USAA Rewards American Express Card Review

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The USAA Rewards American Express Card offers active-duty service members, veterans, and certain family members the chance to earn points on everyday purchases that they can use for a wide range of redemption options. But given that its points system is opaque to non-cardholders, you’ll probably be better off with another card if you have a specific type of reward in mind.

USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card

Overall Rating
3.5
USAA Rewards™ 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 (%) 9.9% - 25.9% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3 points per $1 spent on dining, 2 points per $1 on gas and groceries, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
Foreign transaction fee (%) 0%
Ratings Breakdown
for Interest
2.0
for Fees
3.5
for Rewards
2.9
for Credit
3.7
Current Offer

2,500 bonus points after your first purchase.

Who Is This Credit Card Best For?

  • Avatar for Jet Setter Persona
    Flies regularly and likes finding ways to score even more travel—for free See more cards
    Jet Setter
  • Avatar for Deal Seeker Persona
    Diligently searches for the best products and delights in a good bargain See more cards
    Deal Seeker
  • Avatar for Road Warrior Persona
    Hits the road often, whether for work or play See more cards
    Road Warrior
  • Avatar for Adventure Seeker Persona
    Loves to explore places and experience new things See more cards
    Adventure Seeker

There are many rewards cards available, so we recommend this card first and foremost to USAA loyalists who have good to excellent credit. You’ll need to have some association with the military, since USAA membership is only open to current and former military members, along with their close family members. 

USAA offers several rewards cards, but this one is suited to people who want a flexible way to redeem rewards. You can choose to spend your points on cash back, travel, merchandise, gift cards, and charitable donations. It’s a lot of options, but USAA doesn’t provide any details about what’s available within each option or how much each one costs to help you evaluate the program before you apply. Thus, if you’re a credit card rewards optimizer, we recommend steering clear of this card and opting for one with a clearly explained rewards program.

Pros
  • Potentially low interest rate

  • Wide range of redemption options

Cons
  • Potentially high interest rate

  • Unclear rewards point redemption value

  • Membership limitations

Pros Explained

  • Potentially low interest rate: If you have a top-notch credit score and solid financials, you may qualify for a low interest rate—one that’s very low for a rewards credit card. If you manage to run up some debt on this card before you go on active duty, you could qualify for an interest rate as low as 4% on that accrued debt—even lower than the rate required by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
  • Wide range of redemption options: You can choose to use your points to earn cash back, purchase airline or cruise tickets, buy merchandise, buy gift cards, or to make a charitable donation.

Cons Explained

  • Potentially high interest rate: USAA offers the chance for a low rate for those with excellent credit. But if that’s not your situation, you may actually end up paying a much, much higher interest rate.
  • Unclear rewards point redemption value: Most credit card rewards programs let you know ahead of time how exactly you can redeem your rewards and how much it’ll cost. Not with USAA. Rather, your points are worth an undefined amount until you actually go to redeem them, which makes evaluating this rewards program difficult.  
  • Membership limitations: USAA membership is only open to current and former military members, as well as certain family members. Otherwise, you’re not eligible to apply for this card.

Bonus for New Cardholders

This card comes with a welcome offer that anyone can qualify for. You’ll get 2,500 bonus points when you make your first purchase. There aren’t any restrictions about how long you have to make the purchase, or how much it has to be. Simply make a purchase—any purchase—with your card, and you’ll get the points. 

Earning Points & Rewards

USAA also has a customer-friendly way to rack up rewards points. Every purchase you make will earn at least 1 point per $1 spent. Gas station and supermarket purchases earn 2 points, and restaurant purchases earn 3 points per $1. 

Sometimes a gas, grocery, or dining purchase won’t count like you think it should. That’s because credit card networks like American Express use “merchant codes” to identify types of purchases. For example, if you buy a sandwich at a resort, the purchase may not be categorized as a “restaurant” purchase.  

There are no caps on how many points you can earn and your points won’t expire as long as your account is open. If you ever close your card, you’ll have 90 days to redeem your points before they’re lost. 

Redeeming Rewards

Here’s a major disappointment with the USAA Rewards American Express card: There’s no way to know before opening an account how much your points may be worth or what specific redemption options are available. Without this knowledge, it’s hard to decide whether signing up for the card will actually be worth it for you. (If you have a specific type of reward you’re interested in (and most of us do), you’d likely do better with another, more transparent rewards card.)

Still, according to our sources, The Balance estimates that cash back redemptions are generally worth 1 cent per point, which we consider good value for rewards program points.

The bright side is that USAA offers a number of types of rewards you can pay for with points, (and you can do so online or over the telephone) including:

  • Cruises
  • Air travel
  • Gift cards
  • Merchandise
  • Charity donations
  • Cash back in the form of a statement credit or deposit into your USAA account

If you’re interested in trading in your points for a cruise, you’ll need to do it via telephone. You can’t book a cruise online like you can with the other reward options. 

How to Get the Most Out of This Card

The USAA Rewards card seems simple as pie: Earn points on your everyday spending (especially dining out), and use those for just about anything you want. Points can add up quickly.

If you manage to qualify for the lowest available APR, this card could be an option for a short-term loan to cover for an emergency or a major purchase. That said, any time you carry a balance month-to-month you incur interest charges far in excess of any return you’ll get from the card’s rewards program.

Excellent Perks

This card does come with some good travel perks that the editors of The Balance consider “excellent” and that military members and their families might find useful. In each case, you’ll need to have paid for the trip with your USAA Rewards American Express card to qualify.

  • Insurance coverage for delayed luggage: USAA will provide you with up to $100 per day for three days while your wayward baggage is being returned to you. You can use this to pay for things like toiletries and clothing.
  • Insurance coverage for trip cancellation or interruption: If your trip is cancelled or interrupted for reasons that are out of your hands, such as illness or foul weather, you could be reimbursed for up to $1,500 per person.
  • Travel accident insurance: If you suffer a debilitating accident while in transit, you may qualify for up to $500,000 worth of coverage. 

Other Features

  • Rental car collision insurance (secondary to your own policy)
  • Travel and emergency hotline
  • Extended warranties
  • Concierge for booking event tickets, travel, and other services

Customer Experience

Even though this card’s rewards program is frustratingly opaque, you can bet that you’ll have an overall good experience with USAA. At least, that’s judging by the company’s excellent results in the 2019 Credit Card Satisfaction Study by J.D. Power. Although USAA is ineligible for the study’s official rankings, its score would have placed it at the top of the list, besting customer service stalwarts like Discover and American Express. 

Since USAA caters only to military members and their families, it is able to provide services that you might not find at other banks. For example, USAA offers a wide range of financial advice covering deployments and PCS moves. It also offers a mobile app that you can use to manage your account anywhere there’s internet service. 

Security Features

USAA’s credit cards come with the standard security features you’d expect from a major credit card, such as secure account logins and zero liability for fraudulent purchases. In addition, USAA offers identity theft resolution services if your identity is ever stolen, and up to $1,000 in reimbursement to help you get your life back on track after such an event. 

USAA Rewards American Express Card’s Fees

The USAA Rewards American Express Card doesn’t charge any fees that are out of line for a cared of its type. This card also doesn’t come with any foreign transaction fees, which will be especially helpful for servicemembers and their families stationed overseas. Also note that the cash advance fee is waived when the funds are deposited electronically into a USAA account.

Next Steps
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CURRENT CARD
USAA Rewards™ American Express® Card
overall rating
3.5
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 (%) 9.9% - 25.9% variable
Annual Fee $0
Rewards Earning Rate Earn 3 points per $1 spent on dining, 2 points per $1 on gas and groceries, and 1 point per $1 on all other purchases.
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.

Article Sources

The Balance requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy .
  1. USAA. "USAA Rewards American Express Card." Accessed May 12, 2020.

  2. USAA. "USAA Rewards American Express Reward Program Terms and Conditions." Accessed May 12, 2020.

  3. USAA. "USAA Universal Guide to Benefits." Accessed May 12, 2020.

  4. J.D. Power. "Credit Card Rewards War Reaches Inflection Point as Competition Grows, J.D. Power Finds." Accessed May 12, 2020.

  5. USAA. "Permanent Change of Station." Accessed May 12, 2020.