USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card

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A solid reward card without much of a wow factor.

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The USAA Rewards American Express Card is a no-frills rewards credit card that only former and current military as well as immediate family members of someone with military ties is eligible for.

Active duty military members get a few perks reserved just for them. Once such benefit rolls back the APR to just 4% for up to 12 months during deployment or PCS. After 12 months, your APR goes back to the regular rate based on your creditworthiness.

That said, this is a pretty basic card that offers standard rewards with few wow moments.

Review

To get approved for this card not only must you be a USAA member, but you must also have a good or excellent credit score.

Those who are approved with credit on the lower end of the spectrum will face higher-than-average APRs, maxing out at a jaw-dropping 27.65%. Of course, you can avoid that APR by paying off your balance each month.

If you use the card mainly for gas and groceries, you get 2x the points for every dollar you spend.

Since there’s no annual fee, you could keep this card as a second option for those high-rewards category spends. All other purchases earn 1x the points for each dollar. The good news is your points never expire.

Who should get this card

The ideal candidate for this card is a deployed military member who has a balance they want to pay off with the lowest APR possible.

Even with the 3% balance transfer fee, this card could save you money depending on how much you owe – especially since there’s no annual fee.

Let’s say you owe $4,000 on another credit card. Now, you have to pay the 3% transfer fee, which is $120. Your 4% APR will be $160 for the year, that’s a total of $280 in fees and interest.

To pay off the same amount of debt in one year, with a relatively low 12% APR, you will end up spending $480 in interest alone. It makes sense for active military members with expensive debt to get this card, at least for a year. In this example, they would have saved $200, just for transferring debt.

Advantages
  • If you qualify, you'll get one of the lowest APRs available of any credit card.
  • You won’t have to pay an annual fee.
  • Enjoy extra perks, like rental car insurance.
Disadvantages
  • You have to be a USAA member to get this card.
  • The APR range slips into a higher-than-average rate
  • There’s a balance transfer fee of up to 3%.
  • Terms apply.

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 11.65% to 27.65% APR 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%.
  • See Rates & Fees.

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 Rewards American Express 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 120 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.

You can redeem points for airline and cruise travel rewards, cash, merchandise and gift cards.

How this card compares

Chase Freedom®
  • 0% Intro APR for 15 months from account opening on purchases and balance transfers, then a variable APR of 16.74-25.49%. Balance transfer fee is 5% of the amount transferred, $5 minimum
  • 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
  • Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - it's automatic
  • Cash Back rewards do not expire as long as your account is open and there is no minimum to redeem for cash back.
  • Free credit score, updated weekly with Credit Journey℠
  • No annual fee
Credit Needed

Excellent/Good

Regular APR

16.74% - 25.49% Variable

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

0% Intro APR on Purchases for 15 months

Balance Transfers Intro APR

0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers 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.

Citi® Double Cash Card
  • Earn 2% cash back on purchases: 1% when you buy plus 1% as you pay
  • Balance Transfers do not earn cash back
  • 0% Intro APR on Balance Transfers for 18 months. After that, the variable APR will be 15.24% - 25.24% 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/Good

Regular APR

15.24% - 25.24%* (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.

The card earns an unlimited 1% cash back when you make a purchase and another 1% back when you pay for those purchases. Big spenders may find this nets more cash-back overall as there’s no ceiling on what you can earn back.

Discover it® Cash Back
  • Intro Offer: Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year, automatically. There's no signing up. And no limit to how much is matched.
  • Earn 5% cash back at different places each quarter like gas stations, grocery stores, restaurants, Amazon.com, or wholesale clubs up to the quarterly maximum each time you activate.
  • Plus, earn unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases - automatically.
  • Redeem cash back any amount, any time. Rewards never expire.
  • Use your rewards at Amazon.com checkout.
  • Receive Free Social Security number alerts—Discover will monitor thousands of risky websites when you sign up.
  • No annual fee.
Credit Needed

Excellent/Good

Regular APR

13.74% - 24.74% Variable

Annual Fee

$0

Purchase Intro APR

0% for 14 months

Balance Transfers Intro APR

0% for 14 months

Discover it® Cash Back cardholders can earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in accordance with Discover’s 2018 Cashback Calendar after enrollment. Enroll every quarter to earn 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases made in various categories throughout the year.

You won’t earn one of those huge sign-up bonuses other cards offer, but if you’re looking for a no-frills cash-back card, the Discover it® Cash Back does come with one intriguing feature: Discover will pay a dollar-for-dollar match of all the cash back you’ve earned at the end of your first year.

 

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.