USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card Review

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The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card gives military members a generous rate of cash back and a lower interest rate than many comparable cash-back credit cards—especially during active duty. This card is ideal for military members who want to earn rewards while minimizing fees and credit-related expenses.

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

overall rating
3.7
USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 13.9% - 27.9% variable
Annual Fee No Annual Fee
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually combined. Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
Foreign transaction fee 0%
Ratings Breakdown
for Interest
1.7
for Fees
4.3
for Rewards
3.9
for Credit
4.0

Who is This Credit Card Best For?

  • Avatar for Savvy Saver Persona
    Prioritizes sticking to their budget while buying what they want and need
    Savvy Saver
  • Avatar for Deal Seeker Persona
    Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain
    Deal Seeker

The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card is a good deal for military members who spend a lot on gas, groceries, and military base purchases but hope to minimize fees. Considering this card offers a low interest rate during active duty, it is ideal for military members who want to keep costs down while they are serving their country at home or abroad.

Pros

  • High rewards-earning rate

  • Potential for low interest rate

Cons

  • No welcome bonus

  • Earnings caps on rewards

  • Limited redemption options

  • Must be a USAA member to apply

Pros Explained

  • High rewards-earning rate: Earning 5% cash back on up to $3,000 in combined gas station and military base spending is a major plus, and so is earning 2% back on up to $3,000 in grocery purchases each year. 
  • Potential for a low interest rate: This card’s ongoing variable rate starts at a lower threshold than many comparable cash-back credit cards. You’ll even pay just 4% interest on balances during active duty, which is lower than the mandated 6% APR required for active duty military members on their mortgages and credit card balances by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). 

Cons Explained

  • No welcome bonus: Where many cash-back and rewards credit cards offer a sign-up bonus, this card doesn’t let you earn an initial rush of rewards. 
  • Earnings caps on rewards: Earning 5% or 2% back in some categories is a good thing, but note that you’ll only earn these rates on up to $3,000 in spending in each respective bonus category each year. After that, you’ll earn the same rate of rewards you earn on all other purchases—1%.
  • Limited redemption options: This card only lets you redeem your rewards for cash back in $1 increments. You cannot redeem your rewards for travel, gift cards, merchandise, or other options many comparable rewards cards offer. 
  • Must be a USAA member to apply: Not everyone can apply for this credit card. To become a USAA member, you have to be an active duty officer or enlisted personnel, in the National Guard or Reserves, an officer candidate in commissioning programs, or a spouse, former spouse, or adult child of a USAA member. 

Earning Points & Rewards

This card lets you earn 5% back on up to $3,000 in combined spending on gas and military base purchases each year, 2% back on up to $3,000 in grocery spending each year, and 1% back on everything else you buy. Earning rates in bonus categories are high, but it’s important to understand how the rewards caps will limit your rewards potential in the long run. 

Let’s say you max out both bonus categories during year one, with $3,000 in combined spending on gas and base purchases ($150 in cash back) and $3,000 spent on groceries ($60 in cash back). If you spend another $1,000 per month on regular purchases with your credit card, you would earn an additional $120 in cash back, for a total of $330 your first year.

That’s not a bad return, but you may be able to do better with a different cash-back credit card. 

For example, there are cards that let you earn an unlimited 1.5% back on all purchases you make plus the ability to earn a $200 bonus your first year. If you earned the initial bonus and spent the same $18,000 on your credit card during year one, you would earn $470 in cash rewards.

Redeeming Rewards

As long as your account is in good standing, you can redeem rewards for cash back in increments of $1. Unfortunately, there are no other options when it comes to how you can cash in your points.

You can keep track of your cash-back balance and manage redemption online, via the app, or by telephone. 

How to Get the Most Out of This Card

Use the USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card for $3,000 in combined gas station and military base purchases as well as $3,000 in grocery purchases each year so you max out both the 5% and 2% bonus categories. 

We suggest pairing this card with another cash-back credit card that offers more than 1% back on regular purchases. For example, you could use a card that offers 1.5% back on everything for all your regular spending plus grocery, gas, and military base purchases after this card’s bonus category limits have been exhausted. With this plan, you’d maximize your cash-back earnings, and you’d still benefit from this card’s low interest rates (if you needed to carry a balance), and other exceptional USAA perks.

Excellent Perks

The USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card offers a few benefits the editors of The Balance consider “excellent,” and that you may not expect from a cash-back credit card.

  • Primary rental car collision insurance: Qualify for up to 31 days of primary rental car coverage. This is a rare benefit, especially for a card with no annual fee. Most cards that offer a rental car benefit offer “secondary” rental collision coverage, which means the policy only kicks in if your own insurance doesn’t cover the loss. 
  • Insurance coverage for trip cancellation or interruption: This coverage is good for up to $1,500 per covered person when your trip is cancelled or interrupted for a covered reason beyond your control.
  • Travel accident insurance: Qualify for up to $500,000 in travel accident insurance when you face loss of life or certain injuries during travel.
  • Insurance coverage for delayed luggage: Get reimbursed for up to $100 per day for up to three days for clothing, toiletries, and other essential purchases when your baggage is delayed by four hours or more. 

As you might expect, you must pay for the relevant goods or services with your USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express card for these coverages and benefits to kick in.

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card’s Other Features

  • Travel and emergency hotline
  • Extended warranties
  • Concierge for booking event tickets, travel, and other services

Customer Experience

When it comes to customer satisfaction, USAA tends to blow its competition out of the water. This is true once again in J.D. Power’s 2019 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study, where they scored 866 out of 1,000 possible points.

This puts USAA ahead of all major credit card issuers nationwide including Discover, American Express, Chase, and other banks that often get high marks for customer service. By comparison, the industry average in this study was just 806 out of 1,000 points. 

Fortunately for the other card issuers in the J.D. Power study, USAA does not meet the study’s “award criteria” to be considered for the official rankings.

USAA provides a free FICO credit score and other credit monitoring tools via its free CreditCheck service, which you must sign up for.

Security Features

In addition to 24/7 fraud monitoring and zero liability for fraudulent purchases, this card comes with a few security features that help it stand out, including identity theft resolution services and up to $1,000 in identity theft coverage. 

USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express Card’s Fees

This card is light on fees, especially when you consider you don’t even have to pay a cash advance fee if you transfer the funds electronically to a USAA checking account. There’s no annual fee, no foreign transaction fees, and no minimum interest charge, either.

For USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card

Compare This Card

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CURRENT CARD
USAA Cashback Rewards Plus American Express® Card
overall rating
3.7
Recommended Credit Score Our recommended ranges are based off of the FICO® Score 8 credit-scoring model. Credit score is one of the many factors lenders review in considering your application.
350 579
580 669
670 739
740 799
800 850
Good - Excellent
Regular APR (%) 13.9% - 27.9% variable
Annual Fee No Annual Fee
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 5% cash back on your first $3,000 in gas and military base purchases annually combined. Earn 2% on your first $3,000 on supermarket purchases per year. Unlimited 1% cash back on all other purchases.
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Our Methodology

  • At The Balance, we are dedicated to giving you unbiased, comprehensive credit card reviews. To do this, we collect data on hundreds of cards and score more than 55 features that affect your finances.
  • Our Reviews Are Always Impartial: No one can influence which cards we review, the way we present them to you, or the ratings they receive. The scores and reviews come directly from the data we collect and our editorial expertise, and we focus on three areas:
  • How Much Does It Cost? With credit card debt at an all-time high, we believe you should know the cost of carrying a balance. Because of that, we give regular purchase APRs significant weight in overall scores, and cards receive low marks if they have an array of pricey fees.
  • What Are the Rewards Worth? Cards accumulate rewards in different currencies—points, miles, cash back—and their values vary widely. To simplify the problem, we built a system that fairly compares rewards and gives them a dollar value. We do this by looking at the ways you can earn and use rewards, which includes evaluating Americans’ typical spending habits and analyzing common travel patterns.
  • Does It Make Your Life Easier? Our scoring system favors cards that accept a wide range of credit profiles and offer simple solutions for things like checking your credit score or contacting customer service. Finally, we give preference to credit cards that have several tools for dealing with fraudulent charges.
  • For every review on The Balance, we hold the credit cards to these standards, and we set the bar high. While we recognize the appeal of splashy features like six-digit sign-up bonuses, our approach ensures that credit cards with the best combination of value, affordability, and accessibility receive the highest scores. See our full methodology for more details.