Review of the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card and the Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature®

Brendan Harkness

Brendan Harkness | Reviews

Nov 26, 2015 | Updated May 08, 2019

Credit Card Insider receives compensation from some credit card issuers as advertisers. Advertiser relationships do not affect card ratings or our Best Card Picks, or how one card is compared to another. USAA, American Express and Visa have not endorsed this content in any way.

Credit Card Insider has collected card information independently. Issuers did not provide the details, nor are they responsible for their accuracy.

Learn more about how we rate cards

This is a review of the two top-level cash back cards from USAA: the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® and the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature®.

These 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.

USAA provides many different types of credit cards, and these two are some of the most rewarding. These cards are very similar in most of their terms and benefits (which include special military benefits), but they differ in how they provide cash back.

Read on to learn what they offer and how they can help you save money.

The Rewards

Cashback Rewards Plus American Express

This card provides:

  • 5% cash back on gasoline and military base purchases, which include commissaries, exchanges, and shops on base (for the first $3,000 in purchases every year; then 1% cash back)
  • 2% cash back on groceries (for the first $3,000 in purchases every year; then 1% cash back)
  • 1% cash back on all other purchases

Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature

A little bit different, this card provides:

  • 1.5% cash back on every purchase you make

The Verdict

As you can see, these cards are going to reward you in very different ways.

If you’re going to be spending a lot on gas and on the base, the Amex card is your obvious choice. If you’re not sure what you’ll be buying, or if you already have a credit card for gas, the Visa might be for you because 1.5% cash back on general purchases is almost as good as it gets.

In many cases, the Amex card will probably be more suitable for active members of the military, while the Visa will probably be better for family members.

The Benefits

These cards share the same fairly comprehensive set of benefits. For the most part they are the exact same, but some of the benefits will be serviced by American Express for its card, and Visa for the other. Check your Guide to Benefits to learn the specific details for your card.


  • 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.

  • 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
Cashback Rewards Plus Amex $0 14.15%–28.15% Variable 14.15%–28.15% Variable 14.15%–28.15% Variable
Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature $0 14.15%–28.15% Variable 14.15%–28.15% Variable 14.15%–28.15% Variable
Card Balance Transfer Fee Cash Advance Fee Foreign Transaction Fee
Cashback Rewards Plus Amex 3% 3% None
Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature 3% 3% None
Card Penalty APR Late Fee Returned Payment Fee
Cashback Rewards Plus Amex None Up to $35 Up to $35
Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature None Up to $35 Up to $35

The Bottom Line

If you’re eligible, the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express and the USAA Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature can provide much better interest rates than you’ll be able to find elsewhere.

So, if you like the cash back deals then one of these cards might be the right one for you, especially if you’re an active member of the military. The 4% interest rate is far lower than anything you could expect to get from a regular credit card, and the fact that USAA will lower your other debts to a 6% rate could save you a whole lot of money.

Just be sure to fully understand the benefits that come with this card so you get the most out of it. You may need to manually enroll or activate some benefits, so don’t assume that they will happen automatically.

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

There are also USAA cards that offer fewer rewards but will probably be easier to get. Check out our review: The USAA Rewards Credit Cards

Looking for other non-military reward credit cards? Click here to check out our picks for the Best Reward Credit Cards.

How do you like your USAA Cash Rewards credit card? Does it ease your financial burden while on duty? Tell us about the American Express card or the Visa Signature card, we’d love to hear from you!

Was this helpful?

The responses below are not provided or commissioned by bank advertisers. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by bank advertisers. It is not the bank advertisers' responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

  • CreditAstute

    I do NOT recommend that anyone get the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus AMEX if they want to get the 5% back on base purchases. I made several transactions at the Navy Exchange, which should code according to the card’s rewards terms and conditions as a base purchase.

    “Qualifying Purchases on Military Bases” are Qualifying Purchases made at businesses that are included in a merchant category identified as primarily selling goods and/or services on United States military bases (such as commissaries, exchanges and shoppettes).

    These transactions, however, coded as 1 cent per dollar cash back. When I called USAA to inquire I was told that it is up to the individual Exchange on how they code the transaction based on items I purchase. He said I could get back anywhere from 1 cent, 2 cents, 3 cents, etc. depending on what I buy. I bought some baby supplies and clothing, but apparently these items didn’t qualify. I’ve heard of merchants coding incorrectly, but this excuse of individual items coding incorrectly does not sound right.

    I read that these base merchants (Exchanges, Commissaries, Gas Stations) no longer code as “Government Service” but now as “General Merchandise,” which will not trigger the 5%. Ultimately if this is true, then this card is now promoted on the basis of false advertisement.

    It’s ridiculous that USAA won’t honor their 5% category, which was the main sticking point in getting this card and that I have to hope for the 5%, which apparently is unlikely. Beyond telling me it’s up to the merchant, they did nothing to rectify the problem.

    I don’t use it for gas since I live right next to a Costco which has vastly cheaper prices than base, but doesn’t accept AMEX, so I use my Costco Anywhere VISA that earns 4% back.

The Insider

Sean Messier
2019 List of “Major” Credit Card Companies and How to Get Their Cards
Sean Messier | Jul 15, 2019

Learn about what types of credit cards are considered "major" credit cards, and the difference between credit card issuers and credit card networks.

Read More
Brendan Harkness
Best High Limit Credit Cards: Spend More, Earn More, Do More
Brendan Harkness | Jul 10, 2019

Your credit limits depend on your credit scores and your income, but some cards are known for giving higher limits. See all the best high limit cards here.

Read More
Brendan Harkness
The Best Military Credit Cards: Low APRs, Waived Annual Fees, and More
Brendan Harkness | Jul 08, 2019

Members of the military have access to special credit card terms. Under the SCRA, interest rates are capped, and some issuers also waive annual fees.

Read More