USAA offers several financial products for current and former military members and their families, including four cash-back cards. The USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card is one of these cards, and has one of the highest rewards rates among all the USAA offerings. Cardholders can earn 5% cash back on gas and purchases at military bases and 2% cash back on supermarket purchases on the first $3,000 spent each year, and 1% cash back on all other purchases, allowing cardholders to accrue rewards without worrying about an annual fee to offset. USAA also gives cardholders a break if they miss a payment during the first six billing periods – the fee is $25 during that initial period (it increases to a late penalty fee of $35 afterward).
Some of the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card's key features include:
The USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card offers a straightforward rewards structure. There aren't any rotating categories or a cash-back calendar that cardholders must keep track of to maximize their rewards. It's pretty simple: earn 5% cash back on purchases at gas stations, commissaries, exchange and shoppette locations on military bases (on up to $3,000 spent annually); 2% cash back at supermarkets (up to $3,000 spent annually); and unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases. This rewards structure rivals other competitive cash-back cards on the market, such as Chase Freedom®, which offers 5% cash back on up to $1,500 in purchases every quarter you sign up in specific bonus categories.
Similar to the Chase Freedom®, the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fees, but what sets it apart is the flexibility the card offers military personnel. The card's interest rate can be high, but military members get several breaks to ease some of the financial burden for their families while they're deployed. Cardholders also get a special interest rate under the Servicemember's Civil Relief Act (SCRA): when you have a balance on your account at the time you enter active military duty, get 4% APR on that exisisting balance for the remainder of your qualified period of active duty.
The card's redemption options are flexible, too. Cardholders can redeem their rewards at any time for any amount of cash back in $1 increments. Several cash-back cards on the market allow you to only redeem rewards once you accrue at least $20 or $25 in cash back.
Bottom line: This is a good no annual fee card with flexible redemption options and special financial benefits for military members. If you're looking for a no-fuss card with a straightforward rewards structure, this is a good card to consider.
Unfortunately, the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card has certain disadvantages compared to other cash-back competitors. There's a 3% transaction fee on balance transfers, but USAA caps this fee at $200 for each transfer.
USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card members shouldn't overlook the card's fine print either. That 2% cash back on groceries only applies to purchases at supermarkets and neighborhood grocery stores – not discount stores like Walmart or wholesale clubs like Costco and Sam's Club. If you do most of your regular grocery shopping at these merchants, then a card that offers more flexibility in this category will reap more rewards. However, many military families shop at commissaries or the Post Exchange (PX) because items are often cheaper than a commercial grocer, so this detail might not be a deal breaker.
Another downside is the card's annual bonus reward spending cap of $3,000. When you compare it to a card like Chase Freedom®, which has a quarterly spending cap of $1,500 or $6,000 a year, the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card's cap is 50% less. After you reach this $3,000 cap, you only earn 1% cash back on gas, military base and grocery purchases. Military members who want to maximize their rewards and don't mind strategizing their spending around rotating categories, might want to opt for a card with a higher spending cap as their sole cash-back card or use the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card in combination with it.
PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card is open to current and former military members, U.S. government employees and other members of qualifying organizations who join the Pentagon Federal Credit Union. With this card you can earn up to 2% cash back on gas, groceries and all other purchases if you're a member of the PenFed Honors Advantage Program. Otherwise, it's 1.5%. Like the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card, the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card has no annual fee and no foreign transaction fee.
With the PenFed Power Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card PenFed members get discounts on insurance, home warranty, home protection and on mortgage fees if they're buying a home, but the card doesn't have military-specific benefits like what the USAA card offers. If your main concern is managing your finances during deployment, then the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card might be the better option.
The USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card offers unlimited 1.5% cash back on all purchases and no annual fee. Like its sister card, there's a 3% balance transfer fee.
The one difference is that the USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card card has a flat, unlimited rewards structure, while the USAA® Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card has specific rewards categories and a $3,000 annual cap in those categories.
Both cards offer the same travel, security, retail and military benefits, so cardholders who want a simpler rewards structure might be better off with the USAA® Preferred Cash Rewards Visa Signature® Card.
The Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express isn't a military-specific card, but it does feature cash-back rewards categories that could fit well into a military lifestyle – or really any lifestyle. Terms apply. American Express is a CardRatings advertiser.
With this card you can earn 3% back at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $6,000 spent annually, then 1%), 2% back at U.S. gas stations and select U.S. department stores, and 1% back on all your other purchases. There's no annual fee to consider, but there also aren't the military-specific features and perks that the USAA card offers. Of course, you will receive the same SCRA protections that are guaranteed under the law.Terms apply.
You can snag a healthy welcome offer right now, though. Spend $1,000 in the first three months and you'll earn $150 in bonus cash back. Terms apply.
To see the rates and fees for the Blue Cash Everyday® Card from American Express, please visit the following link: See Rates and Fees.