Home Mobile Google Pay working for some, but not others, for US Bank Altitude Reserve 3x mobile payments

Google Pay working for some, but not others, for US Bank Altitude Reserve 3x mobile payments

Over the past couple of months, a number of readers have commented on the fact that Google Pay has not been coding properly as mobile payments to trigger the 3x bonus category on the US Bank Altitude Reserve card. Then, Miles Earn and Burn reported the same a couple of days ago. However, I hadn’t previously reported this despite reader comments simply because this doesn’t appear to be universal: I’ve been receiving 3x everywhere I’ve shopped in-person when tapping my phone to pay with Google Pay. Ultimately, I’m not really sure what’s up, but it seemed worth reporting so that readers can check their own rewards history and follow up with US Bank of something is awry with their rewards.

The problem seems to only affect Google Pay, not Apple Pay or Samsung Pay

a screen shot of a phone

The US Bank Altitude Reserve card is special because it offers 3 points per dollar spent for mobile wallet purchases, which has historically included Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Samsung Pay. That’s a fantastic return when you consider that those mobile payment options are fairly ubiquitous these days and when you consider that Altitude Reserve points can then be redeemed at a value of 1.5c per point either when redeeming for travel via the US Bank Travel portal or when you book anywhere and use US Bank Real-time mobile rewards for qualifying purchases. Those things combine for an effective base earning rate of 4.5% for any purchases where you can tap to pay with your phone or smartwatch, making the Altitude Reserve the best option for paying for purchases in-person at warehouse clubs like Costco or anywhere else where you pay in-person.

According to multiple reader data points, the problem here has only affected those using Google Pay, not those users with Apple Pay or Samsung Pay. The problem is that many Google Pay users are reporting only having gotten one point per dollar for what otherwise should have been qualifying Google Pay purchases for 3x points.

To be clear, I’m not talking about using Google Pay to pay for purchases on a website. Those purchases have almost universally coded at 1x for me, although at least one reader reported still getting 3x when using their phone to hit the Google Pay button to pay where it is accepted on a website or in an app. The inconsistency there has been long-standing.

The current issue has been affecting some users for all in-person mobile wallet payments since either December 2023 or January 2024. We’ve had readers report that they were receiving 3x as expected on those in-person payments when tapping to pay with their phones or smartwatches until 2024, when purchases inexplicably began coding at 1x.

Several readers have reported that US Bank phone agents appear to be familiar with the problem, so there is a chance that this will all get fixed retroactively later, but it’s hard to say for sure if and when that will happen.

My Google Pay in-person purchases have coded at 3x as expected throughout 2024

What has confused me here is that all of my in-person Google Pay transactions have been coding at 3x as expected.

For instance, I made a purchase at the Lego Store in New York City just a few days ago and got 3x when tapping with my phone at checkout just as I would expect.

And that’s not a one-off situation. I’ve had plenty of other tap-to-pay purchases over the past couple of months. I almost exclusively use my phone to pay when traveling since I know it always codes at 3x. Here were a bunch of purchases I made during a span of a few days in February, all at 3x.

I don’t know why this is functioning as expected for me and not for other people.

If I were to guess, my first question is whether this could be affecting certain versions of Google Pay. As pointed out by Miles Earn and Burn, Google has rebranded their tap-to-pay wallet from Google Pay to Google Wallet and back to Google Pay (the app on my phone is Gpay, which is separate from Google Wallet on my phone). I wonder if updates have happened on different timelines with different phones and whether that has been the root cause of the issue with how purchases are coding.

That’s just a guess, and not a particularly well-informed one — I’m just shooting from the hip there. I use a Google Pixel 7 Pro. Presumably I get Google-related updates ahead of other Android phones, but ironically I would think that would make me more likely to experience a problem than have no problem at all. It’s hard to say what’s at play here.

Bottom line

The truth is that I have no idea what’s up with Google Wallet purchases and why some are coding at 3x for in-person Google Pay purchases (which has been my experience) and 1x for all purchases for others. This is a weird situation for sure. Since this doesn’t seem to be affecting all cardholders the same way, I actually think that it’s somewhat likely that US Bank will eventually be able to figure this out and retroactively credit rewards that should have been earned, but I have no idea what kind of a timeline there might be for that, nor can I guarantee that it will happen. If you’ve been using your Altitude Reserve for in-person Google Pay transactions, it is probably worth checking your rewards history (simply click on “Rewards” when logged in to your US Bank account) and see whether you’re getting 3x as expected. If not, you may want to consider seeing if you can switch to Apple Pay or Samsung Pay.

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