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USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card: A passable choice for military purchases

 /  6 min
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Snapshot

2.4

Bankrate rating
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Rating: 2.4 stars out of 5

Bottom line

This is a great option for military members or veterans who live on or near a military base where they make frequent purchases, or for those who simply want to maximize their cash back for gasoline purchases. It earns decently at grocery stores too, but if you want to build a focused cash back strategy there are better options available with higher rewards rates, more categories and which also include welcome offers and introductory APRs.

Image of USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

Rewards rate

1% - 5%
Info

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A
Info

Regular APR

14.90% to 28.90% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® card Overview

The USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® card offers excellent cash back earning potential for spending on military bases and gas stations at 5 percent cash back for the first $3,000 spent each year (1 percent thereafter). This is a generous rate for service members who live on a military base and even matches the cashback potential of some top tier cash back cards.

However, there’s no sign-up bonus or intro APR offer, making it a poor choice if you’re hoping to pay off existing credit card debt or earn a lump-sum of cash back soon after opening your account. Plus, the annual caps on your best rewards rates are disappointingly low. Competing cards with similar rewards rates can carry rewards thresholds twice as large.

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

  • Checkmark

    Extra rewards for spending on military bases is a unique benefit for service members

  • Checkmark

    Lower-than-average APR for well-qualified applicants can keep more cash back in your pocket

  • Checkmark

    Cash back multipliers roll over every year

Cons

  • Only available to military members and their families

  • No intro APR or sign-up bonus takes a lot of potential value away from the first year of card membership

  • 3 percent balance transfer fee on purchases overseas makes it an unfit option when on international deployments or trips

A deeper look at the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: 5 percent cash back on gas station and military base spending up to $3,000 per year (1% thereafter), plus 2 percent cash back on grocery store purchases up to $3,000 per year and 1 percent cash back on all other purchases.
  • Welcome offer: None
  • Annual fee: None
  • Purchase intro APR: N/A
  • Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 14.90 percent to 28.90 percent variable, based on creditworthiness

Current welcome offer

The USAA Cashback Rewards credit card doesn’t have any sign-up or bonus offer. This means no extra cash back after you spend a certain amount in the first few months, and no intro APR to help reduce your interest payments.

Most cash back cards with no annual fee come with a welcome offer to entice new applicants. A boost from your spending after your first few months is a fair complement to your regular cash back earnings, but these offers can sometimes incentivize you to overspend.

If you don’t anticipate spending upwards of $500 to $1,000 in the first three months of card membership, then you shouldn’t worry too much about welcome offers.

Rewards rate

When it comes to rewards credit cards, this USAA offering is fairly middle-of-the-road, but it may not be the most valuable option if you spend more than $3,000 each year on either gas or military purchases – like those made on bases – or $3,000 per year on groceries.

Earning rewards

You’ll earn 1 percent cash back on general purchases, which is the minimum expected on any cash back card. Cardholders also earn 2 percent cash back on grocery purchases (on up to $3,000 in purchases per year) along with 5 percent cash back on gas station and military base spending (also on up to $3,000 in purchases per year). Your cash back drops to 1 percent in these categories when you reach the spending threshold each year.

This card’s 5 percent rate for gas and military purchases is hard to match, but some no-annual-fee cash back cards come with a 2 percent flat rate on all purchases without any limit, making the card’s grocery rewards rate less impressive. Although the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus card is great for its niche rewards rate on military bases and for gas, if a majority of your spending falls into common categories like groceries or dining, you might be able to earn more overall cash back with a different card.

You can choose from cards that earn 2 percent back on all purchases without a limit or ones that earn 3 percent to 5 percent back with a spending limit for certain categories. Whichever you choose, you could enjoy more cash back potential depending on how much you spend and where you shop.

Redeeming rewards

Redeeming rewards is simple—just log into your account at USAA.com or through your mobile app and check your cash back amount, then choose the amount you’d like to redeem.

According to the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus program terms and conditions, cash can be redeemed for any amount in $1 increments starting at as little as $1. You can redeem cash back for travel rewards, merchandise and gift cards, as a statement credit, direct deposit or as a charitable donation. Your available cash back amount for any posted transactions is typically available within 48 hours after purchase.

Other cardholder perks

The USAA Cashback Rewards card offers numerous benefits for military members and their families. Some of these are widely available on some of the best cash back cards, making this card a competitive choice in the overall landscape of cash back.

Auto rental coverage

Rent a vehicle with your USAA credit card and enjoy complimentary coverage along with travel accident insurance.

24/7 USAA customer service

Connect with USAA customer service around the clock with questions about your card, with help redeeming your cash back or for questions about which purchases qualify for cash back.

Baggage delay and reimbursement

The last thing military members on leave or military families on vacation want to deal with is lost luggage. USAA offers peace of mind with baggage delay and reimbursement coverage.

Security and protection

Card members also have no liability for unauthorized transactions as well as security alerts when your account has strange activity.

Rates and fees

The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express card has no annual fee, no penalty APR and no foreign transaction fees. It does, however, have a 3 percent balance transfer and cash advance fee for each cash advance along with an up to $35 fee for late or returned payments.

The card’s regular APR can fall between 14.90 percent and 28.90 percent, depending on creditworthiness. This is a relatively good APR range because on the low end it lands below the current average APR. However, on the high end this rate exceeds the highest APR found on most popular cash back cards.

Unfortunately, there’s no introductory APR on either new purchases or balance transfers. Cardholders carrying credit card debt or who are planning on a large purchase might want to look elsewhere if their goal is to curb interest for a year or more.

How the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express compares to other cash back cards

While the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express card offers solid cash back options for current and former military members and their families, how does it stack up against more traditional cash back cards?

Image of USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

1% - 5%
Info

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Image of Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Chase Freedom Unlimited®

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

Earn an Additional 1.5% Cash Back
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Rewards rate

1.5% - 5%
Info

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info
Image of Citi® Double Cash Card
Bankrate Score
Apply now Lock
On Citi's secure site

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A

Rewards rate

2%
Info

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
Info

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express vs. Chase Freedom Unlimited®

The Chase Freedom Unlimited® card offers a 0 percent intro APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months (19.24 percent to 27.99 percent variable APR thereafter). Along with a welcome bonus worth up to $300 cash back from earning an extra 1.5% on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year). That’s 6.5% on travel purchased through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 4.5% on dining and drugstores and 3% on all other purchases.

This card’s regular APR is slightly higher on the low end than the rate on the USAA Cash Rewards card, but Chase’s introductory rate is a valuable perk that can come in handy if you’re transferring any card balance over. Plus, the Freedom Unlimited card’s reward rates for travel, dining and general purchases easily beat the USAA card’s rewards rates.

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express vs. Citi® Double Cash Card

The Citi® Double Cash Card is another good option that comes with 18 months of a 0 percent introductory APR period on balance transfers (18.24 percent to 28.24 percent variable APR after intro period) plus up to 2 percent cash back—1 percent when you buy and 1 percent as you pay off your purchases.

While the USAA card can’t compete when it comes to 0 percent intro APR for purchases or balance transfers on either of these cards, it can come out ahead on extra cash back for gas or if you’re currently stationed at a military base.

Best cards to pair with USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express credit card

If you’re looking to partner up your USAA card, consider a travel points card for big trips or a 0 percent intro APR offer for large purchases.

While the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus card is a great choice for everyday spending, you’ll often get bigger benefits from travel-specific cards when booking flights and hotels—and if you’ve got a plan to pay down your balance, it’s worth considering an intro APR card to reduce your total interest.

Bankrate’s Take — Is the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus card worth it?

If you’re looking for the best credit cards for military members and their families, USAA cards are a solid choice. This card in particular offers one of the best ongoing rewards rates for gas purchases and easily the best rate available for purchases made on a military base. On top of that, it charges no annual fee, carries a solid APR for qualified applicants and its cash multipliers roll over every year.

This card may lack value outside of military life, however. While earning 5 percent for gas is a luxury in the cash back credit card world, you’ll need to supplement this card with other cash back cards if you want to maximize your earnings in other everyday categories like dining and groceries.

The information about the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card has been collected independently by Bankrate.com. The card details have not been reviewed or approved by the card issuer.

Written by
Brendan Dyer
Credit Cards Editor

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 Credit Cards Editor

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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.