USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card Review
USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card
CardRatings Editor's Analysis: Pros & Cons
- The points cardholders accumulate with this card are redeemable in a variety of ways including as cash back or donations to military affiliate groups.
- There’s no need to meet a spending threshold to take advantage of the intro bonus offer – you'll earn 2,500 bonus points with your first purchase regardless the amount.
- This card offers a super-low 4% APR on card balances held at the time the cardholder enters active duty.
- Many of the card benefits are geared toward members of the military serving in active duty or who are deployed. If you aren’t active duty military, there are cards that offer higher rewards and more lucrative sign-up bonuses.
USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card essentials
The USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card is a niche-market card that offers nice, if not spectacular, bonuses for membership.
As a United States Automobile Association (USAA) product, the card is only available to active duty military, veterans and their eligible family members. You should also be aware, before applying, that you'll need a good - excellent credit score for acceptance.
The card has no introductory rate and carries an ongoing APR of 9.90% - 25.90%, depending on credit worthiness. The rate is the same for balance transfers. It should also be noted that there's a special 4% SCRA rate for for military members who have a balance on their account at the time they enter active military duty. That 4% APR will apply to that existing balance for the remainder of the qualified period of active duty.
Like others in the USAA family, the USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card has no annual fee, no foreign transaction fee and no over limit fee.
The rewards program is fairly straightforward. USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card offers three points for every dollar spent on dining, two points per dollar spent on gas and groceries and one point for each dollar spent on all other purchases. With each point equal to roughly a penny, the points can accumulate fairly quickly if you tend to dine out quite a bit. Points can be redeemed for cash, statement credits, merchandise and gift cards.
While it pales in comparison to many other cards, the USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card does offer an introductory bonus of 2,500 points that are awarded once making your first purchase.
- Earn 100,000 bonus miles when you spend $20,000 on purchases in the first 12 months from account opening, or still earn 50,000 miles if you spend $3,000 on purchases in the first 3 months
- Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day
- Miles won't expire for the life of the account and there's no limit to how many you can earn
- Receive up to $100 application fee credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✔®
- Redeem on travel-including flights, vacation rentals, car rentals and more. Plus transfer your miles to over 15+ travel loyalty programs
- No foreign transaction fees
What our editors like most about the USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card
A None annual fee is a great place to start. With the USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card, you don't have to worry about reaching certain spending thresholds in order for the card to pay for itself.
Free money is always an attractive quality and the USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card gives you some cash right out of the gate. Just make one purchase and you get 2,500 bonus points, with a cash value of $25.
No foreign transaction fees is also especially nice for military families that might spend a good deal of time overseas.
We also like cards that weight their rewards toward food purchases. With three points for every dollar spent on dining and two points for each dollar spent on gas and groceries, the USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card benefits all types of people with varying spending habits.
Another nice feature is a rental vehicle collision damage waiver for physical damage and theft coverage. If you rent cars a few times a year, this is peace of mind that won't cost you a dime.
Potential downsides of the USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card
This is not an easy card to be approved for. For starters, you must be a member of USAA and that means being active military, a veteran or an eligible military family member. In addition, your credit score will need to be in the good - excellent range.
There is no introductory interest rate and the APR could be either really great or really high, depending on your credit worthiness. The ongoing APR of 9.90% - 25.90% is among the broadest ranges you will find.
The introductory bonus of 2,500 points (cash value $25) is very low compared to other cards. But you won't find one easier to attain, as it kicks in after your first purchase instead of after a specific spending threshold.
How the USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card compares to other cards
USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card vs. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
Evaluating these two cards comes down to a simple question— do you prefer simplicity and modest rewards or are you looking to take advantage of a more complicated rewards program that comes with a big bonus?
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card carries a $95 annual fee and an ongoing APR of 15.99% - 22.99% Variable, depending on credit worthiness. On the other hand, USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card has a None annual fee and an APR that could be either really low, or really high.
Where the Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card separates itself is with its rewards program, starting with a huge introductory offer of 80,000 bonus points when you spend at least $4,000 in the first three months you have the card. Those points have a value of $1,000 when redeemed through Chase Ultimate Rewards® for travel. Plus, you can earn up to $50 in statement credit toward grocery store purchases. Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card then offers two points per dollar for all travel and dining expenses, and one point per dollar on all other expenses.
USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card gives three points for each dollar spent on dining, two points for each dollar spent on gas and groceries and one point per dollar on all other expenses. The introductory offer is just 2,500 points (value $25) but it kicks in with your first purchase.
USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card vs. USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
As two cards in the USAA family, these products have many similarities. Eligibility is limited to active military, veterans and eligible members of military families. Both require a credit score in the good - excellent range for approval. That credit score is critical, as both cards have a wide potential interest rate range. The APR for the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card is slightly higher, ranging from 11.90% - 25.90%.
The USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card has an introductory bonus and a straightforward points-based rewards program. By comparison, the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card program is more complicated and has more limitations. It has no introductory bonus, but you get a healthy 5% cash back for the first $3,000 in combined annual spending at gas stations, commissaries and post exchange locations on military bases, 2% cash back on the your first $3,000 spent annually at supermarkets, and an unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card vs. Savor Rewards from Capital One
(This card is not currently available on CardRatings)
When comparing these two cards, the biggest factor to consider will likely be the amount of money you spend dining out each month. While the USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card gives three points for each dollar spent on dining out (along with two points per dollar on gas and groceries), the Savor Rewards from Capital One gives a straight 4% cash back on all dining and 2% on groceries. That cash back can add up quickly, but it should be noted that there is an annual fee associated with this card, $95 annually. The annual fee is always None for the USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card, not just for the first year.
Speaking of introductory offers, the Savor Rewards from Capital One has an attractive one, with $300 back once you spend $3,000 in the first three months you have the card. The 2,500 bonus points awarded by USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card with your first purchase has a cash value of just $25.
Is USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card a good card?
USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card has its limitations but, if you qualify and have strong credit, is a nice addition to your wallet. A lot of it will come down to your credit score. If your score is in the "excellent" category and you can land yourself with a low APR rate, you could save a great deal in interest charges with this card.
The reward of three points per dollar spent on all dining out expenses is competitive for that category. And the None annual fee means you never have to worry about the card paying for itself. Plus, let's not forget about the added benefit of 4% APR for active military members.