redeem points. In order to redeem, I simply responded “REDEEM” and wait for the confirmation message. The whole text sequence looks like this:
The refund of the purchase shows up in your online account within a few days of your text response. For all purchases you wish not to redeem US Bank points, simply ignore the text. All texts come from the same number, so my preference was to not delete this text conversation so that I could preserve a history of all redemptions.
After enrolling, I would first suggest redeeming on a refundable purchase. That way, if there is any confusion, such as the purchase not triggering a text, you can always cancel the purchase. On a whole, though, redemptions are fairly straightforward, and you shouldn’t run into any surprises if you redeem carefully.
Where Are The Sweet Spots?
As I mentioned earlier, Four Seasons and Disney Resorts have been my two favorite redemption options. These entities do not have their own traditional loyalty programs, so using US Bank points via Real-Time Rewards is a great option for redemptions at these properties.
Once again, an overall sweet spot across all travel bookings is the ability to stack sales, discounts, and deals obtained through regular, cash-like bookings. You can simply look for the best deal regardless of airline, hotel, or car rental company and leverage the Real-Time Rewards program. Also, since you are making normal bookings with airlines, hotels, and car rental companies, you will receive the miles or points in their respective programs.
Non-Travel Redemptions: Why Not?
In general, I haven’t focused on non-travel redemptions, given the lower 1 cent per point redemption rate. Due to my recent US Bank shutdown, the redemption of some of my US Bank points for Amazon gift cards via Real-Time Rewards (grocery store) came in handy. The wider, non-travel options may have more utility to some who don’t have immediate travel needs for their points, even at the lower redemption value. More options are always good, in my opinion.
What are the welcome offers and earning rates for US Bank point-earning credit cards? Let’s take a look at some card highlights:
- US Bank Altitude Reserve Visa: 50,000 point welcome offer with $4,500 spend within 90 days. Earns 3x on travel purchases and mobile wallet spending and 1 point per dollar everywhere else. Annual statement credit of $325 on travel purchases. Usually requires an existing relationship with US Bank.
- US Bank FlexPerks Travel Rewards Visa: 25,000 point welcome offer with $2,000 spend within four months. Earns 2x points at grocery stores, gas stations, or airlines (whichever category has most spend each statement cycle), 2x points at cell phone service providers, 2x points for charitable donations, and 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
- US Bank FlexPerks Gold American Express: 30,000 point welcome offer with $2,000 spend within four months. Earns 3x points at restaurants, 2x points at gas stations and airlines, and 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
- US Bank FlexPerks Select+ American Express: 10,000 point welcome offer with $1,000 spend within four months. Earns 1 point per dollar spend everywhere.
- US Bank FlexPerks Business Travel Rewards Visa: 25,000 point welcome offer with $2,000 spend within four months. Earn 2x points at airlines, gas stations, or office supply stores (whichever category has most spend each statement cycle), 2x points with cellular providers, 2x points for charitable donations, and 1 point per dollar everywhere else.
Point Earning Analysis
Welcome offers are not particularly lucrative, with the exception of maybe the Altitude Reserve Visa. Bonus categories for ongoing spend are solid, depending on your habits. My personal favorite is the Travel Rewards Visa with the grocery stores category earning 2x points, effectively making this a 3% rewards credit card for travel redemptions. However, those who have high out-of-pocket travel costs could do better with the Altitude Reserve Visa, increasing rewards to 4.5% for travel redemptions. While the Altitude’s 3x earning on mobile wallet spending is attractive, I found that more difficult to scale compared to the Travel Rewards Visa’s grocery store 2x earning.
US Bank’s Real-Time Rewards – Final Thoughts
You may have read that I was recently shut down by US Bank, but I remain a big fan of their rewards options. I loved routinely redeeming via the Real-Time Rewards program, which lines up with my travel style and philosophy. What have been your favorite redemptions via the Real-Time Rewards program? Have you had similar types of redemptions with other programs?