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USAA® Secured American Express® Card

 /  5 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

4.3

Bankrate rating
Info
Rating: 4.3 stars out of 5

Bottom line

USAA, one of the leading credit unions for military members, has brought back its secured credit card for members with little to no credit history who are looking to build their credit. Not only does it no longer have an annual fee, but it also gives the cardholder a savings account that earns interest. While it doesn’t have the most perks, it’s still a low-cost option for those who want to take the next step in their credit journey.

Image of USAA® Secured American Express® Card

USAA® Secured American Express® Card

Rewards rate

N/A

Annual fee

$0

Intro offer

N/A
Info

Regular APR

25.90% Variable

Recommended Credit Score

Bad to Fair (300 – 670)
Info

USAA® Secured American Express® Card Overview

While recently unavailable, the USAA® Secured American Express® Card is now back! If you or a loved one will be deployed soon, this card could prove a real help. Think about applying for this card before you head overseas so you can take advantage of the generous benefit offered to active-duty military personnel. The card has a special low APR for deployed members of the U.S. armed forces, unlike most other unsecured cards, offers travel and auto protections and extended warranty coverage.

What are the pros and cons?

Pros

  • Checkmark

    When you open a two-year USAA CD with a minimum deposit of $250, a requirement to own this card, you earn interest on the deposit. Most secured credit cards don’t offer this perk.

  • Checkmark

    Card reports activity to the three major credit bureaus

  • Checkmark

    There’s no annual fee

Cons

  • You have to be a USAA member to be eligible for this card. Membership is restricted to military members, veterans and family members.

  • You won’t have access to the money you put in the CD for two years.

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

A deeper look into the current card offer

Quick highlights

  • Rewards rate: N/A
  • Welcome offer: N/A
  • Annual fee: $0
  • Purchase intro APR: N/A
  • Balance transfer intro APR: N/A
  • Regular APR: 25.90 percent, variable

Current welcome offer:

The USAA Secured American Express doesn’t offer a welcome bonus or other introductory offers, which is common with secured credit cards. There are some secured cards that come with sign-up bonuses but that should not be the priority. Instead, it’s better to focus on credit-building features like credit bureau reporting and automatic card payment.

Rewards Rate

The USAA Secured American Express card does not have a rewards program; therefore, you cannot earn rewards on purchases made with it. Again, while disappointing, this is typical with secured credit cards. There are a few exceptions, like the Capital One Quicksilver Secured Cash Rewards Credit Card, but it’s better to find a card that has features that help increase your credit score over rewards.

Other cardholder benefits

This card comes with several benefits not typically offered with secured cards.

Travel insurance

American Express has a standard list of protection available for all cards, including auto rental insurance, zero liability on unauthorized purchases, travel accident insurance, and coverage for trip cancellations and interruptions. This card offers extended warranty protections up to one year longer than the original manufacturer’s warranty. Note for the auto rental insurance, you must rent a qualifying car for 31 days or less, and have paid using the USAA Secured American Express Card.

Price protection

This is a notable feature for people who love a great discount. 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.

Saving account

Like all secured credit cards, your credit limit is determined by your deposit. However, when you apply for this card, you open a 2-year CD in an amount ranging from $250 to $5,000. You’ll earn interest on this deposit, although it’s a small enough payout that this shouldn’t be a factor in your decision. The CD earns 0.54% APY.

Rates and fees

The APR is 25.15 variable, which is significantly higher than most military credit cards. There’s a 3 percent fee on balance transfers and cash advances. The cash advance fee can be waived if funds are electronically transferred into a USAA deposit account. Late payment and return payments fees can be up to $35. This card carries no annual fee. There’s no charge on foreign transactions or going over your credit limit. There’s also no minimum interest charge or penalty APR.

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

If you or a loved one is in the military and need a credit card, this could be a great choice if you qualify for the lower end of the standard APR range. But if the APR you’re offered is at the higher end of the range, shop around for another secure card. It also doesn’t hurt to consider cards that let you graduate to unsecured.

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
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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

USAA Secured Amex vs Discover it® Secured Credit Card

If you want a card that is much closer to an unsecured credit card, the Discover it Secured Credit Card is a great match. It comes with Discover’s Cashback Match, where Discover matches the cash back you earn during the first year. You also earn up to 2 percent on restaurants and gas station purchases (up to $1000, then 1 percent). You also get the possibility to upgrade to an unsecured card after seven months of full, on-time payments, which is much faster than most rival cards.

All these features make this card a much stronger contender than the USAA Secured American Express, especially for those with no credit history. That being said, the USAA Amex still has the unique feature of a CD Savings account, which encourages you to save during your credit journey.

USAA Secured Amex vs Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card

Navy Federal Credit Union nRewards Secured Credit Card is another secured card that mainly focuses on military members. The nRewards Secured card earns 1X points per dollar spent, which isn’t much but is a good introduction to earning rewards. This card has no annual fee as well as no fees on cash advances, balance transfers and foreign transactions, which is a great advantage for those deployed overseas. The APR on the nRewards Secured card is also much lower than the USAA Secured American Express, at 18.00 percent (variable) vs the 25.15 percent (variable).

This card does graduate to a rewards credit card after 12 statement cycles, but some may consider this too long.

Best Cards to pair with USAA Secured American Express

With a secure card, you’re essentially starting at the beginning or starting over. At this point, having multiple credit cards may not be helpful and instead be a distraction from the main goal of building your credit. It may be better to invest in tools that monitor your FICO score or take note of your spending habits to know what you want out of an unsecured card.

If you’re looking for another card to expand your overall credit limit some — which can be helpful in keeping your credit utilization down — there are cards that require no credit history and may be helpful towards that goal.

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

For those who serve in the military and their eligible family members, the USAA® Secured American Express® Card can be a great entry point for building or rebuilding credit. The card is available for cadets, too, who are likely to have thin credit files that may not let them qualify for a typical credit card.

The card will report to all three of the major credit bureaus, so with regular on-time payments, you can improve your credit score.

Frequently Asked Questions

* 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.