Review of the USAA Cash Rewards® Credit Cards

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness | Reviews

Feb 15, 2016 | Updated Sep 14, 2016

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This is a review of 2 similar cash back credit cards from USAA: the USAA Cash Rewards® Visa® card and the USAA Cash Rewards® American Express® card.

USAA cards are only available to members of the military, active or honorably discharged, as well as certain members of their family. Click here for details on USAA eligibility.

These cards provide a fairly small amount of cash back, and the amount is dependent on how much you spend; if you’re looking for better rewards, click here for our review of the two most rewarding USAA cash back cards.

As members of the USAA, cardholders get access to very good interest rates and benefits that are seldom seen outside of the most exclusive credit cards, including some special military benefits. These 2 cards have the same potentially great interest rates, if your credit is good enough.

Read on to see if one of them might be right for you.

USAA Cash Rewards® Visa®
Apply Now

USAA Cash Rewards® Visa®

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 10.15%-26.15% (Variable)
Quick Card Facts
  • USAA Eligibility Requirement: Today, USAA membership is only open to U.S. military service members, veterans who have received a discharge type of Honorable, and their eligible family members.
  • Earn rebates up to 1.25% on your everyday purchases. There's no limit to the amount you can earn.
  • Enjoy variable rates as low as 10.15% APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances. This APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.
  • No annual fee and no minimum finance charge.
  • Chip technology has added security when used at a chip-enabled terminal and greater acceptance worldwide.
USAA Cash Rewards® American Express® Card
Apply Now

USAA Cash Rewards® American Express® Card

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 10.15%-26.15% (Variable)
Quick Card Facts
  • USAA Eligibility Requirement: Today, USAA membership is only open to U.S. military service members, veterans who have received a discharge type of Honorable, and their eligible family members.
  • Earn up to 2.25% cash back on gas and grocery purchases and up to 1.25% cash back for all other purchases.
  • No caps or limits on the amount you can earn.
  • Your cash rebate is awarded every January for the purchases made the previous 12 months.
  • Enjoy variable rates as low as 10.15% APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances. This APR will vary with the market based on the prime rate.
  • No annual fee and no minimum finance charge.
  • Chip technology has added security when used at a chip-enabled terminal and greater acceptance worldwide.

The Rewards

These cards feature some fairly small rewards. They each provide up to 1.25% cash back for all purchases, and the Amex has an additional reward category on top of that.

Take note that these cards do not provide cash back in the same way that general-use rewards credit cards do. Instead, they have a tiered reward system where you will earn a percentage of cash back that is based on your annual spending. That’s why you’ll earn up to 1.25% cash back, instead of a constant 1.25%.

The following table breaks down the tier levels for the 1.25% cash back deal. As you can see, you’ll need to spend at least $17,000 per year with the card to earn the full cash back percentage on those purchases.

Annual Qualifying Purchases Cash Back Awarded Combined Maximum Cash Back
$0 – $5,000 0.45% of Qualifying Purchases $22.50
$5,000 – $10,000 $22.50 + 0.85% on the next $5,000 of Qualifying Purchases $65.00
$10,000 – $17,000 $65.00 + 1% on the next $7,000 of Qualifying Purchases $135.00
$17,000 + $135.00 + 1.25% on all Qualifying Purchases made afterward No maximum

Cash Rewards Visa

  • Up to 1.25% cash back on all purchases

Cash Rewards American Express

  • Up to 2.25% cash back on gas and grocery purchases
  • Up to 1.25% cash back on all other purchases

The extra category for the Amex card will provide an additional 1% cash back on purchases of gas and groceries, but cardholders will still need to spend at least $17,000 annually to get the full 2.25% cash back (according to the table above).

The Verdict

These cards are almost identical in the rewards they offer, with the Amex providing that extra 1% cash back for gas and groceries.

Just keep in mind that you’ll need to spend at least $17,000 per year with these cards to earn the full cash back percentage. If you spend less, you’ll earn rewards at a lower rate.

This isn’t true for most rewards credit cards – if you’re looking to get great cash back or points every time you shop, no matter how much you spend annually, check out our picks for the Best Rewards Credit Cards – 2015.

The Benefits

These cards share almost the same fairly comprehensive set of benefits.

For the most part the benefits are the exact same between the cards, but in some cases they will be serviced by the card’s particular network (Visa  or American Express) and in those cases the details may differ slightly. Check your Guide to Benefits to learn exactly what your card offers.

Perks

  • Concierge Service

    Call to get personal help with all sorts of tasks, like travel planning, making restaurant reservations, finding hard-to-find items, and finding convenient services nearby, wherever you may happen to be.

Military Benefits

You may or may not qualify for some of these benefits; click here to learn more and see if you qualify.

  • Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

    The SCRA provides help to active-duty service members, and includes benefits like protection for life insurance policies and reduced interest rates on debts incurred before beginning active duty. USAA will provide an interest rate of 4% for pre-existing USAA credit card debt and loans, and a rate of 6% for other debts like credit cards, mortgages, auto loans, and others.

  • Deployment Discount

    Members of the military who are deployed or deploying can have the interest rate on their USAA card reduced to 4% for current balances, new purchases, and cash advances.

  • Permanent Change of Station (PCS)

    Active-duty members with permanent change of station can have the interest rate on their USAA card reduced to 4% for current balances, new purchases, and cash advances.

  • Qualifying Campaign Level

    Members who receive a qualifying campaign medal can receive a rebate for all of the interest incurred during their campaign. The qualifying campaign medals include the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal, the Iraq Campaign Medal, and the Afghanistan Campaign Medal.

Shopping Protections

  • Price Protection

    If you find an item you bought being advertised for a lower price within 120 days of the purchase, you could be reimbursed for the price difference (up to $250 per claim, up to 4 claims per year).

  • Extended Warranty

    Doubles the manufacturer’s original warranty, up to a maximum of 2 years for most items.

Travel Protections

  • Travel Assistance Services

    Available when traveling 100 miles or more from home, provides help like information on travel requirements, locating documents or lost items, or arranging emergency money transfers.

  • Worldwide Automatic Travel Accident, Baggage Delay and Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance

    Provides insurance in case of a tragic accident, funds to reimburse purchases if your bags are delayed, and reimbursement if your trip is interrupted for eligible reasons.

  • Rental Car Insurance

    Provides coverage against damage and theft of rental vehicles, as long as the rental company’s own insurance is declined.

Security Benefits

  • Identity Theft Resolution Services

    If you become a victim of identity theft, this service provides help with contacting the credit bureaus, getting a new credit card, and going through the proper legal proceedings.

  • Identity Fraud Expense Reimbursement

    You won’t be held liable for unauthorized charges as a result of identity fraud.

The Costs & Fees

Card Annual Fee Regular APR Regular Balance Transfer APR Cash Advance APR
Cash Rewards Visa Signature $0 10.15%-26.15% (Variable) See Terms See Terms
Rewards American Express $0 10.15%-26.15% (Variable) See Terms See Terms
Card Balance Transfer Fee Cash Advance Fee Foreign Transaction Fee
Cash Rewards Visa Signature See Terms See Terms See Terms
Rewards American Express See Terms See Terms See Terms
Card Penalty APR Late Fee Returned Payment Fee
Cash Rewards Visa Signature See Terms See Terms See Terms
Rewards American Express See Terms See Terms Up to $35

The Bottom Line

The USAA Cash Rewards American Express Card and the USAA Cash Rewards Visa offer special deals and benefits for members of the military and their families, making these cards a decent option. However, there are a few better options out there too.

If you’re looking for better cash back deals from the USAA, check out our Review of the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card and the Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature®.

Cards from the USAA are especially useful if you are on active duty or plan to be. If you can drastically lower your interest rates, both on other debts and USAA credit card debt, you’ll end up saving quite a bit of money.

The rates for these cards are quite solid, even if you don’t qualify for a special military interest rate reduction. You can get a very low APR if you have a good credit rating, and you won’t pay an annual fee. The lack of a penalty APR if you make a mistake is a very nice feature as well.

Want to apply for or learn more about one of these cards? Just click the card’s name below.

USAA Cash Rewards® Visa®
Apply Now

USAA Cash Rewards® Visa®

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 10.15%-26.15% (Variable)
Quick Card Facts
  • USAA Eligibility Requirement: Today, USAA membership is only open to U.S. military service members, veterans who have received a discharge type of Honorable, and their eligible family members.
  • Earn rebates up to 1.25% on your everyday purchases. There's no limit to the amount you can earn.
  • Enjoy variable rates as low as 10.15% APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances. This APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.
  • No annual fee and no minimum finance charge.
  • Chip technology has added security when used at a chip-enabled terminal and greater acceptance worldwide.
USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card
Apply Now

USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card

For People with
Excellent Credit

  • Annual Fee: $0
  • Interest Rate: 10.15%-26.15% (Variable)
Quick Card Facts
  • USAA Eligibility Requirement: Today, USAA membership is only open to U.S. military service members, veterans who have received a discharge type of Honorable, and their eligible family members.
  • Earn 2,500 Bonus Points after your first purchase and earn 2X points per dollar spent on gas and grocery purchases all the time.
  • No caps or limits on the amount you can earn.
  • Redeem your USAA Rewards points towards cash, gift cards, name brand merchandise and travel with no blackout date.
  • Redeem your points anytime on USAA's website or from your mobile device - with no redemption fee.
  • Enjoy variable rates as low as 10.15% APR on purchases, balance transfers and cash advances. This APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate.
  • Chip technology has added security when used at a chip-enabled terminal and greater acceptance worldwide.
If you’re looking to earn points or cash back with general rewards credit cards, check out the Best Cash Back Rewards Credit Cards – 2016.

How do you like your USAA credit card? Do you get more from it than a normal credit card? Leave your own review of the Visa or American Express version!

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