USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature

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A solid rewards card for active duty military members.

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For active duty military service members who carry a balance, the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature could prove a financial life preserver.

The reason? The APR on all balances, for up to a year during deployment or permanent change of station, drops to just 4% – a sizable difference from the standard variable APR of 12.90% to 26.90% based on creditworthiness. The catch is that this low rate only applies to charges racked up before entering active military duty.

Review

Even if you’re not an active duty service member, the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature offers attractive benefits, most notably its 1.5% cash back on all purchases, without limits or restrictions. Most non-rotating cash-back cards offer 1%, so the extra half percentage point definitely is a score in its favor.

Cardholders also will save on some common fees. With this card, there’s no annual fee or penalty APR. You also won’t be charged a foreign transaction fee, which is especially attractive if you’re in the military and stationed overseas.

Another valuable travel benefit includes worldwide rental car insurance when you use your card for the entire rental cost. Coverage consists of physical damage and theft of the vehicle; reasonable loss-of-use charges incurred from the rental car company if the car becomes inoperable; and towing charges to the nearest collision repair facility.

The USAA Visa Signature Card cardholder and those designated in the rental agreement as authorized drivers are covered under this insurance.

Not to be outdone by some of the higher-end travel cards, USAA Cash Rewards Visa Card cardholders get 24/7 concierge service access. This handy perk could be a lifesaver for people with busy schedules as the concierge will handle everything from on-site assistance with everyday household needs (this includes accepting home deliveries when you can’t be there) to pre-trip planning services.

Active duty military service members even get access to help before, during and after deployment.

Who should get this card

With such a wide variety of perks, this card could be a good fit for many types of consumers. Along with service members who are about to be deployed, this could also be a worthwhile choice for other USAA members. They can optimize their cash-back rewards by shopping at the USAA MemberShop which gives members more cash back rewards, in addition to what the card already offers.

Remember, though,  you must qualify for USAA membership in order to grab this credit card.

Advantages
  • There's no limit on the amount you can earn.
  • This card has minimal fees; there’s no annual fee; no penalty APR; and no foreign transaction fee.
  • USAA and Active duty service members get extra benefits.
Disadvantages
  • There is a cash advance fee and a balance transfer fee of up to 3%.
  • There is no sign-up bonus.
  • You could get more competitive cash back rewards if you choose a card with rotating categories.

Fees and APR

  • There’s no annual fee.
  • You’ll pay no foreign transaction fee when using the card for purchases outside of the U.S.
  • The annual percentage rate is a variable 12.90% to 26.90% based on your creditworthiness.
  • Deployed service members are eligible for 12 months of a 4% APR on balances incurred before deployment.
  • There is a balance transfer fee of 3%.

Extras, perks and using rewards

Cardholders get an assortment of benefits – from rental car insurance to extra rewards points for USAA members.

If you rent a qualifying car for 31 days or less, and pay using the USAA Secured Card, you’ll get insurance coverage for theft or physical damage to the car.

With the price protection feature of this card, you may be eligible for a refund of the price difference if you find a lower price on a new item you bought with the card within 60 days of your purchase.

This card offers extended warranty protections, which doubles the original manufacturer warranty up to a maximum of twenty-four months on most items you purchase.

Cardholders also receive access to a 24-hour concierge service.

Redeem cash back through the USAA Rewards Service Center in increments of at least $1.

How this card compares

Citi® Double Cash Card
Card Details
  • Earn cash back twice on every purchase with unlimited 1% cash back when you buy, plus an additional 1% as you pay for those purchases.
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 14.49% - 24.49% based on your creditworthiness
  • Click 'Apply Now' to see the applicable balance transfer fee and how making a balance transfer impacts interest on purchases.
  • No categories to track, no caps on cash back, no annual fee*
Credit Needed Excellent
Regular APR 14.49% - 24.49%* (Variable)
Annual Fee $0*
Purchase Intro APR N/A
Balance Transfers Intro APR 0% for 18 months*

When it comes to rewards value, the Citi Double Cash Card ranks among the very best cash-back credit cards that charge no annual fee.

So why, you might ask, does this card not receive a higher score from Bankrate? There are a couple reasons, but the main thing dragging this card down is this: Because Citi Double Cash offers no sign-up bonus, it struggles to compete with many cards in this category.

Card Details
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • Earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in combined purchases in bonus categories each quarter you activate
  • Enjoy new 5% categories each quarter like gas stations, restaurants and drugstores
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee
Credit Needed Good
Regular APR 15.99% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee $0
Purchase Intro APR 0% for 15 months
Balance Transfers Intro APR 0% for 15 months

If you’re up for the challenge of tracking bonus rewards categories, Chase Freedom can give you some real cash-back bang for your buck. For travel junkies and road warriors, this card is ideal when paired with an eligible Chase card to reap maximum travel rewards on your spending.

If you don’t want to do the work, get a card that offers a flat cash-back rate better than what you’ll find here.

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Card Details
  • Unlimited 1.5% cash back on every purchase — it's automatic
  • Earn a $150 Bonus after you spend $500 on purchases in your first 3 months from account opening
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 15.99-24.74%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • No minimum to redeem for cash back
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open
  • No annual fee
Credit Needed Good
Regular APR 15.99% - 24.74% Variable
Annual Fee $0
Purchase Intro APR 0% for 15 months
Balance Transfers Intro APR 0% for 15 months

Chase Freedom Unlimited is a solid, straightforward cash-back rewards card that’s ideal for cardholders who just don’t have the time or energy to track spending categories. It ranks among the very best cash-back credit cards we track.

There are other cards that offer better rewards, but the Chase Freedom Unlimited’s 1.5% cash-back on everything is an excellent reward coming from a no-annual-fee credit card.

If you also hold a premium travel rewards card from Chase like the Sapphire Preferred or Sapphire Reserve, you can transfer your rewards from the Freedom Unlimited to one of the premium cards to redeem for travel at an increased value.

EDITORIAL NOTE

Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines, or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.