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USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card review: An excellent no-annual-fee card for military members and families

 /  6 min
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At Bankrate we strive to help you make smarter financial decisions. While we adhere to strict , this post may contain references to products from our partners. Here's an explanation for . The content on this page is accurate as of the posting date; however, some of the offers mentioned may have expired. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.

Snapshot

2.9

Bankrate rating
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Rating: 2.9 stars out of 5

Bottom line

Although some of the other rewards cards offer higher rates in categories such as dining, gas and groceries, as well as more valuable perks, its military-friendly features make the USAA Rewards American Express Card a solid choice for service members. If their spending habits align with the rewards categories, members of the military might see this card as an ideal recruit for their personal finances.

Image of USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card

USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card

Rewards rate

1X - 3X
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Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

2,500
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Regular APR

10.65% to 26.65% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Good to Excellent (670 – 850)
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Editor’s note: Some of the offers on this page may be expired. Check out our Best Credit Cards page for the most up-to-date offers for our favorite credit cards.

The USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card Overview

The USAA® Rewards™ American Express® Card combines the earnings potential of a traditional rewards card with perks and benefits specifically tailored to consumers serving in the military. Service members and their immediate families might find the combination to their liking.

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

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    There are no annual fees, foreign transaction fees, or penalty APRs with this card, which is a nice perk on top of earning rewards

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    It might be beneficial to those who spend the most on dining, gas, and groceries since you can earn decent rewards on those categories without a spending cap

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    You can earn its one-time 2,500 point welcome bonus with a single purchase, so you don’t have to worry about meeting a spending requirement

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    It offers flexible reward redemption choices such as a check, statement credit, or direct deposit, as well as airline travel, cruises, merchandise, gift cards and more

Cons

  • It only has a 0 percent intro APR period for balance transfers, and not for new purchases

  • You must be a USAA member, a military member or from a military family in order to qualify, which limits its availability to potential applicants

  • The value of its one-time welcome offer is unclear, so it’s hard to compare its bonus value to other no-annual-fee rewards cards

  • The card is not entirely free of fees, since it charges up to $35 in late and returned payment fees, as well as a 3 percent balance transfer and cash advance fee

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: Earn 3X points per dollar spent on dining, 2X points per dollar spent on gas and groceries and 1X points for every dollar spent on all other purchases
  • Welcome offer: Earn 2,500 bonus points with your first purchase
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Purchase intro APR: None
  • Balance transfer intro APR: 0 percent intro APR for 15 months (for balances transferred within 90 days of account opening)
  • Regular APR: 12.15 percent to 28.15 percent (variable)

Current welcome offer

For an introductory bonus, you get 2,500 bonus points after making your first purchase with the card. There is an estimated value of $25 for this offer, which is not much compared to other signup bonuses, like the Wells Fargo Autograph℠ Card, which offers 20,000 bonus points when you spend $1,000 in purchases in the first 3 months – that’s a $200 cash redemption value. 

It may seem like the Autograph Card’s signup bonus is generous, but the USAA Rewards Card doesn’t require a minimum spending requirement to earn the bonus, making it more easily attainable for cardholders. For USAA’s 2,500 bonus points, cardholders only need to make one purchase — therefore, USAA cardholders can earn a decent signup bonus without being pressured to spend a minimum amount.

Rewards rate

Service members who devote a sizable portion of their income to feeding and transporting their families will find the USAA Rewards American Express Card of particular interest. It offers unlimited Reward Points in the following categories:

  • 3X points per $1 on dining
  • 2X points per $1 on gas and groceries
  • 1X point on other eligible purchases

How you earn

Remember to use the USAA Rewards American Express Card for dining (3X points) and gas and groceries (2X points) to maximize your rewards in those categories. The 1X rate on other eligible purposes makes the card good for general use. Since points are unlimited, you can feel free to make this card your go-to for everyday purchases.

However, take note of one restriction on grocery purchases. Like similar cards, the USAA Rewards American Express Card does not include discount stores, wholesale stores and warehouse clubs in the groceries category. Grocery items you buy at places such as Walmart, Costco or Sam’s Club will earn 1X points rather than 2X points.

How to redeem

Reward Points never expire as long as your account is open and in good standing. You can redeem points for:

  • Cash rewards
  • Merchandise and gift cards
  • Charitable contributions
  • Airline and cruise tickets

Most redemptions can be made through the USAA Rewards Service Center online or by phone. If you redeem for a Cruise Travel Reward, you’ll need to call a toll-free number to contact Member Travel Privileges.

How much are the rewards worth?

It varies. The value of Rewards Points may depend on what you redeem them for. According to the card’s terms and conditions, the points “may have a greater redemption value (and be worth more) for certain reward benefits.”

Other cardholder benefits

Cardholders get an assortment of benefits, including:

  • Free collision damage waiver coverage for physical damage and theft to most vehicle rentals
  • Travel accident and baggage delay insurance
  • Extended warranties on purchases
  • Zero liability for unauthorized purchases
  • Mobile wallet options using Apple Pay™, Google Pay™ or Samsung Pay™
  • Advanced security features

If you want to personalize your card to reflect your branch of the armed forces or a favorite veterans group, you can choose from more than a dozen military affiliate card designs.

Rates and fees

The card’s financial incentives include no penalty APR, no annual fee, no over-the-limit fee and no foreign transaction fee. (No fee for foreign transactions could be especially useful for service members stationed or deployed overseas.) However, fees for balance transfers and cash advances are 3 percent of the amount of each transaction — though when compared to other rewards cards, a 3 percent minimum fee for balance transfers is fairly common.

Because of its 12.15 percent to 28.15 percent (variable) ongoing APR, the USAA Rewards American Express card can double as a low-interest credit card. This interest rate is decent for a rewards card, with its low-end APR rate slightly lower than the current average, but its high-end APR rate is a little on the steep side.

How does the USAA Rewards American Express Card compare to other rewards cards

Though the USAA Rewards American Express card provides excellent rewards on everyday spending, there are alternative rewards cards that provide greater rewards earning flexibility.

USAA Rewards American Express Card vs. USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card

Those who are active duty military members looking to earn rewards toward military base expenses should consider the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Credit Card. It offers 5 percent cash back on gas station and military base purchases (up to $3,000 per year in combined purchases), 2 percent cash back on grocery store purchases (up to $3,000 per year) and unlimited 1 percent cash back on everything else.

Both the Rewards Card and Cashback Rewards Plus Card have no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees and no penalty APR, but the Cashback Rewards Plus card lacks the attractive sign-up bonus of 2,500 extra points that the Rewards Card offers. Additionally, the Cashback Rewards Plus card limits your earning potential compared to the Rewards Card due to the cap on spending categories.

USAA Rewards American Express Card vs. Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Credit Card Card

The Capital One Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card could be a perfect match for shoppers looking for a simplified, flat-rate cashback rewards card without USAA membership restrictions. It offers 1.5 percent cash back on all purchases, so you don’t have to worry about maximizing your spending in certain categories like you would with the USAA Rewards American Express Card.

Both the Quicksilver Cash Rewards Card and the USAA Rewards Card have no annual fee and offer great travel perks, but the USAA Rewards card gives you the chance to earn more towards rewards if you can strategize your spending.

Bankrate’s Take — Is the USAA Rewards American Express Card worth it?

If you spend a lot of money on dining, gas and groceries, those purchases will help maximize the value of this card’s rewards program. However, if you aren’t a USAA member or aren’t qualified to become one, you won’t be able to take advantage of the card’s military-centric benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

Written by
Re'Dreyona Walker

Re’Dreyona Walker is an Associate Editor for CreditCards.com and Bankrate.com, focusing on product guides and reviews. As a personal finance expert, she is dedicated to providing honest product reviews as well as in-depth, comprehensive guides to assist readers in building credit and finding the best credit cards for their needs.

Edited by Senior Credit Cards Editor

* See the online application for details about terms and conditions for these offers. Every reasonable effort has been made to maintain accurate information. However all credit card information is presented without warranty. After you click on the offer you desire you will be directed to the credit card issuer's web site where you can review the terms and conditions for your selected offer.

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.