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USAA® Secured American Express® Card

A decent card for eligible military personnel and family members, but it falls short where other secured cards shine.

 /  11 min
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Snapshot

4.3

Bankrate rating
Info
Rating: 4.3 stars out of 5

Bottom line

USAA, one of the leading banks for military members and their families, offers its secured credit card for members with little to no credit history. This card has no annual fee and gives you a unique chance to earn interest on your security deposit. While it doesn’t have the most perks or rewards, it’s still a convenient option if you want to take the first step in your credit journey.

Image of USAA® Secured American Express® Card

USAA® Secured American Express® Card

*
4.3
Rating: 4.3 stars out of 5
Bankrate score
Info
Bad to Fair (300 – 670)
Info
Recommended Credit

N/A

Intro offer

Info

$0

Annual fee

25.90% Variable

APR

USAA® Secured American Express® Card overview

The USAA Secured Amex carries a relatively low APR and plenty of perks but doesn’t offer any rewards. It’s available to active military members, qualifying veterans and their family members. Credit-builders and military personnel may consider this card if they’re already members of USAA, but non-members will need to sign up for USAA first. 

Although its lack of value stands up poorly to other secured cards, the security deposit you make to open this card earns interest in a certificate of deposit (CD) account with USAA. This feature and the card’s nuanced perks portfolio are the card’s most redeeming aspects.

  • Credit Card Cash Back

    Rewards

    • None

    Expert Appraisal: Unimpressive
    See our expert analysis

  • Credit Card Search

    Rates and fees

    • APR: 28.15 percent
    • Annual fee: None
    • Balance transfer fee: 5 percent of the amount of each transfer
    • Cash advance fee: 5 percent of the amount of each cash advance (fee waived when transferring funds electronically to a USAA deposit account).
    • Foreign transaction fee: None
    • Late payment fee: Up to $35
    • Returned payment fee: Up to $35
    • Minimum security deposit: $250

    Expert Appraisal: Typical
    See our expert analysis

  • Congrats

    Other cardholder perks

    • Auto rental collision damage waiver
    • Travel accident and emergency assistance
    • Trip cancellation and interruption coverage
    • Baggage delay and reimbursement
    • Extended warranty protection on eligible purchases
    • Zero liability for unauthorized transactions
    • Cell phone protection

    Expert Appraisal: Good
    See our expert analysis

USAA Secured Amex pros and cons

Pros

  • Checkmark

    You earn interest on your security deposit, which could be a passive stand-in for earning rewards.

  • Checkmark

    The issuer reports activity to the three major credit bureaus, helping you build credit.

  • Checkmark

    Doesn’t charge an annual fee, so it doesn’t add extra costs to building credit.

Cons

  • Membership is restricted to military members, qualifying veterans and family members.

  • You won’t have access to your security deposit for as long as your card account is open.

  • There’s no option to graduate to an unsecured card, something that most secured cards offer.

Why you might want the USAA Secured Amex

Secured cards present the opportunity to build credit for anyone who isn’t eligible for an unsecured card. The USAA Secured Amex meets most of the criteria that the best secured cards do, but goes the extra mile by offering some convenient travel and purchase benefits.

Rates and fees: Relatively low APR and minimal fees

This card’s APR is slightly lower than most secured credit card APRs. It’s a minimal difference but could be enough to sway your decision if you’re particularly wary of interest charges and spiraling into credit card debt. However, if you’re interested in a secured credit card, you likely have a limited or damaged credit history, meaning that you should focus on positive credit habits that can help you build your score. One example of a good credit habit is paying on time and in full to avoid interest altogether. Although you should consider APRs when applying for cards and reviewing your options, you should never think of an APR as something you need to pay unless you’re carrying a balance.

There’s also no annual or foreign transaction fee, and USAA won’t charge a penalty APR if you make a late payment.

Perks: Great for travel and purchase protections

USAA offers plenty of perks and purchase protections for cardholders. 

It’s a great card for travel because it provides common insurance perks you’ll often find on premium travel cards, and it will extend eligible manufacturer warranties. Plus, when you pay your phone bill with your USAA credit card, you’ll qualify for up to $500 of reimbursement funds if your cell phone is stolen or damaged.

Secured cards don’t normally offer these benefits, so it could be a solid trade-off since this card doesn’t have rewards.

Earn interest: Your security deposit will accrue interest

This card’s most unique feature is its interest-earning CD account that your security deposit funds. Although USAA doesn’t disclose the interest rate in the card terms, this uncommon offer is worth considering when weighing your options. It might incentivize you to deposit more than the minimum to access a higher line of credit and earn more interest on the CD. Although better banking alternatives, like a high-yield savings account, are available, these accounts sometimes have minimum deposit amounts that could be out of reach.

The USAA Secured Amex card can help you establish a credit history and provide some small earnings until you can open an unsecured credit card account.

Why you might want a different secured card

Although it offers some great perks and your deposit will accrue interest, some drawbacks are worth noting and could make other options more appealing.

Low value: Lacks a welcome offer and ongoing rewards

The USAA Secured American Express doesn’t offer a welcome bonus or other introductory offers, which is common with secured credit cards.

Some secured cards come with sign-up bonuses, and while a short-term offer shouldn’t be the priority, these bonuses sometimes come without any added costs. However, even cards that lack welcome offers may come with rewards but the USAA Secured Amex doesn’t have ongoing cash back, points or miles.

Security deposit: High minimum deposit requirement

This card requires a minimum security deposit of $250 to get started, which is $50 higher than the $200 requirement on many other cards. Although this may not seem like a substantial difference, some cardholders may struggle to balance everyday expenses and $250 may not be feasible for some people. However, this higher deposit also means you’ll benefit from a higher credit limit when you open your card account, so it’ll provide some flexibility when you take your credit utilization ratio into consideration.

You can find secured cards that require deposits of just $200, with others asking for minimum deposits of $100 or less. If you qualify, the Capital One Platinum Secured Credit Card may offer a $200 credit limit for a deposit as low as $49 ($99 or $200 minimum deposit possible, depending on your credit score). If you’re wary of locking away $250 upfront to access credit, you might want to consider alternatives. That said, other cards’ deposits won’t accrue interest like the USAA Secured Amex’s deposit will.

Membership: Exclusive to USAA members

You won’t qualify for this card unless you’re a USAA member, which means you, a spouse or a parent must be in the military or be a veteran with an Honorable or General Under Honorable Conditions discharge.

To create a USAA account as a military member or qualifying veteran, you need to provide the branch of military service, rank and service dates; spouses and children need to provide the USAA number for the qualifying member’s account in order to be eligible.

If you don’t qualify because you don’t meet the minimum membership requirements for USAA, then it rules this card out. Fortunately, better credit cards are available without membership requirements.

How the USAA Secured Amercian Express card compares to other secured cards

This could be a good card for building credit if you or a loved one in the military need a credit card. You should always shop around for better options, so here are a couple worth considering.

Image of USAA® Secured American Express® Card

USAA® Secured American Express® Card

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

N/A

Recommended Credit Score

Bad to Fair (300 – 670)
Info
Image of Discover it® Secured Credit Card
Bankrate Score
See Rates & Fees , Terms Apply
Apply now Lock
on Discover's secure site

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

Cashback Match™
Info

Rewards rate

1% - 2%
Info

Recommended Credit Score

No Credit History
Info
Image of Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards® Secured Card

Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards® Secured Card

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

1X
Info

Recommended Credit Score

Bad to Fair (300 – 670)
Info

Who is the USAA Secured Amex right for?

The USAA Secured Amex is a niche secured card that may appeal to members of the armed forces without any credit history.

Bankrate’s take — Is the USAA Secured American Express Card worth it?

The USAA Secured American Express card can be a great entry point for members of the armed forces, qualifying veterans and their family members to build or rebuild credit. The card is also available to cadets who, like college students, may have thin credit files that won’t let them qualify for a different credit card.

The card will report to all three major credit bureaus, so with regular on-time payments, anyone using it can improve their credit score. However, its lack of rewards, intro APR periods and high deposit requirements may turn some applicants away.

How we rated this card

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Our proprietary card rating system takes into account a mix of factors when scoring credit cards for students and people building credit, including each card’s cost, APR, credit-building tools and more.

We analyzed over 50 of the most popular cards designed for students and people with no credit history, bad credit or a fair credit score and scored each based on where its key features stood in relation to others in its category.

Here are some of the key factors that gave this card its score: 

Frequently asked questions

Written by
Brendan Dyer
Associate Editor, Credit Cards

Brendan Dyer holds a Master of Fine Arts in Journalism from Western Connecticut State University and worked previously as a content editor for Regional News Network, a hyper-local TV news station contracted by Verizon FiOS1 News. As a national service volunteer, Brendan exercised a passion for helping underserved communities and demographics through direct, community service. He constantly seeks to apply his expertise as a journalist to the field of personal finance with the goal of helping people navigate the complexities of the credit card industry.

Edited by Former Editor, Credit cards

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Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author's alone, and have not been reviewed or approved by any advertiser. The information, including card rates and fees, is accurate as of the publish date. All products or services are presented without warranty. Check the bank’s website for the most current information.